Over Breakfast (fiction)

“There she goes again,” Crissy hissed at me. “She doesn’t even realize that he doesn’t want to talk to her. I mean look at him. He looks like a deer in headlights.”

I leaned around the edge of the cubicle, focusing on ignoring the screeching coming from the end of the row. “She” had rolled her chair out into the aisle, effectively trapping the poor boy at his desk. Marc was a captive audience, as they say.

“More of a longing for a shotgun look,” I said.

Crissy giggled. I didn’t. I knew the look because she’d cornered me before too. I, however, didn’t have the same neighborly kindness that Marc did. Me, I looked her right in the eye and interrupted a tirade about how mean her child’s football coach was because she made the kids run laps in their pads.

“You have a limit on words. When you hit your limit, I walk away. You’ve heard of Twitter right? It’s like that.” I nodded once to encourage her agreement. She didn’t know what hit her. I wish I had.

“I mean really,” Crissy continued. “Does she really think he cares about her kid’s bloody nose? Does anyone?”

I hunched over my desk again. I had a report to audit and now that Crissy had drawn my focus to the vulture of attention, I could hear her again, clawing at my ears, digging her way into my brain.

“Shut her up,” Crissy begged me.

I nodded once. I needed silence from both of them.

Swiping my lunch bag off my desk as I stood, I strode down the aisle, my face cracking with a false smile. Certain she’d see through the façade, but also knowing she didn’t look at others, just herself, I paused at the pair – predator and prey – and steeled myself for my own hunt.

Marc looked up, the gratefulness obvious to everyone but her. “Hey, Kay, how was your weekend?” He squeaked the words out. I felt bad for him, sure, but he was weak too.

“Fine, fine,” I said waving off the question. “Look, I brought breakfast.” Fake smile. Fake smile. Fake smile.

I unzipped the oversized soft-sided cooler and removed a plastic bag bursting with bite-sized muffins. I set it on Marc’s desk because I knew she wouldn’t hesitate to help herself. Besides, I never gave her anything but sarcasm. Wouldn’t want to tip my hand.

“What’s in them?” she asked reaching for the bag.

“Food,” I muttered. Then I forced the smile back to my lips and said, “Oh you know, flour, sugar, whatever.”

“Anything… crunchy?”

“No, no. I hate anything else in my muffins.” I waved away her concern and turned away, heading back to my desk. “No nuts, no raisins, just batter baked to perfection.”

Crissy had the good sense to look appalled and horrified as the EMTs desperately tried to revive the body on the floor. She had stopped thrashing and struggling for air by the time they arrived, but they tried anyway. Such dedication! Plus, much less distracting in their choreographed work. I had a report to audit after all. Besides, from what I read, with an allergy that severe, she never should’ve eaten something with the slightest hint of peanut butter in it. I guess I didn’t clean out the bowl when I made those cookies for the kids.

You live, you learn, as they say. It’s the former that’s required for the latter.

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