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Terri stood over Alicia and Mary who were seated at their respective cubicles. She cleared her throat noisily. Both women looked up at Terri who then took her time before speaking. Eventually when she did speak, it was with a level of vindictiveness.
“Louise has had to go home. I have put her work into the pile behind you so that you can finish it. Most of it is very important and has to be done by today because Louise usually takes on the most significant work.”
Both Mary and Alicia nodded in understanding. They both understood that this was not a request. They had no choice. They both also understood that Louise did not do the most significant work. That was either with Mary or Alicia . Louise always chose the easiest and simplest work for herself and left the bulk of it for them to complete. This time, it would seem, all of it was relegated to Mary and Alicia.
Neither Alicia nor Mary responded, aside from silently nodding affirmation. There was no point in responding.
“Right, I will let you both sort it all out and make sure you have it done before you go home.” With that, Terri went back into her office, resoundingly shutting her door.
“She’s probably gone on a date.” Mary murmured under her breath.
“Gracious Mary! That is the first time I have ever heard you say anything even slightly nasty about anyone. I’m impressed. I never thought you had it in you.” Alicia smiled.
“Louise could test the saints themselves.”
Alicia stood up from her desk and walked toward the pile of work and Mary followed closely behind her. They began silently dividing it up between them.
“Looks like another late night Amber.” Mary sighed.
“We’ll manage Mary.” Alicia reassured her.
The rest of the afternoon was a quiet and busy one for the two friends. Along with Louise’s work, they both had their own, which was urgent and time consuming. On top of this they had to answer telephone calls and field emails. They fully immersed themselves into their work and disregarded their surroundings.
It was hardly surprising that both Alicia and Mary were still working when most of the staff had gone home long ago. There was the faint sound of vacuum cleaning from somewhere on the floor, which slowly began to draw their attention. They were both nearing completion of their work and the focus that they had on their work was now beginning to fade.
“Oh it’s late!” exclaimed Alicia as she looked to the time on her computer screen.
“We have done so much Amber. I think we should be proud of our hard work.” Mary smiled toward her friend.
“I don’t know about you Mary but I’m hungry. Did you want to come with me and grab something from the deli across the road?”
“Oh what a lovely idea. Yes!” Mary began to shut down her computer and pushed herself away from her desk.
“Oh, everyone’s gone. Oh yes, except for the cleaners. We aren’t the last ones here but we are pretty late.”
“Yeah, it’s a little spooky. Everything’s so quiet.” Mary looked around at all of the empty cubicles and glass offices.
Amber shut down her computer and stood up. She reached out and grabbed her flowers from her desk and put them into a plastic bag. The card was safely tucked away inside her handbag. The beautiful, poetic simplicity of what Jude had written to her was incredibly moving. A small frown appeared on her face and Mary asked her, “What’s wrong Amber?”
“Oh I was just thinking of Louise. I can’t believe she took my flowers and threw out my card. She is a horrible person.”
“She so is.”
They both shook their heads in disbelief as they started to make their way toward the elevators.
As it was a short walk across the road it was not long before the two friends walked inside, the now empty deli.
“mmm smell that.” Mary commented.
“Oh I know. I love this place.” Alicia enthused. “Ok let’s grab a table.”
This was an easy task as there were only five other customers there at that time. Alicia put her bag onto their table, along with her flowers and asked Mary what she wanted. She told Mary to mind the table and then walked to the counter to order their food.
Their meals were made surprisingly fast and Alicia realised she had to pay now, rather than later. She made a quick dash to the table, grabbing her bag but it slipped through her fingers as she had pulled it toward her. Her bag tumbled to the floor, its contents spilling out onto the floor and scattering outward. Both Mary and Alicia bent down to pick up the contents. Alicia was embarrassed and annoyed, moving quickly, grabbing her belongings. Then she was up and standing at the counter, ready to pay for the meals. She had wanted to surprise Mary and pay discreetly for her meal but she had been anything but discrete.
As she took the two plates of food, with a look of triumph on her face, Alicia turned to walk back to the table but she stopped short. Her eyes fell on Mary who was standing in the same spot she had left her only she was holding a work id card and she was staring at it.
Mary looked up to Alicia, her friend and co-worker, whom she knew as Amber and asked with confusion.