She skitters away on her keyboard: Tic tac tac tac tic. Then pauses to scratch her head; the noise a cacophony, forming a symphony of disturbance that rattles my loaded head. Every day she rattles me.
I note this down as an incident then try to return to work, patting my satisfying pile of notes. Evidence of the other that exists there.
Nobody has seen her use the bathroom. I know this because toilet meetings are discussed and detailed, like the time Judy went missing for half the day. Stifling up her tears and raising her feet.
Also, lunches. Never at her desk, like the rest of us. She leaves without saying anything. 12 PM on the dot. This is noted, the “lunches”.
And yet the third drawer down is never used… Why is that? What misery is hidden there…where surely snacks are not hidden?
She’s waiting. Waiting for the right time. Staying late every other Tuesday to prepare. Not frequent enough to be noticed, by most. But I’m onto you, Nancy, and soon they’ll all know who you really are.
I stay late every other Wednesday and suss out the remains. There’s a granola bar wrapper in the garbage (clearly a ruse), shells of something… casings, their origins suspect. Three post-its on the monitor, ticked and scratched illegibly.
Marks on the desk and scratches on the third drawer. The other two drawers contain papers and office supplies–pencils, mostly, no sharpener. They are frequently used but bear no marks.
I hear a noise and retreat to my desk.
“Jane? You’re still here?”
It’s Tera, not Nancy. I’ve seen Tera in the bathroom.
“Oh…yes. I’m just finishing up some things.”
She looks at me peculiarly. There are no papers on my desk, no notes on my monitor. I take a bite of an apple left over from lunch, make sure she sees me eat it.
Tera retrieves her missing lunch container (noted), then exits, silently.
The next day, Lana calls me in. This must be about Nancy. I sit across from Nancy, I’d be the first to know.
“Are you alright, Jane? I noticed you’ve been here late, some days.”
“Oh. Yes. Just work to finish up. We all do it sometimes, right? Like Nancy. I noticed that–”
“It’s just that you’ve also been behind on things.”
“…just trying to catch up”
“It’s not a busy time right now. I should hope it wasn’t necessary.”
“…Nancy stays late sometimes.”
“Yes, I suppose.”
“…is Nancy behind on things?”
“No, in fact. She’s ahead on things. …thus, my concern.”
“Oh. Well. I’ll try to be more… focused.”
“Just let me know if you need to talk,” Lana finishes then guides me out the door. I return to my desk promptly.
Tic tac tac tac tic. Nancy smiles at me. Presumptions about the Lana talk. Little does she know how often her own name came up.
Tic tac tac… tac.
Nancy pauses. She leans over to me. I pretend to be working. I want to avoid her bug-like gaze.
“Hey…Jane. Want to go for lunch? Just you and me?”
“Desk Lunch” was previously published in Ellipsis Zine.