Chapter 5: Memories

(ALLIE)

Focusing on work, the day passed; the hours did not speed by, nor did they lag – each minute, each hour, seemed to last for exactly that length. I'd brought my coffee maker, unpacked it, and set it up on the kitchen counter. I drank several cups throughout the day, and ate two snack bars from my purse. I was hesitant to take anything from his fridge or pantry when he hadn't invited me to do so. Of course, if I was expected to stay in the apartment for any stretch of time, he'd have to feed me something. I resolved to ask him about the situation in the evening, but I couldn't bring myself to touch anything of his without explicit permission.

Sometime before eight he returned, left a box of food on the counter for me, and then went out for a run. I finished up around ten, ate the food – some Eastern noodle dish – and got ready for bed. Jake came back in just as I was packing away my laptop, and I briefly summarized my work of the day. He told me that he'd just bought groceries as well, and I should help myself during the day. If any meals were to be shared, he'd give me warning and we'd plan something out then. There was nothing impolite in his tone, just a complete and utter lack of warmth. If anything, that only confirmed the hatred I knew he felt, rather than what a screaming match might have prompted. He left me with a stiff "Goodnight." and I settled into a room just down the hall.

Hours later, I lay in bed, awake. The guest room was quite nice, a bed, a dresser, closet, nightstand, the pillows were plump and soft, and the mattress nestled me like the perfect gravy lake in a mashed potato mountain. The caffeine from earlier may have left my system, but I couldn't stop my brain from pumping thoughts on overdrive. Unlike my usual nighttime broodings, tonight my thoughts turned to memories of him from over two years ago, when we first met, when my future was a dream, and I was still a student, figuring out the world. I didn't recognize it in his smile. I didn't see the potential danger he held.

The memories came in flashes. Even knowing what would come, I found it hard to notice anything off; where were the warning signs? If there were any, I missed them completely.

First day on the job, I'm just another intern fresh out of my third year of Uni. I'd been so nervous, that the actual first impressions were a bit of an anticlimax. Nothing disastrous. I wasn't hailed as the next up-and-comer destined for great things in the company, but everything went pretty smoothly and I could already feel pretty comfortable with the company's expectations of me. It would be work, and certainly tricky at first, but I could tell I'd learn a lot in the six months ahead.

At lunch I went to the break room for some coffee. I spared a wistful glance for the tea selection, but knew I'd need something stronger for an afternoon kick start. I did add three creamers and copious amounts of sugar though – it's not like that would lessen the caffeine. Black coffee is only for those with tongues of steel.

Someone came in and went straight to the fridge when I sat down at one of the three four-person tables. Looking up, I noted his stylish but professional attire, a pin-striped dark suit with a white shirt and a thin, sky blue tie, and silver tie clip. His light brown hair with the ends slightly bleached was styled like many of the currently popular actors. He straightened and turned from the fridge with his lunch; noticing me, a pair of hazel eyes met mine.

"Hello." He smiled and came to join me at the table.

"Hi." I smiled back. "I'm new here."

"Well, welcome to the team. You're lucky, the coffee's actually drinkable here, more than half of the other Uni intern spots would have you running for the hills." He grinned amiably and finished unpacking his lunch.

"Eh, I probably wouldn't notice. I don't really like coffee at all, so I can't really tell the difference. I cover up some of the taste, and keep drinking for the caffeine. I average two or three cups a day at school or working, but one night I went through five cups pulling an all-nighter for a paper." I took another swig of the stuff without so much as a grimace – practice. "And you pegged me right as a Uni intern. How long have you been working here?"

"Well, I'm one too, actually. An intern. I'm doing a year though, unlike most; I think I'm somewhere in my fifth month now." He took another forkful of rice then swallowed. "I'm Joseph by the way. Joseph Grant."

"Allyson Grangeford." We shook hands across the table.

"That was a great presentation."

"Thanks." Joseph said with a grin.

We made it to my desk and I plopped into the swivel chair, dropping my notes for the meeting's minutes next to the keyboard. I turned on the monitor and opened a new document to begin typing them up. Joseph set his briefcase on the floor and leaned against the cubicle's half-wall, arms crossed.

"Want to grab lunch together?"

"Sure, but I did pack something to eat. Did you want to go out?" I kept typing as I spoke; I had a lot to get done today. Just copying didn't require much thought so I wasn't bothered by the conversation.

"Nah, just wanted to coordinate a time to meet." He fiddled with the pens in my cup.

"Break room?"

"Let's go to the roof. The weather's good and there's a nice little patio with benches and stuff. And a fountain."

"Oh, I didn't know there was anything on the roof." My fingers paused on the keys. "That sounds really nice, some fresh air would be good. The break room has the necessities but sometimes it's hard to actually feel like I'm on break when I can still hear the phones ringing and the printers down the hall." I looked back to my notes to pick up where I'd left off. "So what time?"

"Noon work for you?"

"Sounds good, see you then."

"I'll meet you on the rooftop."

He picked up his briefcase and strode off for the elevators – we worked on different floors.

"Yo." He nodded at me as I entered the printing room.

"Hey." I returned the greeting. He glanced at his watch.

"Think you could do me a massive favor?" He looked at me with pleading eyes.

"What do you need?" I'd probably help with whatever, but it was a principle of mine to never agree to something before knowing what it was.

"Would you finish copying these for me so I can go finish up another report? I'm hours behind and the supervisor's breathing down my neck." There was a loud beeping behind him and a mechanical chugging that didn't sound good. The paper had jammed. "Aw fuck!" he exclaimed.

"Language!" I turned to recognize the form of his supervisor in the doorway.

"I'm sorry, please excuse me." Joseph looked very uncomfortable. The woman tsked and continued down the hall.

"I think she just heard you swear, not what you said about her before." I hoped to make things a little better. He grunted in frustration and turned back to the temperamental machine. "Here, I'll deal with it. Just go." He smiled in relief.

"Thank you. I'll buy you lunch tomorrow!" He was out the door in three steps and I leaned forward to confront the unhappy copier beeping and tschunking in vain.

Jake had met me for lunch and I was back at my desk humming quietly as I sorted what I wanted to accomplish in the afternoon.

"Good lunch?" Joseph's voice from behind surprised me and I gave a little start. There was an amused crinkle at the corners of his eyes.

"Yes. Yours?" I kept my voice neutral.

"Oh, it was fine. Meet your boyfriend?" I blushed. "You just have this little smile and you were humming to yourself." he explained.

"He's just a friend."

The bar was dim and full of the clinking of glasses, multiple conversations and some well-known music playing in the background, still popular though it came out twenty years ago.

"To good co-workers and any excuse to go out!" Angela led another toast and the dozen or so of us around the table clinked glasses and took another drink. Out of all of us it seemed she was the quickest drunk, her face was flushed and her words seemed a little more fluid than usual. Chris from across the table called out "Here, here!" and Joseph slapped him on the back.

"Want to dance?" Vivian, sitting next to me, asked, with a little uncertainty.

"Sure!" I downed what was left in my glass and grabbed her hand.

"Don't forget you promised a game of darts later!" Joseph called after us.

"Yeah, yeah." We started bobbing along to the music.

Boredom and no real news for conversation. We sat in the break room; I was making a massive chain out of all of my paperclips. Joseph was lying flat across five chairs lined up in a row.

"Elephant." He replied without opening his eyes.

"Tiger." I answered with no real pause.

"Rat." He answered quickly. "No, we said that already. Give me a minute… R…"

Rabbit, raccoon, rhinocerous… I tried to think of more choices.

"Ram." he cut into my thinking.

"Ooh, good one. Okay, M…" It was surprisingly difficult thinking of something when put on the spot suddenly. "Moose." His turn again. Ten more minutes before we had to go back to work.

"Do you like him?" His eyes watched the falling water; we were eating ice cream by a fountain at the park.

"Who?" Surprised and confused, I looked straight at Jake for clarification.

"Joseph. Your friend from the office." He raised his eyes to meet mine

"We're just friends." I sighed.

"But do you like him?" he pressed; his eyes flashed with greater intensity.

"As a friend and co-worker. No, I'm not interested in anything more." I licked at the ice cream on the sides of the cone.

"But you two see each other so often when he doesn't even work on your floor. You're in different departments." His low voice strained with frustration.

"We're just friends." I stated firmly. "He's just another intern."

If not fully convinced, something in my words or expression seemed to calm him and he sat back with a mysterious smile on his face, chocolate ice cream running down his fingers.

"It's okay, no one explained it to you properly. Just because you've been here three months, so you're not technically new anymore, doesn't mean if you haven't done a certain task before you'll magically know just how they want it." Joseph was helping me fix a particularly embarrassing mistake.

"I should've known there was more to it and asked someone." Add to my flushed face and rolling stomach one growing headache.

"It would have sounded pretty straightforward to anyone who didn't know better. Whatever, stop worrying about it. I'm helping you straighten it out for now, and next time you can get it right." He was sympathetic to a point, but clearly getting tired of my self-pitying.

"Sorry, and thank you." I took some deep breaths quietly to regain control and he just grunted in response.

"Okay, there you go." He handed me back my reports with his fresh annotations and stood to leave. "By the way, could I take a look at the Mandlessin files for a bit? I think they might help with a project I'm working on now."

"Oh, um, sure." I dug out the right files and handed them over.

"Thanks, I'll get them back to you tomorrow." He left to return to his work.

"He's nice. I can't believe he can't tell you like him though." Joseph poured water into the coffee maker for a fresh batch.

"Am I really that obvious with Jake?" I chewed on the inside of my cheek nervously.

"Well, not that obvious, but to people who know you, yeah." He snapped the lid shut and pressed the start button.

"I've got to get back." I sighed.

"Hey, do you still see that Joseph guy?" Jake asked as we started walking down the street.

"Of course. He works in the same building and we're friends." Something about his tone made me wary of where this was heading.

"You should reject him properly." His voice was serious.

"What? I – he – we're just friends!" I spluttered.

"I don't think he sees it that way." Jake continued. "I saw the way he looks at you."

"He's never done anything to even hint at that. And he was happy for me when we started going out. And he liked you when you met; he said you were nice." They'd seen each other a few times since first meeting, when Jake met me at the office. He was always perfectly polite and friendly.

"Did he say that?" Jake murmured to himself, then continued, louder, for me. "Still, there's something off about him. I think you should try to avoid him a little."

"Jake! We've been going out for less than two weeks and you're already trying to control who I see and talk to?" I was positively indignant. "I'll talk to whoever I feel like!"

We'd reached the glass doors of my office building and I went in without a backward glance.

The quality of my memories was beginning to deteriorate with the need to sleep. The images left quickly, sometimes coming without sound or some other sense. I remembered a potted fern at the end of the hallway. A smile and a hug and some sort of forgiveness.

"So for the inter-departmental presentation we'll be needing…" Pin-stripes and a thin tie, silver tie clip.

"The files you…" Long fingers, phones ringing.

Then just flashes of faces, distracted expressions. Hustle and bustle. Gelled hair. Cologne. Green eyes. Broad shoulders, narrow shoulders. Fingers in my hair, lips. Hazel eyes. His lips crushing mine. Encompassing darkness.

A/N: Thank you for your patience with the super slow update. I hope to get the next chapter out soon. As always, reviews are dipped in gold, greeted with fanfare and red carpet, and hung on my wall. Thanks for your time and I hope you continue to enjoy!