Dead End Job: A Louisa Hallstrom Novel(73)

By: Ingrid Reinke

Unfortunately the photographer and Mr. Curtis had other plans, and she began yelling instructions to the entire group of employees to come up to the front of the room for a company-wide photo, starring me.

The nerves and the heat from the flashbulbs combined hadn’t been a great combination for me. I felt tiny beads of sweat breaking out in all the good places: between my boobs, my lady mustache and all down my ass crack. As the group gathered, I stood to the side smiling like a moron and wiped my arm across my lips as subtly as I could shifting uncomfortably in my dress, and made a mental note to not lift my arms up just in case I’d pitted out, which I was guessing I had.

The photographer was running circles around the group, moving people this way and that, coordinating by color or height or whatever would make us look as presentable as possible.

“OK, Miss Hallstrom! We’ll need you down in front,” the photographer said, getting peppier by the minute. She touched me on the shoulder and pushed me to the front and center of the group. “Now, hold up your award so everyone can see it!” She trilled. “And…Smile!” Flash, click! went the camera. I felt my face squish up, trying to protect my fried eyeballs which closed involuntarily at the flash. Great, I would probably look like a red, sweaty Shar-Pei in that one.

“I think we have it! Great job folks.” And that was a wrap.

As the cluster of people started to break apart, my only thought was evacuating the room as quickly as possible, heading to the ladies room and wiping my swampy parts, then hiding in a bathroom stall until I’d recovered from the humiliation of the morning. I trained my eyes down to the carpet, and headed for the back of the room towards the exit.

“Louisa! Wait!”

Nooooooooooo. But yes. For a split-second I thought about pretending like I didn’t hear him and quickly ducking into an elevator, leaving the office, heading down union   and then driving my car off of the nearest pier directly into the Sound. Unfortunately, that’s not how rational, functioning adults behave, so I took a deep breath, paused, turned around and flashed my best surprised yet smiley-happy face.

“Hi, Clark!” I said brightly, “How are you?”

“I’m great, thanks.” He caught up to me and we started walking together towards the elevators. “You look….sweaty. Are you doing OK?”

I’d spent quite a few of my cognizant hours imagining exactly how this particular interaction was going to go down. I’d pictured breezing back into the office in my cutest outfit, oblivious to my admiring co-workers, and not casually greeting Clark until hours later, like I hadn’t even thought about him or obsessed about our kiss. He would mean nothing to me, and he would want me. My apathy would be so hot to him that he’d confess his love and attraction to me, then pursue me aggressively and relentlessly, and it would be my choice whether or not to give him the time of day. Or…..not.

“I guess so. This whole thing is has been kind of overwhelming.”

“I bet. Anyways, I have to go talk to Scott in Marketing about a new project. We might need you to set up some offsite meetings for us next week at Starbucks headquarters. I know you’re probably slammed after coming back from your, uh, break. I just wanted to make sure that would that work for you before I sent over the requests. Cool?”

Not a mention of the fact that he randomly macked on me hardcore in his BMW before I ran down the street like a mental patient, or even an expression of sympathy that I had been shot by a psychopathic gay for God’s sake. No—Clark was seriously welcoming me back to the office with a request for administrative help. What. A. Dick.

I put my head down and stared at the carpet in shock. Even though I felt like I had been directly punched in the uterus, I’m pretty sure that I managed to mutter an appropriate response, something along the lines of “Oh…I think that would be fine.”

“Thanks! Great to have you back!” Clark flashed me a million-dollar smile and bounded back into the conference room, probably to go find fucking Scott from fucking marketing.

I felt myself shaking my head and couldn’t prevent the eye-roll and muttering of “seriously?” under my breath as I continued my path to the elevators towards my temporary ass-airing-out respite. The award was obviously not only a total joke to me, but also to my fellow employees. A little band-aid meant to cover up the uncomfortable feelings that people got when they accidentally made eye contact with me in the hall and were forced to think about or actually acknowledge what I’d been through. Everyone just wanted to move on, have things return to normal and go about their day ignoring each other.