The Magic Touch(10)

By: Dara England

“Hey, Diana?” He ducked his head into her cubicle. “Any chance you’ve seen my data files? I swear they were on my desk a minute ago, but it seems like they’ve walked off.”

The young woman wrinkled her freckled nose and shrugged.

A bald head appeared over the wall of the cubicle behind her, followed by a pair of watery eyes peering down on them.

“How about you, Howard?” Danny asked the clumsy eavesdropper.

Silent and socially awkward, Howard had a knack for noticing things no one else picked up on. “I saw a folder,” he admitted, glancing around nervously. “I saw it on your desk but then it floated away.” His eyes rolled ominously.

A guffaw broke out from a passing coworker. “Sounds like you’ve got on the wrong side of a spook, Danny.”

Danny tried to laugh along. “Alright, everybody. I’m getting back to work, but whenever you get tired of this little joke, would whoever moved the file please put it back on my desk?”

It went on like that all afternoon. Most of it was harmless little pranks. Things disappearing from his cubicle or the clock radio at his elbow turning itself on at blaring volume. All of it was disruptive but Danny fought to ignore it because he was developing an unpleasant suspicion about who was responsible and was determined not to give her the satisfaction of victory. She thought she could drive him away with her magic tricks, did she? Thought she could make his work life so miserable he’d want to quit?

He could almost feel her now, breathing over his shoulder, watching his fingers tapping at the keyboard as she planned her next attack.

It came shortly before quitting time. He was minding his own business, typing away at his computer, eyes glued to the screen, when he heard a sharp squeal behind him. Suddenly something heavy clonked him across the back of the head.

“Ow!” He ducked, narrowly avoiding another blow as a plastic clipboard was swung toward him like a club. “Anne, what are you doing?”

Slithering to the floor and ducking low to take shelter behind his chair, he peered cautiously up at the attractive brunette towering over him. He’d never gotten along with Mr. Dolhouser’s female assistant, but it wasn’t like her to bring the feud to blows.

She didn’t look sorry as she stood before him, arms followed across the front of her white blouse. “Serves you right, Daniel,” she snapped. “What do you mean pinching my bottom like that? You just wait until I tell Mr. Dolhouser.”

Danny clutched his throbbing skull. “What do you mean ‘pinching’? I don’t know what you’re babbling about.”

But he did. Horribly, he did. He murmured into the thin air around him. “You’ve gone too far this time.”

If Ambrielle was floating around him somewhere, invisible, she gave no indication she heard.

But Anne did and she glowered at him. “No, it’s you who’ve gone too far, Daniel. There are laws against harassing women in the workplace.”

“Anne, please, just let me explain.”

But she had already whirled and was stalking off toward Mr. Dolhouser’s office, angrily swinging her clipboard as she went. That was probably just as well, since Danny couldn’t imagine what sort of explanation he would’ve given anyway that wouldn’t leave him looking like a lunatic.

He scrambled after Anne with the unpleasant feeling whatever was coming wasn’t going to end well.

* * *

And end well, it didn’t. Danny’s emotions were mixed as he rode the elevator down to the first floor of the office building, carrying a cardboard box full of all his personal effects. He was still on fire with embarrassment after the awkward confrontation in Mr. Dolhouser’s office. Having all his coworkers looking on as security escorted him to his cubicle to collect his things was a silent and humiliating affair.

Now it felt weird, knowing he’d never set foot on this elevator again. For the past five years it had taken him to and from his doom in that tight little cubicle in that stuffy little office. He couldn’t deny he felt a slight twinge of relief at the knowledge he would never see this hated place or any of these people again. But the bad feelings outweighed the good. He’d been fired, something that had never happened to him before. He’d been falsely accused, humiliated, and chewed out by his boss. He faced unemployment and a possible lawsuit. All because some godmother had decided to meddle.