Rachael drank the dark re-fried office coffee and winced. It was usually bad, like the movie “Cocktail” was bad, but something was more off than usual. It now tasted like bad coffee that had been funneled through a garden hose. Looking at the prime suspect, the creamer, she spotted the bright yellow label with the words “Organic” across it. She groaned. For something that was supposed to be so natural and tamper free, why did organic milk and cream taste so…chemical?
Rachael tried not to let it bother her, but it began to rankle in her a little. A tiny fish hook of annoyance was teasing her skin and threatening to break the surface. She counted to ten and tried to breathe deeply as she walked past the grey labyrinth of cubicles. Rachael wanted to look at the clock, but was afraid to. Her stomach was telling her it must be close to lunchtime. Her brain wanted to cushion the blow, telling Rachael that it must be a good hour until 1:00–no, at least an hour and a half.
Holding her breath, Rachael looked up at the boring, white-faced bare-bones office clock and stifled a scream. It was 9:27 am. Her blackberry began to vibrate on her holster, and she fished around under her oversized green blouse to find it. A message flashed on it, saying “meeting w. team D.” A sudden jolt of memory hit her brain, still fuzzy from lack of coffee. Oh right. The meeting.
She speed-walked across the floor, with as much dignity as she could muster, her sensible flats flapping on the carpet as her long skirt caught on wastebaskets and protruding screws. Rachael’s unruly tangle of brown curls kept getting in her face, and she franticly searched her blazer pockets for something to tie them back. Sadly, she remembered too late that these pockets were only ornamental flaps, and she tore the left one by accident. Spying the copy cart, she quickly grabbed a brown utility rubber-band and attempted to tie back her brown halo. The raw rubber yanked fine hairs, torturing her scalp and drawing tears, which she brushed away in a hurry.
Forty seconds later she arrived at conference room C. She was the first one there. She sighed in relief and sank into one of the cushy black vinyl chairs. She had only to wait. With a tiny flutter of happiness, she leaned back in her chair, and stared at the ceiling, daydreaming. Her stomach gave a few rumbles, but she sipped her horrible coffee to shut it up.
Minutes ticked by. It was now 9:42 and Team D hadn’t arrived. More importantly, Ted hadn’t arrived. Ted was heading it, and Rachael was sort of grateful. She liked Ted. Ted didn’t condescend to her, he knew that being the only graphic designer on the floor, she got a lot dumped on her plate that she shouldn’t have to deal with. Ted was also vaguely aware of the software and programs she used. He’d heard of Adobe Illustrator, and knew what ppi meant, and didn’t ask dumb questions like “how do I put an image in power-point?” Ted had also said he was going to stop at Dunkin Donuts and pick up 2 dozen donuts in various flavors. That was worth this stupid meeting alone.
9:50 read the clock in the dark meeting room. Rachael slugged back the rest of her cold, grassy tasting coffee, but it didn't shut up the nagging voice in her stomach. The fishhook of annoyance was now burrowing into her skin, and she had to conscientiously unclench her jaw. Her dentist had warned her about that. She ran a tongue over the sharp points of her canine teeth and felt the serrated grooves caused by her anxious teeth-clenching. 10:03 Where the hell was everyone? With a sinking feeling, Rachael wondered if maybe she’d gotten the meeting place wrong. Maybe team D was in Conference room M or something waiting for her to show up with her thumbdrive.
Rachael stuck her head out the door and flagged down Evan.
“Hey, Evan, was Team D supposed to meet in here today?
Evan consulted the spreadsheet. “Eeee-yeah. 9:30-10:30, it says. Ted not there?”
“Nobody’s in here!” whined Rachael.
“Want me to call Ted?” asked Evan.
“Would you please? I wish somebody’s tell me what’s going on.” Rachael winced at her own voice. She knew she was sounding like a petulant four-year-old in front of Evan (who she thought was really cute).
“You want to go back to your desk and I’ll ding you if he responds?”
“I’m scheduled to be here until 10:30,” said Rachael evenly. “I might as well wait, in case someone shows up.”
Rachael was sweating she was so anxious and nervous. The hot sick feeling was roiling in her stomach. She was either being duped or she’d overlooked something important and made a huge mistake. Not knowing which it was added to her stress. Feeling sick to her stomach, she fished in her purse for her pill-caddy and fished out two iron pills. She swallowed them dry, and they stuck in her throat, giving her heartburn. Where was Ted? Where were the freaking donuts?
At 10:28, Ted finally waltzed through the meeting room door.
“Evan said you were in here,” he said shrugging.
“Ted,” began Rachael, fighting to keep her voice even. “Wasn’t there some meeting that was supposed to take place at 9:30?”
Ted shrugged. “Oh, yeah. Well, it turns out that all of Team D was on the smoking balcony during break, so we kind of had an impromptu meeting out there.”
“Um, I’m in Team D,” said Rachael.
“Don’t worry, I won’t mark it on your timesheet or nuthin’. It’s not your fault you don’t smoke.”
“But the meeting was about the graphic designs for the site!” hissed Rachael.
“Yeah, but we got some good ideas.”
“TED. I’M THE ONLY GRAPHIC DESIGNER.”
“Yeah, but we’ll tell you what you need to do, I took notes.”
Ted handed Rachael a crumpled napkin covered in ballpoint pen scrawl. The only legible word was “logo.” Rachael noted sadly that the napkin was from Dunkin Donuts.
“I suppose you ate all the donuts, then.”
“Yeah, but I thought you wouldn’t care, Rachael. You're always complaining that there’s too much junk food in the office, right?”
Rachael fought it. She really did, but the smell of cigarettes, and Ted’s smarmy grin, were testing her mettle. And now… no donuts?
“I’m sorry?” said Ted, half-heartedly.
“No, Ted. I’M sorry,” sighed Rachael, closing the door to the conference room behind Ted. “You should have brought the donuts.”
She felt her canines lengthen as she grabbed Ted by his stupid Spongebob tie and sank her teeth into his neck.