Lindsey R. Loucks, 5/1/11
Current Occupation: K-12 Librarian
Former Occupation: Teacher
Contact Information: Lindsey R. Loucks has been a writer ever since her parents gave her a desk, fully stocked with blank paper and pencils, for a birthday present. She loves books, which has helped fuel her interest in writing and her career choice as a school librarian. She has written several short stories and 1.75 young adult novels.
Alpha Female Office Wolf
“Hey, look who it is!” Mallory, my red-haired coworker, rushed past my cubicle.
Not again. Please, not again.
Mallory squealed. “It’s so good to see you, Vi!”
Shit. I willed my scowl to relax into its usual smile and stepped out of my cubicle because I knew it was expected.
“Hey, you,” Vi said, folding Mallory into her large frame. When it was my turn, Vi‘s gardenia perfume wrapped around my lungs and squeezed. “There’s the new recruit.”
Vi ended the hug but held tight to my elbows. “Everything going okay, Teryn?”
She asked this question so often and always with the same searching look. I lit up my smile and widened my eyes. “Everything’s great.”
Vi’s face fell for a second before she perked up again in normal, happy, friendly Vi mode. “Good.”
“So…” Mallory bounced, and her hair bobbed up and down. “What’s been happening?”
“Well, I’ve just been so bored lately. Thank your lucky stars that retirement is down the road a ways,” Vi said.
I listened politely as Vi launched into what she did with her days and different clubs and activities she’d tried since the last time she visited the office. Which was only a week ago. Apparently office cubicle life was much more exciting than knitting club, Poker night, and discounted restaurant food combined. Which was why she couldn’t stay away from the office where she no longer worked.
As soon as they started talking about people I didn’t know, I slipped back into my cubicle. Third wheels like me couldn’t cut into the turkey babble anyway. I reread the last sentence on the computer screen and bounced ideas of what I wanted to type next off the criss-cross patterns on the cubicle wall.
“Oh! That reminds me, Teryn,” Vi said.
Half a sentence had flowed from my fingertips. The rest of it sank into a black hole. I forced a smile and turned around.
“I brought these for you.” Vi rummaged around in her large handbag and pulled out two short, thick candles. “I always thought the mauve color of these looked really nice against the blue walls. When I worked here, I put these on either side of the picture of my family. Like this.” She came into the cubicle and set the candles down on either side of my only picture, which was of my boyfriend, his dog, and me. “Doesn’t that look nice?”
“Um, yeah. Thanks.” Pretty soon she’ll be sitting on my lap, typing the report for me. I chewed the inside of my cheek and stared at the computer screen again. The half sentence glared at me.
“Did you hear about the new coffee place on Vermont Street?” Mallory asked. Her rose perfume drifted into my cubicle before she did. It conspired with Vi’s gardenias and smashed the bouquet of old lady up my nose.
My fingers were poised over the keyboard. I searched the inside of that black hole for the last half of my sentence while the turkeys gobbled right behind me. Inside my cubicle. My cubicle.
I tasted the burning in my stomach. Vi always sounded so happy when she visited the office, and now that she stood inside her old workspace, her happiness seemed more pronounced as it ricocheted off the walls.
She’s trying to push me out. She’s an alpha female office wolf who ventured out to find new territory, only to return to her old territory to discover that it has been taken over by a younger wolf. She wants her old territory back.
I coughed and opened my mouth so I wouldn’t have to smell them. Ridiculous. I’m being ridiculous. Vi just feels she retired too early. That’s all.
“Oh! Teryn, did you ever find my coffee cup?” Vi asked.
I pretended to tear my eyes away from my computer screen like I was really working and threw a glance behind me. “Sorry. Still haven’t.”
Bullshit. I knew exactly where the coffee cup was. On my first day, I found some items in the cubicle that had been left behind. I figured they were unwanted and had thrown them all away without a second thought. Most normal people would take all their belongings with them on their last day of work so they would never have to come back. Normal people.
Vi sighed. “Oh well. I’m sure it’ll turn up.”
I eyed that unfinished sentence. Should I give up trying to work and go take a break? And let Vi get her old territory back? Would she put her feet up on my desk? I squeezed my hands into fists.
“I’m thinking about going back to work,” Vi said. “I thought I’d look around and see if I can find something part time.”
“Really?” Mallory sucked in her breath. “What if you came back to work here?”
“Well, I’ve asked Peter to keep me posted if anything opens up. But there’s nothing right now.”
Vi’s eyes prickled the hairs on my neck. I knew she was giving me meaningful glances behind my back.
“What if you got your old cubicle back?” Mallory asked. “We could be neighbors again!”
Somehow my hand shot out towards the phone and picked it up. I turned my head slightly to make sure the women didn’t notice I was dialing too many numbers.
“Hi Peter! It’s Teryn. Could you please clarify the report I’m supposed to write?”
The burning inside me amplified my voice. I grinned into the phone, baring my teeth, as I listened to fake Peter’s fake reply.
Immediate silence. I could picture Vi’s frown, a straight line that curled down at the corners. If I placed two candlesticks on either side of that frown, they’d slide right off.
I nodded my head into the phone. “Uh-huh.”
“Hey, what’s going on in here?” a male voice asked.
The hush pressed against my cubicle walls.
“Hi, Peter,” Vi and Mallory said.
I looked over my shoulder and saw Peter’s silver eyebrows drawn together. The phone was still up to my ear. Blood rushed to my face. I glanced quickly at the two women before returning the phone to its cradle. They avoided my eyes.
“Hi, Peter,” I squeaked.
Vi cleared her throat. “I just came for a quick visit, but I need to get going.” She and Mallory made their way out of my cubicle. “See you.”
“Bye,” Peter said. He smiled at me, but it looked more like a grimace. Then he turned and headed back to his office.
Brilliant. Fucking brilliant. I buried my head in my sleeve. After a few breaths, I kicked my feet and rolled my chair out of my cubicle into the aisle. The breeze cooled my hot cheeks. “Thanks again for the candles, Vi,” I called.
She turned and smiled. “You’re welcome.” She waved goodbye to Mallory, then disappeared out the door.
With a deep sigh, I rolled my seat back into my blue-walled territory. I was the new young alpha female office wolf, but I sure felt like an idiot.