This is a continuation of yesterday’s Friday Fiction post
I was falling asleep. My bad. Honestly at one point I fell asleep with the phone in my hand and dreamed I finished the first part 🤦♀️. Ive made some corrections induced by lack of sleep and pure exhaustion. I’m working on trying to figure out how to create a link within the post to send you right to the newest bit. Otherwise, under the divider.
Dena stared at the Valentine’s Day decorations that Cupid must have vomited onto the walls of her office. The resident Perky Patty in the office had, as she does every holiday, decorated every possible shared space with the traditional Valentines symbols and imagery. Hearts and fat winged babies with a bow and arrows, more hearts, roses. All these in varying shades of red, pink, and white.
Most of her coworkers had been drawn into the holiday decor game, as well. She could look over the walls of her cubicle in any direction and see pops of red or pink here or there, where it wasn’t before.
Dena Ritter hated Valentine’s Day.
Okay, that was perhaps a little harsh. It was more like she was quietly jealous of people who had someone to celebrate it with. She herself was hopelessly single and had been since her college boyfriend broke up with her so he could backpack across Europe with no strings attached. Even Patty, that was her actual name after all, a late 40s divorcee celebrated with her cats. The woman had seasonal pictures taken with her cats regularly.
Dena sighed as she took one last look around the room, and got back to work.
A few hours later, just as everyone was wrapping up their lunch, which Dena took in her cubicle, Patty walked by, knocking on the padded wall of Dena’s cubical.
“Hi, Dena! How are ya?” Perky Patty cheerfully asked.
“I’m good, Patty.” Dena responded, looking up from her computer screen. “How are you?” Like most of their coworkers Dena found Patty mildly annoying but not enough to be unkind. She had her “a little too much” moments, but it was tolerable most of the time.
“Great! I’m so glad!” She exclaimed, giving Dena’s forearm a quick pat. “I didn’t see ya in the break room, so I thought I’d come by and give you this.” She handed her a sheet of copy paper. “It’s the list of activities for the week of Valentine’s Day! It’s going to be so much fun!” She did a little clapping motion with her small hands. “And there’s a potluck on the 14th! Isn’t that lovely?”
Dena smiled at Patty, “That’ll be great, it’s gonna be a fun week!” She exclaimed, hoping the sarcasm was hidden well enough.
“It sure is!” Patty agreed. “Well, I’ll let ya get back to your work, then.” They smiled politely at each other one last time and Patty turned and left.
Before she put the sheet down she glanced over it. Cupcakes one day, cookies another. One day had “chocolate covered strawberries or chocolate fountain TBD” written on it.
“Strawberries seem more sanitary but a fountain seems nice.” She thought to herself. “Might as well embrace Valentines with coworkers, they’re really all I’ve got.”
Three hours later it was time to head home, and Dena packed up and headed out. She ended up in the elevator with Patty and a few other coworkers, including the snobby blonde who hated everything but her phone, and the quiet awkward guy who worked in IT that didn’t talk to anyone unless their computer was broken and he couldn’t fix it remotely.
For the few minutes it took the elevator to reach the ground floor where the parking garage was located, no one really spoke, and Patty hummed cheerfully to the elevator music. Just before the doors opened, Patty turned to the others and wished even a lovely evening then walked away.
Dena, who always waited to be last because she didn’t want to get in anyone’s way, stood waiting for her turn, when awkward guy motioned for her to go.
“Oh no,” she said, “you go ahead.”
He motioned for her to go again, and she again insisted he go. After their back and forth lasted longer than necessary, Dena was too tired to not get frustrated and give up. She sighed exasperatedly and walked off the elevator. Walking away quickly she just barely caught him saying, “Have a good night.” She turned around to return the sentiment but she saw him walking quickly in the opposite direction.
She shrugged, “whatever” then walked to her car. When she finally got to it she pushed the button on Her key fob to unlock it and went to step inside, when she saw something tucked under the wiper blade. She grabbed it, her first thought being a flyer for one thing or another that she’ll just toss later.
When she looked closer at it after starting her car and locking her doors, she noticed it was an envelope. Nothing on the outside, front or back. She was slowly becoming the only car in the garage, which made her look uncomfortable so she pulled out and drove home.
She made it home to her empty apartment, which did not allow pets if any sort, and took off her shoes. After dropping all of her belongings where she’d reach them in the morning, she flopped down on her couch and opened the envelope.
Inside the envelope was a gift card. It was for the coffee shop she passed every day on her drive to work. “Hmm, that’s odd.” She flipped it over to look at the back, as if some explanation for it would be there.
Still very confused, she picked up the envelope again, and saw nothing written on either side. She looked inside, and she saw she’d missed a small piece of paper when she removed the gift card.
“You look in the window every morning but never go in.” It read. “Maybe you should go in next time.” In the back it was signed, “Your Secret Admirer”.
She was quiet for a long moment, but finally spoke out loud in her empty apartment. “Somebody is watching me on my way to work?”
Just thinking of the idea made her uncomfortable. It was beside the fact that she did look in the window daily. The shop was right on the corner and there was a stop light she always got caught in. She never went in because she never had time. She glanced at the gift card again. It didn’t even have an amount written on it or the slip of paper to tell her it even had anything on it.
She put the card aside and tried to forget it while she prepared a quick dinner for one, and watched whatever random TV movie she could find.
The next day, on her way to work, she made a point to not look into the window of the coffee shop, she decided she didn’t really like coffee or fresh baked pastries anyway. When she stepped foot off the elevator and into her floor, she was, as usual, stunned by the sheer number of valentines hearts around the room. She weaved her way around people and cubicles to find hers, and prepared to start her day.
She was getting her notepad and pens out of her desk drawer when a throat cleared loudly behind her. She turned to see Patty standing there, a wide grin on her petite face.
“Did you notice?” She asked Dena, almost shaking with delight.
“Notice?” Dena asked, unsure.
“The ceiling, dear! She exclaimed, gesturing upward. There were now tiny hearts hanging from the ceiling tiles. “I asked the janitors to hang them for me last night!”
“Wow,” Dena said, “I see them now.” She looked, there had to be at least a hundred. “They must have had fun with that!” The sarcasm was a little thick, she wondered if Dena would notice.
Oh, Pshaw.” She said. Then she leaned in and whispered. “I bribed them with the promise of my special snickerdoodles!” she giggled like a school girl at herself.
“I bet you did,” Dena wanted to say. “Well, I’m sure they will know you appreciate their hard work.”
“The cookies are waiting on them in my file cabinet!” She giggled slyly. “I have extras if you wanna stop by later.”
“Oh, thanks, but I think I’ll resist this time.”
“Well alright. You know where I’m at if you change your mind.”
Patty walked away and Dena logged in on her computer to begin her work day. She opens a drawer to remove a file she was working in yesterday, and on top was an envelope.
“Well,” she thought nervously. “I know it’s someone in this office. Or at least the building.” She hesitated, wondering if this mystery person was watching her now. She looked up, trying to seem less like she’s looking for an assassin, and glanced around the office as best she could.
“If I can’t see them, they can’t see me.” She told herself, hoping it wasn’t a lie. She grabbed the end of the file, lifting out of the drawer and allowing the card to slide off and into the empty drawer.
Shutting the drawer she laid the folder on the desk and opened it up and got to work, hoping she’d forget about it quickly.