What I believe, love, know and want

I believe in the power of words; they can lift someone up or bring them down. They can take you across the globe, into space or to a different dimension. You can lose yourself in words written by others, or you can be the one to make people laugh, cry and muse over your story. Imagine having that power at the tip of your pen…I believe, that would be awesome!

I love a good story, any kind of story. The genre doesn’t really matter as long as it’s a compelling story. I have to be able to relate to the characters, to feel I am the character. I love authors who manage to make me revise my opinion of a certain character. Jodi Picoult is a perfect example of this type of storytelling. Lastly, but also what mainly triggered my passion for the written word, is a writer’s ability to talk about nothing at all and yet retains the reader’s rapt attention till the very end. My hero: The booger-loving humor columnist of the Miami Herald back in the 80’s; Dave Barry.

I know that there are many ways to tell a story and that I have to discover the right way to write mine to turn it into a compelling one.

I want others to read my work and come away laughing and crying and thinking…I can’t wait for her next book/story!

Flyby

It’s really true what they say, sometimes you must stop (or at least slow down) and smell the flowers. Life moves faster than the speed of light and if you don’t put on the brakes occasionally, you might miss the best parts.

At the end of my bike ride this morning, a small bird made a flyby, slowly diving into a lazy turn alongside me, almost bumping its little tush into my helmet, only to fly off into the distance, increasing altitude and speed.

I couldn’t clearly see what type of bird it was, because it was dark out, the sun still struggling with the night to get those first rays of light seeping into the dusk hours. But the shape and size suggest it was probably a yellow oriole.

I felt like the bird hadn’t miscalculated the turn, but simply dropped in to give me a friendly, ‘good morning to you’ salute. It made me slow my pace (just a bit) and I became more aware of my surroundings.

Usually, I’m so focused on pedaling at a ‘heart-popping-out-of-my-chest’ pace, to be able to keep up with the boys, that I don’t truly notice anything else around me, except for maybe potholes, cars, other cyclists, stray dogs and early morning joggers (almost ran over one of those once, but that’s a different story!).

But now I was suddenly hearing at least a dozen different bird calls all around me. It made me wonder if they were each reaching out to their own species or if it was a general call-out; the bird community starting their day with a ‘Good morning y’all’.

It was a beautiful sound, and as I picked up my pace again, the medley of songs accompanied me the rest of the way home, cheering me on. It was the best playlist I ever listened to.

The landing

The pull of the wind is strong, but he doesn’t let that deter him. He knows what’s at stake and he’s determined to complete his mission. “I can do this.” He tries to hold steady, but another gust of wind blows him off course. He cuts a hard right and doubles back towards his target.

“I’m not giving up!” He musters all his courage and quickly thinks up another plan of attack. Back home everyone is counting on him for their survival; failure is not an option. Taking a fast dive, he locks in on his target, but the wind abruptly changes direction and he gets sideswiped. Suddenly he’s dropping way too fast, spiraling in a dizzying nosedive, the ground seeming to rush towards him at a harrowing speed. The stark blue and white of the sky merges with the kaleidoscope blend of earth colors, making it impossible to distinguish up from down.

He pulls up with all his might, hoping against all hope that he is pulling in the right direction, all his muscles contracting in fear as they furiously work against the forces of nature. It feels to him like he’s mere inches from making impact before he finally manages to gain back control and get back to cruising altitude.

“Okay, that was a bit too close for comfort!” He checks out his surroundings trying to catch his bearing. “There it is!” To his left he can see his target again, it’s impossible to miss the fierce yellow object seeming to sway gracefully in the breeze with not a care in the world. “I can’t go back empty handed…I won’t!”

With renewed determination he readjusts his course and hones in on the yellow mass. He does a rapid calculation of wind shear and speed, zigzagging his way down slowly, ever so slowly until… “Contact! I have contact!”

Hovering safely in the cocoon of the pumpkin flower he gets his fill of nectar and flies proudly off towards the beehive. The day’s work is done; mission completed!

May 10, 2020 – Day three of Freedom:

Yes, you read correctly, this is day three of freedom. The lockdown was lifted on Friday. We still have a curfew in place from nine pm till six am, but all stores have been authorized to open. Social distancing and hygiene protocols must still be adhered to of course and some businesses also have certain restrictions, but I’ll take this ‘new normal’ as everyone seems to be calling it.

Because of these latest developments, this will be my last entry to close off this logbook of the lockdown period. We have been through a lot together as a family and as a community. I think we all experienced good days, so-so days and bad days but I also strongly believe that we have grown because of it and that the lockdown has taught us to cope with whatever curveballs life throws at you.

I’m sure my kids had an urge to spike my juice with a sleeping pill once in a while just as I would’ve preferred spiking theirs more often…(just kidding, I would never do that….or would I?) Point is, we’ve had ups and downs and still weathered the storm. We will now have to learn to live with our new normal. New set of social rules will apply from now on and it will take some getting used to, but I’m convinced we shall also overcome this obstacle.

Finally, I would like to add that one of the main things I’ve learned about our crazy family unit is that we could probably open a restaurant if:

  • A) customers do their own washing up afterwards
  • B) the cook is the one who determines what will be served any given day
  • C) the cook also decides what time she serves said lunch (this could be anytime between 12 and 5pm)
  • D) all employees can work in their PJ’s
Mother’s day brunch prepared by kids

For now, I am going to enjoy this Mother’s day in what has been our normal for the past few weeks and tomorrow I promise that I will get with the program. In other words; this will regretfully be my last bra-less-pajama-all-day dress code. This lockdown has been tough, but some things I will truly miss about it…and walking around bra-less all day is one of them!

I can’t close this logbook without proudly adding the Mother’s day gift I received from my two precious children. Besides making us a wonderful brunch, they each wrote something for me that I would like to share with you. It makes motherhood worthwhile and almost makes me regret spiking their juice (again, I’m just kidding…or am I?).

But seriously, I love my kids to the moon and back and hope with all my heart that they will live long and happy lives, doing whatever makes them jump up with joy in the morning. (I also secretly hope they will sometime in the near future learn that it’s nice to cook for your loved ones, but it’s even nicer to clean up afterwards…we are not there yet, but I still have hope…)

Before I leave you with my kids’ message I also want to add a short message of my own for my mom. Not a very easy thing to do because there simply are not enough words to describe what she has meant to me growing up and still means to me to this day. She is not only my mother but also my best friend, mentor and my go to person for all things big and small. So, I know it might sound corny but I still say it proudly; she is the best mother anyone could ever hope for and I’m extremely glad she just happens to be MY mom! Love you mom!

And now, as promised, my Mother’s day gift from my kids:

Written by my daughter, Alexine:

Written by my son, Emyl:

We recently held an interview with our favorite local mom, Tamara Neuman (aka the best mom you could ever ask for). She told us all about her wacky adventures during the Covid-19 pandemic (the ‘you can’t do shit phase’).

Due to her extreme boredom, Tamara decided to do the craziest workout routines. I’m talking the weirdest routines you can think of, which she then forced her children to do with her, God bless their poor souls.

She also embarked upon a lot of cleaning and reorganizing around the house, which was a real pain to do according to her children, even though she was the one who did most of the work.

And let us not forget about the cooking; Tamara has fixed some scrumptious lunches, with her daughter by her side.

To conclude, she is a wonderful person and mother and we wish her a Happy Mother’s Day!

The Scare

Lydia picked up a random magazine out of the wicker basket sitting in the corner of the gloomy doctor’s office as she walked through the doors. She glanced in the two-way mirror separating the nurses’ station from the visitors’ area. She could barely recognize herself. There were bags under her tired looking eyes and the usually bright brown hue was now almost black. Her high cheekbones seemed too pronounced from all the weight she’s lost from the constant vomiting and her bouncy curls, which not too long ago, used to be a glossy raven black, seemed to be losing the battle with the hair dye and were now a cross between dull gray and a black-brownish hue. She rapidly averted her eyes from that pitiful sight and plopped down heavily in the nearest wobbly and uncomfortably stiff waiting room chair, the magazine seemingly already forgotten on her lap.

Staring at the wall with unseeing eyes, she leafed through the pages without bothering to actually look down at the words and images printed on them. She unconsciously observed that the wall right in front of her was painted a dull and dreadful mauve color. She briefly wondered if that was the original color or if maybe it had faded away to that particular shade with the years. She’d been coming to the same GP at this same location for over 20 years and yet she couldn’t remember the original color of the wall. Who cares?! But mauve? Really? Why would anyone paint a wall in that Godawful color?!

It doesn’t matter! Forget about the color, forget about the damn wall! Maybe it was time to switch doctors. She just turned 52 which means that Doctor Stevenson must be at least pushing 60, maybe even 70! Can she trust the diagnosis of a seventy year old man?! She bowed her head and tried to focus on the pages but it was no use. She nervously tucked a lock of the unruly curls that had managed to escape her messy ponytail behind her left ear, but they sprang loose again as soon as her fingers let go of the strand. How much longer did she have to wait for the doctor? Her appointment was at 2:00 PM and it was already a quarter past. Why did the doctor ask to see her? Why didn’t he just have the nurse give her the results of the tests over the phone like he usually does? I just know it’s bad news, doctors only ask you to come in for the results when it’s bad news. But what could it be? An ulcer? A contagious virus? Oh, God, please don’t let it be a tumor!

“Lydia Becker, room 3!” The voice from the speakers above resonated loudly making Lydia jump from her seat. The magazine dropped unnoticed to the floor. She tucked the errand strand behind her ear again as she walked briskly towards the door marked with a big black number 3 sticker that seemed to be peeling at the edges. When she reached the door she froze for a second, her hand reached tentatively for the doorknob and when she grabbed the knob, she noticed that her hand was trembling slightly. She took a deep breath to compose herself, resolutely turned the knob and pushed through the door. Doctor Stevenson was sitting at his desk leafing through some papers in a yellow file folder. Lydia was afraid to even look at it, certain it contained her death sentence. Instead she slumped down into the only other chair in the cramped office. It was just as wobbly and uncomfortable as the one in the waiting room. She focused on the wall to her right, then to the one on her left, while nervously fingering the top button of her blouse, almost prying it open, her gaze fluttering everywhere except on the damning file resting just inches in front of her.

At least these walls were painted an acceptable soft light blue. She would hate to hear that she only had months to live in an ugly mauve colored room! That’s it, she was definitely becoming delusional, maybe it was the tumor already eating away through her stomach, up her spinal cord all the way to her brain. She couldn’t take it any longer, she’d been sitting there silently for at least a minute and Doctor Stevenson hadn’t even offered a hello or acknowledged her presence. He was just passively sitting there, engrossed in whatever was in that file, reading glasses perched precariously on his slightly crooked nose. He must have been quite a looker in his youth, except for his graying temples and a few spider-web lines around his green eyes, he still had that chiseled look most women swoon over. At the moment however, the doctor’s good looks were the furthest thing on her mind.

“Ehem, ehm, ehm.” Lydia coughed in her hand, hoping to get the doctor’s attention. Doctor Stevenson looked up and slammed the file shut with a finality that seemed to bore straight through Lydia’s ailing stomach; the reason why she was sitting on an uncomfortable wobbly chair in a baby blue colored office. It all started a few months ago with severe nausea. As soon as she woke up, her stomach would start convulsing and she had to make a mad dash for the toilet. And this would go on for the entire day. It got so bad that she now leaves a wastebasket next to her bed at all times just in case. She simply can’t seem to keep any food down unless it’s bland mashed potatoes or applesauce; something she just discovered last week. She’s lost at least 10 pounds and can barely get up the energy to get out of bed, let alone go to work. At first she thought it was just a bug or something she ate, but after two months with no change in her condition she decided to go to the doctor and have some blood-work done.

And now here she was, sitting in front of the man who held her destiny in the inconsequential looking yellow file in front of him. “Hi Lydia, how are you feeling today. I have the results of your tests right here.” As he spoke, he rested the palms of both of his hands lightly on the file. Lydia tried to make eye contact with the doctor but she couldn’t lift her gaze from the hands resting nonchalantly on her fate. “I-I’m okay, I guess but my stomach is still upset, none of the over the counter medications seem to be working.” Lydia finally lifted her head up long enough to give the doctor her bravest smile but which looked more like a lopsided half grin, before lowering her gaze back to the file. “Well my dear Lydia, the good news is that we now definitely know what’s wrong with you.” Lydia looked up and caught doctor Stevenson grinning from ear to ear as he took off his reading glasses and placed them gently on top of the damning file. That’s good news? Thought Lydia. The fact that he knows she has a tumor is good news?! She inhaled deeply, sat up straighter in the uncomfortable chair and squared her shoulders preparing herself for whatever the doctor would say next. She held both fists squeezed tightly in her lap, her nails digging into the fleshy part of her palms. “So, if that’s the good news…what’s the bad news?” She asked in a strangled voice just barely above a whisper.

“I wouldn’t call it bad news exactly Lydia. I guess it depends on how you look at it.” He was still grinning at her and his callous  attitude started to irritate her. “What the hell does that mean?! How can a tumor ever not be bad news?!” Lydia exploded. “A tumor?” Repeated doctor Stevenson bewildered. “Yes!” Lydia jumped up from the chair and started pacing in front of the desk. “How can you just sit there with that stupid grin on your face and tell me a tumor isn’t necessarily bad news?!” Doctor Stevenson just looked at her and suddenly burst out laughing. “Who said anything about a tumor?! You don’t have a tumor Lydia…you are pregnant!”

The Sign

With quick steps, Charlie walks purposefully towards the public restrooms but slows to a stop at the end of the hall. The signs on the wall are clear and simple; no sophisticated, hard to decipher emblems, just two simple words in black 8-inch Times New Roman bold letter type, each indicating an entryway. On the left it says MEN’ and on the right ‘WOMEN’. Taking a few tentative steps to the right, Charlie stops short of the entrance and looks up at the sign once more. ‘WOMEN’; simple, direct, concrete. Then Charlie takes a step back and glances to the left, to the other one. Basically, it seems like the same simple and direct sign but in reality, it is a harsh word, one that evokes confusion, self-consciousness and revulsion. Shuddering unconsciously, Charlie shakes off childhood traumas of facing public restrooms and being forced to accept the ‘norm’. Trying to explain, saying over and over, “This is not who I am”, but no one seemed to understand, no one was willing to listen.

Snapping back to the present, Charlie is just about to head inside when a young mother brusquely cuts in front without a second glance, a toddler’s hand grasped firmly in hers as she hurries self-assuredly into the restroom marked ‘WOMEN’. The child skips alongside her while grabbing his crotch demonstratively; “Pee-pee mommy, Corey pee-pee now!

As mother and child walk/run into the restroom, Charlie stands there wondering with equal measures of envy, sadness and admiration at the ease and confidence with which they disappear inside. Several other women walk past and enter the restroom without a second thought. It gives Charlie the courage to also stride towards the entrance, but this time, it is a gentleman who walks up with a little girl in tow and unwittingly blocks the way. The girl is sporting two long messy braids and can’t be more than seven years old. They are only a few feet away and Charlie automatically halts as well, turns in a semi-circle and pretends to look in a different direction while eavesdropping on their conversation.

“Okay Lisa, daddy can’t go in with you, but I’ll be right here waiting for you. Just go ahead and don’t forget to wash your hands when you’re done.” The girl turns to her father with a flustered look on her face, “but I don’t want to go by myself daddy, why can’t you go with me!” The man crouches down so that he is at eye-level with his daughter, places his hands on her shoulders and gives her an encouraging squeeze. “This restroom is for girls, honey – I am a boy. We talked about this before leaving the house, remember? Boys go to the restroom that says ‘MEN’ and girls go to the one that says ‘WOMEN’. You are a girl, right?” The girl nods imperceptibly. “So, go ahead sweetie. I’ll be right here waiting for you when you come out.” The little girl gives her father one last uncertain look, while she twists her right braid around her index finger, further mussing up the already loose braid. Then she turns around and scurries into the restroom.

As the father stretches back upright, he notices Charlie standing there and smiles; “Her first time using the ladies’ room by herself.” The father suddenly realizes that he’s blocking the entrance and steps aside, “Sorry, go right ahead.” Charlie gives the man an understanding nod, “Yes…going into the women’s restroom for the first time is indeed a life changing experience.” With renewed courage, Charlie takes bold, sure steps, joining the small crowd of women heading in the same direction. Stepping inside, a beautiful, confident young woman with shoulder length, dark brown hair falling in large natural curls around an oval face stares back at her. Almond shaped eyes, the same dark shade as her hair and with just a touch of eyeliner and mascara crinkle slightly, as the corners of soft full lips painted the lightest of pinks, slowly turn upwards…Charlie smiles back at her reflection; she has found her true identity…

Side note:

Last year Wintertuin Curaçao organized their first short story competition. The topic was ‘Identity’ and it had to be no more than 750 words. Five finalists were selected from the 83 submissions they received and on Saturday the five finalists had to read their story in front of a jury of five as well as the general public. The competition was part of The Wintertuin Curaçao Festival held at our public library; a wonderful event that started in the morning with storytelling for kids and progressed into the evening with profound poems, short stories, short plays and musical poetry for adults, recited by well-known local artists as well as performers from The Netherlands. The evening culminated with the five finalists…and I was one of them! It was the first time I had participated in a writing competition and although I really wanted to be selected, I was also anxious, because I would have to read my work…out loud…IN FRONT OF A LIVE AUDIENCE!

With my heart beating at breakneck speed, I stepped onto the podium. Stage lights blinded me as I turned to the public to read my short story. I kept telling myself: It’s just 700 words, it will take 5 minutes, 6 tops…you can do this! Grabbing the mike firmly, I took a deep breath and started to read…

Well, I somehow survived the reading and I still can’t believe it, but…I won! Thumbs up for Wintertuin for organizing this awesome literary festival. I hope they will continue encouraging emerging writers with more of these competitions.

The Note…

Slumped in his chair, he places his elbows on his desk, interlocking his fingers tightly together as if in prayer. He slowly pitches forward, leaning his forehead against his fists for support. Although the outside frost is slowly inching its way up the large French windows, droplets of sweat dot his forehead. He raises his head back up and stares unseeingly into the distance, the breathtaking view of the city below bathed in glistering lights completely lost on him.  His gaze turns to the page lying in front of him. He reaches for it with a trembling hand, unable to stop himself from picking it up. He knows full well what it says, he just wrote it a few seconds ago, and still he reads and rereads it again and again until all the letters bleed together. The icy chill of the words seeps from the page into his fingers, up his arms, spreading slowly throughout his body like a cancer on an all-consuming destructive path. He finally tears his eyes away from the loathsome words, his gaze landing on his computer’s screen saver.

Two identical young boys stare back at him with carefree smiles on their faces as they embrace in a playful bearhug on the beach, the soft rolling waves of the ocean behind them, tickling their toes in the sand. The purity of their joy pulls him out of the dark place threatening to engulf him. He resolutely crushes the note into a tight ball and with the crumpled piece of paper still lodged firmly in his palm, he brusquely shakes the mouse to bring his computer back to life. The warm colors of the smiling boys disappear and are replaced by the blinding white background containing the same lines as the printed version propped in his hand. He moves the cursor to the far-right corner of the blue bar and clicks on the X. ‘Want to save your changes to document1?’ His mouse hovers on ‘save’, then it slowly inches towards ‘don’t save’…click. He quickly shuts off his computer, locks up the office and heads towards the elevators, straightening his back and increasing his stride with each step.

Exiting the elevator at the lobby, he looks down as he crosses the threshold and notices that he is still clutching the balled-up note. Without missing a step, he tosses it forcefully into the trashcan next to the receptionist’s counter. He smiles amicably at the night janitor sweeping the floor and makes his way through the revolving doors. If he hurries, he might be able to make it back home just in time to read the boys a bed-time story.

The night janitor absentmindedly waves back as he finishes his final sweep of the marble floors and moves on to his last task of the evening; collecting the trash. Moving from one trashcan to the next, he lifts the bags, ties them in a knot, tosses them into the big trash bag lining his cart and places a fresh bag in the trashcan. He whistles a happy tune while he works and daydreams about the glorious meat stew waiting for him at home. Just the thought of his knife slicing through the tender meat makes him salivate. He picks up the pace, no longer bothering with replacing the bags with fresh ones but simply emptying their contents directly into his cart. As he shakes the last trashcan next to the receptionist’s desk into his cart, a crumpled piece of paper misses it and rolls unnoticed underneath the counter.

…..

“Come on Charlie, hurry up!” Tina says while blowing warm air into her palms and hopping from one foot to the other. “You are going to make me late for my first day at work. Just pee already!” Charlie happily zigzags from one lamppost to the next, sniffing each one thoroughly as if in search of enlightenment itself. “Ok, Charlie that’s it, last chance, if you don’t pee right now you will have to hold it in until after I come back from work. You don’t want me to have to face Mr. Jones and explain to him that after sticking his neck out to get me hired, I’m late on my very first day because my dog couldn’t choose a lamppost, do you?!”

Just as Tina is about to pull on the leash, the brown Labrador zooms in on three green trashcans lining the side of the brownstone apartment complex. He trots over to them, takes a few tentative sniffs, lifts his hind leg and aims a steaming stream at one of the trashcans. Tina hurries back to her apartment with Charlie leading the way.  She makes sure he has plenty of water in his bowl and gives him a quick hug. “I’ll be back before you know it, I promise!” At the front door she turns around one last time to give the dog the sternest look she can muster, “Charlie, behave!”

She half walks, half runs to the Metro Station, taking the stairs as fast as her stilettos will allow, holding her purse closely tucked to her body with one arm while brushing brown fur from her black slacks with the other. There are still a few empty seats in the train, but she bypasses them all, hurrying to the gliding doors at the back of the compartment. Hooking her hand through the loop of an overhead strap, she turns her back to the rest of the commuters and their idle chitchat. She focuses at her reflection on the glass, smiles warmly and repeats in a low voice, “Frasier Bank of New York, good morning, how may I help you”.

As soon as Tina exits the metro station, she catches a glimpse of the majestic skyscraper at the end of the street. She pauses for a second, takes a deep breath, straightens her shoulders and heads purposefully towards the imposing building. Walking past an Indian restaurant, the pungent curry spices combined with the fumes of car exhaust invade her nostrils. Finally, she reaches the office building and darts through the revolving doors. She straightens invisible stray hairs from her perfectly coiffed bun as she walks up to the empty reception counter, her heels clicking a rhythmic beat on the shiny marble floors. A mischievous smile touches her lips as she slowly lowers herself into the seat behind the huge desk. She runs her fingers lovingly over the cold gleaming countertop and whispers, “My reception desk”, still in awe and disbelief. As Tina leans over to set her purse on the floor, she sees a balled-up piece of paper at the far inside corner of her desk.

Picking it up, she is about to toss it in the trashcan when curiosity takes over. She unfolds it and quickly glances over her shoulder before reading. ‘Please forgive me. I tried to fix it but, everything just spiraled out of control. I shouldn’t have done it. I realize that now. I wish I could turn back the clock, but I can’t. I messed up and now my sweet boys will pay the prize, growing up without a father. I know this is the coward’s way out, but I’d rather have my kids bury me and go on with their lives than have to face them through bars for the rest of my life. I’m sorry.’

“Are you going to answer that?” Tina jumps up nervously and finds herself staring into the soft brown eyes of Mr. Jones who is smiling at her. “I, uhm, yes, uhm no, I mean, of course Mr. Jones!” She stammers and quickly sits back down while snatching the note. She balls it back in her fist in a casual motion and picks up the ringing phone while pushing buttons at random, willing the blinking light to stop its mad dance. “Frasier Bank of New York, good morning, how may I help you?”, she singsongs in what she hopes comes off as a clear and confident voice while she looks back up at Mr. Jones, a smile plastered on her face. “One moment please and I’ll connect you.” Patching the caller through, she turns her attention back to Mr. Jones, weighing whether or not to tell him about the note clamped in her fist. Before she can make up her mind, his cell phone rings. He looks at the caller ID and backs up a few steps from the counter as he takes the call. Without meaning to eavesdrop she still catches some of the conversation. “Good morning Mr. Wellington…Yes sir…of course sir…no problem sir. I’ll be right up sir.” Lowering the phone, he slowly presses the disconnect button. He looks back up and stares at her for a few seconds then gives her a quick nod and heads towards the elevators in the back, picking up his pace as he goes.

As she watches him walk away, she has a strong urge to call out to him but he’s already out of earshot. She looks down at the crumpled paper in her hand and then at Mr. Jones’s retreating back. She doesn’t know what to do. This was not at all how she had imagined her first day at work would be like. It had taken her months of countless interviews followed by just as many disappointments, before finally landing this job. She had naively thought that her proudly earned Bachelor’s of Art degree would automatically open doors to a brilliant new career but all it got her was one rejection after the other. If it weren’t for Mr. Jones, she probably wouldn’t be sitting behind this desk right now. She recalls last week’s interview. It started horribly. She walked into the office and just as she was about to hand over her personal file to the interviewer she tripped, papers flying all over the place. She crouched down to grab them at the same time as he did and their heads collided painfully. Tears of frustration prickled behind her eyes as she realized that she had blown the interview in less than sixty seconds, a new record even for her. She apologized profusely and started backing out of the room but then he said, “Where are you going? You no longer want the job?” She gave him a thankful smile and walked over to the chair proffered by him. He introduced himself while extending his hand. “Hi, I’m Mr. Jones. It’s a pleasure to meet you, uhm, miss Brown, right?”

She keeps watching until he reaches the banks of elevators and presses the up arrow, until he steps inside one of the cubicles and presses a button on the side panel, until he finally turns towards her lifting his head just as the elevator door closes, with him behind it.

“Shit!” She uncrumples the piece of paper and reads it again. “Maybe I’m reading it out of context,” she mumbles to herself. She reads it one more time. ‘Please forgive me…’ “It’s probably a hoax. Besides, even if it’s not a joke, whoever wrote this threw it out. So, he must have changed his mind. What if this is a test? I report it and then I get fired for reading other people’s correspondence. Or I don’t report it and I get fired for being negligent. Shit!” She angrily crumples up the note and tosses it into the trashcan but immediately fishes it out again. “Shit, shit, shit!” she swears under her breath.

The line on her desk starts ringing again and she quickly transfers the call. With the phone still in her hand, she glances at the note, picks it up and reads it one last time. She presses Mr. Jones’ extension number. The phone rings once, twice and just as she is about to slam the phone back down on the receiver, she hears his voice over the line, “Yes?” She opens her mouth to form a reply but before she can utter a word, five burly men dressed in almost identical looking suits barge through the revolving doors and head straight towards her. “Put down the phone ma’am,” the one leading the pack barks authoritatively while holding up his badge. “This is the FBI!”

Tina immediately drops the phone and rolls her chair back, raising both hands in surrender, one of them still clutching the letter. “Wait, wha, wait I, I, I didn’t do it! Here’s the note, it’s not mine, you can have it. I was just about to report it, I swear!” she stammers incoherently. The five men move in on her, a blur of square jaws, cropped hair and grey suits engulfing her. One of them takes the note from her. “What is this?” he asks, turning the crumpled paper in his hand but not actually reading it. “I, I, don’t know. A letter. I just found it. I told you, I was just about to report it.” She tries to regain her composure. “Today is my first day at the bank, I found the note on the floor.” He leans in even closer, his angular nose almost touching hers. Dismissively he drops the paper in her lap. “We’re not here for your letter. This bank is being seized on suspicions of money-laundering. No one is allowed either in or out of the building and you are not allowed to put through any calls, do I make myself clear?”

She nods imperceptibly as she sinks even further into the back of her seat. “Good. Now, I need you to get me a list of all the employees as well as the office time log for the last three months. We will also need access to the servers, so get the head of the IT department on the line for me.” The men haven’t moved an inch but start moving with her as she tries to scoot her chair back over to her desk to make the call. She raises her head in exasperation, her eyes darting to the floor to ceiling glass wall just a few feet away. She glimpses out to the street, longingly imagining herself walking outside in the cold with Charlie, waiting patiently for him to sniff for the perfect lamppost while she endures the overpowering mix of car exhaust and curry spices instead of the nauseating scent of cologne and testosterone emanating from the agents crowding her.

Her eyes catch a movement outside. She emits an ear-piercing scream as comprehension sinks in. Her gut-wrenching scream muffles the sound of Mr. Jones’ body hitting the floor, right in front of the revolving doors…

Side note:

I wrote this story during a creative writing course I took last year. At the start of the session they gave us each a sheet of blank paper, asked us to crumple it and then write down how it would feel to be that piece of crumpled up paper. It was a warm up exercise to get the pen flowing. Then the actual class began. We were taught how to structure a story and had to write one using the tips and tricks we learned. The above story is the result and that prop of paper is what got it all rolling.