Today's muse: Three Word Wednesday
Alright. I'm late. I mean REALLY late! This is from last week's prompt and ThomG has already posted this week's words. Ack!
Some stories need to be told. Miranda's begins here.
And now, it continues...
* * *
The days were long, the work load stressful and she only seemed to socialize with co-workers—coffee in the café and late take-out dinners in the staff lounge.
Miranda was in heaven and relished every moment.
The Hamerston team was a close family, sharing their personal highs and lows, revelling in joyous occasions and grieving in others. She understood how tight the group was when she spent her first weekend at the office.
Armed with a lengthy agenda, and a loaded briefcase, Miranda walked into her office and settled in for the day. Her face void of makeup (except for a swipe of mascara), comfortable in a pair of snug yoga pants and a fitted T, she sat at her desk and pulled her hair back in a long tail. She spent the morning keying in numbers to the database she’d created, flipping through files to confirm the status of furniture orders, and reviewing resumes—flagging the few she thought Rob McBride should interview.
Needing a break, Miranda pushed back from her desk and stood up to pace her office, rolling her shoulders to work out the kinks. She did a few stretches, lunged into a warrior pose. More relaxed, she tossed her empty take-out coffee cup in the garbage and grabbed her Hamerston mug from her desk, made her way to the café. Her hips swayed to the dance tune stuck in her head, her long, dark ponytail swinging with the beat.
Her face reddened the moment she walked into the café.
“Hey, Miranda! Sit down. Join us. Have a bite.”
The oval table was littered with coffee cups, containers of apple and orange juice, and enormous platters of bagels, croissants, donuts and fresh fruit. Sitting around the feast were Steven Abrahms, Melissa Wilkinson, and Craig Matthews. Steve and Craig wore suits. Melissa was more casual in dark trousers and a crisp white blouse that still managed to look couture. No one was dressed like Miranda.
“I didn’t expect anyone to be here today. It is Saturday, isn’t it?”
“Oh, sure,” said Steve, around a mouthful of bagel.
Melissa handed him a napkin as she rolled her eyes at Miranda. “Jim and Steve have a meeting today. Jim’s upstairs,” she explained when Miranda scanned the room. “Eva—she’s upstairs as well—thought she’d drop in to see if they needed any help. Me, I don’t live far from here, so I came in for brunch. And Craig…” Eva looked over at him.
Craig shrugged. “I didn’t have anything else to do.”
Truth was, he’d overheard Miranda tell McBride that she was coming in and he’d hoped to have the chance to talk with her. Maybe finish the conversation they were having yesterday. It wasn’t about anything, really. Just general life matters: his kids, her parents, his ex, and hers. There was something about the way she danced around his questions that made him want to find out more. It wasn’t that she avoided answering, it was more that she managed to change the subject, deflect the queries like a boomerang. He wanted to know more. And why. Why those chocolate eyes went dark when she was flustered and why she wouldn’t open up to him.
“There’s also a few people over in marketing who took their food to go. There’s plenty still. Why don’t you sit down?” Craig pulled out a chair next to him. “Fill up your mug and join us.”
She didn’t get it. It was Saturday, for chrissake. What the hell were they all doing here? And most of them didn’t even need to be. She didn’t want to sit down with them. She just wanted to go back to her office and maybe crawl into the hole that she hoped would miraculously swallow her up when she got there. What had possessed her to dress like a bum? If she’d known Craig would be here, she would have taken a little more care in her wardrobe, put on some makeup. Did her hair for god’s sake!
As much as she wanted to slink out of the kitchen, she could hear her mother’s voice in her head lecturing that it was rude to decline such a thoughtful invitation. Resigned, Miranda filled her mug and sat next to Craig. Her stomach was jumpy and she was sure she wouldn’t keep any food down.
That was soon set aside by Steve’s question. “So, what colour was your first bicycle, Miranda?”
She stared at him, certain he was making fun of her. But when he met her gaze with honest, questioning eyes, she knew he wasn’t.
“Red.” Miranda took a sip of her coffee, let herself fall back to that birthday. “Red tricycle, white seat. And white streamers that fluttered in the wind when I pedalled really fast.”
Melissa nodded, leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms, closed her eyes. “Mine was blue. With red and white streamers. Very patriotic.”
“My dad decorated mine with camouflage decals. I was going to war with my tryke.” Steve laughed at the memory.
Everyone shared childhood stories, besting each other with tales of broken bones and punishments meted out by strict parents. Miranda now understood the familial bond that held the team together. As voices talked over one another, she realized the tension she’d felt when she first joined the firm had lifted. She was accepted, considered part of the family.
“I hate to break up the party,” Miranda said, glancing at her watch, “but I really have to get some reports out for Rob.”
“We’re going out for drinks later. Want to join us?” Melissa began stacking plates and cups.
“Oh. Um, sure. Who’s going?” God, could she sound more high school?
“All of us. Eva bought a new outfit and she wants to show it off. And the gang from Finance is meeting us there.”
Despite willing them not to, Miranda’s eyes slid over to Craig’s. His stare was intense and she felt her cheeks burn. She pictured sitting next to him in a cramped bar, music pounding in the background, the smell of stale beer in the air mixed with the woodsy scent of his cologne.
“I’ll think about it. Thanks for inviting me.” She picked up her coffee mug and backed away from the table. “I gotta…” She made a vague gesture towards the door, spun around and walked out, cursing herself all the way to her office.
“Think she’ll come?” Melissa wrung out a dish cloth and wiped down the table.
“Who knows.” Steve pushed back from the table. “She keeps to herself a lot.”
“Not really. You just have to get her talking.” Craig regretted saying it before the sentence was complete.
Melissa stopped wiping the table. “What’s going on with you two?”
“Nothing.” Craig sipped his coffee to avoid their stares. “Nothing!”
“Son,” said Steve, “if you don’t put the moves on that girl, you’re more foolish than I thought.”
“She’ll kill him under thirty minutes,” said Melissa.
“Hey!” Craig threw his arms out. “Sitting right here!”
“You have to be blind not to see her.”
“I see her,” Craig mumbled.
“Well? Why aren’t you hitting on that? You get her under the sheets and you’ll be begging for mercy, I guarantee it. It’s always the quiet ones.” Steve nodded sagely, took a sip of his coffee.
Craig shot out of his chair. “Don’t talk about Miranda like that.”
Melissa reached out her hand, palm up. “Told ya.”
“Shit.” Steve reached into his pocket, pulled out a ten dollar bill and slapped it into Melissa’s open hand.
“Fuck you guys.” It was said with heat, but Craig was smiling. “I don’t know what it is about her.”
Melissa sank into a chair, cupped her chin in her hands. “She does have that abandoned kitten thing going.”
“That’s why I don’t get it.” Craig walked over to the sink, dumped his cold coffee. He flipped open the dishwasher and set his mug on the top rack. “Normally, I hate cats.”
“But this one,” he thought as he wandered out of the cafe, “this one, I want to follow me home.”
* * *
Miranda's story continues.