Mana Walker, aged thirty-six, hated his job.

It was Friday afternoon, and he had decided right after lunch that nothing else could possibly be done today. Currently Mana was trying to see just how far back he could tilt his chair before it toppled. He hooked his feet under the heavy desk and found a comfy semi-reclined position to sit out the rest of the day.

Sighing, he pulled out his pocket watch from its little pocket on his vest. "Wonderful" Mana thought raising an eyebrow, "a whole minute has passed since the last time I checked." As he watched the second hand move steadily through its paces he was certain it jumped backwards just to spite him. Instead of staring, he flipped the gold watch closed.

Mana let his thumb run slowly over the embossed design on the cover. It was truly a work of art. Little stylized gears graced the outside of the pocket watch; a simple mimicry of the complex gears inside. Mana smiled, he loved mechanical things.

He had saved up to buy that watch. It was the single most expensive thing he owned. Five weeks pay, he felt, was a fair price to pay for a watch made by Allen & Co. That was the most elite timepiece company in all of Europe. They had all the best watch makers working for them. When he was young, Mana dreamed of working there and spent hours staring into the shop's window and watching the men work. He wished with all his might to be on the other side of the glass.

Of course, that was all before he found he was all thumbs in mechanical matters. He did what, at the time, seemed like the next best thing; and took a job at the local patent office. "big mistake, all I do is look at other people's creations and paperwork. Endless paperwork" he thought as he glanced at the massive tower of paper that had built up in the IN box. "Never ending paperwork…."

The sudden repetitive clack of heels down the silent hallway startled Mana out of his introspective mood. He recognized the sound, "Marie" he thought with a roughish smile.

Her heels always seemed to sound different than those of the other secretaries. Or perhaps Mana just paid more attention to her. He let his eyes slide shut to indulge in a daydream of lovely Marie confessing her undying love to him. It was a nice dream. Her every movement was accompanied by unearthly grace. Her clothes, her hair, she was always modest with them. Simple garb, functional but beautiful. It was as if she didn't care about her appearance. She was so beautiful.

Mana thought about asking her to dinner on more than one occasion, but never could quite work up the nerve. "I'm a loser." He sighed. "She's so out of my league. How can a girl be so beautiful and still single? I want her so bad and she doesn't even know I exist. I'm probably too crude for someone so refined." He paused and frowned, "crude and old…"

It wasn't that Mana thought he was ugly or anything. He took good care of himself, exercised, bathed regularly, and kept his hair and nails trimmed. "At least better than that ape across the hall" he thought with a smile.

He tilted his head back and received an inverted view of the office across the hall. The man in it was picking his teeth. He seemed to be enjoying it as well. Mana could only raise an eyebrow in response before turning his attention to the specks of dust floating in the fading sunlight above him.

Marie's heels continued to echo in the long hall, growing steadily louder as she approached. Futile hope made his stomach jump. "Maybe…maybe this time she'll notice me. I'm not too bad to look at." Indeed, Mana was rather good looking in an average, boy next door kind of way. He didn't feel old, but at thirty-six he had already noticed some gray starting around his temples. "Not enough to worry about really" he thought, running his fingers through his hair in a useless attempt to comb it. The rest of his head was covered in a non-descript brown, trimmed in a modest cut. Not too long or too short, but enough to frame his still boyish face. He smiled a lot.

He was too lost in an imagined conversation in which Marie had finished confessing her undying love and was beginning to slide out of her sensible dress, to notice that the clicking heels had stopped.

"Mr. Walker?" a soft, angelic voice broke the small office's silence. "Excuse me...Mana? Sir, I need those forms."

At the sound Mana opened his eyes and started so badly that he pushed the already unbalanced chair past it limit. "Oh God!" Gravity fulfilled its role in bringing him down flat on his back. Marie jumped back with a startled yelp as he fell backwards right out of his chair. His feet, hitting the desk on the way down, knocked a stack of papers into the air. The majority landed on his ungracefully sprawled form. As Mana looked up at her, he grinned sheepishly. His only thought, "I want to die…I want to die…I want to die!"

They both noticed, at the exact same time, that from his position on the floor Mana could see right up her skirt. Both turned the same deep shade of red. Mana's smile widened. "White…little pink bow…" And Marie, with lightning fast reflexes that Mana would have never expected of her, slammed her clipboard directly into his face.

Mana listened to the click of her heels running down the hallway as he clutched his nose. "Please don't be broken….please don't be bleeding." He pleaded with himself. There was no blood as he pulled his hands away. He turned his head and got a good long look at Marie's shapely retreating backside. Mana smiled under his aching nose. "At least I have a nice view."