Ok, I'll admit, I might have a problem. But really, arriving early to work isn't that much of a dilemma, and leaving late even less so when you have nothing to go home to but an apartment that needs cleaning, dishes that need doing and no one to greet you at the door. The real problem was that despite the increased time I was spending in the office my productivity was decreasing exponentially. There were papers piled up on my desk that needed typing, forms that I should have approved weeks ago obstructing my view of the computer and discarded notes carpeting my floor. Disposable coffee cups had also started to pile up in my bin, one for every day I'd decided to forgo turning on my own pot at home and just grab a take-away so I could arrive a measly ten minutes earlier. There's a name for this type of behaviour and I didn't even need to go to medical school to diagnose myself with obsessive compulsive disorder. The only problem is I'm not sure what to call my obsession. After all, she's just the girl in the window.
An annoying beep was disturbing my peace. Intruding rudely and anxiously on what is currently the most satisfying thing in my life. Perhaps if I ignore it it'll go away - no, no it's not going away, if anything it appears to be getting louder. Why! What did I do to deserve this torment? Another noise joins the din, a loud thumping on my ceiling.
"Turn that damn alarm off!" The neighbour on the floor above shrieks, bashing her floor with what sounds like a rather solid piece of wood; ever since I moved in I've been trying to figure out what it is. My friend Jake is betting on a base-ball bat but personally I'm going with a nice solid broom.
"Shut up!" I scream from beneath my pillow as I try to catch hold of the dream I was having but it's like catching a cloud, always tauntingly beyond my reach.
"Don't tell me to Shut Up, YOU shut up!" My neighbour yells and I know I shouldn't but I grin a little at how easy it is to annoy her. Buy a rug if you don't want to hear my racket, or better yet move somewhere that actually has sound proofing.
I'm deeply tempted to just throw something across the room and hope it either breaks or stops my alarm so I never have to leave this sinfully warm bed but I know I don't have the time or inclination to replace it. And so painstakingly I extract myself from the bed, and run across the cold floor to turn off the annoying device. Every night it seems most logical to place it over the other side of the room so I have to get up to turn it off, and every morning I forget why I put it so far away.
"It's freezing!" I yelp, hoping up and down and from upstairs I swear I can hear laughter. A quick dash to the shower helps start my day; alright so it definitely wasn't quick, but emerging from the steaming bathroom dressed for the day and with only five minutes before I had to leave for work was kind of refreshing. With coffee in my hand and toast in mouth I was out the door and running for the lift.
'OUT OF SERVICE'
"Great," I muttered, flicking my head to dislodge a stray piece of hair only to have it fall straight back into my face. I take a quick glance at the stairs, then back to the lift, then back to the stairs. I don't want to; if I thought I could survive the fall I would prefer to parachute out of my window but for every second I fantasise about sailing to my doom when my parachute doesn't open my watch ticks closer to nine. Eventually the minute hand made up my mind for me.
I'll go to the gym, I'll go to the gym, tonight. Where's the gym again? I think my membership ran out. I'll register for the gym and go tomorrow. No tonight, urg, I'm so unfit! I cursed to myself as I tripped my way down four sets of stairs, almost choking on my toast. By some miracle I found myself on the street and was soon swept up by the hundreds of people wearing exactly the same black suits as me. There is something unfulfilling about looking so dull and ordinary that you could be mistaken for an extra on a movie set. My long mahogany hair was tied up in a tight ponytail and pinned back with as many bobby pins as I could find in the morning rush. My make-up was simple, some concealer for the bags, some plain brown eyeliner and lipstick. Applied with the skill of someone who had taken no interest when her mother had attempted to teach her as a teenager and believe me Renee had made a very good go at making me respectable. The colours really did nothing to bring out my muddy brown eyes framed by, thankfully, naturally thick lashes (mascara and I didn't see eye to eye).
Several lights later I was strolling briskly into a chrome foyer, the shiny black floor tiles did nothing to give the place a homely feel. Harsh fluoro lights elucidated the large room, leaving no corner shadowed and no room to hide. In contrast the floor I worked on was illuminated by much fewer lights, the strange greyish coloured floor carpeted and the walls a stark white. As I exited the lifts I passed the water cooler where a number of my colleagues were gossiping like teenage girls, it was the place to be when sleep overcame the desire to work.
"Hey guys," I said stepping forward to grab a disposable cup and fill it.
"Morning Bella" came the echoed reply as stories were disrupted for a second but quickly resumed.
"I heard she slept with the manager to get that promotion" "No!" "Yes," "She's not even pretty" "That's just what I heard" "From who?" "I wouldn't be surprised" "Terry" "Terry would know"
Finding nothing interesting about the conversation, I finished my water and made my way over to my desk. My cubical was the same as all the others, boring carpet, waste-paper basket and slick wooden desk. Occasionally I'd put a coloured post-it on the wall to remind myself of a meeting but at the moment they were an unremarkable white. The one thing I did love about my cubical was it had a lovely big window, everyone could see out it to some extent but I was the closest. However, having looked at the same empty building opposite for the last two years I felt no need to take notice of it now and simply slung my bag and coat onto the back of the chair, flopped down with them and booted up my computer. It was only then that I swung my chair around to look out and to my delight found my view to have changed; the empty office was now occupied. I stared out.
There was a slight girl leaning against at a grand dark wood desk covered with various pencils and paper. I was thankful for the first time that this city was so packed and buildings so close together that I could almost make out every one of her features. She had jet black hair, spiked up wildly at the back but straightened at the front. Her clothes were obviously designer; a bright red vest with knitted cream lace at the back covered a white blouse and a slightly flared black skirt. Her heels looked almost 4 inches tall and were red to match her vest. Her skin was a very pale white made more so by the darkness of her hair. I was trying in vain to make out the colour of her eyes but her face was turned away from me. Suddenly she moved and I almost threw myself over my keyboard in an effort not to look like I was doing, exactly what I was doing – staring at her. When I felt it was safe to look back a couple of minutes later she was sitting behind her desk with a pencil in her hand and working with her head down.
Who was she? Unable to think of anything besides this I took another trip to the water fountain.
"I heard that Betty,"
"Who's next door?" I interrupted, probably quite rudely though I doubt Betty, whoever she was, deserved to be talked about, so I didn't feel guilty.
"Next door?" Jeremy asked
"It's empty" John supplied.
"Has been for years" added Jeremy
"No, no there's someone there now" I insisted and many faces turned to the window in curiosity.
"Have they finally opened the new fashion design house?" Ruby (or it could be Rebecca) asked.
"Oooo," exclaimed Jess "I heard they've only hired the best over there"
I hummed my agreement, with dwindling interest, I found fashion so pointless. Five days of seven I was regimented in what I wore and on the other two I hardly bothered dressing up. I'd always felt like an imposter in posh clothes, a five year putting on her mother's heels and pretending to be a 'grown-up'. The effort was also beyond me, it was much easier to brush off judgement when you weren't trying then if you'd mismatched blouses, skirt was too short, sizes too small and were obviously trying but sadly inept.
"Well back to work then" I said to the mass but they were now locked heatedly in a debate over whether Jess would be able to get a modelling job across the road. I rolled my eyes and returned at a slow amble to my desk.
Mystery girl was still hunched over her desk, now scribbling away furiously. Feeling pressured to be at least partially productive I started to read through the mailing orders on my desk. And this continued till about lunch time when I decided I'd step out and stretch my legs. A final glance out the window before I left revealed the girl to be exactly where she had been for the past few hours.
I was planning just to nip down the road to the bakery ten minutes away. Perhaps a sandwich for lunch, or a pie... I was halfway across the street before I realised the bakery was two blocks in the opposite direction. I'm ashamed to say my skulking skills are horrendous - walking by the fashion house with my slow stumbling gait it must have looked like I had a bum leg. The only way I could have been less subtle was if I glued my face to the glass and stared into the foyer. It was a lot like ours, with black marble tiles and crisp white walls but instead of fluorescents there were large chandelles hanging from the ceiling and the walls were covered in framed pictures – dress designs, models, even a few clothes themselves. I walked past the glass front three times watching delivery girls running various coloured garments across the floor to the lifts and black bags disappearing off racks. Security guards were shifting mannequins into industrial sized lifts and the whole place was alive with colour and activity. I was bewitched, but even my limited stalking skills let me know that I was starting to look suspicious and it was time to move on and so with great reluctance I continued on to the bakery.
When I returned to my office I was pleasantly surprised to find the girl opposite had a guest. No longer seated behind her huge wood desk she was now leaning against it gesturing wildly to a blond woman. Perhaps it was naive of me, if not a little bit judgemental, but I didn't need any more than one guess to know what this woman did for a career. She looked to be just over six foot, towering over the pixie girl and looking rather intimidating with her hands on her slim waist. Her long blonde hair cascaded in perfect curls down her back and her skin looked as delicate as porcelain. Her rose red lips stood out boldly on her face and for what I guessed to be a model she had a surprisingly generous bust line. I wouldn't be female if my first reaction to her wasn't jealously – however she probably didn't need to renew her gym membership – and I'll be the first to admit I don't try, so my jealously was short lived.
With some difficultly I manoeuvred myself into my chair, set my coffee down on the desk with my wallet still tucked under my arm and sandwich in hand without ever taking my eyes off the couple next door. The pixie girl was gesturing wildly with her hands then she reached behind her to grab some paper off the desk and handed it to the blonde. There was a slight crack in the ice queen's face which showed a flash of teeth before she stepped around the pixie to place whatever pleased her on the desk to point at some detail. The pixie nodded, engrossed, and fished the pencil out from behind her ear to scribble something.
The meeting didn't last much longer, with much head nodding and a few more scribbles the blonde twirled on her unnecessarily high heels and stalked away from the desk out of my sight. She must have said something before leaving though because the pixie girl's face seemed fell suddenly and she nodded, I imagined a sad smile adorning her lips but wasn't close enough to make our her expression clearly. Pixie made her way slowly back around to her seat, her head downcast and her shoulders defeated. For the first time that day the large chair behind the desk seemed to swallow her up, leaving behind a shell of the vibrancy I had just witnessed. I couldn't help what happened next, I was hooked.