Fiction: The Lamb
I turn off the faucet and reach for my towel, drying myself before wrapping the towel around my body. I dig through my toiletries bag for my hairbrush. The hair dryer is plugged into the wall just outside my shower stall. I’ll need it to get my hair into any semblance of order. So with only my towel wrapped around me, I flick back the lock on the stall door and step into the communal area, my wet hair against my bare shoulders—and there he is.
Standing at the sink, brushing his teeth, is David Kingsley.
I take him in with a small start. He’s already dressed for the workday. A well-cut suit. Brown leather lace-ups buffed to a shine. I hesitate for a second, unsure of how to proceed.
The hair dryer lies on the bench next to where David is standing. Twisting the hairbrush in my hand, I think better of using it. I can dry my hair later. Instead I grab my work clothes hanging on a nearby hook. I left them out here so they wouldn’t get wet in the shower stall. I huddle back in the direction of the stall and, for a brief moment as I pass behind the CEO, I look over my shoulder at him. He’s still brushing his teeth. But when I raise my head, he pauses and lifts his gaze to the mirror in front of him. From there he can see me, and I, him.
For a second, or may be two, no longer than that, our eyes meet in the mirror. He does not look away. His dark eyes are unwavering. He doesn’t seem at all embarrassed.
A feeling of self-consciousness falls over me like a heavy blanket, and I drop my gaze, breaking our shared glance. I hurry back into the shower stall, close the door behind me, and flick the lock over.
I stand behind the door, still clutching my clothes to my chest.
“I hope you don’t mind me intruding,” the CEO says, his voice reaching me inside the shower stall.
I hesitate for a second before answering.
“It’s no intrusion,” I call out trying to keep my voice steady. “It’s a unisex bathroom, after all.”
Grimacing, I cast my towel aside. I can’t leave it with only that glance. Or with me in just a towel. This is too embarrassing. I start to dress in a hurry. The only way I’m going to salvage this encounter is to get back out there and converse face-to-face with the CEO.
This morning, before the squash game, I selected a black suit to wear today that I’d purchased on my last trip back to the States. Good choice, I now think, very corporate. I slip the jacket on over the wool knit top that my mother recently gave me. Bending over, I rub the towel over my head in an effort to dry my hair. I run the hairbrush through it and readjust my suit one more time. I silently curse myself for leaving my heels upstairs in my office. All I have with me are my dirty old sneakers and I’d rather go barefoot than wear those right now.
Good Lord, I look like a hobo, I think, as I flick back the lock.
I push open the stall door and see the CEO facing me, leaning with his back against the sink as if he’s been waiting for me.
“Nice to see you again, Beth.”
He’s paired his gray suit with a white shirt and pale blue tie. The CEO looks sharp. Handsome, even. It’s a shame that the men in the S.P. 4 office don’t dress this way more often. Most of the time it’s jeans and polo shirts for them.
“Been to the gym?” he asks. “I didn’t see you in there.”
“I was playing squash.”
“Well, I hope you won.” He smiles and folds his arms across his chest.
“I did, thanks.” I stand up straight.
“Tell me, Beth, how long have you been working for WSO?”
“Four years, sir,” I clasp my hands behind my back.
“And how long have you been in this office?”
“I’ve been stationed in S.P. 4 for almost two and a half years now.”
“Two and a half years,” he repeats, raising an eyebrow. “You must have some mettle to last out here for that long. S.P. 4 is no vacation.”
“That’s true, sir.” I square my shoulders. “But the work here is very interesting.”
I don’t tell him that I wouldn’t still be here if it wasn’t for Hamar. He’s the real reason.
I’ve stayed here for so long. Most members of the corporate team in S.P. 4 request a transfer after twelve months or so.
“Glad to hear it.” The CEO glances down at his watch. “Well, I’ve got an early meeting to get to. I hope to see you again soon, Beth.”
The heavy metal bathroom door closes behind him before I think to move from my spot. I look at the hair dryer on the bench next to the space where he was just standing, and I unclasp my hands. I pause for a moment, gathering myself, and then I step over to the bench to reach for the hair dryer.
Dogpatch resident E.B. Purtill is looking for a publisher for her first novel, The Lamb, from which the above excerpt is taken. The book is a modern-day retelling of the biblical story of King David and Bathsheba. More information: www.ebpurtill.com.
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