This came about from a prompt on a new website I discovered.
Melanie clicked the ‘shut down’ command and waited for a few seconds, glancing around the office, then at her watch. The computer seemed to be taking an age to turn off, the light from the screen the sole point of illumination on the deserted floor. Mel clicked impatiently, trying for any response and getting none, just the shut down screen, stuck doing nothing. Wrapped in the Simons account she hadn’t realised she was already an hour later for her mother’s birthday party.
She cursed, thumped the keyboard, shook the mouse, clicked several times and gave a sigh of exasperated relief. There were a couple of clunky noises from the hard drive, a momentary blank screen swiftly replaced by a black one with a command prompt. In frustration, Mel yanked the plugs out of the wall and bent to pick up her bag. The little white cursor was still flashing.
“How are you doing that?” she muttered, then remembered her laptop had a battery. Not particularly tech savvy at the best of times, Mel allowed herself to accept that explanation and concentrated on rummaging through her bag for her phone. Her mother was going to kill her; at least if Mel rang, made some work excuse, the blow might be softened.
For an instant, Mel didn’t believe what she was seeing. She re-read the words on the screen several times, but could make no sense of it. Feeling extremely stupid, she bent over and replied.
‘He is on your floor’
Melanie dropped behind her desk, wondering why she was doing what a computer told her, and attempted to lean around the partition to get a look down the central aisle. The third floor was laid out in blocks, four desks facing each other, a partition, then a side-aisle, followed by more desks, all connecting to the wide aisle running down the centre of the office. Her heart raced as she leaned slightly around the partition, flicking her eyes back to the computer.
‘Do not move. Stay low’
Before her hasty withdrawal from view, Mel was sure she saw a figure at the far end of the room.
‘What do I do?’
She typed softly; terrified the clacking keys would bring the unknown into her world.
‘Wait for me’
‘Who are you?’
‘Mike, in the closet’
That one threw Mel. Mike had to be Michael Dewson, tech whizz who worked on the floor below, which would explain his being able to talk via some remote computer wizardry on a system he’d designed and installed, but why was he in a closet? What closet and where?
She was about to type again and ask when she heard furtive shuffling from a couple of blocks over. She froze in place, certain this unknown ‘he’ would hear the thundering of her heart. She shoved a hand over her mouth as she released a gasping breath, unaware she’d been holding her breath, and then stilled again. Ears straining she thought, maybe, she heard something further away, like a door hinge. Mike? Maybe he’d seen the ‘he’ and dived into the closet where they kept the printer ink and general supplies. Maybe that was him trying to reach her.
She desperately wanted to lean out, try to catch a glimpse of him, or at least check the mystery person wasn’t as close as that shuffling had sounded. The flashing prompt caught her attention.
‘Coming up the left aisle. Don’t make a noise when I get there.’
Seconds later, Mike came round the partition on hands and knees. Mel grabbed him, yanked him close and whispered in his ear.
‘Who is it?’
‘Someone with an agenda. He has a package and he’s been going floor to floor looking at all the desks. Our guess is he’s looking for someone in particular.’
‘People have been informed’
‘People? What people?’
The room suddenly flooded with light. Stunned into immobility. Melanie flickered a glance at Mike and realised he was smiling, trying desperately to hold back laughter. He rose, despite her flapping her arms trying to semaphore him into staying down, and drew her up. He spun her around and she came face to face with Paul, her boyfriend of three years, also grinning like a fool. Beyond him stood the majority of her family, friends and even a few co-workers. Paul dropped to one knee, thrust a ring box at her and gave her his best puppy dog eyes;
‘I’d like to see you occasionally. I reckon a husband might have a better chance of prying his wife away from the office on a regular basis. Marry me, Mel?’
Caught between incoherent rage – she should have realised something was up; Mike was Paul’s best friend – and overwhelming surprise, Mel nodded, a roar of approval coming from the gathering.
‘You will pay for this some day, Paul Grayling’ she chuckled against his ear as he slipped the ring onto her finger.