Monday cycles back around with grey skies and abundant water that doesn’t seem to fall from above. Mottled grey-beige covers my pumps as I step through Capitol security. I retreat to the corner to clean them.
My blood chills. I hold my breath and hope I misheard the voice I don’t dare acknowledge.
“I know,” the voice says. “It’s okay.”
Now I stand upright and turn in the voice’s direction. A young, smartly dressed woman stands by the wall. A bun restrains her curling hair. Everything else about her might be described as sleek.
“I don’t think we’ve met,” I say while thrusting my hand towards her. “I’m Naomi Bird in Senator X’s office.”
The stranger smiles, her impossibly straight teeth gleaming. She ignores my hand, which I withdraw awkwardly.
“Perhaps you are correct, Noname,” she says. “Good thing you are early enough for coffee.”
She turns, leaving me one real choice: to follow. From her walk to her suit, this woman is polished. I turn a heel but manage to recover. At least she couldn’t see me.
At a table, she sits. I start toward the counter but she snaps her fingers and I obediently sit too. After a minute of silence, a server arrives with two cups of dark coffee.
“Noname,” she begins.
“Please stop,” I say, placing a hand on hers. “Whatever you think you know, here is not the place and now is not the time.”
“Fine. Ms. Bird, how are you liking your new position?” She pulls her hand away to lift her cup.
“I enjoy my work. The people are great.”
“I thought, since I was responsible for you getting that job, you might be a bit nicer.”
I study her for a moment, unsure whether to believe her.
“Evelyn,” she says.
My vision glances from table to table. I might be sick.
“What would possess you?” I manage.
“What? To say her name? E-ve-lyn.”
I rise and walk as swiftly as possible to the elevators without looking back at the stranger.
Nothing more happens all day. I fill out reports. I eat lunch alone. Then I fill out more reports. I try not to dwell on the strange woman until the last leg of my journey back to the warehouse.
As soon as I walk through the doors, I yell for Stipple. He appears through the doors of the big dining hall.
“Have you been shot?” he asks.
“Then why on earth are you screaming like that?” He wipes his hands on a towel formerly over his shoulder.
I recount the morning’s event with the strange woman as breathlessly as I can and expect – I don’t know – a frown or some agitation. Nope. He laughs.
Stipple’s laugh carries, echoing off the high ceiling. No one hates Stipple’s laugh. But I’m annoyed by it.
“Come on, Noname,” he says and turns to reenter the dining hall. I want to drop my stuff in my room and recolor my beigeness, but I don’t. And it’s a mixed bag, really.
Through the doors, I see her. Strange Woman. She sits beside E in the center of the table. Quickly scanning the room, I think everybody’s already here. I’m the last to the party. Again.