Continued from yesterday:
“Ah, Carol!” a familiar voice said at her elbow.
She jerked; breathed a quick, short, loud intake; and clutched at her heart.
“I was just going to –what in the world d’ya do to your desk?” Ever slow on the obvious, Carl C. Carter stood next to his wife at the doorway and surveyed the disarray inside with confusion. Then he noticed Carol. “Oh, hey -did I give you a fright? Sorry. —
“I was just going to head over to that business meeting I told you about. If anyone calls you’ll be sure to tell them I’m up to my eyeballs in work, won’t you?” He touched Carol’s shoulder, smiled a quick, grandfatherly smile, straightened his striped dress shirt, and turned to whistle down the hall.
Carol hadn’t moved; her left hand still on her chest, her right on the door handle. She breathed out. She tested her feelings like a mentalist dipping a toe into physic waters but only felt annoyance. Carl and his design team held meetings according to his whim, and left her to reschedule the pieces.
“That’s what Miss Dollar Store is supposed to be for,” she mumbled, as she bent to begin cleanup. “But, she’s always ‘taking notes’ in your ‘meetings.'”
Hours and phone calls and legal contracts later, Carol walked back out to the lobby. All was dark and silent; she was the last to leave. Her shadow from the outside lights ran over the hideous ceramics perched on the secretary’s desk as she walked past. From her peripheral vision, she thought she saw movement and turned. Were they always staring right at her -no, that was silly- right at the door? Carol could have sworn Miss Bad Taste had arranged them facing each other.
If she hadn’t been the only person in the office, she’d have examined them more closely. She swallowed, and backed toward the outside door. The little, scowling cats and their neighboring scarecrow and crows remained stationary.
Carol exited and locked the door, glanced at the blinds to be certain they were closed, and walked to her car. *Clack* *Clat* *Clunk* echoed from her cheap shoes as they trod across the vacant lot. Her mind wholly on the ride home and the work that awaited her there, she did not think to look back.
She started the car, and shifted into reverse. The radio was playing garbage again; she set it to scan. Her headlights swept a glare across the windowed office front as she pulled out of the narrow parking space.
The swirling numbers of the radio dial settled on the station she’d found that morning, just as the blinds closed back together in the dark office window, and just as Carol pulled out onto the street.