Part 1: Office Blues

Vivian looked up as the door opened and Theo strode into the office. With a sigh he took off his hat and placed it on top of the coat rack, then shrugged out of his long, ankle-length grey coat.

“How’d it go?” she asked, setting down her phone. The jewel-encrusted case wobbled a bit on the wooden desk.

Theo ran a hand through his hair before replying. “About as well as it could have,” he mused. “It takes a lot to break all that down. Wasn’t going to happen in one session.”

“They don’t call them ‘inner demons’ for nothing,” Vivian said wryly.

Theo snorted. “She paid, anyway. So we’re good.”

“We’re good?” she repeated.

“We’re good.”

Ritual completed, Vivian picked up her phone again. “So what do you want for lunch? Subway again, or…”

Theo grimaced as he walked back over to his own desk. “I hate Subway. It tastes like sadness.”

“Delicious, foot-long sadness,” Vivian said, not bothering to aim the words his way. She raised her voice a little. “Well, what, then?”

Without looking over she knew he was making a face again. She imagined the clock tower in his brain. Tick. Tick. Tick.

“Curry? Sushi? Chinese?” she finally suggested, pausing slightly for each in hope of some sound of appreciation. None came.

“You know, we really shouldn’t get take-out all the time,” Theo observed. Vivian twisted in her chair to see him slowly tapping his thumbs on his keyboard.

“Did I bring anything to eat?” she fired back. “Did Jerry leave any leftovers last night for you?” She paused. “Didn’t think so.”

Theo didn’t answer. Vivian sat up in her chair and looked over to see him scanning through emails.

“I’m going with Chinese,” she announced. A muffled grunt came from Theo’s direction as she tapped out the usual order for the two of them. She checked her white-painted fingernails, momentarily distracted, then pressed the Order button.

“So what else do we have this week?” Theo finally asked. “There’s nothing new in the office mail that I saw.”

“I go out this afternoon to work with a new client.” Vivian tried to ignore the flutter of nervousness that always came with new clients.

“What?” Theo complained. “Why do you always get the new clients?”

“Excuse me?” said Vivian. “Where do you think you just came from?”

“That doesn’t count,” Theo replied, putting his left foot up onto the desk, then crossing his right leg over the left. “That was a referral.”

“And referrals go automatically to whoever worked with the referrer?” Vivian raised her eyebrows, then squinted. “Refer-er? That’s a word, right?”

“She referred me,” Theo said long-sufferingly. “She didn’t refer you. Ergo…”

“Yeah, you can go, all right,” Vivian sniped back.

Silence fell over the office for a minute, then Vivian turned back to her laptop. “Anyway, the rest of the week’s pretty normal. Got our usuals on Tuesday and Thursday, then the hospital shift”—she grimaced—“on Friday.”

“We’re both on hospital?” said Theo, sounding dismayed.

Vivian blew air out through her lips. “Yup. And no other jobs this week, including Wednesday. Which means it’s time for…”

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” said Theo.

I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year, but it’s November and I’m feeling the absence, more so because I accidentally convinced a coworker to try it for the first time. This piece is the first part of a story that’s got a good handful of influences, but not too many of them are visible here yet. I guess there’s a very little bit of Dresden Files, based on advice I’ve passed along about writer’s block:

Try writing something that’s totally out-of-genre for you. And then write it really badly. Don’t care about it; just have fun!

That’s not really what this is—and I know because I have done trashy detective vignettes before (and that’s not even the first one)—but I am trying to not care so much and just…write a bit. All the stories I’d like to write are stuck, and I haven’t written anything longer than even a single blog-post-sized short.

What’s interesting is that pretty much everyone I’ve talked to about this—including me—has picked “romance” as their out-of-genre genre. But, um, I’ve done that too. Kind of.

Anyway, this is Part 1 of ?, and the Dresden Files reference should indicate at least a bit that it’s not quite set in our world. Hopefully will be posting more throughout November and possibly beyond. (There will be a tag for the parts of the story once I have a name for it.)

P.S. As always, the characters I write have pieces of real people I know stirred into them, but that line about Subway tasting like sadness is me. It does. Especially when it’s the only thing around that’s open.