"Huh?! Oh hey, sorry," Willow said to two eight year old boys who had run up to her on her way to the station to commence her daily commute.
"We need help, Chief. The door won't open," one boy handed Willow his PSP with a worried frown on his face.
Willow took the PSP and knew the answer immediately. "You can't open this door with your jail key, you need the golden key. It's in the tower of light, you know how to get to the tower of light?" she explained.
"Yes, thanks!" the boys shouted as they ran off toward their school bus.
Willow continued her trudge to the office. She managed not to bump into any furniture when she squeezed into her tiny cubicle. She stowed her backpack under her desk and powered up her computer to check the day's emails. Soon the helpdesk phone starting ringing like crazy as the usual Monday madness started in earnest. She was kept busy all morning, dealing with problems like printer jams, unplugged hardware and countless forgot password inquiries. She tried to be courteous, but some users really irked her with their attitudes. It was a thankless job. Everything was IT related, and every system glitch IT's fault.
At the staff meeting her boss ran through meaningless stats and metrics for the week. She would rather have been back at her desk, dealing with inept users. As soon as the meeting finished, she escaped back to her cubicle, avoiding the small talk and posturing that punctuated staff meetings.
To add insult to injury, she was told to babysit a technician who was transferring to her department. Faith came as a package with one purpose only -- to shock. Willow wasn't sure if her attitude was suitable for technical support. It was going to be a long day.
Finally it was lunchtime, and she took her sandwich and juice to her usual spot at the park bench, surrounded by pigeons. It was nice to sit outside, though she sometimes wished that she could be enjoying the food at the upmarket outdoor café that overlooked the flower garden. It seemed so expensive, and Willow would feel out of place there anyway, even if she were invited. One time, she and Xander looked at the menu; it was like reading a foreign language.
The same sandwich every day, then.
Meanwhile, at one of the tables at the café, otherwise know as L'Orangery, three familiar women were starting on their salads.
"Tara, I need you to come with me after lunch to buy a new powder brush," Anya said.
"Okay, I can do that," Tara nodded.
"This very annoying person ran into me last night, so rude. My stuff fell out of my wallet, and got mixed in with her stuff. I mean, they were stupid cartoons and comic books! She's in her twenties! So childish," Anya continued.
"Oh, your white leather wallet? I hope it isn't spoiled," Cordy commiserated.
"No, it was fine. But my favorite pure llama fur brush was coated with all sorts of grime and dust. And the nerd girl had her hands all over it. I threw it into the nearest trashcan, just to show her how much she ruined my brush," Anya harrumphed.
"You threw it away in front of her?" Cordy asked.
"Ha, Cordy. If it were you, you would have thrown it straight at her!" Anya said indignantly. "I can't believe how she could have gotten it to such a state in such a short time."
"Geek magic," Cordy snorted.
The two of them snickered. But Tara was quiet.
"Come on, Tara. Don't tell me ... geeks and us ... oil and water," Anya said.
"Well, you know there are people who like those geek types. They're supposed to be harmless, more loyal than a puppy and they fix your computer," Cordy added. "Tara's not like that. Are you, Tara?"
"Hm? I think, each to their own," Tara replied.
"No, no, no. This is just wrong. You cannot end up with some loser who wears heavy metal band t-shirts and doesn't color their hair, that's unthinkable," Cordy shuddered to add to the effect.
"Don't even go there, Cordy. Besides, where is Tara going to find someone like that?" Anya concluded. And the topic was closed.
Willow returned from lunch to a stack of urgent messages from Larry in Purchasing. She hurried upstairs to be greeted by a tall, awkward jock-type in an ill-fitting suit.
"I heard you have a problem with one of our staff members?" she asked timidly.
"I wouldn’t exactly call it a problem. Are you Faith's supervisor?" Larry said, slightly flustered. He motioned for Willow to join him behind some cabinets, where there was a little more privacy.
"Um well, since this morning," Willow hesitated.
"Okay, then I guess it's a problem," Larry said cryptically.
"Did she make a mistake? I'll get someone else up here to install the new software," Willow offered.
"No, not that." Larry leaned in and whispered conspirationally. "There's a rumor going round that she's been fooling around with the head of corporate services."
"Fooling around?" Willow repeated.
"Yes. That they've been having quote unquote lunch together and they're eating more than sandwiches," he winked.
"Oh, she ate more than her fair share?" Willow tried to clarify.
"Let's just say she filled her plate with a large portion," he added in a conspirational tone.
"So, you want me to speak to her?"
"Yes, take care of it, will you."
And with a friendly pat on the back, Larry went back to napping at his desk.
When Willow tracked Faith down the brunette was flirting with a maintenance engineer. Willow motioned for Faith to come with her and they found an empty office.
"What do you want? I need to get back to work," Faith said.
"Um, Faith, well ... they want me to ask whether you can stop eating with the head of corporate services," Willow tried to explain.
"What? You dog, you can't phrase it better?" she smirked.
"That's the only way I can think of," Willow confessed.
"Geez, just ask if I'm sleeping with him," Faith said.
"No, no. That's not what I meant!" Willow stammered in shock. Beat. "You slept with the head of corporate services?"
Faith was cracking up. "You didn't know what you were talking about, did you?"
Willow blushed all over, and could only look at Faith incredulously. "I'm s-s-sorry."
"I fucking can't believe it. Let me tell you though, I didn't sleep with that loser. But I can't stay here, you'll need to get someone else to do the installations, my rep's shot in this department," Faith shrugged.
"But everyone's busy, can you hang on for another afternoon?" Willow asked.
"No way. I'm outta here." And with that Faith sauntered out of the office, blew a kiss at the maintenance engineers and wriggled her ass out of the area.
Willow couldn't find a replacement, which meant she had to install the software herself, while trying to juggle the helpdesk calls that were her responsibility.
It was late when she finally dragged herself out of the office. Her walk from the train station to her home was slow. It was like every step needed an enormous effort.
Her parents were nowhere to be seen when she reached home. A note on the fridge told her that dinner was in the oven and that Ira and Sheila would be leaving early in the morning for a convention in Las Vegas.
She didn't feel like eating, so she packed the food in a container and made her way back to her room.
She didn't notice it at first, she was so engrossed in her miserable day that she barely had the energy to throw her backpack to the floor and collapse in a heap on the bed. Gradually her attention shifted to a rectangular package on her desk. It was neatly wrapped in blue flowery paper and had her name and address on it.
She leapt out of her bed and immediately started tearing at the wrapping paper. She couldn't wait to see what it was.