By Aevin Mayman
Monday mornings are the worst. It’s sad, it’s cliché, and it’s irrefutably true. Monday mornings with a throbbing hangover, however, are the worst of the worsts.
“Morning!” My coworker called, throwing up a hand in greeting before entering a staircase to his right.
I closed my eyes at his voice, making a disgruntled noise in the back of my throat. “Morning Jeff,” I groaned, waving in return. He was already gone, but it was the thought that counted. It was only a few moments later that I wondered what Jeff, from the press station, what doing at I.T. I then wondered why I even cared and continued walking.
I ducked my head, hiding from the overhead lights. The new manager was all ‘eco-friendly’, declaring all lights be replaced with some off-brand type of LEDs – the ‘tree hugger lights.’
In any case, they were bright. Brighter than the white yellow they were before the management change and definitely brighter than I was comfortable with.
I rubbed my forehead, trying to massage the persisting ache from it, and turned into my office.
Carol looked from the computer and froze for a few seconds, blinking more times than was probably normal.
I groaned and turned away. “Wrong room,” I grumbled. I counted two cubicle openings down and entered, throwing my bag down with more force than was safe with a computer inside.
I gave the laptop bag a withering look as I sat down, blaming it for the long and arduous process that would be Monday.
The fall had unsnapped most of the buttons holding the top-flap shut, so I just pulled at the offending piece of machinery until it came free.
I sat up from the wrestling match with a groan as blood rushed to my head and cursed the idiocy of myself in the evening before.
I put the laptop on my desk and stopped, staring at the object that rested there with an expression that was both confused and frustrated.
It was a cookie.
I looked around my office, pushing aside various objects in search of an explanation. I stopped and stared at the cookie again. I pushed back against my desk and I slid backwards in my rolling chair, looking outside the cubicle walls. No one. I looked at the cookie.
I slowly rolled back to my desk with a frown. I picked up the saran-wrap-covered sugar cookie and inspected it before slowly unwrapping the pastry and taking a bite. It wasn’t a bad cookie, not by any means, just a very unexpected one.
There was another cookie on my desk the next day. And the next. And the next.
That next Monday morning I entered work with a strange determination that had managed to get me out of bed at 5:00 am. I wasn’t happy about it, not in the slightest, but I was curious. Very, very curious, and that somehow pushed me into the office early enough to catch the mystery baker.
The lights in my hallway were off. At this point, it was probably only the manager’s assistant that was at the office. It wouldn’t make any sense for any other lights to be on, so I didn’t spend much time on the thought.
I.T., where I worked, was on the third floor of my building, and my cubicle was the fifth down.
Even from the stairway entrance, I could see a faint shadow cast from the constant emergency lighting. It was in front of the fifth cubicle down.
The floors on any level above the second creaked with an infuriating persistence, so I kept to the walls.
I was creeping along the wall of the third cubicle when a figure emerged from the opening of mine. I stopped. “Jeff?”
Jeff turned, spinning on his heel and stumbling. He caught himself on the wall and offered a strained grin. “Hey,” he said. “Figured you’d show up eventually.”
“W-” I began, clearing my throat and starting again. “It was you?” I asked incredulously.
He shrugged and scratched his neck. “Yeah,” he stopped and smirked painfully. “Surprise!” He looked down and took a few steps forward. “I know this is, like, really awkward, but, I don’t know. You’ve seemed pretty down recently and I thought I’d do something nice.” He broke off at my expression and held up his hands in a placating gesture. “Don’t worry, it’s not romantic or anything, I just thought it might be nice.”
I still hadn’t said anything, but I dropped my confused expression. Jeff visibly relaxed. I looked at him for a while, trying to decide whether his kindness was genuine or an attempt at bribery. I didn’t really know him all too well, after all.
At last, when his embarrassment became nearly too much for me to handle, I sighed and looked away, convinced. “Well, thanks.” I ventured, casting a wary glance up at him. “That was, that was probably the nicest thing anyone’s done for me in a long time.”
Jeff’s awkward grin turned to a heartfelt smile and he straightened, shoving his hands in his pockets. He shrugged. “Any time.”
A smile worked its way onto my face and I looked down, shaking my head. The floor creaked as he made his way to the stairwell. “Jeff, wait,” I called. He turned to face me, one hand on the stairway door. “After work, drinks?” I asked. He returned my smile.
“Drinks.” He answered, then pushed his way into the stairwell.
I let out a long breath, walking into my office and swinging down my bag with more force than was safe with a computer inside. I looked up and smiled at the object on my desk.
It was a cookie.