– Fiction –
Lesley had a paper cut; it hurt like hell.
She had spent the morning wrist-deep in folders and post-it notes, coordinating tasks and managing priorities with military precision. Phone cocked un-ergonomically between her chin and shoulder, she soothed sharp-tongued callers with carefully chosen words and promises that she may or may not be able to keep. Men with higher salaries bent and swayed awkwardly near her desk, their eyes blank until Lesley told them what to do. Lesley swore and looked up, glaring at the clock enthroned on the wall. She knew it enjoyed this position of power, surveying her potential professional failures with a disapproving tsk… tsk…
The desks were laid out in a social fashion. Lesley could peer at the others over the partition, and by overhearing phone conversations they became part of each other’s lives. Lesley had no time for office gossip, but if she did, she would wonder if Gail was still angry at her plumber for chipping the tile in her shower and ruining the continuity of the floral frieze. She would wonder if Daniel would mention to his wife that he’d spent the last hour sitting on the new consultant’s desk taking her through a completely unnecessary induction. She may even wonder whether Seb would have his daily argument with his girlfriend on speakerphone again, or if they would have to strain to hear the verbal uppercuts as he held the phone an inch from his ear. But Lesley had no time for office gossip.
Lesley was well prepared for the next meeting, as usual. Under the piles of colour-coordinated stationery and crumpled telephone messages lay her bound report with neatly numbered sections and lettered appendices. A preliminary report, for the reference group who would then advise the sub-committee.
It was as she swept this pile aside that the paper struck.
The single sheet swung from the hinge of her pinched thumb and forefinger, its middle bulging into a yawning arch. The paper heaved, and its lower half dragged upward in a fluid wave – up, up and a dip then up. The eighty GSM fifty percent recycled spar white with a matte finish then descended, its razor edge whistling towards her knuckle. Her flesh and the paper encountered each other. The union was brief, subtle. The flesh cracked open and the paper recoiled, breaking free of her grip and descending slowly, landing triumphant on the desk’s grey laminate.
Lesley swore, and looked down. On her finger a red line appeared. A thin, blood-coloured smile; amused by Lesley’s profanities.