The Astral Prince

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For every day that passed, I could feel the stress building within me like carbonation in a bottle of soda once it had been shaken. Where once I found amusement in the tedious phone conversations, I now found irritation. Still, I did everything I humanly could to keep my cool and prevent my temper from rising...I needed this job, after all.

“Yes, ma’am. I understand that, without your pinkie toe, your foot might not be regarded the same in society,” I mocked, feeling the sarcasm bleeding into my words, even before I spoke them. “However, did you consider beforehand that using the metal strip of the grill might not have made for a good fly swatter? We are not responsible for the use of our products in ways that they were not intended.”

Dear Heavens me, but she still wanted to argue. The tinny voice that came through the line sent shivers of disgust over me, every word spoken causing me to want to retch as disdain and judgment blasted through me with each syllable. And yet, somehow I held back all the things I really wanted to say to this woman, but barely.

“That is not the same story you told me in the beginning, ma’am. I am happy to play back the original telling if you would like. You told me that you used the metal strip to kill an offending creature,” one that was drawn to the fecal matter she was spouting, no doubt. “Now, you are telling me the piece fell off the grill and guillotined your pinky-toe. Surely, you understand my confusion.”

The woman continued her howling, her anger bursting at the seams as she spluttered and raged at me for pointing out the contradiction in her own explanation. I closed my eyes and took in a huge breath. My whole body started to drift into a now moment I was only too willing to give it.

“Are you even listening to me,” the irate woman on the other end of the phone screeched.

Sighing at the missed opportunity, even if I knew it would be bad news for me to run into that man again, I clutched the phone closer to my ear. “Yes, ma’am. I am offering you the time you need to sort your explanation. There are still some concerns that I have. For instance, how did that thin, metal heating strip get past the metal plating and the bolts and screws beneath the grill to cut off your pinky-toe?”

“You cannot expect me to recall all those little details, can you? It was a traumatic experience, and now I cannot even wear sandals anymore because of my deformity caused by your product! What do you plan to do about this?”

Ugh! I had it! Trying to blame me for her irresponsibility was the last straw. “First, the products are not mine as you are determined to claim, but they are the company’s that I work for. Second, I have spent nearly an hour on the phone with you as you changed and altered your story depending on the questions and comments I gave regarding the responsibility of blame with regards to this matter, and you are still changing your story as we speak. There is absolutely nothing about your story that rings true except for the name you gave at the start of the conversation. ” The woman fumed and tried to interrupt, but I shut her down as my patience nearly snapped. “I am not done! Though you may believe my time is so invaluable as to waste it with your nonsense, I do have other things that demand my attention. Customers with real concerns besides being afflicted with dumbassitis. In my humble opinion, you are simply seeking an opportunity to find a company that would choose to pacify you with a paycheck as to have to listen to you one more minute. There is nothing that this company is willing to offer someone that is so irresponsible and asinine as to use a sharp-edged metal piece for swatting at bugs when that was not the intent or purpose of its production. So, if there are no further questions...” I let the statement hang in the air as I bit my tongue from any further response.

The words had flown from my mouth before I had any thought about the legalities of any of them. However, at the end of the day, the court would hear the recording and know immediately that she was at fault for her own injuries and will hopefully never have to listen all the way to the end when I implied that she, herself, suffered from dumbassitis and was asinine. The mortification I would have to suffer if anyone else knew that I had stooped so low in my career would know no limits.

The woman was stunned at first but quickly found her tongue. She spouted obscenities in quicker succession than a sailor might do. The next words were always the last resort for customers such as herself. “You’ll hear from my lawyer.”

“Then send in an army of them,” I replied testily before placing the receiver down with a little more force than necessary.

Looking up, I let out an audible groan. Maxwell had an uncanny way of sneaking up on someone, and he chose the most inopportune moment to do so. His frame nearly filled the door’s as he stood there watching me with astonishment and amusement.

“Having a bad day,” he teasingly asked.

My face burned bright as humiliation over my tirade started to manifest into my reality. I was only vaguely mollified by the teasing expression that he wore. “More like a bad week,” I muttered, turning my attention back to the papers on my desk to distract me from his presence.

“Mya,” he asked as he gave me a concerned half-grin. “Is everything okay?”

Somewhere along the way, I had nearly forgotten that I needed this job. Grimacing, my eyes grazed over the black letters that loomed before my eyes on the printed version of the many complaints that had been directed to my desk over the past week. My eyes hung there, searching for something to tell him that would explain all this away. Searching for something that would help me understand my conundrum.

“I just-”

“You just haven’t been getting enough sleep lately,” he interrupted.

As if I could not feel any worse, I was reminded of the dark circles that hung beneath my eyes. My hand moved to my face as my fingertips danced around the bottom of one of my eyes, toying at the edges of those dark circles that had started to become more difficult to hide as of late. With more than a little effort, I lifted my eyes to meet his.

“Mya?” My name had barely left his lips before he had strode across the floor and was standing next to me on my side of the desk. “What is going on? You can talk to me,” he nearly pleaded as he dropped to his knees, pulling my hands into his. “What is it? Does this have anything to do with what happened that night? When I found you walking home alone? What happened, Mya?”

The questions flowed through like a torrent and washed over me like a tsunami. “I-I’m just-”

There were so many loose ends in my head, so much so that it was like grabbing at very fine threads to have them snap in my head. Nothing of substance remained, and I thought I was starting to lose my mind. To think that I could have conjured up the man from my meditations seemed ludicrous, but no more ludicrous than those that still talk about the strangers that made a random appearance at the charity ball. It was no illusion.

His hands clasped mine gently, the feeling of my hands in his surprisingly unnerved me. Gently removing them from his grasp, I made my excuses. “You’re right,” I responded, pushing my hands through my hair. “I am just really tired.” Pushing my chair away from where he crouched on the ground, I collected my things. “Maybe I should go home early and try to get some sleep.”

Maxwell stood swiftly, an enthusiastic smile spreading over his face. “Now that is a great idea!” He moved quickly across the floor towards my office door. “I will have my car brought around,” he called back to me as he left.

“But-” But the man was already gone. “But I drove my car,” I groaned into the now-empty office.

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