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Chapter 5

I have never been so stressed out in my entire carrier with Northons as I am right now. My supervisor is up my tail following my every move. Ilene, has been watching my every move from the corner of her eye too. Even Mr Willams glances at me whenever he walked by. That has never happened before. So much for my safe haven of a cubicle far far away from everyone! What's worse, I'm coming down with a painful cold. I can feel my throat itching and feverish. I've been sneezing a lot and tip of my nose is turning to crimson red from using tissues. I am a mess!

About a month ago, I was just 'one of the juniors' to everyone and unnoticeable to a point where I thought I was invisible, I liked that, I liked that very much. But now I am the center of attention and the topic for gossips. What have I gotten my self in to?

I got a pop up message on my screen, my supervisor, Cathy telling me to come to her desk ASAP.

I grab a tissue and scrunched it in to a ball and hold it, I straightened my hair and try to look presentable while I am far more than that. I walked to her desk only to find her busy typing fiercely at her computer. It's hasn't been 2 minutes when she send the message and now I stood like an idiot waiting for her to finish whatever she's typing. Full five minutes passed and thank God for the tissue cause I sneezed alot and it came in handy. She looked up and said, "why are you standing here?"

"you just sent a message saying you want me by your desk ASAP!" is she losing her mind?

"read the whole message and then reply" she rolled her eyes and got back to her typing. I felt so dumb standing for over five minutes with my tissue and my puppy dog eyes. I turned on my heel, sat on my desk with a huge sigh and click open the message. 'come over my desk ASAP' 2 minutes later another message "kindly handle the below customer's requests from this time forward" and there's a list of company names, all big buyers. The bigger the buyer the bigger the risks and the more the complains, and the bigger target for warnings and shouts from the management. I am a junior, juniors don't handle this. My first instinct was to march over to her and ask why she assigned this difficult task to me instead of the seniors. But I played out the whole scenario, she will stare at me like I am crazy, say it's a random selection, blame me for slacking and threaten to report this to management.

I buried my face in my hand and closed my eyes. I told my self I can do this! But the cold is getting in to me, draining my energy to even think about anything. I looked up and saw Ilene staring at me her hand on the door knob, she moved her head from side to side and clicked her tongue in disapproval. I just stared at her dumbfounded. She opened the door and dissapeared. What just happened? The rest of the afternoon dragged by draining my energy. By the time it's 5, I struggled to get my self up and walked very slowly to the bus station. All I could fantasize about is my home. Drink hot tea with lemon and honey, take a long hot bath and sleep. As soon as I open the door to my apartment, I felt so weak to do anything. Change of plans! I need to take a nap on my couch first. I gather my blanket around me and drifted off to sleep.

I woke up the next morning in my office attire, cold and hungry. Checked my time it's almost 8. I picked up my phone and start to text cathy "can't reprt to office today, I don't feel well, Zoey" I know this will earn me another 'reward' from her but I m so sick and tired to care. So I gathered my blanket and went back to sleep.

A door knock woke me up. I thought I was dreaming at first but the second time I heard it I said 'who is it?' my voice was so hoarse.

"it's me" is that Sam? Oh great! Perfect timing!

I wish I was quiet and pretend I am not here.

Another knock, "open up please. I don't have all day. "

" Hmm Zoey is not here, I am her cleaner. Please come back later. I will tell her you stopped by" I know he won't buy that, but it will get me some time to at least blow my nose and tie my hair. I thought I heard him scoff and then silence. Is he gone? "I am still here, I brought some soup " I gathered my blanket around me and opened up the door. He looked at me and a smile crept over his face. Oh great!

"so were you sent here on behalf of my supervisor to check if I am really sick?"

"nope I'm just here to give you this" he handed me the soup and got inside, sat at my couch and laid back, making himself at home. I took the soup to the kitchen and said "I will be right back"

Checked the clock on the wall, it's 10 am? Oh my! I slept through dinner and breakfast too. I took a very hot and relaxing quick shower, brushed my teeth, put on an over sized warm sweater, yoga pants and warm socks. I marched to the kitchen and put the soup in the microwave. While it's getting warm, I looked over to my couch and find Sam who's now on his laptop concentrating on work. I took the soup and sat on the kitchen stool and start to drink from the bowl. Soup has never tasted so heavenly before. It's the perfect blend of chicken with vegetable. I finished in less than 10 minutes and looked up to see Sam staring at me. He smiled and got back to his typing. I sat there for some time and wonder what I will do next. Should I seat on the window side couch and read or should I head out to the bedroom to get more sleep. I felt out of place in my own home and Sam is right in the middle of my living room feeling at home. I hesitated and grab my blanket and book and sat on the single seater couch opposite to him and start to read. After a turn of one page I sneaked a peek at him, he was concentrating on what he is doing. So I continued reading. I wanted to ask him why he is here and how he know that I called in sick? But may be later, now I need to read this inspiring true story about a holocaust survivor,about his camp experience and the aftermath. I was in to my third chapter when Sam said "don't you want to take a nap?"

I looked up from my book " nope I had a great sleep! Thanks for the soup. How did you know I wasnt at office?"

"I went to the office and checked with Your supervisor.. What's her name again?"

"Cathy" I sneezed twice in my tissue. I am in so much trouble now. I got a gut feeling that he is the reason for my little drama with Cathy and Ilene at office. And he went straight to office and ask for me. That seals the deal for me. My life at Northons is going to be hell.

"yeah, Cathy she told me you called in sick so I thought a soup and a friendly face might help" he grinned.

I closed my book with a thud and sighed. "what's wrong?" he asked

"nothing, it's just that work has been stressing me out lately."

"hmm I could see that, hey what happened to that old red slash faded pink big book?" he's changing the subject.

"I returned it to the library like 10 days ago, it was a good book."

He streached and put the laptop on the coffee table and said " I m going to grab something to eat, it's almost 12, you can comewith if you feel like it. I'm going for a drive through."

"hmm I better stay here and rest." at the back of my mind I am going through what it would be like if one of my 'collegues' saw me hanging out with Sam on my sick day.

Sam looked at me, he studied my face and said

" come on! let's go. It will keep your mind off the cold. Besides we won't even get out of the car"

Not getting out of the car sounds very appealing "so I don't have to change?" I think out loud.

"yes no need to change." he smirked. "now let's go I am starving." this guy has one heck of an appetite.

We found a quiet parking space with a tree shed after going on the drive through. I wanted to only eat the desserts because I was full but Sam insisted that I at least try two bites before gobbling down the dessert. I did exactly that! two bites then dessert. I watched him eat his chicken wrap, he enjoys every bite and nods in approval after every bite. He wiped his mouth with a tissue and said

"you know cold gets to you because you don't eat properly or even excersise."

"nooo! cold gets to me because I'm stressed out!

" so what has been stressing you out at work? "

"umm I don't know where to begin.. The whole system is failing me. It's probably time for me to look for other options. Northons was never my cup of tea anyway. I never like how the system is built up in a way to imprison employees with fear of warning and harsh measurements from salary deduction to overtime work for compensation of late arrival. I hate the fact that I have to ask my supervisor for toilet breaks, it's so degrading. You know what my job title is? customer service clerk. I'm not even a customer service agent, they stick with clerk for three years to mess with our heads. That was not what I had in mind when I joined. I had high hopes of growing professionally in a relaxed and friendly environment. Colleagues should help each other out and support. At the office it's far from it. The retreat will be the last memory I have of this place. Then I will look for a job around home, so I could stay close to my parents. I miss them. I hate being alone " the moment I said that I regretted it. I looked up at him, I sighed." sorry you had to hear me blabber. Please forget what I just said. "

" oh wow that was intense, I need to ask, when did you decide to resign from Northons? "

I scrunched up my face and said " just now"

I felt a painful throbbing headache and I held my palms up and hold my head.

"hey, you OK?"

"I'm fine, it's just that I had a terrible headache attack." he looked at me with concern and lift up my chin to inspect my face . I gazed up at his eyes, they are darker shed of chocolate brown and the more I look the more darker they looked. I keep staring in awe and felt like I am swimming in dark chocolate sea.

" don't get lost in there." he said hoarsely. I shook my head and moved away from him. He sighed and said

"let's get you home." and drove off.

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