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Rated: E · Short Story · Friendship · #2288847
It's February - get writing already!!
For the
Unstable(d) Writer's Challenge   (E)
A 12-month, intense writing Challenge
#2281662 by Shadow Prowler
Goal is 1800 words/day...get going!


Cupid's minions have a long history of aiding couples in finding one another, and helping them to forge an intimate connection that ultimately leads to love. It is no secret that fate often plays a hand in the development of these relationships, but there are also many aspects of interpersonal dynamics that can be explored to better understand why certain people come together romantically. With their years of experience, Cupid's minions possess insight into the subtle nuances of human interaction that are integral for any couple to meet and fall in love. For instance, they know how important it is for two people to foster strong communication; without expressing feelings and thoughts candidly, it is unlikely for a relationship to develop beyond basic physical attraction. They also recognize the need for mutual respect and trust if a union is to stand the test of time. In other words, by taking cues from Cupid's experienced helpers, you may find yourself swooning with your soul mate in no time!

Paul and Julie share a common workplace, but their respective personalities couldn't be more disparate: Paul is an unabashed workaholic, often staying late into the night despite his hectic schedule; conversely, Julie finds solace in her own space and becomes profoundly claustrophobic when surrounded by too many people. However, both of them have managed to find success in this shared environment - illustrating that even with differences, understanding and communication can make any situation bearable.

Julie's mom is stricken with dementia, and her evenings are consumed with providing diligent care. Despite the hardship of this endeavor, Julie perseveres; a testament to her unwavering commitment to her beloved mother. Exhausted after long days of labor, she spends nights vigilantly tending to her afflicted parent—a difficult, yet vital task which requires fortitude and empathy beyond most. She musters strength in moments of fragility and courage when fear attempts to subdue her; an admirable demonstration of compassion that should be lauded.

Grieving the loss of a beloved spouse and mother is an agonizing experience, one that Paul and his father are both enduring individually. She was the glue that held the family together, and being gone has created a vacuum in their lives. The emotional anguish felt can be compounded by their shared but singular sorrows: the solitude of mourning, the emptiness of longing, and the overwhelming hollowness of voids in life once filled. It's as if they've been thrust into an alternate reality where there is no solace to be found—a feeling so raw it cannot possibly be put into words. Though Paul and his dad may never fully comprehend the true depths of this grief, through sheer resilience and courage they will continue to strive towards the light at the end of the tunnel; albeit with some difficulty.

Rekker is one of the minions of Cupid and he has no interest in love, since he believes that satisfaction can be found in other places than love. Rekker is also extremely impatient when it comes to project completion timeframes. He doesn't care if it takes three months or three years to complete the project; as long as there are no delays in the completion, he'll be happy.

Thea is a loveable klutz and just wants to help Julie and Paul. She is a bit of a doormat, but she knows that if you're nice enough, the universe will reward you. She's also a big fan of coffee and sometimes likes to play with words. Thea was also a great matchmaker in real life, as she has helped many people find true love.

Cupid's minion Berg is a by the book type of guy. He does a lot of research about a person before he meets them. He wants to know everything about his subjects before he connects with them. He doesn't like to make mistakes, and tries to keep others from making them as well.

How will this little story play out? Wait and see.

Chapter 1

What a day this is turning out to be! The sun is barely up, and already behind the eight ball. I haven't had coffee yet, and I already want this day to be over with. What else can go wrong?

Julie dressed herself quickly. She sighed in the mirror, threw her hair up into a messy bun, and put some eyeliner on. Mom had a bad night, last night, and Julie was paying the price of being her care-giver. Mom woke up with night terrors, a sign of her failing mind. Her screams woke Julie, and it took quite some time before mom would settle down. Julie was frazzled, and had a pounding headache. At least the day nurse called to say she was on her way. Coffee would have to wait until she got to work. If she was lucky, she'd get a doughnut as well.

The doorbell rung, and Julie let the nurse in. She quickly updated her on what went on last night, and that Mom had finally gone to sleep around 4 this morning. She grabbed her purse and keys, and headed out the door. Julie just hoped that the rest of the day would be slow and quiet as she headed into work.

The COMM (the acronym that they used for Cupid's Office of Miscreant Minions. Whoever named this office must have been drunk or high, and had a very lousy sense of humor. Nobody said this out loud, however, as there was no telling who from "higher up" might be listening in.

Thea came skipping into the office. She could be so irritating with her constant cheerfulness.

Rekker looked up from his desk. Bergliot (Berg, for short) was pouring through some dusty old books.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm just doing background research. I heard that a new job was coming down the pipe, and I wanted to get a head start on it. You never know when a job would warrant a promotion."

Rekker just sighed. Berg could just be a royal pain. Always trying to be the good guy, and play by the rules. A brown-noser if there ever was one. Couldn't he just let go and let the fates run with something?

"Our new job came down. I have the info right here." Thea handed a file each to Rekker and Berg, and she opened her own up. Papers scattered to the ground. Sighing out loud, Berg left his desk to help her pick up the papers.

Rekker sat down at his own desk, ignoring Thea and Berg. He was thumbing through the folder when he came upon the name of the "job".

Julie Saunders. Mid thirties. Single. Caregiver to a deteriorating-mind mother. Works as an analyst for United Health Corporation...

Closing the file, he tossed the file on top of his desk. "So what's the big deal?"

Thea managed to get herself to her desk. "The boss is wanting special care done with this particular job."

Rekker snorted. "Why? Don't we always give special care to our jobs? Why this one in particular?"

Thea sighed dreamily. "Valentine's Day is coming up, and the boss gets sentimental during his holiday, is all. Besides, I really feel sorry for Julie. I hope we can work some romantic magic into her life."

Berg, still looking at the file chimed in. "Looks like a lot of work, to me. She's over worked, both at home and her job. She doesn't socialize, either online or in person. Not to mention she's socially awkward. I'm not sure this is going to be an easy fix."

"Berg, Rekker, don't be such fuddy-duddies. We will figure something out for her. We work great as a team."

I wouldn't be so sure if I were you, Thea; something's always bound to show up to screw things." Rekker replied. Thea huffed, sat down, and started taking notes. Berg moved back to his desk to get a deeper look into the file. Rekker decided that this wasn't going to be an easy case, but he didn't care. All he wanted to do was reach the next promotion so that the "foot work" could be left to someone else for a change.

"Yeah, Dad; I got the tickets. I'll meet you for drinks at seven.." Paul

Hanging up, Paul pulled on his jacket, patting the pocket to make sure the keys were there. Then, grabbing his briefcase, Paul headed out the door towards work. Why Dad insisted on drinks before the show bothered him. They never did that when Mom was around. Mom had just wanted to see the show. When she died, it wasn't long before getting together with Dad became more of an obligation than actual fun. Paul sighed. "Just get through the day. Get through tonight." It became a chant in the back of his mind as he headed in.

Chapter 2

The morning wasn't going quite as well as Julie had hoped. After a couple of email snafus, and her assistant panicking one too many times, Julie had had enough. "I'm going to lunch early, and hopefully I can get rid of this headache so I can finish the day out."

She waved off her assistant again, and grabbed her purse. "I think I'll take the elevator instead of the stairs. I don't feel like clomping down three flights." Turning towards the elevator bank, she rubbed her eyes to ease some of the headache. "I guess I'll get some aspirin with lunch."

She pushed the down button and waited for the doors to open. Julie stepped onto the elevator and pushed the first floor button. "Hold, please!" called a voice. Julie stuck her arm through the doors, and Paul stepped on and seeing the first floor button pushed, said "Thanks".

"No problem"

Waiting outside the elevator (and unseen) Berg and Rekker stood.

"I'm not so sure this is a great idea", Berg said.

"What's wrong now? Getting her on the elevator is the only way she's going to run into Paul. You want them to meet and fall in love, right?"

"Yes, but..."

"Then don't worry about it. I'll just let the elevator get "stuck" for a bit. Easy as pie."

"Yes, but..."

"Just go wait at the first floor with Thea. This will be the easiest set up. Ever."

Berg didn't look convinced. He kept looking at the paperwork he always carried with him. He then shrugged and said OK.

Rekker didn't know what Berg's deal was. The "boss" wanted this done, so they'd get it done. Period. As soon as the elevator closed, Rekker snapped his fingers.

The elevator came to an abrupt halt. The emergency lights glowed in the darkened elevator.

"Woah" Julie grabbed the wall.

"Well, that's just great. Wonder what glitched," Paul spoke to no one.

Julie could feel her head starting to pound harder. Her blood pressure was up, and she felt herself breathing a little too heavily.

Paul looked at her. "You okay?"

Julie just shook her head and slid down the wall. "If it weren't for this headache in the first place, I'd be going down the stairs."

"I hate elevators." she replied out loud.

"You're not going to get hysterical on me, are you?" There was annoyance, and a little worry in Paul's question.

"No, I just get claustrophobic easily." Please hurry and open up. Please!

"Okay, just breathe slowly...In through the nose and out through the mouth." Oh, man! Don't let her start screaming or getting sick.

Julie ignored Paul for the most part and concentrated on her breathing. She decided she would just go home and go to bed, instead of working after lunch. She just didn't feel good, and this was definitely not helping.

After what seemed like eons, the lights came back on, and the elevator started moving. Paul helped Julie to her feet, and both breathed a sigh of relief.

"Well, that was really weird. I hope they figure out what went wrong so it doesn't happen again."

Julie nodded in agreement. "I'm so ready to go home. I better call and let them know I'll be back in tomorrow." She whispered to herself.

"Thank you."

Paul looked stunned. "What for?"

"Helping me not become hysterical. It's been a bad day from the start, and I really didn't need to lose it in here."

"Not a problem. I hope you get to feeling better."

The elevator dinged and opened. Paul looked once more at Julie, and then left, heading to his meeting.

Julie got out of the elevator and headed toward the door. "I'll call when I get home." Leaving the building she stopped and inhaled deeply. The headache seemed to lessen being out in the open. She then headed toward her car.

"Well, that was a disaster", Rekker growled in disgust.

"I tried to tell you that Julie was claustrophobic", replied Berg. "But you wouldn't listen to me. You just had to go and act impulsively."

"Now what'll we do?" cried Thea. "How are we going to get them together?"

"Don't cry, Thea...sheeesh!"

"Well, I hope you've got a better idea than trapping them in an elevator again." said Berg, patting Thea on the shoulder. "There, there, Thea. Rekker will figure something out." He narrowed a look at Rekker. "Won't you?"

Rekker shook his head. "It should have worked. How was I supposed to know she was claustrophobic? Okay, elevators - out. Guess we're back at square one again."

Julie made it home without any further incident. Her assistant wasn't happy about Julie taking the rest of the day, but she promised to be right as rain tomorrow. She also asked the nurse if she could stay the regular shift, so that she could get some sleep and be able to take the night shift that evening. The nurse was very understanding, and told Julie to go get some aspirin and to take a nap.

Paul's meeting went a little longer than usual. The company was starting up a new project, and all the i's needed to be dotted and the t's needed to be crossed. They stood to make a gargantuan profit, but only if Paul's group did their best. "Everybody seems to have a handle on what needs to be done. I just have to get ahold of this Julie Saunders for the final breakdown analysis." He figured he'd call her after lunch, and get the ball rolling. No sense in waiting.

His watch lit up. He would have a late lunch, talk to Julie, and then would go home. He still had to see his dad for drinks and the theater. Paul did not look forward to it, but it was another task to accomplish. He went to the small café on the corner in search of a sandwich and a drink with a plan in place.

"I'm sorry Sir, Julie isn't in this afternoon. May I take a message?"
Paul muttered something unintelligible, then replied, "No, I'll just try her tomorrow. If she's in."

Hanging up, Paul looked at the clock. It read 4pm. Work was done for the day, other than not getting ahold of Julie, so Paul shrugged his shoulders. It was still too early for meeting his dad, so he decided to take a run when he got home. Maybe he could shake off the irritation he felt, and have a half decent evening with his dad.

Back at the office, Berg, Thea and Rekker were still trying to come up with Plan B. Thea was looking into what looked like a gazing ball. "I feel sorry for Julie. To have a bad day at work, and still have to take care of her mother at night. How awful."

Rekker huffed. Paul's gotta deal with his dad, who still hasn't gotten over his wife's death. It's no picnic for him either. Why did the boss want to get them together? They don't seem to have a lot in common - other than work."

"Perhaps the boss thinks they would balance each other out." Berg replied. It was as good an answer as any, he supposed.

"Well, we've done as much as we can today. Tomorrow's another chance. I hope nobody's sick tomorrow."

Chapter 3

Julie felt much better after getting a good night's sleep. Fortunately, Mom was in good spirits, and went to bed early without incident. Those days were becoming more precious all of the time. The specialist had warned her that soon it would be time to think about assisted living for her mom. Julie pushed that thought to the back of her mind. "Hopefully there wasn't too much going on yesterday afternoon. I should be able to catch up on everything easily." She headed toward the shower, and to get her day going.

Paul finished dressing. The run after work had helped with his mood. He felt like he could handle most anything. Luckily, last night Dad had been in a reflective mood, so conversation wasn't overly burdensome. They companionly finished their drinks and headed to the theater. About two-thirds of the way through, Paul noticed his dad's closed eyes and steady breathing. He didn't bother to wake him. Once the theater show had ended, the applause startled Dad awake, and he clapped along with the audience. Paul said nothing about it. "Ready to get home, Dad?" He nodded his assent, so Paul took him to his car. He watched as his dad pulled out and drove away.

Now today was a new day. Hopefully Julie was in the office today, and he could finally get the analysis going for the project. He grabbed his keys and phone, and headed into the office.

Thankfully, Julie thought, the morning was going off without a hitch. She felt like herself again, and with everything caught up, she was getting ready to pull some files, when the phone buzzed.

"Hello, Julie Saunders speaking."

"Ah, yes, Ms. Saunders. This is Paul Hightower. I'm heading the new project team, and I need some of your analytical expertise. Could you come by my office after lunch?"

"No problem. 1:00 or 1:30 okay with you?"

"1:30 is fine. See you then. I'm on the 4th floor. Office 3A."

"4th floor, 3A, got it. Bye." Paul had already hung up. "Not much for words, eh, pal?" Julie smiled to herself. "See you then."

"She's smiling. She must be feeling better today". Thea was ecstatic.

"They will be meeting in his office after lunch." Berg added.

"Well, then, no elevators, no sickness...there should be no problem", said Rekker. Finally! "Let's just make sure nothing happens to either of them until 1:30, shall we?"

Julie grabbed a notebook and pen. She liked writing out notes rather thank using a tablet when she began a project. It helped her to focus. She climbed the flight of stairs to the 4th floor, and looked around for Paul's office. Finding it she glanced at her watch. 1:27pm. She knocked on the door.

"Come in."

Julie opened the door. The smile that she had on her face fell. "Oh."

Paul looked up. "Oh. Hello."

Julie couldn't believe that she was going to be working with the same man that had seen her on her worst day. "Great," she thought, "Can't I get a break, just once?"

Paul's smile was frozen on his face. "If you'd take a seat, we can get started, Julie."

Julie sat down, and started to explain, "I'm sorry about yesterday. You didn't catch me at my best."

Paul put his hand up to stop her. "Don't worry about it. Things happen." "Plus, I don't want this to turn into a therapy session", he thought to himself.

"Shall we get started, then?"

They talked about the project, and what analyses would be needed. Julie knew what she needed to do, and asked questions to better know what Paul was thinking. He was impressed by her questions, and that she was quite professional in her demeanor. After a couple of hours, when they both were satisfied with what was needed, Julie rose to leave.

"If you have any other questions, just give me a buzz." Paul held out his hand. Julie took it. She didn't know what to expect, other than a handshake, so when she felt sparks, it startled her. She pulled her hand back, and picking up her stuff, turned to leave.

Paul sat down once the door closed. He, too was a bit non-plussed at the contact. Shaking his head, he put his attention back at the work that was on his desk. For the rest of the afternoon, thoughts of Julie constantly interrupted his work, and even though she wasn't physically in the room, her presence made itself known. It was a bit annoying, but even still she wouldn't let him work in peace. "I need to go for a run to clear my head. I've got to get a grip." Paul decided that 6pm was late enough to stay, and would head out. Everybody should be long gone by then, and he wouldn't have to worry about running into Julie until after the weekend.

Julie was glad that the day was just about over. She had no better luck concentrating on her work than Paul. "What the heck," she thought, "All we did was shake hands. Why can't I get over it, already?" Giving up on any more work to be done, Julie closed up her office and headed to her car. She took all three flights of stairs, still remembering the elevator debacle, warmth seeping into her cheeks at the memory. Good thing it was Friday. Perhaps then she could straighten herself out over the weekend and get her head back into the game.

"Well? Well?" was all Berg asked. Rekker shrugged his shoulders. "Thea was the one who put the crackle into the handshake. How am I supposed to know anything after that?"

Thea smiled. "It was pretty easy to do. All it did was make them conscious of one another, and made them think about each other. I'm not sure how long it will last..."

"But they didn't seek each other out after work", Rekker complained. "If anything, they tried very hard NOT to see each other."

"But running from each other is just what hard-headed people do," Berg replied. "They cannot outrun their thoughts."

"Well, then, I guess we will just have to make sure that the thoughts torment them enough to meet again soon." Rekker muttered out loud. This was beginning to feel like work. "Sigh..."

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