Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: JAM (02/09/17)
- TITLE: Crumpled Paper
By Ellen Carr
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James had poked his head in the door a minute earlier. Well, she couldn't actually see him as her head was half-way into the machine and her derrière facing the door, but she recognized his jaunty voice. “You okay there Cristy? Need any help?”
“No, I'm fine. Just fixing a paper jam,” she heard herself saying, when what she really wanted to say was, “Yes, James. Come and kneel down beside me, put your arms around me and fix this mess.”
Instead, she rejoiced that he couldn't see the blush spread over her face, and she cringed at the thought of what she looked like, shoes off and ample behind stuck up in the air. She fiddled around with the machine, reading the instructions on its open drawer, following steps A, then B, then C. But C didn't fix the paper jam. She didn't want to admit defeat, not as far as James was concerned. Presenting as a capable woman was so important these days.
~ ~ ~ ~
James sat at his desk peeping surreptitiously at the window of the photocopy room. He would love the chance to impress Cristy, the new girl. Unjamming photocopiers was one of his skills. In fact he seemed to spend half his time in that stuffy little room sorting out everyone else's issues with the big machine.
Should he offer again? How pushy should a guy be when a girl didn't want his help? He thought he'd give her ten minutes and then find an excuse to saunter in again. He watched the clock as he skimmed through his emails.
Aha! Ten minutes. He grabbed a typed sheet and headed back to the room. Cristy was sitting on a chair reading the photocopier manual.
“Hey Cristy! How's it going? I have to make a few copies. Can I make a queue here?”
Cristy blushed again and chose to admit defeat. “Actually, James, I can't get the paper unjammed. Sorry. I'm just trying to work out what to try next.”
Trying not to sound too triumphant, James said, “Want me to have a look at it? I've got to know this copier like an old enemy. We've often locked horns.”
“By all means, please do.” Cristy sat awkwardly on the edge of the chair as James knelt and peered into the depths of the photocopier. Should she just sit and wait, or leave him to it? It wasn't the romantic encounter she'd been dreaming of. She coughed nervously, noticing a little curl at the nape of James' neck, and freckles either side.
“Got it,” said James, pulling a crumpled and torn bit of paper out. “Had to go to step G. It was a tough one.” As he held the bit of paper up Cristy wanted to snatch it out of his hand.
“Nice photo,” said James, and Cristy colored up yet again. “Shame it's all crumpled. Go ahead and do another copy. I'll wait to do my copying.” As Cristy loaded her photo onto the copier again James still had the crumpled one in his hand. He flicked it into the bin and Cristy sighed, silently.
All that day Cristy thought about James having seen her photo and throwing it into the bin. Was this symbolic? Was that the end of the relationship that had never really begun?
James thought about Cristy and how he'd missed his chance to ask her out. Or to least find out a bit more about her. “Typical,” he told himself. “It was the perfect opportunity and I messed it up!”
The next day James saw Cristy in the photocopy room as he walked past. The machine was churning out a pile of paper and Cristy had things thoroughly under control. Disappointing. He headed to his desk turned on his computer.
When Cristy walked past his desk she saw him smoothing out a torn piece of paper and tucking it under his computer. The blush spread over her face again. She hoped he didn't notice.
He hoped she didn't notice.
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