“Life’s like a box of chocolates? More like a pile of rubbish,”
Peta looked up from her desk and asked, ”What on earth are you talking about?”
“That Forrest Gump movie quote. It’s a pile of rubbish.”
Peta looked at him with amusement.
“It’s just a movie you know. And why are you referencing it anyway?”
“My mother quoted it at me last night at dinner. ‘You never know what you’re gonna get’ he parodied in a high pitched squeaky voice.
“Very good. You sound just like her.”
“Yeah? Well, I got a pile of rubbish this morning. Derek rejected that programme I worked on all weekend in favour of that idiotic braindead moron Sean’s piece of rubbish!”
“You’re starting to repeat yourself,” she told him.
“But what did you expect. Sean’s his nephew. And his brother’s got a stake in the company, don’t forget.”
“A company that’s going down the toilet if he adopts Sean’s programme..”
“No, it’s not. Derek’s smart enough to modify it so it doesn’t do too much damage. He’ll probably use bits of yours too.”
“Yeah and I’ll get no credit for it,” Ren huffed.
“We are in a mood today, aren’t we?” Peta said.
“Tell auntie Peta what’s really bothering you.”
He looked at her askance.
“You’re the same age as me!”
“But so much wiser and more mature,” she observed.
“Hell,” he muttered.
‘He was really getting very tiresome,’ she thought.
But normally upbeat and quite fun to be around, she knew something was bothering him. She waited and said nothing further.
He sighed, then said abruptly, “I’m going off.”
“You can’t. You just got here,” she protested.
“What will I tell Derek?”
“Tell him I got a severe attack of diarrhoea. My mother’s cooking. It could be true, she’s a terrible cook,” he said, picking up his laptop bag, slinging it over his shoulder and walking out the door.
She watched him go. Derek was going to be pissed, but it wasn’t her problem. Still, she worried about Ren, it was quite unlike him.
Ren strode out of the building. He had no idea where he was going. He just knew he had to get out. They were located on the outskirts of the bustling city and there was a park nearby. He headed for it, passing a coffee vendor on the way. He bought a cappuccino, found a bench and slumped down on it. He stared moodily at his feet while he sipped his coffee. He had no idea why he felt so unsettled and frustrated this particular morning. It was a mild day. There were quite a few people about in the park. Didn’t any of them work? he wondered. He closed his eyes and took another sip of his coffee and tried to marshall his thoughts into some coherence.
He’d worked at the company for two years now. At first, he’d quite enjoyed it. He liked the relaxed atmosphere, and Derek wasn’t a bad bloke. He liked Peta too, a lot, but she had a boyfriend. He still enjoyed the work, but Sean’s arrival had changed the dynamic. It hadn’t bothered him at first, but increasingly, he found himself more and more frustrated. No matter how good he was, Sean would always be the favoured one, only because he was the boss’s nephew. Maybe that was it. All the suppressed frustration had boiled over into this feeling that he felt barely able to contain. So, what was he going to do about it?
He opened his eyes. He was startled to see a tall dark-haired girl sitting on the other end of the bench. She had a laptop on her lap and was engrossed. Her lips were pursed, a frown marred her forehead. Quite attractive, he thought, if you liked them tall and skinny.
Suddenly, she said, “Damn!”
He was amused. Just like him that morning. Everything had been rubbish.
Impulsively, he asked, “Problem?”
She looked around at him and said in a frustrated tone, “It’s frozen,”
“Have you tried rebooting it?” he asked.
“I’m too scared to in case I lose everything,” she said.
“Would you like me to try?”
“Do you know anything about computers?”
“I work for a software company, so, a little bit,” he said.
“Well, if you’re sure, I really can’t afford to lose all this work. I spent all weekend on it.”
“And you haven’t backed it up?”
She shook her head.
He moved to sit next to her. She was wearing a perfume that he quite liked.
She handed the laptop to him.
He looked at it critically while she watched fearfully. It only took him a few minutes.
He handed the laptop back to her.
“There you go,” he said.
“I’ve backed it up as well so you can’t lose it.”
“Thank you so much,” she said.
“You’re a lifesaver,”
She looked at the screen, then closed the lid.
“I really appreciate what you did. It’s so lucky I ran into someone who knew what they were doing.”
He smiled self-deprecatingly.
Impulsively, she said, “Would you allow me to take you to lunch? As a thank you?”
“Oh, you don’t have to do that,” Ren demurred.
“I’d like to. Please.”
‘You idiot. How often do you get an offer like that?’ a voice in his head asked him.
“Alright. Thank you. I’m Ren,” he said.
“Jasmine. I’ll meet you at the Romano at twelve. You know it?”
He nodded speechlessly. It was the most expensive restaurant in the city.
“Don’t worry,” she laughed.
“On the company expense account.”
She added thoughtfully, “It might be a business lunch. My computer guy just quit. If you’re interested, maybe I can steal you away from where you’re working now.”
Ren stared at her, then nodded.
“Sure, we can talk about it,” he managed.
Jasmine got up.
“See you at twelve,” she said, and strode away.
Ren watched her walk out of sight. She had a very trim behind.
He picked up his coffee and sipped it. It was cold. He put it down again, thoughts swirling around in his head. Then he thought about his mother. He smiled ruefully to himself. He owed her an apology, even if only in his head. He had a few hours to kill before his lunch appointment. Would it be a date or business? He wouldn’t mind if it was both. He wouldn’t go back to work. He’d text Derek, let him know his diarrhoea had laid him low, then go off to visit the art gallery. He hadn’t been there for years.
On the way home later, he’d drop a box of chocolates off at his mother’s. He figured she deserved it.