The office atmosphere weighed us down, creating a direness bordering on depression. We were all feeling the long weeks of the past, combined with the countless hours of the tedious future. The long workdays created a need for more coffee than usual. Soon my eyes pulsed; my hands shook; my heart raced, and my bladder screamed. I made a mental note to shift to decaf a bit earlier in the day. As a result of my caffeine overdose, I passed Brent’s cubicle several times on my way to the bathroom.

Sometimes he gave me a quick smile acknowledging my presence. Sometimes I caught only a glimpse of his broad shoulders as he typed away on his computer. My pleasant mood only suffered when he ignored me to converse with Liz. Brent appeared far too intelligent to fall victim to her ways. During one pass by his cubicle, I heard them speaking but did not exert real effort to overhear them. Despite this, I felt frustrated when the words refused to unveil themselves, but I reminded myself that I didn’t care.

The surge of caffeine pumping through my veins caused me to be more jittery than a dog on the Fourth of July. The jitters led to the next series of events. I went over my work several times to check for mistakes. Many people had already left for the weekend, leaving only a few unfortunate souls, Brent being one. It seemed like a good time to be thorough and show Bruce that I remained at work as a dedicated employee.

After sifting through my papers as many times as could appear sane, I decided to head out for the evening. I could still hear the keyboard clicking from the cubicle by the breakroom. I strolled to the door, said goodbye to the few people I passed, and left the office. As soon as I had reached my car, I realized that I had forgotten my purse inside. After taking a moment to enjoy the setting sun, I reentered the office. Before retrieving my purse, I checked one last item on one of the returns and headed out. By chance, Brent decided to leave simultaneously, and we both exited together.

Brent spoke little at first but held the door open for me. I suspected the day had worn him out as it did me. As we approached our vehicles, he asked, “So, what are your big plans for the weekend, Skylar?”

“I seldom know where a weekend is going to take me.” I did usually know where the weekend would take me, home, where yard work and laundry awaited me.

“Oh, really? It’s going to be that kind of weekend, huh?”

“Maybe.” I opened my car door, placed my keys back in my purse, and set it on the seat. I had an impulse to learn about motorcycles, having so few opportunities. I shut the door before asking, “So how fast can you go on that thing?”

“I try to keep it under eighty,” he said with a hint of playfulness.

My eyes grew wide. “Eighty! Are you serious? That seems a bit fast.”

“No worries. I’m very safe.”

“I hope so.”

Did that seem too much like I cared? I once again said goodbye and tried to open my car door. I was surprised to find the door locked. My over-stimulated brain tried to recall me locking the door. Despite my effort, I could not remember the moment that my shaky finger hit the button. I could feel his eyes on me.

“Is there a problem?”

“Um, I can’t believe this, but I locked my keys in the car.”

“Do you have another set somewhere?”

“At home.”

With his warm yet irritating smile, he tapped his hand on the seat of his motorcycle and said,
“Hop on.” So, I did.

The engine roared to a start, and my heart raced. What was I thinking? I clung to Brent’s jacket because I feared flying off the back. The leather felt like flesh in my hands, which was both comforting and disturbing. The sensation of freedom pulsed through my veins. Soon, I forgot about my arms wrapped around the office mannequin. When Brent slowed for stop signs and street lights, the smell of his cologne wafted through the air. The brand of his cologne was a mystery to me, but I couldn’t deny the fact that I enjoyed it. I feared that I would forever search for the scent, trying to recapture this memory. The fear that no bottle could contain even a piece of it haunted me, and I doubted a part of me I had always trusted.

Due to the rush of sensations, I, like Liz, forgot to loosen my grip as the motorcycle idled at stoplights. His thin jacket allowed me a hint of what lay beneath. Brent’s frame, though fit, did not include six-pack abs. Instead, a soft layer created a perfect mix of fitness and humanness. If I were a different person altogether, I would have enjoyed the moment a bit too much. Instead, I shifted my focus to the air tousling my hair and, on the moon, peeking up from behind the trees. Somehow, I even convinced myself that discovering a new and exciting version of myself would please Adam.

When we pulled into the driveway, my house loomed before me. Adam and I watched the construction and witnessed our home take form. Yet today, it seemed different, unfamiliar. A piece of that ride clung to me as I strode into my kitchen. The daring spirit that straddled the bike poured a bit more wine than usual. The woman whose hair had blown behind her in the wind now tugged her shirt down to reveal what she didn’t dare to expose earlier. She prepared a chicken cordon blue with the enthusiasm of a young woman expecting a courter. When Adam entered the candlelit getaway that I had created, he froze. His eyes lingered on my low neckline before traveling upward. We both knew dinner would wait. And as he studied my wine-blushed face, for a moment, I dared to hope that he liked this side of me.

The stress and coffee at work interrupted my sleep with strange dreams. None of them were quite as odd as the first, yet they remained unusual. Colors were more vibrant, and messages seemed to be screaming at me in baffling scenarios. I was itching to experience new things, yet the demands of life kept me handcuffed to reality. No doubt, this served as a good thing since, without reality’s neediness, my mind would drift to unwelcome territories.

My last dream was more of a picture that flashed in my mind. An enormous thick curtain like that in an old-time theater slid aside to reveal another dimension. As much as I struggled, I could not view what the other realm held. Was it dangerous? Was it beautiful? Most likely, it was both. Either way, the answers remained hidden in my dreams. One thing I knew was that something had happened with Brent’s entrance into my life.

Trapped in a cubicle is the last place you want to be when a curtain to an unknown universe flirts with revealing secrets. Never had numbers bored me the way they began to then. My head would nod off, bouncing as though it was at the end of a bungee cord. I reached into my drawer to pull out my mini carrots. That’s when I discovered a note tucked beside them.

Quite a healthy snack for a motorcycle chick. I expected fireball shots and beef jerky. If you are ever up for another ride, let me know.

Luckily, I had not placed the vegetable in my mouth yet, since I am sure I would have choked. I folded the paper the way his fingers once had and peered over the cubicle like a prairie dog checking for predators. Nothing was visible except the tops of heads. I sat back down and tried to calm my pounding heart.

A piece of me knew it was wrong; despite this, wrong was a line I could control. After all, I was an accountant. All things in life were black and white; they fit in boxes of debits and credits. Nothing floated around that did not fit in a box. Credits were therapeutic to my soul; debits were damaging to my soul. Motorcycle rides after staring at a computer all day were good for my soul. Straddling Brent in his chair while running my hands through his hair would prove harmful. I was strictly a credit kind of person when it came to my soul. Since only one motorcycle ride fit comfortably in that category, I replied with my own note.

I keep the jerky and shots locked in my other drawer. I’m afraid that being Adam’s soon-to-be fiancé prevents me from accepting multiple motorcycle rides with other men. Thank you for the invite, though.
I cursed the fact that I had to refer to Adam as my soon-to-be fiancé, especially since there was no evidence to prove it. Yet, the alternative, long-term boyfriend, sounded frustratingly high-schoolish.
Brent headed for the restroom, so I made a beeline for his desk. It was so darn tidy, I couldn’t find a spot to place my note where Brent would see it, yet it wouldn’t be obvious to others. I scanned the desk, hoping the perfect spot would magically appear. The bathroom door started to open, so I settled with throwing it on his keyboard and scrambling back to my desk.

There was an actual giggle stuck in my throat until Liz interrupted my moment with, “Hey, Brent.”

“Hey, Liz. What’s up?”

“You know, same old thing. We missed you at the pub Friday. I thought for sure you would show up.”

“I thought so, too. Maybe next weekend?”

“I hope so. Hey, you dropped something.”

There was a pause as he must have been reaching for whatever fell.

“Oh my, it looks like a love note,” Liz snickered.

Seriously, Liz, a love note? How old are you? I held my breath and silently begged that he
wouldn’t open it in front of her.

“No such luck. It’s only my scrap paper I use to write notes to myself. I better get back to
work, Liz. Nice chatting with you.”

“Always nice chatting with you, Brent.”

The sound of her voice disgusted me. Then this extraordinary realization came to me. Brent
shooed Liz away so he could read my note. Of course, I would later reevaluate the situation. It might have actually been his scrap paper, and how would he have known it was a note from me?

All those second thoughts coated my happiness with doubt. Pushing the negative thoughts away, I focused instead on my original diagnosis. It was, without question, more pleasing.

That night, I had another strange dream. Brent and I were on a beach. Unfortunately, I would love to say that I had extensive detail like the first dream, except I didn’t. It was more of a feeling dream. Brent and I were at a wedding that appeared to be ours because we were at the center of it. Everyone else was a blurry backdrop. I was only allowed a glimpse of the movie my mind created. The images began to fade, and I fought to stay in the moment. As much as I tried to force myself, I could not reenter the dream to reveal the intended ending.

The most bizarre thing about the dream was that we were both wearing black. I was in a lovely yet casual beach dress, and Brent wore a button-up black dress shirt. Why was a color such a prominent part of a dream?

After glancing at Adam to make sure he was deep in sleep, I tiptoed into the office to Google my mystery. When someone dreams about the color black, it represents the unknown or danger. Among a large handful of other things, it can also mean potential or possibilities.

I spent the next several minutes pondering the dream. What came first, the feelings I experienced, or the dreams whispering messages involving Brent? Was the dream a premonition or nothing more than the result of my brain trying to figure out the mystical draw? And even if dreams could be either one, what was the basis of this one? I Googled again.

There are some things that even Google cannot answer, and it infuriated me. In my opinion, it should not be that difficult of a question. People can create a 3D copy of a crescent wrench
with a printer, yet Google can’t tell me if my dream is sending me a secret message about the temp in my office. Baffling!

I remembered a journal, a gift someone had given me years before that had gone untouched. I decided that the best way to solve the mystery of my vivid dreams was to start documenting them. I began with the zombie-alien vision and added this one to the list. To help me analyze them, I included the Google interpretation of each one. I included some soul searching but kept out any thoughts that would incriminate me. After writing everything I considered necessary, I closed the journal, tiptoed back into the bedroom, and hid it in the corner of my closet. Adam would never find it; I felt confident. I assumed that Adam wouldn’t consider the mysteries of my brain amusing. My dreams were taking me somewhere; that much I could be certain of, and the journal would serve as the Universe’s treasure map.

When I dressed for work the following day, I chose to wear black, tempting Fate to make Brent also choose to wear black. He wore blue. I cursed Google again simply because I didn’t know who or what else to condemn for my distracting thoughts.

The day following the coffee spill, Bruce gave me a new account. Nothing about it piqued any excitement or concern except for the fact that it was more work on my plate. The account was that of a cheesy local hotel. I stayed extra late working on it, a habit Adam accepted, and I completed it in record time. I handed it back over to Bruce early the following morning. He looked up momentarily and then went back to his work. Mumbling far under my breath so no one could hear, I strolled back to my desk and prepared myself for the hours to tick by.

An hour later, Bruce called me into his office and asked me to shut the door. My heart pounded like a child sent to the principal. I sat across from Bruce wringing my hands nervously. Was it possible that he noticed my late nights and wanted to give me much-deserved recognition?

“So, Skylar, you’ve been with this office a long time now, haven’t you?”

A raise? I was getting an unexpected increase in pay.

“Yes, I started the year before Patty, so that would make it…”

“I notice you have been staying later than a lot of the other ones as well.”

Okay, so he didn’t care how many years and “the other ones,” really? It was a bit of a sub-human way of categorizing us, but back to the possible raise.

“Yes, I like to make sure I’m taking good care of my clients in a timely manner,” I said.

Sometimes listening to myself, the evidence of my awkwardness even shocked me. Bruce examined me for a moment. I couldn’t tell if he was judging my geekiness or reevaluating his desire to increase my pay.

“I have a special client, one that needs a bit of, well, let’s say it’s a unique case. He has some offshore accounts that have come to my attention recently. As you are probably aware that ever since The Panama Papers, people have been panicking about accounts they may have, let’s say, overlooked when we initially filed for them.

“Now that other countries are handing over their names, we may find some clients asking us to file FBARs for them. My client needs you to go back six years and file the appropriate amendments. I have several accounts that need attention right now.” Bruce shuffled some papers on his desk before continuing as if it would prove his point. “Since you’re more experienced with these types of accounts than your co-workers, I want you to handle this one.”

He stared at my unflinching face again. I would say that I excelled at giving poker faces, not letting on excitement or concern, except that it was more than that. I was truly blank. Did he actually believe I was more experienced with FBARS than he was? I knew that the acronym stood for Foreign Bank Account Report. The acronym stuck even though the legal name changed to Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts. Beyond that, my experience was close to zero. Bruce must have decided my blank stare was a lack of concern because he continued.

“Do you think that you would be willing to work with my client? It may involve more out-of-office meetings.”

“Who doesn’t want to get out of the office during tax season?” I said with a laugh. Bruce studied me after my outburst, creating a slightly uncomfortable silence. “I’m having a late lunch with him this afternoon. I would like you to join me.” “Definitely, yes, I would love to join you.”

“We’ll leave here at 1:45. Don’t plan on coming back to the office today. If you have anything pressing, give it to that temp. What’s his name, Brad?”

“Brent. His name’s Brent.” Pride that I was privy to such private information as his name hinted in my voice.

“Sure. Give it to Brent. And close the door behind you.”

I took that as a clear sign to leave his office immediately. Exiting Bruce’s lair, I had a purpose. I needed to find some vital piece of work that needed immediate attention.

It ended up a no-brainer. One of my clients, Mr. Stein, owned the small appliance store in town. He thought both he and his name were pretty big deals. To keep him happy, I always tried to make him feel as though I believed it as well. In truth, I had recently bought new appliances from a completely different store because his selection left something to be desired. When I attempted to use their store, his young employee couldn’t even explain the benefits of an induction stovetop.

Adam and I politely thanked him for his useless information and headed down the street, where we proceeded to spend far more money than we had planned. Thanks to their competitor, I now completely understand the benefits of induction stovetops.

Anyway, Mr. Stein had emailed me a list of items he wanted to know if he could write-off. Yes, I could have dealt with his questions in fifteen minutes or less. The problem was that I had no intention of opening the email until I was about ready to leave. Because of this detail, I would not be able to adequately explain to him the reasons why or why not each item was a write-off. Due to this fact, it became necessary to ask Brent to devise an email on my behalf. At precisely 1:35, leaving only enough time to explain the situation to Brent, I printed off the necessary information and headed to his cubicle.
As I approached, Brent shut his laptop. Was he one of those sneaky Facebook searchers on office time kind of people? Very disappointing. And that kind of work ethic was why Bruce chose me over my colleagues to meet the unique client.

“Excuse me, Brent.”

He swiveled in his chair to face me. “Well, hello, Skylar. What a pleasant surprise.”

A nervous laugh escaped me. “I have to bother you with something.”

“I can’t imagine you bothering anyone.” Stupid nervous laugh again as I tucked my loose
strands of hair behind my ear.

“I have to meet a client with Bruce.” Something on his face changed. Still interested;
however, the amusement vanished. “He told me to hand over anything that needed to be dealt with today since I may not come back today.” Did I say today too many times?

“Sounds dangerous. Who’s the client?”

“No clue yet. Bruce said it was a unique case, is all.” I even made the quotation marks with my fingers.
Again, the gaze seemed more intense.

“Interesting. You’ll have to fill me in on our next ride.”

“Will do. I mean, I will, except not on a ride,” I said. “Would you mind responding to this email for me?
Mr. Stein is the type of client who expects every answer the day it’s asked, and I try to oblige.”
Bruce’s door opened. His eyes scanned the office. I’m sure looking for me. “Looks like it’s time. Do you mind?”

“Anything for you, Skylar.”

“Thanks, Brent. Oh, and he likes good detail as to why or why not.”

“Sounds like someone I’m glad I don’t have to deal with daily.”

“They save the best ones for me.” I turned away with a small smile and wave.

I loved my unique client without even meeting him. More importantly, I loved that by walking out that door, side by side with Bruce, I became the interesting one.