After my meeting with Anne, I wanted nothing so much as to return to my desk on the third floor. But then, I didn’t really want to go back there, as it would mean facing Donnie and Bethany.
I walked toward the elevators on the first floor, reflecting on the new element of danger that I had added to the mix. Managers talked among themselves. Within any large company, they belonged to a universal brotherhood—and sisterhood. I could imagine Anne pulling Sid aside one day, and saying, “I’m concerned about a conversation I had with an employee of yours. Very strange. Can you make anything of it?”
Totally absorbed in these thoughts, I boarded the elevator. The Brown-Eyed Girl was inside the elevator compartment.
I had noticed that I always seemed to run into her in one of the elevators. Whatever her job was within the company, it apparently involved a lot of walking around, talking to different people in various departments.
Making eye contact with her, I gave her the best smile I could manage under the circumstances. She had ridden the elevator down to the first floor, so she was obviously disembarking here.
“Hi,” I said. A real wordsmith, I was.
“Hello,” she said. I was disappointed to note that she didn’t return my smile. Then I took a closer look at her face: The Brown-Eyed Girl’s expression suggested that she had had an even worse morning than I had had. Her eyes were swollen and red. Had she been—crying?
A day at Thomas-Smithfield could be stressful and dispiriting for the company’s employees, even if your day didn’t include the discovery of a likely murder conspiracy. It was rare, though, to see an employee moved to tears.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” I asked.
“It’s—nothing. Never mind.”
The Brown-Eyed Girl brushed past me. At that moment, I desperately wanted to run after her. But I held myself back.
I didn’t know the Brown-Eyed Girl, after all. But I did know that in a corporate environment, an expression of simple concern—if misinterpreted—could easily be construed as unwanted sexual attention or worse.
Plus, I had to be honest with myself: I wasn’t expressing simple humanitarian concern here, was I? I was fascinated with the Brown-Eyed Girl. But right now I had enough problems—both at work and in my personal life—without adding more.