A Nice Day Tomorrow

How far would you go?

Souce: Pixabay

This story is taken from my collection “Static: Collected Stories” which is available to buy in Kindle for the special price of just 99p. You can get it HERE.

Ellie laughed. Kelvin could hear it from across the office. She was passing her phone around a clan of friends perched around her desk. Photos, probably, Kelvin assumed. Or something funny on Facebook. She was telling a story to go along with this, though Kelvin could not hear it. He wondered what it would be like to be part of that group, laughing and joking through the lunch hour. Instead, Kelvin sat alone at his desk and ate his lunch. It was the 276th day that he had eaten lunch alone.

He knew. He had counted.

The only thing to brighten Kelvin’s mood was the view from the window. This high up, he could observe the passers by in the street below. He imagined names for them. He imagined lives and personalities. Their lives were always much more exciting than his own.

Sometimes, he would imagine stories involving himself. The things he would do if only he could. If he had the money, if he had the time, if words didn’t catch in his throat and turn into silence.

He saw Ellie again, later, in the staff canteen. She walked in laughing, that bouncy, infectious laugh. Kelvin was making coffee in his favourite mug. The canteen was otherwise empty.

“Hi,” Ellie said, with a slight frown on her face as if she was trying to work out where exactly she knew Kelvin from.

“Hi, um,” he stuttered quietly. “I’m Kelvin. I, er, work here too. The other end of the office. I’m not very memorable. Um.”

She smiled, and her face lit up like a pinball machine. “Oh, yeah, Kelvin!” she said, as if suddenly remembering an old friend. Kelvin was unsure if she was genuine or just a very skilled liar. “I was showing some of the guys some holiday snaps earlier. We went to Mexico. Do you wanna see?”

“Sure,” Kelvin shrugged.

Ellie passed him the phone, a slim grey number of indeterminate branding. As he looked, Ellie chatted away, mostly to herself.

“The weather there was so great, not like what we’ve had here lately, right? Nothing but rain. Still, they reckon it’ll be a nice day tomorrow.”

Kelvin was barely listening. On the screen was a photo of a beach, the sand almost blindingly white, the sea the cleanest blue Kelvin had ever seen. He flicked his finger across the screen to the next photo. It was the beach, again, but this time it contained an unfamiliar face. Alongside Ellie, grinning in sunglasses, was a handsome, square-jawed be-stubbled man, the kind of man Kelvin wished he could be. He handed the phone back.

“The photos look great,” he mumbled, head bowed, “but I’ve gotta get back to work. My break is over.”

Ellie took her phone back and waved him off with a grin. Back at his desk, Kelvin did his best to focus on his work. But he could not shake that photo from his head.

Later that evening, Kelvin found himself browsing photos of Mexican beaches on his laptop. In a second browser window, Facebook was open. Kelvin has discovered that Ellie and the man he learned was her fiance, Mark, both had public profiles. He learned, too, that were over-sharers. Particularly Mark. In just a few minutes Kelvin found out where he worked and — thanks to one emoji-filled post — that he had been asked to work overtime the following night. Mark was lucky, Kelvin thought, that the information had never fallen into the wrong hands.

Kelvin was one of the last to hear the news. Ellie had been off work for three days before anyone told him anything. It was Steve, resident office gossip, who broke the news.

As Steve spoke, Kelvin stared into the middle distance, imagining the waves of a Mexican beach. Only certain phrases broke through the sound of those soothing waves.

“…some maniac jumped Mark outside his office…”

“…it was on the news, you didn’t see it?…”

“…gang-land style execution, the police said…”

“…didn’t even steal anything…”

Kelvin nodded once Steve had finished, and agreed that it was a shock, and so sad. He went through the motions: Poor Mark. Poor Ellie.

He gazed out of the window at the people in the street below. He wondered what each of them wanted, and how far they would go to get it. At lunch, he ate alone at his desk. It was the 280th day he had eaten lunch alone.

He knew. He had counted.

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