Mat felt the weight of his shoulder bag drag him down as he locked his car and turned his back on the first blue-red hints of daylight creeping up on the horizon. The lumpy, beige-gray office building always reminded Mat of a crumpled paper bag someone had left behind, especially the way either end of the building was taller than the middle. He swiped his security pass at the door lock and let himself inside, swiping his card again at the little red punch clock. Another Saturday in April, and I'm here at six in the morning. Again.
Being a Saturday, Mat didn't have much to do besides take the odd call or two from customers who sounded overworked and tired. He sat at his desk in a cubicle with waist-high walls ("To improve our spirit of teamwork and foster a sense of friendship with each other," his boss had said, neglecting the fact that the seating arrangement meant that the people on the same shift sat across the room from each other) and watched the sun start to come up through the windows on his left. He'd told that cute brunette with that sky blue tank top in that club last night that he worked in an office with a great window view, but didn't mention that it was only a good view for the hour or two that he didn't have to share it with anyone else. The woman had seemed at least a little impressed with this, but then she'd seen a friend of hers from across the dance floor and decided to leave.
Before she'd left, though, she gave him a small smile, took out a neon pink gel pen, and scribbled seven glittering numbers across the back of his left hand. Mat was astounded, and looked up to thank her and ask when he should call, but she'd escaped into the press and sway of the dancing crowd in the blink of an eye. Mat had finished the rest of his vodka and cranberry, waited for another fifteen minutes, and then grabbed his bomber jacket and made the drive home without incident.
He leaned back in his chair, which complained in a squeal of plastic and aluminum, and laced his hands across the back of his head, watching the dawn paint a swath of bright tangerine orange across the opposite wall, drawing lattices with shadows from the cheap venetian blinds. His phone rang, and Mat considered letting it roll back into the queue for a moment, then decided against it and picked it up.
Mat rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands and took off his headset, hanging it from the edge of his desk. A little reminder popped up on his computer, telling him he needed to go eat something. "Hey Jordan, I'm going to lunch. You got everything covered here?"
Jordan didn't look up from his computer screen and waved to Mat, speaking into his headset in a low voice. Mat logged out of his phone, locked his computer, and grabbed the lunch sack that held this weekend's dry sandwich and bottle of water.
Today was the first day of the year that had reached over 70 degrees outside. Mat walked over to the secondhand picnic table that still had the original city park logos on it and stretched out on the bench. He started to cover his eyes with his hands, intending to take a nap, and saw the number on his hand, somehow still intact. I wonder if she's outside today? Across the street, a landscaper started up a lawnmower and went to work. A light breeze started blowing, and the fresh smell of cut grass and fresh dirt wafted over to him.
The cellphone in his pocket felt like it was digging into his thigh. He started to take it out, then stopped. She's either asleep or just waking up. I bet she doesn't even remember me anyway. He sat up, unwrapped his sandwich, and took a bite. Besides, I'm at work. What if she wanted to go do something today?
The sun warmed his shoulders as he sat there and ate. The cellphone in his pocket seemed to be getting heavier; did it just vibrate? He snatched it out and looked. Nope, just a phantom ring. She doesn't even have my number anyway.
Mat felt the chair grumble under his weight again as he logged back into his phone and computers. His t-shirt was still a little warm from the sun outside, and he felt like he could still smell the cut grass on the air. He turned back to the windows and looked out across the few hundred yards of small office buildings to the little chunk of suburban housing and the open field beyond that. The breeze rippled along, stirring up the grass and brushing some stray blades of grass along the sidewalk.
Mat felt a frisson flash along his shoulders and run down his spine; he picked up his cellphone and dialed the number on his hand, then logged out of his work phone as the cellphone made the connection. He heard one ring, then two, and then a third.
"Hello? This is Iolanthe."
Mat felt his heart catch. She picked up! On a Saturday morning! He swallowed once and said, "Uh, hi. This is Mat. From the club last night?"
He could almost hear the smile in her voice. "I remember you, Mat-with-the-chestnut-hair. Did you sleep well?"
"Yeah, I did, actually. I was wondering if you were busy? Maybe today? It's a really nice day out and I was kinda hoping to get out in the sunshine for a bit."
He heard her moving around over the phone, putting some dishes in the sink and opening the tap. "I would love that! I was just thinking the same thing. Are you at home right now?"
"Actually, no, I am- er, I was at work." He saw Jordan's head pop up over the cubicle out of the corner of his eye. "I decided to take a half day." Jordan hit a couple of buttons on his phone and stared at Mat through his mop of dishwater blonde hair.
"I was thinking I could use some coffee. There's a little coffee shop over by the Safeco on Richman Street, behind that panaderia." Mat smiled; he hadn't been able to hear it last night over the music, but she had just a touch of a French accent. "Do you want to meet me over there?"
"Sure, sounds great. Richman Street?" He started gathering up his keys and jacket.
"Yes, behind the panaderia. It's called 'Rich Beginnings'. Is fifteen minutes okay?"
"Great, actually. See you there."
"Sure thing. See you in a bit."
Jordan stood up and folded his arms, staring at Mat as he hung up. "Are you seriously bailing? Tessa doesn't get here for another hour."
Mat slipped his cellphone into his pocket and shrugged, trying to conceal his sudden outbreak of happiness. "Sorry. It's a nice day out." He locked his workstation and checked his desk to make sure he hadn't forgotten anything.
Jordan sighed and sat back down. "Fine, whatever. Don't let Reckern catch you or he'll yell at both of us." Jordan hesitated a moment. "I'll cover for you if you let me skip next Saturday to go surfing."
"Sure thing. See you later, Dan." Mat smiled again, left everything on his desk, and walked out into the bright sunlight.