A Little Off

Copyright Ken Brady. No reproduction without express permission from the author.
(Originally published in DAILY CABAL, 2008)

“Penny for your thoughts,” Rachel says.

Blake hears her words, looks up from his financial statements. Rachel, his secretary, is in the outer office, so it can’t have been her. Hearing things, he thinks. Too much coffee. He takes off his glasses, pinches the bridge of his nose. Then he stares at the wall to clear his mind.

A minute later, the door opens and Rachel walks in. She opens her mouth, her lips move, but nothing comes out.

Blake looks at her and blinks. He puts his glasses back on.

“Um, just thinking I need to take a break,” he says.

“You work too much,” she says. But her mouth doesn’t open.

Blake just stares as Rachel looks at the financial statements on the desk, back to him. Then Rachel’s lips part and mouth the same words.

“Well, er, you know,” he says. He lets the thought trail off. He isn’t sure he really had one to offer.

Rachel smiles widely at him, winks once, then turns and goes out the door. Blake is sure she says as she leaves, “You should go on vacation. With me.”

Blake stands, paces around the office. My mind is going, he thinks. No other explanation.

His phone rings and he goes to answer it. There’s only a dial tone when he picks up the handset. He places it back in the base. Sitting at his desk, he waits a minute, picks up the phone. “Hello?” he says.

A robotic voice says, “This is an automated reminder from Zuma Travel that you have eight hundred points toward a future leisure cruise. Call us to book your next vacation! Goodbye.”

Blake hangs up, sits still for a moment. The world is definitely out-of-synch. Or he is. Then again, he thinks, when has it ever really been otherwise?

“What the hell is going on?” he says aloud, wondering if his words will come out wrong. But his lips move in-synch with his speech, so no problems there. Maybe it’s just the universe’s way of telling him something. Maybe things were actually in-synch after all, and it’s time to do something about that.

He buzzes and Rachel comes back into the office.

“I think I should go on vacation,” he says. “With you.”

She opens her mouth to speak, but she says nothing for a minute.

“I don’t know if I’m ready for this,” she says finally. “I mean, I think I’m in love with you, but… God, what am I saying?”

Blake stands up and walks to her, takes her hands in his. By the time her lips catch up with her speech, he’s ready.