‘Hey, Patty’ Katie called out on spotting her new the water cooler, ‘I’m…I’m going to be a bit late while getting home. I have a lot of interviews to table.’
‘Cool’ Patricia said, hurrying away, ‘Then I better leave early if I gotta pick up Lanie.’
She smiled in answer. She didn’t usually lie to Patty, but today, she just needed time to think. She had told Len never to mention the incident in the afternoon to anyone, and he would definitely keep his promise—he was the kind of person people trusted instinctively.
As she went and sat down at her desk, memories from the past flooded her mind. She saw the times when they went to the Central park and licked ice creams. When they went for movies, and laughed at the scary parts. When they cooked spicy food and cried when they couldn’t bear the hotness. She clearly remembered the times when they acted all lovey-dovey at her sister’s house in front of her ex just to aggravate him. They had had so much fun, just the two of them.
She got jerked awake from her reverie, when she felt something cold on her hand. She looked down to see teardrops on her hands—she had been crying. She wiped her face hastily, and looked around. The office was nearly empty. The lights in most of the cubicles were switched off. She could see the old night janitor taking out his bucket. Rumour had it that he wasn’t a real person, just the ghost of an old janitor who had died twenty years ago at night, doing his job. Apparently, he had loved his job so much that he had come back, and had continued just as before, without even realizing that he was dead. He raised his cap on seeing her. She smiled back in answer. Then again, she thought, they’re just rumours.
‘You look like ya could use some advice’ he said in a muffled voice. In fact, that was the first time she had heard him speak.
‘Nah…it’s nothing’ she hesitated, and then thought—why not? It wasn’t as if he was going to go around telling her colleagues about what she said. She took a deep breath and started, and didn’t leave a single detail. For the first time, she told someone that she had liked George all those years ago. She told the janitor about all their pranks and craziness. How George had jumped at the idea of helping her with the stalker problem. She said that he told her that he got married, and how she wanted to die for not seeing that coming. After all, he didn’t have any obligation towards her, but somehow, she hadn’t expected him to be a kind of person who would want to settle down.
‘I don’t think that he did anything wrong’ the old janitor said after she finished her narration.
‘I know…’ she trailed off, not knowing what to say; she knew that he was right.
‘I don’t think that you were right in shouting at him today afternoon’ the janitor continued, ‘if that is how he wants to live his life, I guess that’s his choice. It don’t matter what you think of him, because you’re just a long lost acquaintance to him, nothing more. You didn’t have any right to judge him the way you did.’
‘I know…’ she said again, unable to control the tears any longer. She covered her face and snivelled. He was right—who was she to judge him the way she did? It was his life, and whether he wanted to get married or ‘have fun’, it was his choice. She met him after so many years, and all she did was to shout at him. What kind of a friend did that?
‘You’re right’ she said, wiping her tears and getting up, ‘I’ll go and apologise the first thing tomorrow morning...’