He Laughed

Kate Ingram gets the nerve to ask out the guy of her dreams only to be sorely disappointed. Derek Wilson admires the Sad Woman who walks past his toy shop every day and wonders what makes her so sad.

He laughed in her face.

"You're too old!" He had declared as he walked away, still laughing and shaking his head.

Like she had told him a joke.

Not like she had asked him out.

Kate could feel tears filling her eyes as an angry blush colored her cheeks. She spun on her heel and swifly walked the opposite way, head bowed so spectators couldn't see her tears. She rushed into the women's restroom and locked herself in a stall. Plopping down on the toilet, she buried her face in her hands.

She had started working again after getting divorced from her husband of eighteen years. He had taken everything from her: her house, her car, her money. More importantly, he robbed her of her self-confidence. Kate had always been mousy; skittering away at the slightest movement. When she met Robert he had been everything she wasn't. Handsome, confident, a real go-getter. Her friends had dragged her to a party the night after first semester began when he saw her in the kitchen. He was chatting with his best friend, white teeth flashing in the dim light.

He spoke to her and the next two years were a haze of cheesy teenage romance and stolen firsts before he popped the question.

"You're beautiful and amazing and I want to spend forever with you." He had said, word for word.

Forever was a lot shorter than she thought it would be.

Someone entered the bathroom and Kate pressed her knuckles against her mouth, stifling a hiccup. Peering through the crack between the stall door and the stall itself, she checked to see who it was.

The new temp who was all everyone could talk about. She was statuesque and model-pretty and model-thin and everything-Kate-isn't. Her blonde hair looked like she had plucked rays of sunlight out of the sky and placed them on the top of her head. Kate's hair was a dusty blonde with streaks of gray even though she was only thirty-seven. Supple, soft skin and bright cerulean eyes trapped beneath coal black eyelashes. Kate had crow's feet and pale eyelashes and eyes the color of water and just as wet as the liquid.

Kate hated her.

The temp touched up her makeup—a dash of mascara here, a dusting of blush there—and smiled at her reflection to make sure her lipstick hadn't smudged on her pearly teeth. She nodded to herself once, smoothed out her pencil skirt which was the appropriate length, and exited the bathroom in a flurry of rose-scented perfume.

Kate wished she could hate her. The truth was, the temp was friendly and sweet and professional. Once, she even shared half of her grilled chicken sandwich with Kate when the latter forgot to pack herself a lunch. It was no wonder the man Kate was interested in was wrapped around the temp's little finger.

Well, that and her young twenty-four year old body.

Benjamin, the man Kate had asked out earlier, was a lot like Robert. He was charismatic and handsome. He always wore monochrome ties and dark suits with perfectly polished loafers. He was also ten years her junior, making her (in his eyes) below his league.

Hadn't it just been three days ago he was bragging at the water cooler that he liked older women? Yet another thing Kate had messed up.

When she felt she had spent enough time in the stall, she exited the stall and went to the mirror. Her eyes were red-rimmed from crying and her nose was a little pink. She sniffled and yanked one of those cheap paper towels out. She turned the faucet until warm water came streaming out and dipped part of the paper towel beneath the rivulet. Once it was damp enough, Kate wrung it out and gently pat beneath her eyes, hoping to ease their swelling. There wasn't anything she could do about her nose.

Her eyes weren't as red as before but they weren't one hundred percent back to normal. She smiled shakily at her reflection, revealing coffee stained teeth. At least they're straight, she thought morosely.

Exiting the bathroom felt almost like the Walk of Shame. Everyone who had witnessed her failed attempt at asking Benjamin out stared at her. Some friendly faces stared at her with pinched faces of pity. Less than friendly faces where biting their lips to keep from laughing too loudly at her.

She was tempted to turn back around and retreat to the safety of the bathroom stall. Instead, she lifted her chin and marched to her desk with a confidence she didn't feel. She sat in her swivel chair and focused on her computer. Her weekly report was due at the end of the work day and she'd be hard-pressed to say she wasn't going to complete it by then.

The lull of the clack, clack, clack of her keyboard.

The smell of 2pm.

The incessant throbbing behind her eyes as a migraine was birthed.

Being stuck in an eight by ten cubicle wasn't where Kate had seen herself when she married Robert. Oh, no, she didn't see herself working at all.

"I'll take care of it, babe." Robert assured her, smiling that easy smile of his.

She was to stay home and take care of the children (if they had children), prepare a martini for Robert, and have supper ready by the time he came home. You know, 1950s style.

It was a shame this was 2012.

Four years of majoring in history education had been wasted.

Kate paused her monotonous typing at the word. Wasted.

It left a bad taste in her mouth as she silently mouthed the six letter word.

She had wasted the best years of her life with a sexist jerk who would sooner put her down than encourage her to better herself. Then when she couldn't give him what he wanted, he tossed her aside like he did his martinis.

The burst of anger startled her. It had been nesting, buried inside her chest for eighteen years. It was an ugly little thing, with sharp claws that dug into her heart and stole her breath away. She felt its growl rattle her ribcage, shake and break her passivity.

The clock chimed three o'clock. Everyone shuffled papers around and grabbed their coats.

Kate hadn't finished her report yet.

The End

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