All the King's Horses

The day was cloudy but for the moment the rain had abated. The clouds above glowed with all the sunlight they held back, the occasional beam slipping through to illuminate one spot or another. It was a morning of potential, a day on which dreamers could anticipate the clearing of the skies, the warmth of the one sunny spot, or dream of rain to come, the wet smell that lingers in the air.

Adam noticed none of that. He was late for work. That never happened. The street vendor from whom he always got his morning coffee on the way into the office gave him a look of surprise, but offered no comment as he noticed the tiny nicks that shaving had obviously left in the suited young man's jaw. A rough night, apparently. He also took in the bruised look under the young man's eyes, the fact that his tie was askew, and silently increased the size of the coffee. He waved off Adam's protests, offering a smile and a shrug before making a shooing motion. "Go on boy, you're already late."

Being late irritated Adam. He also knew it was going to result in having to stay late, another thing that irritated Adam. It was Friday, the one day he always left on time because he knew he could catch up on extra work the next afternoon. He always ordered Chinese food and watched movies all night. One Friday a month there was a poker game with guys from work. It was a chance to network, a chance to bond and discuss things and be seen to be involved. This was not a poker Friday, but he still was disgusted at knowing he would be staying late to make up for arriving far past when he should have.

He did not notice the people in the elevator with him, standing impatiently, shifting over as the space got more crowded. His fingers tapped his briefcase impatiently, despite the glares other passengers gave him.

Finally, his floor. The ding preceeded the opening of the doors and he wriggled out, trying to straighten his suit and tie before his boss saw him without spilling his coffee. For just a moment he sent an appreciative thought into the universe for the surprising but kind gesture of the older vendor giving him a larger coffee. Of course, he bought enough.

"Adam!" That distinctive sound could only be his boss. His shoulders slumped for a moment, then he squared them.

"Yes sir. I know I'm late. Traffic was horrid and I think the rain knocked out the power last night. True enough, but Adam always woke up before the alarm anyway. Not that morning. That morning Adam had been so exhaused he had slept an hour past when he usually rose. Thoughts of Kat had kept him tossing and turning.

His boss glared at him, but then just shooed him on with another glower before hustling on to hassle the next employee.

Sinking into his chair, Adam let out a sigh and slurped down a few gulps of coffee while he flicked on his computer. Back to another day of the same old thing. Writing had always been his passion, something he lived for. Everyone thought he was talented; Kat had thought he could do it professionally, whether it was journalism or wrting stories. At least until the day when push came to shove.

He remembered the argument, the fact taht she could not believe he would take some stupid job that was not what he truly wanted just to pay the bills. "It will strangle you until that damn tie is so tight you can't breathe." He reached up, loosening his tie a bit. Today he was starting to think she was right.

Looking through the break in the cubicles into another one he saw a guy paging through a magazine. With a stabbing pain he recognized the face on the back. He had been avoiding magazines, been careful about the paper for the past few years. Ever since Kat had gotten her dream. She had become the face of all those companies. Plastic. Exactly like he had told her.

Groaning, he rubbed his hand over his face as he looked back at the computer screen in front of him. He should not have said what he said to her. Even if it had been true. Every time he saw her picture somewhere it made him want to hit something. It wasn't her, not anymore. It was some fake imitation. There was nothing in those pictures of the girl he had grown up with.

Staring at the screen he pulled up the latest project he'd been given. More publicity. It was brainless by now. He knew exactly what to write, how to spin it around. It took so little thought he sometimes wondered if his brain was still working.

He made good money though. He knew there were opportunities in the company, ways to move up. There were headhunters too, always the chance that another company would give him a better offer. He could afford a house now, if he wanted one. Security. He had it, all the things his parents had told him to dream of.

All except Kat.

He didn't dream of her anymore though. Except last night. Last night he dreamed of the girl he had spent sunny afternoons with, the one girl he had shown his stories to. The one he had thought...

She was coming home. What did that mean? Why? Was she coming back to rub his nose in the fact that she had achieved her dream? He wasn't sure he could bear that. Seeing her like that, proud of what she had become, it would break that last tiny little piece of him that still held on to the girl she had been. He had thought that piece had died a long time before, but apparently not.

Glancing over Adam saw that the guy had put down the magazine and was watching him curiously. A half smile, and the guy turned back to his own work, Adam staring up at the screen before him. He needed to get this done. It should have been sent to his boss by now, but he had been late. It would be the first deadline he had ever missed.

 

 

The End

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