Zoe glanced up, her eyes flickering to the television in front of her. In her hands, she clutched a small notebook and a pen, the pen posed just above the blank page. She'd had an idea barely half an hour ago, but by the time she had reached home and sat down to write, the idea had flittered out of her head like a bird escaping a cage.
She sighed, stretching her legs across the sofa. Suddenly, her cat pounced up from the other end and landed on the arm, before leaping forward and curling up by her legs.
"Evening, Danu," she crooned, as the cat purred. "You have a nice day?"
The cat, of course, didn't reply.
"Bet you've been chasing the birds away again, haven't you?" Zoe sighed, glancing towards the window that looked out onto the garden. In the middle of the grass was a bird table, simple but pretty. Seeds and nuts sat on the top, but from the looks of things, they'd barely been touched since Zoe had put them out.
"You can't just let them be, can you?" she muttered, before wondering what else her cat might have been up to that day.
She sighed, turning back to the blank paper. The cat, curled up beside her legs, let out a purr as she put her head on Zoe's leg. Zoe smiled at her companion as she reached forward and stroked her head. When she took her hand away, she put pen to paper and began to write.
She glanced up from the computer in the office, eyes locking on the handsome man being led in by her boss. His hair was the lightest shade of brown, verging on blond, and it fell elegantly into his eyes...
* * *
Zoe flashed a smile at her co-worker, who stifled a yawn before sitting beside her and placing a cup of coffee in front of Zoe. Debs groaned as she stared at the monitor screen, taking a sip from her own mug.
"How many of those reports do we have left?" she asked, glancing at the pile of papers on the other side of Zoe.
"Not many," Zoe muttered. "Just a few. Looks like it might take all day to put them into the database though..."
"Another day of this same old crap," Debs muttered under her breath, reaching across and taking a few from the top. "How's that novel of yours coming along, anyway? You need to hurry up and get it published so we can get out of this hellhole."
"Don't ask," she groaned. "I've been stuck on what to write for days. Ended up writing some complete chick-lit tripe last night..."
"You could do well with chick-lit," Debs commented. "Don't get on your high horse! It sells well, don't it?"
"Yeah, well, the writing was crap," Zoe laughed. "It's too cheesy, Debbie, and..."
She froze, staring in surprise at the main door of the office. Her boss walked in, heels clip clopping as she spoke to the man behind her. The man who, Zoe was surprised to see, had hair the lightest shade of brown, falling ever so elegantly into his eyes.
"Zoe?" Debs leant towards her. "Zoe? What's wrong? You look like you've seen a ghost."
Zoe tore her eyes away from the man as her boss lead him to a nearby desk. "Debs, I...I can't explain it, not right now..."
Debs frowned, before glancing over to the newcomer. "I would have expected a different reaction to him, Zoe. He's very handsome, isn't he? Ooo, look, she's bringing him over..."
The words she'd written just the night before came back to her, he matched the description of the man in every way, including the 'stormy grey eyes' that 'swirled with curiosity and fear as he explored the office'. The boss and the man got closer, and the boss smiled at the two.
"Girls, this is..."
"Trent," Zoe whispered under her breath, causing her boss to frown.
"Why...yes, how did you..."
"I heard you introducing him," Zoe explained quickly, trying to cover up her mistake. "Hi, nice to meet you, I'm Zoe and this is Debs."
"Pleasure," Debs drawled, reaching out her hand. Trent smiled at her, while eyeing Zoe a bit wearily. He took Debs hand.
"Nice to meet you," he muttered, seemingly daunted as he glanced around the office.
"Trent's going to be wondering around for today," the boss, Tina explained. "You know, just seeing what everyone does and all that. If you have any questions," she turned back to Trent, "the girls will be more than happy to help. Now, if you come with me..." She led him around the desks and towards the back, through the door that would take them into another corridor.
"Zoe!" Debs rounded on her friend. "What has got into you? How did you know his name?"
"I wrote it," she replied, weakly. "I wrote it last night, Debs. I described Trent before I even met him and gave him a name and everything!"
Debs frowned. "Impossible. Maybe you heard Tina talking to Faye about hiring him?"
Zoe nodded. "Maybe...but...the description, Debs. It matched him exactly!"
Debs shrugged. "I wouldn't put it past Tina to have described him, I mean, he's very handsome. It's a coincidence, Zoe. That's all."
* * *
That evening, at home, Zoe stared at the notebook. She ripped out the page from the night before and crumpled it, throwing it into the bin. At her feet, Danu meowed.
"Debs is right," Zoe muttered. "It's just a coincidence."
She flicked the TV on, eyes staring blankly at the screen as Eastenders came on. Eventually, she found herself picking up the pen and placing it on the page, deciding she need to at least write something. She sighed, scratching Danu behind her ears.
"Let's put this to the test, shall we?" she chuckled, shaking her head. "I'll write about, about...getting a promotion! Yeah, cause that's going to happen." She rolled her eyes, deciding that it was worth a shot. After all, it wasn't like she could really write the future.
He glanced around the office, before turning to the glamorous boss. The woman could be formidable; woe betide anyone who pissed her off. But she was pleasant enough when you stayed on her good side which, clearly, he had done. He gestured to one of the girls, currently typing up the reports she'd been handed earlier that week.
"How long has she been here?"
"Almost a year, now," the boss sighed, flicking her dark brown hair over her shoulder.
"She's one of the best in the office..."* * *Debs laughed when Zoe told her about the test she was conducting.
"Honey, if you get a promotion in the next week, I will bow down before you and worship you as a God."
Zoe laughed, shaking her head. "Yeah, right, because it really is going to happen."
"Well, you never know," Debs sighed. "Zoe, if it is true, can you please write about me winning the lottery? Or Trent coming in and sweeping me off my feet! He's lovely."
"So you keep saying," Zoe giggled.
The object of their conversation walked in then, giving a brief wave to the two girls before crossing towards Tina's office. In his arms, he carried a stack of papers, and Zoe wondered what they were for.
"I wish I could write the future," Zoe sighed. "It would be amazing, wouldn't it? Imagine what I could..."
"Deborah," the voice boomed, from across the office. Both girls looked up to see Tina standing outside her office. Debs gulped; the only time anyone called her by her first name was when she was in trouble. She stood up slowly, and Zoe watched as she crossed the room. Tina held the door open for her, and Debs was ushered inside. With every eye in the office on the door, it shut. Everyone turned back to their work, Zoe included.
She tried to work out what Debs may have done wrong over the last few days; sure, they very occasionally taped on an extra minute or two onto their lunch hour or coffee break, but they weren't the only ones. Maybe it was to do with the reports? She glanced over to Debs screen. Her friend seemed to be doing them at the same rate as her. Had Tina or one of the other higher ups heard one of Debs remarks about them? Surely no one would have reported her for that?
Zoe gulped, sinking down in her chair.
What if Debs got fired?
With her friend gone, Zoe wouldn't know what to do. Debs was one of the few people who made that place bearable.
She glanced up to see Trevor, one of the guys who worked on the other side of the office, leaning over towards her.
"Hey, what's up?" she muttered, hoping he wasn't going to pile more work on top of the reports.
"Do you know why Debs was called in?"
"No!" she squeaked. "Why, do you?" She leant forward, hoping Trevor would have something to tell her.
He shook his head. "Nah; you don't think it's the breaks, do you? I mean, I never get back before you guys..."
"It can't be that!" she hissed, frowning. "Can it?"
"I bloody well hope not," he sighed, eyes darting towards the office. "Guess we'll just have to wait and see..."
"Would anyone else know?"
"Only Tina, I guess, if you don't know." He glanced towards the door. "Anyway, I'll see you later. What you doing for lunch?"
"No idea; fancy going to 'Spoons?"
"Sure," he shrugged. "Cheap and cheerful. In a bit."
He turned and walked back to his desk, settling himself down. She couldn't help but notice how tense the office was now; people rarely got called in to see Tina, and when they did it usually wasn't good news. Zoe began to chew her bottom lip as she glanced down at the next report and started to type the details up.
A minute passed, then two, and soon it had been sixteen minutes since Debs had been called into the office. Zoe began to grow more and more impatient, the feeling in her gut started to get worse.
Eventually, after what felt like hours (but which was, in fact, only twenty three minutes and thirty-four seconds) the door opened and Debs stepped out. It swung shut behind her, and everyone in the office fixed their gazes on her.
Her face was pale, drained of all blood. She staggered back towards her desk, and as she got closer Zoe realised her friend's hands were shaking. Zoe leapt up, taking a single step towards Debs.
"Debs," she whispered. "What happened?"
"Did you name those characters?"
Zoe frowned. "What do you mean?"
"Zoe, did you give those characters, the ones you wrote about last night, did you give them names?"
Debs looked shocked, as she sank down in her chair and put her head in her hands.
"Zoe...I've been promoted."
* * *
There were six of them at lunch, all congratulating Debs on her new promotion. Both girls forced themselves to smile through the lunch, sending each other secret glances when the others weren't looking. Everyone had seemed more than a little shocked at the promotion; out of everyone on their floor, they all knew that Debs and Zoe were the least likely to be put up for promotion. Still, no one was bitter or jealous, just happy for their friend. They insisted that, the first time she got her new pay, she would be the one to pay for the drinks.
"I'll buy all of yours," she whispered to Zoe, who just nodded, finding herself at a loss for words.
"You're quiet," Trevor remarked, as they began to walk back to the office. "Are you all right?"
"Fine," she mumbled.
"Listen, I know it's going to be, well, weird, not working next to Debs, but why don't you ask Tina if you can move over by us? Least then you'll have some decent company."
"Yeah, maybe, thanks," she muttered, forcing herself to smile. They reached the building, and returned to their floor. "When are they moving you?" Zoe asked Debs, as the pair sat down at their computers.
"Tomorrow; it sucks, Zoe. I didn't want a promotion."
"It's not your fault," she sighed. "I don't think that writing-the-future thing really does work. It's...it's just a coincidence."
Zoe nodded, although she didn't quite believe her friend's words. "Yeah, I guess you're right. I am going to miss you though."
"I'll still be around!" Debs chuckled. "Anyway, you haven't heard who will be taking my place."
Zoe frowned, spotting the tell-tale 'I-know-something-you-don't' twinkle in Debs' eyes. "What do you know, Debs?"
"I'm not saying anything!" she laughed. "You will just have to wait and see!"
* * *
"What the hell do I do, Danu?" she cried, staring at the cat. The creature just gazed up at her and let out a soft meow. Zoe sighed, shaking her head before she began to scoop out the cat food into her pet's bowl. "I mean, do I just stop writing? Do I put my life's dream on hold because it may or may not affect the future?"
Again, the cat meowed.
Zoe groaned, slamming the fork against the countertop.
"Oh you're no bloody use," she hissed, grabbing the bowl and shoving it roughly on the mat laid out against the kitchen wall. Immediately, Danu bounded forward and began to lap up the food. Zoe sighed, turned and left the room, making her way to the living room.
The notebook sat exactly where she'd left it; it stared up at her from the coffee table, begging her to write something, anything inside. Zoe chewed her bottom lip as she looked back at it. A frown creased her forehead, before she threw herself onto the sofa and grabbed the book and pen.
* * *
"Zoe, fancy a drink later?"
Zoe's head snapped up to see Trent standing near to her desk, hands in his pockets as he stared at her, his head tilted to one side. She felt a blush rise up in her cheeks and mentally cursed herself for never getting over the 'oh-my-God-a-boy-is-talking-to-me!' stage of life. She nodded.
"Sure," she muttered, feeling a smile naturally lift her lips up.
"Cool, figured we could get to know each other a bit, you know? Seeing as we will be working next to each other."
It was the most she had heard him say, and his voice was exactly as she imagined. Deep, beautiful, the kind of voice she could happily listen to for hours. And everything he said, it sounded so effortless.
After pondering his voice, she realised what he'd said.
"Hang on – you're going to be working next to me?"
"Sure," he chuckled. "Looks like a pretty good spot, from where I'm standing."
He winked, and Zoe thought her heart might melt. So, the conversation hadn't gone exactly as she'd thought, but the same elements were there; the hot new-guy-in-the-office had asked her for a drink, and he'd even winked at her. She grinned up at him.
"I'll catch you later," he chuckled again before turning and walking towards Tina's office.
She couldn't help but wonder what, exactly, his job was.
The invitation for drinks had come as a great surprise to her, but she had accepted anyway, on the policy of 'why the hell not'. Now, she sat at the table he had picked out, as he made his way to the bar. Her eyes were drawn to his strong back, and briefly the thought entered her mind of what he may look like naked. She pushed it away as he turned around and returned to the table.
As he sat down, she couldn't help but notice the clear lust and longing in his sexy grey eyes. A smile pulled at the corners of his lips as he pushed her glass of wine towards her. "So," he began, "what's the office really like? I mean, under all that...""...all that shiny, look-how-great-it-is-here tripe that Tina's pushing on me?"
Her smile felt forced, even to her. It really was creepy; the words fell out of his mouth too easily, exactly as she had written them. She didn't reach for her drink, instead she kept her hands under the table, hoping he wouldn't see how much they were shaking. It wasn't the usual first date nervousness, either. She didn't even know if it was a date. No, it was the effects of seeing her story come to life, right to the old drunk at the bar she had described the evening before.
"It's really not too bad," she answered. "I mean, the people there are great, really friendly."
"Yeah," he chuckled. "I can see that."
Damn. Even she was saying the words she'd written; she needed to change it.
He eyed her as he leant back in the chair, one hand clasped around the pint.
The night wore on. Gradually, the pub got busier as people drifted in after work, but they barely noticed, too locked up in their own little world. The conversation followed the usual tracks; family, friends, high school and University. Life at the office, what he could expect, and moving on to what she really wanted to do.
"I want to write," Zoe admitted, inwardly groaning as she regurgitated the words on the page.
"Write?" he pushed. "As in, novels?"
"Ideally, yes. But if not, well, I'm saving up for a Journalism post-grad."
He nodded, slowly, sipping at his own drink. "You're not fierce enough for a journalist."
She laughed, glad to hear something she hadn't already written. "How would you know?" It was a challenge, almost, and something twinkled in his eyes. "Anyway, not that kind of journalism. Maybe something else. Film critic, maybe."
"A film fan, then?"
"Yeah. Or television, I guess. Just something that isn't writing up reports, constantly."
He nodded, slowly, absorbing what she had said. His eyes darted down to his phone, sitting on the table, and he pressed a button. It lit up, revealing the time.
"It's getting late," he muttered. "I'd...well, we'd better go..."
"Sure," she replied, finishing the rest of her drink and smiling at him. The pair stood up, and left the pub. They stood awkwardly outside, Trent scanning the road.
"Well," he took a deep breath, glancing towards her. "You could come back to mine, for a nightcap?"
And that was where she had finished writing, unable to decide what her response would or should be.
A/N: So this was meant to be a one-shot, but I've decided to split it into parts instead. Another of the 100 Theme Challenge. Please, review and let me know what you think. I return all reviews of a decent length, and I can always do with the critique to help me improve. Cheers.