‘Where are the files I asked for, Melanie?’
The tone of her voice matched the sharp and highly polished nails tapping on Melanie’s desk. There were just two days before the firm’s biggest case and everyone was tense. For Melanie and the other researchers, this meant more abuse. Melanie pulled the relevant files from the cabinet next to her, never leaving her chair or looking at her aggressor. She knew what face would bear down at her and thought the day could only improve with the absence of the sight of that face.
Her day had not been all bad. She had missed lunch as too many deadlines had already passed, but she and fellow researcher Elise, had managed to get through until 5pm relatively unscathed. If they could just last 30 minutes more until knockoff, they would be free for another night. Elise at least, had the excuse of night school to get her out of the office. And since the company was paying for her tuition, it was in their best interest for her to go. Melanie wasn’t jealous of her friend, even though she hadn’t been offered the lucrative training program. The fact was, Melanie just wasn’t committed enough to the company to want a program that would tie her down. She longed to get back into a job that was related to her degree in history.
At 5.25 Patrick, her direct superior, handed a file to Elise and asked her to make the changes he had scrawled on the pages. It was a 100-page document she would have no hope of completing before knock off. Melanie tried to sink low in her chair and look incredibly busy, but she could hear Elise’s voice, ‘I have night school. I need to go soon.’
Melanie saw Patrick weigh up his editing needs against the company’s investment in Elise. His eyes began searching the room for a solution before resting on Melanie.
‘I need this completed tonight,’ he said, before the file slapped onto Melanie’s desk. Melanie looked up in desperation but Patrick’s face was the same as always; dedicated, motivated and nearing complete fatigue.
‘I’m so sorry. Can I help you get started?’ Elise asked, as Patrick walked away.
‘No, you need to go,’ Melanie replied while looking at the document.
‘I’m sorry,’ Elise repeated, before grabbing her bag and heading for the elevator.
Melanie watched her friend go and her eyes wandered to the vending machine. It was a bad idea. It always was. Melanie knew it was the vending machine cravings that made her a little curvy. But she needed something to get her through the night.
At 7.45, Melanie stretched back in her chair. Her belly rumbled from lack of lunch and now dinner, and it was not happy with the quick substitute she had offered. The empty chip packet lay on the desk and Melanie looked at it, wishing there was still something inside.
Patrick looked as though he was about to leave for a meeting. Melanie could see him through the open blinds of his office, hovering over the piles of paper on his desk. At the rate he was now picking up pages and putting them back down, Melanie judged he was already late and would bolt out of his office at any minute. She only had to wait until he left to be able to drop off the newly edited and printed pages on the way to making her fast getaway out the door.
Melanie took the opportunity to let her hair drop back onto her chair, allowing her curls to fall loose over the back as she tried to relax. The rest did little to ease her tired shoulders, and highlighted all the places she was sore. Her head rolled to the side as she looked out the large glass windows to the building across the road. Even the view was suppressed. Little direct sunlight ever penetrated the office and Melanie had the distinct feeling it was part of what made her so tired at work. It was the first day back from the weekend and Melanie already felt as though she would collapse before hump day. Fortunately, that was when the proceedings would start and while there would be work to do, there would be fewer partners and miscellaneous other lawyers demanding she do their work as a first priority.