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Julia woke up as the sunshine licked her face. It was warm and noisy. She patted around for her pillow but her hand landed on concrete. In her mind, she stood up as quick as she can but her body ached all over. She slowly raised her head, then her shoulders, and finally got to stand up. She was in an open space of concrete, and she can hear the cacophony of the morning rush around her. Still dazed, she opened her eyes wider, adjusting to the bright light. She realized she was on top of a building. “But which building,” she thought. She slowly shuffled towards the edge of the roof and looked down. She wasn’t particularly afraid of heights, but she let out a small whimper when she saw how high she was. She immediately backed off the edge and made her way to the stairwell.
She got home okay. It weirded her out that there was something of a switch that flipped on when she was going down the building. She flattened her hair, straightened her clothes, and got on a bus like it was a normal weekday morning. She arrived at her house, and went straight into the shower. The warm water stung her arm and it made her look. She had a shallow gash. “How did this happen?” she thought. She washed her hair and body as though she had been through one of those tough days. After stepping out of the shower, she grabbed her first aid kit and treated her wound. “How did I learn first aid again?” she thought. She went to her closet and took out a long-sleeved blouse she’d wear to work. “I don’t want anyone seeing this wound, ask questions…,” she lazily thought. “Especially not Charles,” she added, laughing at herself for even thinking about that in this confusing time. As she thought of the word ‘time’, she instinctively looked at her watch. “Oh, just a quarter past eight. I have plenty of time to catch the train to Morningwood, especially on a Tue-” She stopped and glanced at her watch again. It wasn’t a Tuesday. It was already Saturday.
She looked for her phone and called her work friend. “Hi Padma,” she said when the phone was picked up. “Julia! We were so worried about you! You didn’t come in last Tuesday and we had this big meeting with a client. You called later to say you’re sick and won’t come in until next week. Are you feeling alright?” Padma said in a matter of 10 seconds. Julia can’t even remember calling in sick. “Yeah… sorry Padma. Yes, I am okay. I’m feeling much better,” she replied. That was a lie. She felt anything but “better”. Her body ached. Her mind ached. And she was confused as a blindfolded toddler, turned round and round then made to walk. Padma went on about paperwork and meetings and stuff but Julia cut her off. “I’m sorry about all the hassle Padma. But I have to go lie down now,” she said. She put the phone down and sat on the bed.
Her butt barely touched the edge of her bed when there was a knock on her door. She ignored it. “Probably just the mailman, he’ll come back,” she thought. Second knock. Third knock. “All right! I’m coming,” Julia cried out with a strained voice. She walked towards the front door and opened it to find Charles standing on her doorstep. “Charles?” she said. She knows she said ‘Charles’ but she didn’t believe it. His hair was combed up his head like one of those preppy suit-wearing guys. He wore a leather jacket and rugged denim pants and high-cut boots. “Can I come in?” Charles asked. She turned sideways to let him in, then closing the door behind them.
"This is really a bad time Charles," Julia said. She didn’t want to drive him away and seeing him made the day a little bit better but she had to deal with the events of the last few days. "I’m sorry Julia. I know you’re confused about what happened to you. I’m here to tell you about that," Charles said. Her jaw dropped. "How did you- ? What do you mean?" Julia said. "Julia. You’re a spy," Charles replied.
Julia tapped on her keyboard. It was another Monday morning. “Ugh, Mondays,” she thought as her password allowed her into the system. She clicked on the previous week’s reports. Words floated in front of the screen and were forming cuss words, appropriate for what she was feeling today. She rolled her eyes while scrolling down the report. Mid-roll her eyes stopped when she smelled coffee. “Coooo-ffeeeee,” her mind said in a low voice. The coffeemaker was turned on and the machine was churning out the sweet nectar of the gods. “Wait, isn’t honey the ‘nectar of the gods’? And what do ‘nectar of the gods’ actually mean? Gods secrete nectar?” she thought. She shrugged and muttered “pre-coffee thoughts”, then swung her chair to the direction of the pantry and stood up.
In this new eye level and orientation, she was face to face with her, uh, colleague Charles. He always looked the same everyday and today wasn’t different. He wore approximately the same clothes daily - a button-down shirt and jumper, pants, and nondescript shoes. His curly hair is always messy, which Julia thought might just be part of his charm.
Charm. That’s what pulled her in. He isn’t particularly gorgeous, if she’d be technical about it - whatever gorgeous technically means. She isn’t some sort of male body expert. He has large eyes that light up every time he has some “great idea” or when he talks about movies or cooking. Aside from that, there isn’t anything special about his face, or body for that matter. Julia have dated way better-looking people, those clean-cut business types. It’s just something about him that made her feel nice when they talk, like sitting down at the park before the sun gets too hot. She didn’t really like how his lips looked but his words captivated her, even through his thick foreign accent.
She was midway through remembering that one word he always butchered when she heard her name being called. Charles was now in front of her, holding up a cup. “Hey, Charles,” she said. The words “How’s the weekend?” popped up in her brain to say next but it seemed fake to her. Anyway, she knew what Charles would say. He spent his weekend canoeing, glass-blowing or jigsaw-puzzling with his girlfriend, Ursula. Instead she raised her eyebrow and said, “Where’s my coffee?” She hated how that sounded. She reminded herself to be cool around Charles and keep her feelings in check. She even practiced a few phrases to say to Charles just to make sure they didn’t sound coy or flirty. Charles gestured to her desk. “I put it down right there,” he said. “I know you like it sweet,” he added with a small smile and a wrinkled nose. “Thanks,” she said. Charles was already walking to his desk but shouted back, “No worries!”
Julia sat down and held her coffee cup with two hands, smiled and said, “I do like it sweet.”
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