Author Note

This is loosely based on a real encounter I had and often think about. I still smile just thinking about it. I do struggle with flash fictions and 'showing not telling' because I want to bring people up to speed quickly. That's obviously easier if I just tell you what's up.

Chance Encounters

To say Leigh's job was draining her life, physically and mentally, is a bit melodramatic. Every once in awhile, she would reflect on what she had learned there. Whereas school had let her graduate without any real tangible skills, this job had padded her resume with all kinds of verbs and certificates. Today, however, she was having one of those days and not at all reflecting on those things.

Glancing down at her notebook, she ran over the day's to-do list again. Her pen danced around the checkboxes, up and down, trying to find what to tackle next. Two of the items could be pushed back another day and she scribbled at the lines until she couldn't see a single scrap of the words.

With a sigh, she twirled the pen around several times before letting it fall to the table. Her monitors suddenly went black and she reached out her hand to touch the mouse just enough to spring it all back to life. Wiggling her cramped right fingers, she skimmed the room around her. In her view, five other employees silently stared that their computers, 80% with headphones completely enveloping their ears.

Her gaze eventually landed on her empty cup. As slow as she could, she stretched her body fully out before heading to the restroom. The coffee pot was on the way back from the bathroom, but that would eliminate the need to take another loop away from her desk.

The bathrooms were down a bare hallway, off to the side of the office floor. The white on white on white of the walls, floors, and ceiling was void of even people. Everyone drowning in their work, or deep in various meetings.

Her aunt was coming over for dinner in two days and Leigh needed to finish the quilt. It was a collection of her grandpa's plaid shirts, her grandma's old aprons, and their businesses' uniforms.

As her hand wrapped around the door handle to pull it open, she resolved herself to going straight home at 4:55 pm to get to work. The designer and Leigh both paused for a second in the doorway, almost walking into each other. Her shoulders were squared back, taller than they had ever been. Leigh stepped back to let her by.

Their interactions had always been brief, they worked in different departments. Still, it was a small enough company that Leigh had heard the woman's new name several times from the others on her team. The word had quickly spread when the woman had shown up that Monday with a new dress. Several common female names came to Leigh's mind, but not the correct one, leaving Leigh to remain quiet and give a polite smile.

Their eyes met for a second. The woman's grin lit up her whole face. It was a smile unlike anything Leigh had ever seen. Pure absolute pride and happiness bubbling up and out of her body. Something Leigh couldn't ever remember feeling herself.

Within another second, they had stepped to the side and were each on their way. The door shut behind Leigh, leaving her alone in the lady's room, but the smile hadn't left. Wouldn't leave. The warmth from that simple glimpse had spread through Leigh's whole body. Never in her life had she seen someone so visibly excited. Especially at work.

When she returned to her desk, she looked around the room again. Everyone was just as studious as before.

They had all taken the news today and had just gone back to work. Just like a switch, they simply changed the pronouns and names they used for the designer. Then business as usual. Lunch, meetings, casual side conversations, everything as normal, just one more person could be found in a yellow dress. It was a big deal and yet not at all. It was shocking they had all been so kind, but the more she thought about it, of course, they were.

Leigh sailed through her work for the next few hours, stopping only to look at passing coworkers. Three of her coworkers were expecting her pieces by the end of the week and she pushed it out within two hours. Every once in awhile the woman passed by Leigh's desk and their smiles re-illuminated again.