Laura reclined back in her cushioned work chair. Her hand on her mouse, she scrolled through the columns of the spreadsheet with expenses for the Marriott hotel, receipts from restaurants, gas, rental car, and airfare charges.
Heat pricked at her cheeks, and her eyes stung.
Frustrated, Laura sighed.
The headache had started a couple of hours ago, and now her skin tingled from the pain. The “knocking” on the frame of her workstation only made the pounding in her head worse.
“Hey Laura,” Jan said as she grabbed the spare chair from the corner of her cubicle and rolled it close to Laura’s desk.
Laura’s jaw tightened. Expenses for the Sales Team must be submitted to the Chief Financial Officer by the end of the day today. She hoped whatever Jan had come for wouldn’t take long.
Jan said some words about an incident from the weekend that made headlines because of what could have happened but didn’t.
Laura touched her swollen, warm lips.
Jan was mad. Angry that on the first warm spring day where birch, balsam firs, and oak trees lined the paths, the parents with children, the teenagers, and seniors that were there, well, none of them had helped a boy who nearly drowned.
Laura offered excuses: Perhaps, some had heart conditions? Or maybe they didn’t see him? Still, others may not have known how to swim. Other people may have been in denial about what they witnessed and didn’t have time to react.
Before she left, though, she pushed her caramel-colored hair back, harrumphed, and returned the chair to the corner of the cubicle. Jan shook her head and said, “How can you defend them?”
Laura shrugged her shoulders as her chest throbbed.
Jan spun on her heels and trudged off down the hallway. The clip-clop sound faded. Laura sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose as she stared at the expense sheet for Joy Thatcher.
The lines on the spreadsheet, the cells Laura remembered they were called, blurred together.
Concentrate, Laura. Concentrate. It’s only noon.
Other people were around. But, she wanted to remember the boy.
Slowly, she’d limped back to her car. Her coat sagged. So, Laura peeled her black jacket off and threw it in the trunk. God, her sweater clung to her like forgotten cilantro in the fridge still in its plastic bag. Then her car chirped, the doors unlocked, she opened the car door and almost got inside.
A woman’s soothing voice said something from behind her. Laura stopped and spoke with the white-haired woman in the black hat who told her she was a retired nurse. The woman said: You should get checked out.
But Laura wanted to go home. She squeezed the woman’s hand once and reassured her that she was okay. Then she watched as the grey-eyed woman walked away.
Once Laura was in her car, she rubbed her hand to her face. Then she watched as two paramedics lifted the boy strapped onto a gurney, and loaded him into the ambulance. Not long after, the transport vehicle’s lights whirled, and the siren screamed as it left the parking lot.
There was the hum of vibrating beeps. Over the noise, a clinical voice said, “The time of death for Laura is . . . ,”
There’s a wish that Laura had, something she’d never said, and it’s this: She hoped the boy would be okay.