From a series of short form fictions taking inspiration from collage.
It was half way through the lunch break. Everyone else had gone outside to eat their sandwiches in the sunshine, leaving just these two colleagues sat together in the admin office, deep in conversation.
“Yeah, well that’s the story of my life, I guess.” Tom looked down at his new sandals, his toes poking through, nails beautifully pedicured – nails he spent much time on, trimming and shaping, occasionally painting. He sensed a hesitation in Barbara.
“It… it’s the story of most shy people, isn’t it? You live out life in your dreams; night-time escapes from the reality that is your life in real life… No?” She rested her hand onto his muscular lower thigh. Long fingers extended encircling his knee, followed by a sharp squeeze, forcing a reflexive leg kick from her quarry.
“Yes, you’re right.” The tall concrete wall guarding Tom’s feelings transformed to shrink-wrapped, stacked cardboard boxes held together by ever weakening package tape. “But don’t you understand? I meet women in my dreams who actually give me their attention – who talk to me and are attracted to me.” Tom paused, taking in a deep breath. “In my dreams, I find myself accompanied on local history museum tours, enjoying restaurant dinners, hand-in-hand walks through the streets of picturesque villages located across south-eastern France. And always finishing-up, late at night, inside an apartment…”
“But Tom!” Barbara interrupted abruptly. “It’s not, real!”
“How can you say for sure it’s not real, Babs? I’m there for between six to eight hours per twenty-four hour day, living a full and bountiful life that I love! Who’s to say it’s this life that’s not reality? Maybe you’re a figment of my non-reality?” Swiftly, Tom spun around in his office chair, which squeaked and groaned under its load. His stomach filled with a rising sense of regret, wishing he had not outburst quite so.
“Oh, I’m not real am I?” Barbara’s face went all serious. “Well Tom, I was going to say I’d be your girlfriend. I’ve fancied you from afar, not letting-on regarding my feelings of affection towards you. Up to now, you’ve featured in several of my fantasies. But, I guess you’re not interested.” She spun away in her own office chair, heading at speed towards the tea and coffee station. “You’re happy enough in a pretend world, I see that this much is clear!”
“Barbara!” Tom yelled, “It’s always you who’s the co-star of my dreams!”
“Oh Tom…” A teardrop rolled down Barbara’s cheek, falling into her mug, fractionally diluting the semi-skimmed milk more so. “You’re just saying that, now.”