Happy Saturday, all! Today’s bonus scene comes from chapter 2 of Finding Alana. Here we’ll see Alana fight with the terrible, no-good, printer from hell, and meet our fella, Justin.
*Copyright: This material is protected by copyright owned by Meg Farrell, Farrell Writes LLC. 2016
I start working through my emails, and printing reports that the Dragon Lady will be asking for. If I can do what she wants before she asks, my life goes a lot smoother. Naturally, the printer shared by the entire cube farm jams. I know because I can hear that dinosaur grinding and squealing. I start praying as I walk over to the beast.
Last time this happened, I was less than successful in fixing it. I sincerely detest calling for the systems guy to come up and look at it. Invariably, they make me feel like an idiot for needing assistance.
First, I read the display to see if it points out on the diagram where the paper is stuck. It does, but it says there are four potential locations for the jam. Oh boy. I set about opening all the little doors and turning all the little wheels. I have to be careful because the damn fuser is putting off so much heat that I’m scared to burn myself.
Pulling pages out as I find them, I soon have a stack of torn, crumpled, remnants. I look a little deeper to see a tiny piece hanging behind a pressure plate. After studying the diagrams and arrows printed inside the printer cavity, I see I should lift this green lever that looks to release the plate in question.
I can’t seem to move the piece-of-shit lever. So I step back and position my legs to help me. I’m also careful to keep my distance from the machine as my hands look like I’ve been grease-monkeying on cars, not fixing a printer. I really don’t have the money to start replacing my wardrobe due to toner mishaps.
Taking a solid grip on the lever from hell, I bend my knees to leverage some strength from my legs. As I begin to lift, I feel the sudden success of something letting go. I’m just about to fist pump to celebrate my victory over the printer when I look down to see the lever in my hand—no longer attached to the printer.
“Motherfucker!” I say in frustration, a little louder than I intend. Suddenly, I hear someone behind me clear their throat. Oh, for fuck’s sake. I take a deep breath, bracing myself to see who I’ve offended. Slowly, I turn and plaster on a sheepish smile. Standing behind me isn’t someone I know. He’s grinning from ear to ear like a Cheshire cat.
“Well, it looks like you’re going to have some trouble with that printer,” he observes.
I nod. “Yeah, guess I got a little carried away with removing a paper jam.”
He lets out a noise that can best be described as a cough-laugh-snort. “Ya think? You broke the damn lever off. That’s an expensive part to replace,” he points out, ever so helpfully.
Irritation courses through me as heat floods my face. I’m embarrassed and pissed. Embarrassed I was dumb enough to bust the lever of the printer and pissed he would make fun of me. I have no idea who he is or where he’s come from. Who does asshole think he is? I open my mouth to argue with him and let him know what an ass I think he is, but I never get the chance. He cuts me off.
“Sorry. I couldn’t help it. I had to mess with you. You were just so into fixing that paper jam,” he says, laughing.
I’m not laughing. My eyebrows pull in as I frown and let my resting bitch face slide into place. “How long were you behind me?”
“Long enough.” He winks, and I want to punch him in those luscious brown eyes. “I’m Justin.” He holds his hand out for an introductory shake. “I work for Wilson Technical.”
I don’t shake his hand. I fold my arms over my chest. “And?” I ask. Like I’m supposed to know what Wilson Technical is and why it’s important.
All signs of laughter disappear, and his smile fades. “I, uh, I’m here to replace the printer.” He ends his sentence with a nod that says, “Get it?”
I shake my head to clear it of the agitation swirling around. “Oh. Okay. Well. Carry on, Justin.” I roll my eyes and walk away. I head over to my desk to grab my coffee cup. This shit went down way too early this morning. I need a drink—a real drink. Coffee will have to do.
Naturally, the pot is empty, but someone left the machine running at some point. Now that’s been sitting all weekend, there is a nasty, thick, black sludge in the bottom of it. I huff as I take the pot to the sink in the break area and start running the water so it can heat up.
As I’m waiting, I place my hands on the edge of the counter, drop my head, and let my shoulders sag. This day is too important, and everything is falling apart. I close my eyes while the water continues to run and practice breathing. In and Out. In. And out. I repeat the words in my head to try and regain some focus.
I jump and let out a surprised squeak as I clap my hand over my mouth to stifle whatever else might come after it. That’s when I see him. Printer guy, Justin. Really? “Uh, yeah. Thanks for the observation.” I roll my eyes again and add soap to the sludge-crusted coffee pot to start scrubbing.
Justin clears his throat with a pay-attention-to-me sound. I don’t look at him. I guess he figures that’s permission to keep talking. “Look, we got off on the wrong foot. I didn’t mean to laugh at you. I meant it when I said I was sorry.”
Still scrubbing, I say, “Yeah, well, you did. So…”
He sighs. “It was funny because you were working so hard on the printer they reported last week and asked us to replace. You clearly didn’t know it was already dead.” He sounds sincere.
I stop scrubbing and turn to look at him. He’s your average guy. Not remarkably tall, easily six-foot but I doubt an inch more. His dark brown hair swoops across his face, clearly too long. It’s annoying and adorable how he flips it back every now and then. His brown eyes are huge and give the perception of depth. They are…interesting.
The exhaustion from being so worked up about the day and scrubbing the coffee pot hits me all at once. I lean my back against the wall by the sink and rest my elbow on the counter. Surrendering. “It’s okay,” I mutter. “It’s not your fault I took it so bad. It’s been a shitty start to a very important day. I’m wound up, I guess. Mondays, ya know?” I try to give him a smile, but it feels awkward and fake.
He steps over to the counter I’m leaning against, the corners of his mouth turning up a little bit, “What makes today so important?”
I shrug. “Nothing major to anyone else. I’m interviewing for a promotion I’ve waited nearly a year for them to open up. I need this to go well.”
“That is an important day. And it is pretty major. Sorry I was a part of stressing you out more.”
I really smile now because he’s kind, and there’s an odd peace crawling its way through my veins. Almost as if being in his presence is a stress antidote. “It’s not your fault. You couldn’t know.”
“Would it help if I said you got this?” he asks.
I chuckle as I turn to face him and let go of the last of my animosity. “I’m not sure what that means, or how you would know, but yeah, that helps.”
The smile he gives me is megawatt-bright. “Good. You got this! I should go finish my work order.” He straightens and starts walking toward the door.
“Thanks,” I say in a near whisper.
As he’s about to leave the kitchen, he turns back. “Oh, who should I say broke the printer?”
I give him a sarcastic smile. “Alana.”