Maggie Rivers skimmed over the week’s calendar as she sipped her mid-morning latte. The new hires and transfers were arriving today and starting training this week. As the IT Department’s secretary, it would once again be her responsibility to ensure they were all comfortable with their company’s computer systems.
Technically, this wasn’t her job. And she wasn’t any sort of computer whiz, but she didn’t mind helping out. Training the new employs also gave her a chance to meet the new people and maybe make friends. Ever since she was a girl, making friends wasn’t something that was easy for her to do.
As Maggie scrolled idly down the list, a name seemed to jump off the screen. Ryan Parker, Manager, New Project Development, transfer from Corp HQ.
She set her latte down as she frowned slightly. It couldn’t be the same Ryan she’d gone to school with, could it? Ryan Parker wasn’t an unusual name. There were probably lots of them in the world.
But what if it was? They had lived on the same block for decades, and gone to the same schools for thirteen years. Until their freshman year of high school, they’d been best friends. But the summer after eighth grade things changed. She’d started putting on weight, so instead of going to the pool with him, she’d found a little rare-books store to hide in. And when school started again, she continued to hide herself away.
Her favorite place back then was the rare bookstore. It was her sanctuary throughout high school. Even now it was her favorite place to go. There was something about holding those hard to find books in her hand that transported her to different times and places. To hold classic books that were over 100 years old was like being a contemporary of Mark Twain or Jane Austen. It gave her a place in the world.
For the last couple of years, however, the owner had been talking about retiring. This saddened Maggie. She knew that no one would be interested in keeping the place open. Most days she was the only customer. People didn’t seem to be interested in old books anymore. It was a tragedy.
Maggie closed the email and finished her latte. Ryan had also loved to read. They used to ride their bikes out to the park, then lie in the grass and read for hours. Sometimes they would quietly read their own books. And other times she would read out loud to him.
That wasn’t all they did though. Often they had what they would refer to as “adventures”. Their adventures would almost always ends with them getting in trouble. Those were some of the greatest times as Maggie’s life. Getting into trouble with Ryan by her side and a book tucked in her back pocket was all she ever needed to have a great day.
Maggie smiled thinking about it. The thoughts lingered as she retrieved her training binder out of the cabinet to prepare. Whoever this Ryan Parker ended up being, she concluded, at least he was bringing back a lot of great memories.
Throughout the rest of the morning, as Maggie went over the basics of email for a few of the new hires, she found herself smiling. She couldn’t help but remember the misadventures they’d had, as well as all the things that she and Ryan had put their parents through.
At noon, she unpacked her lunch and settled at her desk. Today’s book was her latest acquisition from the book shop: a first-edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It was priceless, yet the owner had let her have it for nearly nothing. As she nibbled and read, her boss stopped by her desk and commented on the morning’s training.
“Everyone said you were quite friendly and upbeat, Maggie. I’m happy to hear it. Keep up the great work.”
“Thanks,” she replied with a smile.
It was easy for her to be upbeat while thinking about the trouble that she and Ryan used to get into. Maggie really enjoyed being that mischievous child. And more than that, she enjoyed having Ryan as a sidekick.
The afternoon passed much the same. That night, as she lay in bed, she found herself thinking not of the youthful trouble they got in, but of the high school years. The summer before freshman year, Ryan had tried for a while to get her to hang out as they always had, but she had refused. It was the summer that she was embarrassed about gaining weight.
By the time school had started, he had a whole new group of friends and seemed to have forgotten about her. She still saw him often. He got taller, filled out, and joined the swim and soccer teams. She went to his swim meets and soccer games to watch him, but only from behind the covers of a book. Pretending to read she would stare at his developing body. She was amazed at how good-looking he was becoming.
The swim meets were torture for her, she recalled as she shifted in her bed. Senior year was the worst. He was lean and lithe as he climbed out of the pool. His taut muscles glistened with water, and all she could do was sit in the upper bleachers and watch like a stranger.
Maggie sighed and tried to think of something else, but the image wouldn’t go away. Surely now, ten years later, he might be a bit thicker too, right? It would only be fair. She sighed again and rolled over, but it took a very long time for her to get to sleep.
The next day, Maggie found it hard to be friendly and upbeat. She faked her way through her training sessions and hoped that no one would notice. Her eventual training session with Ryan Parker was weighing on her. She typically left the management transfers for last allowing them to first set up their office. But with Mr. Parker, whoever he was, she wanted to wait for as long as possible. She simply didn’t know what she would do if this was her Ryan.
As their appointment approached, Maggie knew that she could no longer put it off. With her heart racing, she collected her things and made her way to Mr. Parker.
His assistant told her that he had stepped away a moment, but that she could wait in his office. Maggie nodded and went in. Immediately she felt that there was something comfortable about the office. It was still pretty bare minus a few personal effects. But what he did have felt familiar somehow.
Ensuring that no one could see her, Maggie walked around the office. There were no photographs, but what did catch Maggie’s eye was a set of leather-bound books standing on the shelf behind the desk. She leaned over the desk to get a better look. The print on the spines was faded. But leaning in a little further, what she found both startled and delighted her. They were copies of: The Sun Also Rises, Slaughterhouse-Five, and Ulysses.
“Hello, you must be Maggie,” a masculine voice said.
Maggie jumped with a surprised gasp before she straightened up. She couldn’t believe that she had been caught snooping. But not only that, she was doing it while bent over a desk. Those were not the round cheeks that she had intended to greet him with.
Her face heated up as she turned, and it took everything in her to pretend that nothing had happened.
“Yes,” Maggie said immediately searching his face for familiarity. “And you must be Mr. Parker. I was just admiring your books.”
He nodded as he stepped through the doorway and toward the desk. Maggie recognized him immediately. Ten years older, and his hair was darker, but otherwise he was even more gorgeous than she remembered. Ryan Parker, her childhood friend, was back in her life.
Maggie stared back at his gaze wondering if he recognized her. She cradled her training binder to her ample bosom. Trying not to seem nervous, she bit her lower lip.
Ryan lifted a box off of the desk and set it on the floor. “I had a friend that turned me into a bookworm when I was a kid,” he said, shrugging a little. “There are a few I can’t get over.” He nodded toward the shelf with the books. He then signaled for her to sit.
“Nothing wrong with that,” Maggie said, relieved that he didn’t seem to remember her. She’d gained more weight since high school, but more than that, it was a little humiliating to still be a secretary while he had clearly done so much better for himself. “There are certainly worse things to get hooked on, right?”
“Right,” he agreed with a smile. “So you’re the computer genius around here?”
Maggie smiled back and shook her head. “Not even close. I just have the time to show everyone how to log in for email. If you need any real help, you have to call the real geniuses. But I answer their phones.” She smiled again, setting her binder down on the desk and opening it up.
It was quick and simple to show him how to get into the company’s systems. They finished up a few minutes before quitting time.