Excerpt from Chocolate-Coated Reunion by Berengaria Brown

Copyright © Berengaria Brown, 2015

“I need this finalized tonight. I know tomorrow’s Christmas, but the CEO expects me to have this data in a report for him on Thursday.” Clauson dropped a thick file folder onto Matt’s desk.

Matt looked up. He was just filling in his time sheet, ready to leave the moment it was five o’clock.

“But it’s four-thirty now.” Matt flicked a glance at the clock on his computer. “Four thirty-seven.”

“So what? You don’t have any kids. You don’t have to hurry home to do the whole Santa act. It should only take you about three hours. That’ll give you plenty of time to go to whatever holiday party you planned to attend.”

Matt opened his mouth to argue then shut it again. Not only didn’t he have kids, he wasn’t even in a steady relationship. He’d arranged to have drinks this evening with Jake and had hopes that their friendship would develop into a relationship, but that was all in the laps of the gods at this stage.

He opened the folder and glanced at the top few sheets. The data was clearly explained and would be easy to tabulate. Oh well, likely this wouldn’t even take him three hours. It wasn’t such a big deal after all.

Ten sheets into the file, the situation worsened dramatically. The data was no longer clear, there were pages and pages of handwritten notes that were scribbled over in different colored inks and it took him long minutes to decide whether that number was a three or an eight, and whether the next number was a one, a seven, or even possibly a two.

At six he texted Jake.

Sorry. Stuck @ work with project must finish. Hope to see you @ 8.

Almost immediately, his cell vibrated with a reply.

No problemo. I’ll work back too.

Relieved, Matt dug into the file with renewed energy, and a sigh of relief when the next few pages were much easier to decipher. It was only almost two hours later, when his columns didn’t add up, that he knew he’d guessed wrongly on some of the figures and had to go back and retry them. It took another hour to sort that mess out and by then, it was five to nine.

Really sorry. Still here. Another hour, he texted.

The answer came back, Sounds good.

Matt plowed on through the file, rejoicing when everything was straightforward, annoyed and frustrated when it wasn’t. At eleven he made the decision that he would hand in the work and catch the last bus home whether it was fully finished or not.

Catching last bus home. We’ll have midnight drinks together and toast the holiday season in style.

A brief OK was the response.