That Friday by Jill Santopolo

By April 20, 2019 May 20th, 2019 Short Stories

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This Friday is full of surprises. That’s what Nora was thinking when Jack dropped a ream of paper on her desk at 4.30pm.

“We finally pulled all of the throat lozenge numbers together,” he said. “Focus groups, polls.

Sorry it’s so late. Angela said she still wants the report today to study over the weekend.”

He shrugged another apology.

Nora rubbed her temples.


Luckily, Marcus had cancelled their dinner plans a few hours earlier. The first surprise of the day. A last-minute meeting with a client, he’d said. Nora had been disappointed, but that was when she’d thought she’d have the research to write this report two hours ago. Now, it didn’t matter.

She picked up her phone to text Marcus that she’d be cough-sweet reporting until late, but could come over after if he wanted.

He responded with, “Sounds good. I’ll see you later.”

Nora spun her engagement ring around her finger and smiled. Whenever his name appeared in her electronic world, it made her smile. The letters were somehow more attractive than anyone else’s letters. Sexier, even.

Though she’d been feeling lately that his name wasn’t as sexy as it used to be. And she worried he felt the same way about her. Especially since he wouldn’t settle on a wedding date.

But they’d combed the real estate section for apartments last weekend and booked a ski trip to Switzerland the weekend before. So maybe she was wrong. Maybe everything was fine.

Four hours later, after Nora had learned that most consumers preferred cough sweets with a raised centre, that they perceived red ones to work more effectively than yellow, that they thought the cherry flavour tasted too tart and the lemon flavour too sweet, and that they universally detested the scrolled letters on the branding, she figured the report was good enough. One more cup of coffee, a quick read through and she’d send it to Angela.

The halls were quiet as Nora walked to the common kitchen. Most people had not been stuck in cough sweet hell. Most people had been able to go home ages ago. But then she heard music coming from an office a few doors down. Classic rock. The Eagles. Take It To The Limit. Another surprise.

Nora couldn’t remember who’d taken over that office after Maggie left last month. Her new husband had got a job in France. Nora had been jealous – both of the fact that she’d persuaded her boyfriend to marry her, and that she was going to get to spend the next year with an epic Instagram feed.

“Hello?” Nora said, when she had almost reached the office. She didn’t want to startle whoever was inside.

The music’s volume went down. “Hello?” a voice called back.

A male voice. “I’m sorry if I was disturbing you.”

Nora popped her head into the office and for a moment thought she was looking at a soap opera star. The kind with prominent cheekbones and enough hair on his head for at least two men. Surprise number four. She felt herself blush. Handsome men did that to her. Marcus used to.

“You weren’t disturbing me,” she said. “I hadn’t even heard the music until I left my office.

I’m Nora, by the way.”

He smiled, and his bottom teeth were adorably crooked.

They balanced out the perfection of the rest of his face. And that hair.

“I’m Daniel,” he said. “I just started on Monday. Trying to catch up a bit.”

Nora smiled back. “It’s always rough at the beginning,” she said. “But you’ll get the hang of it all soon.”

“I hope so,” he said, his eyes sliding down. He was checking her out. Nora realised her double standard. If he were old and lecherous, she’d have been repulsed by the look he was giving her. But since he wasn’t, she was flattered. She slipped her left hand behind her back. Surprise number five?

“You know,” she said, “I’ve been here for four years. It’s not for ever but if you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them.”

Daniel looked at his watch. “Actually,” he said, “that sounds like a great idea. How about I ask you some questions at the bar downstairs?”

Instinct told Nora to say no, but instead she said, “Sure.

Let me just send the report I was working on. I’ll be right back.”

In her office, she convinced herself that this was just a pleasant drink with a new colleague. A reward for finishing the throat lozenge report. That’s all. Still, she kept her left hand in her jacket pocket.

The bar downstairs was packed, so Nora and Daniel decided to walk to another place she knew a couple of streets away. It was where she and Marcus had first met, actually, but she didn’t tell Daniel that.

Though probably she should have. She should have figured out some way to work Marcus into the conversation. She was feeling guilty already and they hadn’t even ordered. Surprise number six.

But then they got to the bar, where Nora was in for the biggest surprise of this surprising Friday.

Through the window, she saw a familiar profile. Pointed chin. Shaved head. Angular nose.

Marcus wasn’t with a client at all. He was in the bar, their bar, with a redhead on his lap.

Nora’s heart stuttered for a moment. Then she took a deep breath and slipped her ring into her pocket.

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