Deep in my heart, I know what I'm doing is wrong, but what else can I do? I'm being... or rather, I feel like I'm being forced to.
I sat in my chair as I worked tirelessly on my computer. The company that I worked at was called Comeffecient. It was a company that hired individuals with varying skill sets. The reason behind that was because Comeffecient was a company that primarily helped other companies. Many types of companies would contract work to us, and we would do it. That meant that we as employees were usually busy.
The office that I was working in reminded me of my high school computer lab; five tables with four computers on each side. As I continued typing, I noticed a woman staring down at me with a purple travel mug in her hand. She was in front of me on the other side of the table.
“Good morning, Bailey.”
After the short exchange, the woman continued walking to her seat. She is my coworker and was my former classmate in high school, Bailey Hollow. The initial impression that most people get from her is… intense. Coupled with her bright red hair and intense glares, I can understand why. Although, when she stared at me just now, she did not look this way. Regardless, she is a valuable employee at this company because she is proficient in a variety of subjects; in high school, she had the second-highest average mark, took a lot of the available courses, and attended the same diverse university as me.
Now, it was just before lunchtime. Everyone that did not have outstanding work usually left the office to enjoy the time to themselves. As for me, I was about to leave to sit outside of the building to eat the lunch I prepared earlier; I stopped eating at the cafeteria because… well, I do not know why, but I sense something when I do. As I rose from my desk with my bag, someone interrupted me.
“Heya! Ren Morales, how are ya doing?”
A man named Kush. Glasses, grey suit, he never told me his age, but I think he was a bit older than me. He wrapped his arm around my shoulder as he spoke to me in a laid-back tone. He also leaned into me. Whenever he did this, I knew he was about to ask a favour of me; he has done this enough times for me to realize.
“Hmm… off to lunch are we? Yeah, ya got something good I hope.”
That was not a lie. For lunch, I prepared the most nutritionally efficient meal that I could calculate.
“Ah, wonderful, wonderful! Ugh, we got another big project on our hands, don’t we? Higher-ups are just filling our plates with crap we gotta burn through. We just barely have any time to ourselves! We ain’t robots, we got our own lives! Gah…”
From the tone of his voice, I could tell that he was obviously suffering from his workload. I guess I cannot blame him. We are a part of the same team and we did receive a large influx of requests to carry out. Kush spun in front of me and laid his hand on my shoulder, giving me a smile that could rival Connie’s.
“Tell me, be honest: work’s crushing you too, ain't it?”
“Er… not really. I have been managing my assignments. I-”
“Ah, great. I can never stand to see a fellow colleague suffering. If they were, I’d personally kick the higher-ups’ asses!”
That… never mind. Anyway, Kush’s face lightened up. He grasped my shoulders tight. I know he was about to ask a favour, but I do not know why he does all of this every time he does; acting friendly and saying he would help if I were in trouble.
“Umm… Ren. I know this is a jerk thing to do, considering how busy you are, but… could you please help? With some of my work I mean.”
I had no reason to decline. My boss said that I worked diligently and efficiently, so I could help Kush with his things.
“Sure. I’ll quickly finish some of the work during lunch and when I get home.”
“Oh really!? Ah, Ren, you’re a real lifesaver. Yes, so helpful. I’m sure you’d make for a terrific husband someday.”
Kush was happily patting on my shoulder as he said that.
“Anyway, I’ll just send my shiz over to you and-”
That was not me. I turned my head and saw that Bailey was walking up to us. Her hair was fiery red as always, but her stance, walk, and look were more intimidating than usual. Her eyes were fixated on Kush, indicating that she had something to say to her. Kush angrily let out a quiet sigh and muttered.
“Hi Kush, couldn’t help but overhear your proposal for Ren. I wanna say no. You will not be giving him your work.”
“Bailey, none of this concerns you! This was between me and Ren. He obliged, and-”
“Maybe so, but this is my concern. You’ve been doing this all the time, dumping your work all on Ren. Y’know, you’ll just get lazier and eventually drag this company down. And besides, we all got our own work to do; you can’t just give Ren extra work because it’s too much for you, that’s unfair! Lay off! Or should I just inform the Boss of your incompetence?”
“What! C’mon. I-y’know. Er… um…”
Kush and Bailey were staring each other down. Kush’s face was showing annoyance, but Bailey’s face had more of a smug look. Kush tried rebutting but would reset his thought after a word or two. After a minute, Kush finally caved. He stepped back and let out an annoyed sigh.
“Fine, fine, it’s whatever.”
He turned his head to me with a defeated smile.
“Hey, regardless, thanks for agreeing Ren, but I got this.”
Kush walked away with his head tilted downwards. I looked at him. I could hear him mutter insults aimed at Bailey. Really, I was okay with doing some of Kush’s work. Bailey intervening was unnecessary and only grew Kush’s dislike for Bailey. I turned my head towards Bailey. Her back was turned to me.
“Ren, just to be clear, I didn’t do any of that for you, okay!? That guy’s just seriously lazy. It pisses me off that he can relax while we all get work. Seeing him constantly slip away… this was the last straw!”
Bailey turned around to face me. She was now smiling, which was the opposite of what I imagined her to be doing while she was explaining to me. A purple lunch bag was in her right hand. She patted my shoulder with her left.
“Anyway, you’re free, right? Actually, scratch that, I just saved you from not being free. C’mon, let's head to the caf and eat lunch. Um… m-my treat!”
Bailey seemed to avert her eyes from mine when she said that. I wonder why.
“Thank you, but I packed my own lunch.”
“Th-that so? Then it’s a treat for me. Come eat at the caf, I’ll join you.”
Bailey began walking towards a pair of elevators and urged me to follow. I guess my plan of eating alone has been defiled for today. I followed Bailey at a pace where I was slightly behind her.
Bailey is also a busy person, so she usually spends her break working on an assignment. But when she has spare time, she would ask me to join her as she ate in the cafeteria; oddly, she insists that she is the one accompanying me.