I sigh a bit as the lift doors close and the awkward silence engulfs us.
"Chinwag" is one of my favorites that I have written because it was a bit of a challenge to write, and I like how the final result turned out. Originally, it was just an experiment with dialogue, but it developed into a little bit more. The story deals with the problem of women being discriminated in a primarily male office.
It's a problem that doesn't exist a lot anymore, but it still does in some workplaces. I decided to write this from a male perspective because it is not one we often get in this situation. Obviously, the situation in every workplace is not the same.
In the case of the workplace that I've created, we see a male character who is afraid to speak up because he believes he may lose the respect of his peers, the respect my female character is trying to earn. It also deals with the idea of putting so much pressure on ourselves to earn psychological needed approval from others.
My male character lets his biases be formed by the words of his coworkers before even getting to know the female character. When the time comes that he could voice his real opinion he chooses to stay silent because he wants to be accepted by the majority, even if it means losing the possibility of a true friendship.
(This takes place in London, hence the dialect used)
We exchanged polite greetings as we waited for the lift. Truthfully, I couldn't stand the woman, Miss Green. Sounded like a name out of that CLUE game. She'd always act as if she was of higher power than me and our coworkers, but she wasn't in the slightest. She'd always sit at her desk and pretend none of existed. When we met with the boss she was always so eager to please.
"Kisses his arse, that's what she does" a coworker would scoff quietly while a group of us got coffee.
"Bet she's shagging him too." remarks another "he does pay her more attention and she's always giving that flirty smile"
"Disgusting" another shakes their head.
"What a slag" the last of our group inputs.
They all turn to me, expecting a response, I oblige with "I can't stand the woman."
They all nod in sync then quietly return to their desks. I send a glance in Miss Green's direction and she types away at her computer with a small grin on her face. Bet she's shagging him too. The words play back in my head and I roll my eyes at her then return to my work.
I glance at her as we wait for the lift. She flips through the bunch of files in her arms, tossing her vibrant red and curly ponytail over her shoulder. A few pieces of hair frame her face and stray hairs are held back with bobby pins.
Kisses his arse, that's what she does.
I scoff quietly and look back at the lift door, ignoring her glance at me.
She jumps a bit when the lift dings and the doors slide open. I can't help but smile to myself as her cheeks flush with embarrassment, probably hoping I didn't see it. I did. My coworkers would be hearing about it during the coffee break. They'd probably think it hilarious.
We step on together and I let her push the button, despite her struggle of holding all her files and papers. I know it was rude but... what a slag.
I sigh a bit as the lift doors close and the awkward silence engulfs us. I anxiously tap my toe and find a sudden interest in watching the floor numbers climb. We both let out a small yelp when the lift lurches and the lights flicker.
I don't smile at her embarrassment, because I did it too. We exchange quick glances, then the lift does it again but this time comes to a stop. I clear my throat and wait for the doors to open, but they don't.
She presses the button to open the doors, but it doesn't work. I start to panic a bit and pull out my phone to call 999 but there's no service. She presses the emergency button and informs them that we are stuck in the lift. I blush a bit from my first reaction being to call the police, but she gives me a small heartening smile as they reassure us that they'll send someone to take a look and help us out. I panic a little less.
"Scary stuff eh?" she says as we just stand there in silence.
"Yeah" I nod
"Makes you think" she clutches the files tighter to her chest.
"Yeah" I nod and glance at her again.
"What's your first name?"
"Why?" I get a bit defensive
"Just wanted to know, I hardly know anyone's first names here" she looks over at me.
"That can't be true, you've worked here for how long?"
"A year next month," she says, looking forward again, a touch of disappointment in her eyes.
"And you don't know anyone's first names?"
"I know a few, like Mister Ross's"
She's always giving that flirty smile. I scoff, "course you would"
"He is my boss," she looks over at me "don't you know it?"
I hesitate "well, yeah, course I do but—"
"But what?" she looks at me curiously.
"I uh" I pause a moment, "but nothing." I give a panicky smile.
She gives a small smile and sits on the floor. I join her.
"So, what is it?"
"What?" I say quickly.
"Your first name" she smiles with a small giggle.
"Oh" I smile a bit "Charlie"
"Full name Charles?" she smiles.
"Yeah" I nod
"I like that name" she nods, smiling.
"Thanks" I nod.
"My names Elizabeth. If you were wondering" she says simply.
"Oh" I nod then realize I should probably say more "Nice name."
We continue to make small talk as we wait, nothing too important or interesting. Then we sit in silence for a while after there's nothing more to say about the weather.
"What are you going to do when we get out?" she asks after a few minutes.
"Get to work, I've got to make up for lost time"
"Oh." she nods, that look of disappointment in her eyes again.
"I'm going to call my mum when I get out" she breaks the silence again "Tell her I love her"
I nod a bit.
"We got in a tiff this morning, just hung up on her," she looks at her hands guiltily.
I nod, followed by more silence.
I bite my lip, thinking.
"I haven't talked to my parents in over a year," I say, not sure I'm telling her this.
"Maybe you should call when we get out of here" she looks over at me.
"Maybe." I nod "do you like it here?" I ask, eager to change the topic.
"In the lift?" she smiles, and we share a chuckle.
"No, the job" I smile.
"It's alright, I try really hard to come up with good ideas. Mr. Ross seems to like them, but they never get accepted by the team" she sighs "apparently they see me as intimidating or something" she rolls her eyes.
He does pay her more attention.
"Well, I'm sure you know the reason" I look up at the ceiling, resting my head against the wall.
"Because I'm a woman and women can't impress the boss or else they're seen as intimidating or they must be shagging the boss, right?"
I look at her, a bit shocked, "I uh-" I look for something to say.
"It happens to women in the workplace everywhere" she shakes her head.
I stay silent.
"What about you?" she says after a while.
"What?" I say quickly.
"Do you like it here?"
"Oh, I suppose" I nod.
"If you could do one thing with your life what would it be?"
I furrow my eyebrows, "Why?"
"Just curious" she looks at me.
"Oh," I nod.
"I dunno!" I roll my eyes.
She watches me curiously, before saying "I'd be an artist. A famous one that is"
I look at her.
"Get out of this rotting office, go travel the world with my art. Make money doing something I actually love doing. Don't have to worry about judging coworkers who don't like my designs simply because I'm a woman."
I swallow a bit and guiltily look at my hands.
"So, you'd stay in this office, if you could do anything?"
"I didn't say that" my thoughts trail off, thinking about what I may do if I could do anything I wanted.
"Then what would you do?" she brings me back out of my thoughts.
I fiddle with my fingers, "Maybe—" I get interrupted as the lift doors are pried open.
I look at her, but I've lost her attention as she listens to the firemen as they give us instructions. I sigh, a little disappointed. Then a small voice in my head reminds me, I can't stand the woman. I ignore it.
Later, during coffee, I tell all my coworkers about the experience.
"Can't believe you were stuck with her" one laughs.
"Did you get in her knickers?" another laughs smugly.
They go quiet as she walks in.
"Hi Charlie" she smiles, and I feel the judging and smirking stares of my coworkers.
I swallow a bit. I can't stand the woman. I can't stand the woman. I can't stand the woman. They can't stand the woman. I repeat in my head to reinforce it.
"Miss Green." I say disdainfully, getting the others to snicker.
She looks at me sadly. I remain stone-faced but inside I hurt a little at the pain and disappointment in her eyes. I watch her take her coffee and slowly return to her desk.
"Looks like she's taken a liking to you Charlie" a coworker nudges me as I let out the breath that I didn't realize I'd been holding.
I snap out of it and force a small chuckle "hope not, we can't stand the woman."
They laugh, and I send another glance her way, sensing… maybe… a bit of longing heart for another moment with her.