Hi all... just thought I'd put up the long overdo Chapter 8. I haven't read it since 2003, so hopefully it doesn't suck!
The following day an inordinate number of Totally Toys employees straggle in late, each sporting their own brand of hang over. The director of human resources, Miranda Fellows, knows right away that something is amiss when Henrietta staggers in an hour and a half late. Miranda, dubbed the Tinman by her peers because of her freakish gray complexion and her apparent lack of a heart, interrogates Henrietta. She learns of the previous evening's activities, minus Henrietta's affair with Edwin, wisely omitted from the story. Miranda reprimands her, then forces her to draft and distribute a company memo forbidding employees from going to Hardballs between Mondays and Thursdays.
Henrietta and her stack of memorandums go first to the marketing department, where she is forced to leave Joan's copy on her chair, since she is still not in. Mae, one of the few punctual bar hoppers, takes her memo, reads it, and tosses it in the trash. It is not an act of defiance on her part. In her mind the memo is superfluous; fed up with bars and their inherent falseness, she has decided never to return to Hardballs. Besides, she doesn't even like sports. Henrietta apologizes for the memo and moves on to the next department.
Joan arrives minutes later, sporting a bounce in her step and beaming with satisfaction. Mae spies her arrival from behind the wall separating their cubicles, taking notice of her exuberant manner. Mae's internal alarm goes off immediately. Joan leans over and winks at Mae, and like that, a wave of doom hits her. The hairs on the back of her neck to stand up, confirming that her worst fears have been realized; Joan fucked Danny last night. Mae turns away from Joan, picks up the phone and fakes being busy in hopes that Joan will go away. But Joan doesn't go away. She waits Mae out so she can deliver her grand announcement. Five minutes go by, and Mae's resolve begins to weaken. She runs out of made-up things to say to the empty phone, so she decides upon a new tactic.
“Okay then.” Mae says to the empty line. “I'll drop those reports off at your desk right now. “ She hangs up the phone, grabs a random stack of papers.
“Good morning.” Joan's tone smacks of smugness.
“Morning.” Mae gets up with her papers and starts to walk off. Joan calls out to her, loud enough that Mae cannot keep walking and later claim to have not heard. Mae turns around. “Yes?”
“What time did you get in?” asks Joan.
“Did you have fun last night?”
“It was okay.”
“I'm so worn out from last night. I was gonna call in sick.” Joan walks over to Mae, forcing the conversation. “Have you spoken to Danny?”
“I bet he's not even in yet.” Joan winks.
Mae turns to leave, disgusted with the implication but trying to take the high road. It takes only a heartbeat for her feistiness gets the better of her. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“I don't kiss and tell.” Joan winks again.
“Do you swallow and tell?!” Mae winks back at her, then storms off.
Joan, returns to her desk, in a shock caused by what she perceives as unwarranted attack. She allows herself a few minutes for self pity, before trying to figure out why Mae mistreated her so. It doesn't take long for her figure out that Mae has a crush on Danny. Although Joan is relieved that there is at least a justifiable reason for Mae's behavior, she is not sure how she feels about it.
Danny spends the morning writing in his journal. He gives an objective and accurate account of the previous evening, with the exception of his treatment of Joan. Fueled by guilt, he is unusually kind and understanding in his characterization of her failed seduction. He offers up a conclusion that she was fueled by alcohol and perhaps some ambiguity on his part, for not telling her outright that he wasn't interested. He condemns himself for not spotting her intentions sooner, so he could have diffused the situation.
Yet most of his writing that morning is about Mae. He fills page after page with complimentary adjectives, explaining to himself what it is that he really likes about her. After exhausting a thesaurus worth of synonyms for amazing, he spends a little too much time examining exactly why he is so attracted to her. It is his analytical nature that makes him do this, even though the answer is simple-chemical attraction. He fills up several pages explaining the obvious to himself, that he and Mae have extraordinary chemistry, and that there is nothing he would like more than to get to know her better. But, then he fills even more pages with all the reasons why he is not going to pursue Mae. He invents a slew of assorted excuses to masquerade the fact that he is afraid of being rejected. Yet, in all this writing, he never mentions the real reason for his cowardice; if she finds out that he is an ex-convict, and sooner or later she will, then she will surely break his heart. He has felt that sting before, and won't allow himself to go through that again.
Danny finishes his writing exercise and decides to go get some coffee. He tells himself that he is tired and in need of some caffeine, but what he really needs is a fix of Mae. Even though there can be nothing between them, there is no harm in looking. He walks by her cubicle on the way, but she is not at her desk. Her purse and jacket are there, so he is sure that she in just away momentarily. So, he takes his time going to the cafeteria, walking without purpose. Once there, he leisurely fixes his coffee and inspects the snack machine for the millionth time, as though somehow a desirable snack will appear if he looks long enough. When he has killed a reasonable amount of time, he takes his coffee and does another walk by. But she is still not back, so he is forced to leave without having laid eyes upon her.
Mae is outside the business complex, steaming about her encounter with Joan while watching her cigarette burn away to nothing. She doesn't feel like smoking, it is not a social situation, after all, but maintains the smoker's charade by wielding a lit cancer stick. She curses her former friend, even though she is without cause for such condemnation. Mae has a knack for embracing her feelings of personal injury, however unjustified. By holding on to her pain, she can better justify the inevitable lashing out at others that follows these feelings. She tells herself that Joan was most likely lying to her about Danny. She tells herself that Joan's lies were an act of malice, intended to harm her. She tells herself that Danny is too much of a nice guy, and way too smart to fall for Joan's primitive methods.
The unsmoked cigarette extinguishes itself at the base of the filter. Mae takes this as a sign that it is time to go back inside. She decides to return to her desk by way of the first floor, a route that is the long way back and passes by the computer room. She stops by the computer room, peeking her head into the room in search of Danny. She is disappointed to find him missing from the room. She will have to take another trip down here later, so she can look into his eyes and see for herself that Joan is a liar.
The rest of her morning is spent quietly catching up on work. Mae follows through on several old tasks that were put aside out of sheer laziness. She redirects her anger with Joan, using it as fuel to have the most productive morning since her first week on the job. Joan and Mae avoid each another for the rest of the day. Sometime after lunch, Mae's phone rings. It is Danny, calling her under the guise of checking to see how her computer is doing.
“Hi, Danny!” Mae says. “How are thing down there?”
“Not too bad. A little boring. I was wondering, is your computer working okay?”
“Like a dream. Thanks again for fixing it.”
“And thanks for driving last night. I had a good time.”
“Me too.” There are a million things Danny would like to say to her, but somehow with opportunity knocking, he is at a loss for words. After a long silence, in which Mae begins to wonder why he even called, Danny ends the conversation. “Well, I gotta run. It was nice talking to you.”
“You too. Catch you later.”
In spite of its brevity and lack of substance, the conversation is enough to carry them through the rest of the afternoon. Danny sits at the workbench for most of the day, feeling stupid for calling her and having nothing to say, but grateful to have at least heard her voice. He decides that he detected genuine joy in her tone, another sign that she likes him. It makes him feel good to be liked, especially since he doesn't really have any friends. It's not that he is an antisocial person, he is just very cautious about adopting friendships, and the right situation for one has not presented itself in the two years he has lived in California. He starts to think that perhaps he can become a friend with Mae. He enjoys her company, and even if he is too chicken shit to pursue her romantically, there is no harm developing a platonic relationship.
Mae stays busy with work for the remainder of her day. Danny pops into her head on a few occasions, but for the most part she is preoccupied with the business at hand. She doesn't even think much about Joan or anyone else for that matter. She stays in a working “zone” that lasts until it is time to leave.
She is out the door and in her car at exactly one minute past quitting time. She races home to grab a quick bite to eat and take a shower before her Wednesday night yoga class. She looks forward to the time spent stretching and meditating, wanting to release all of the pent up negative energy she has collected in the last 24 hours. She also feels like she needs a break from obsessing about Danny, the object of her desire that she has forbidden herself from having. All of the waffling back and forth has drained her mentally to the point were she needs the refuge yoga provides.
Edwin Rolle drops by Joan's desk on the way out of the office. He pretends that he is just stopping by to say hello, but his real mission is to begin spreading his latest gossip. Figuring that she is the candidate most likely (after himself) to champion a rumor, he makes sure to casually mention his sexual encounter with Henrietta. But Joan doesn't respond with her normal zest for company dirt. Her disinterested harrumph is enough for him to end the encounter quickly, and seek another agent for his rumor-mongering. He hunts down and faux-confides in Oliver Monpierre, the customer service manager and a capable gossiper in his own right. Edwin's news is well received by Oliver, who vows not to tell a soul; a sure sign that it will make it's way to every single pair of ears that pulls a Totally Toys check.