But no-one did get on, and they arrived at the ground floor in a matter of seconds. Mr Carver smoothly exited the lift as though he had been permitted to use it - Janey was careful and stealthy, peeping round the corner to ensure no one saw her. The cafeteria was just down the hall, a large room that was always bustling with life and chatter. They entered through the double doors, Janey walking quickly ahead, trying to be rid of Mr Carver, but he kept catching up. The queue for food was relatively short and moving fast, so Janey removed her purse from her blazer pocket and started to count through her change. Twelve pounds and eighty-six pence exactly. That was more than enough for the cheese and ham sandwich and orange juice she was going to buy, as she did everyday. Mr Carver was taking his time over the menu that hung on the wall, studying each option in depth and holding up the queue, whilst Janey had already taken a tray from the stack and placed it onto the counter. Everyone else already knew what they were going to buy, because everyone always bought the same thing for lunch. There was no time, in a busy office building like this, to dwindle over the food choices - lunch was only a half hour break. Or, rather, lunch was only a half hour break unless you were Mr Carver.
He finally picked up a tray and joined Janey at one of the fridges that sandwiches were kept in, by the till. There wasn’t much of a choice, which is why Janey always had cheese and ham, because to expect anything else would just lead to disappointment. Of course, there were cooked meals too, but Janey was too frightened of getting her blouse messy as she ate and decided a nice, dry sandwich was the best way to go. She placed the sandwich carton on her tray neatly and slid it along the counter to the drinks, where she picked out the bottle of orange juice she bought everyday. Mr Carver grabbed a can of coke.
“I’ll have the spaghetti bolognese.” Mr Carver announced to the dinner lady behind the counter as they approached the till. He didn’t even say please, not to mention that I’m in front of him and need to be served first.
“Wait a damn second!” the lady turned her focus to Janey, eyed up her items and said “Five pounds eighty-two pence please.”
Janey handed over the exact amount in change, picked up her tray and marched over to the table in the corner of the canteen. She hoped that if she were quick enough, maybe she’d lose him. Maybe he’d sit at another table, and annoy someone else.
“That’s an awfully small portion for a big guy like myself,” she heard him say to the dinner lady, who was probably just glaring at him. “No more? Okey-dokey .... pig in a pokey! Ah, I don’t suppose you’ve seen the league of gentlemen. What a shame.”
Mr Carver picked up his tray and looked around until he spotted Janey in the corner, taking a small bite of her sandwich. He waltzed over and sat down opposite her. Picking up his plastic fork and twirling it in the spaghetti, he began to talk again. It was just general chatter - small talk. Janey nodded politely, but she wasn’t really listening. She just wanted to eat her lunch and go back to her work.
“.. and that’s how I broke my leg.” was what he was saying when she mentally tuned back into his station. “You don’t look particularly interested in the exploits of my youth, Jane.”
“Janey.” she corrected him. “And I’m not really interested, no, I’m trying to eat my lunch.”
“Sorry, sorry, yes.” he nodded, taking a huge mouthful of spaghetti. Tomato sauce dripped down his chin as he slurped it. “Well, why don’t you indulge me in some stories about yourself?”
“Why would you want to hear about my life?” Why should I tell you?
He shrugged. “You just seem interesting, I don’t know. I want to get to know you a bit.”
Janey thought hard, trying to think of something she didn’t mind telling a stranger. Whilst she was still irked by his presence, she’d grown a little more relaxed now. Maybe it would be nice to have someone to talk to at lunch, provided he left her alone to do her work afterwards.
“I once -” she began, but she couldn’t think of anything to say. “I really haven’t really done anything exciting.”
“Surely you have! You must have once done something, or even thought about something, or wanted to do something - like the lift.”
Taking a small bite of her sandwich, Janey pondered her past. She swallowed and said “I sometimes think about dark things.”
“What kind of dark things?” Mr Carver asked, obviously intrigued.
She shrugged. “Just dark things, things no one else can know about, for I would be judged insane!” Why am I telling him this?
“Are you thinking something dark right now?”
“Yes,” she said quickly, wiping her mouth with a napkin. “I was thinking how I could have so easily poisoned your food and gotten away with it.”
Mr Carver laughed, not taking her seriously. “I just knew that you had a sense of humour, Jane!”
“Are you done eating? I want to wander around for a little, stretch my aching legs before we go back to work.”
“I really must get back to my report.” she told him, standing up from the table. He also stood up, not having finished his lunch.
“I’ll walk you back, since I am also going that way.”
Janey wished she could have poisoned his meal. Even just some sleeping pills, like the one her mother used to take, would be adequate. It wasn’t like she actually wanted to kill him - she just wanted him to leave her away. Death would be a way to ensure that he stayed away permanently. I am wicked, she cursed at herself in her head, I am a wicked woman I must stop thinking about such horrible things so often.
No you’re not.
The unlikely pair exited the cafeteria, side by side. Janey slipped ahead just slightly in order to avoid being dragged into the lift again. Mr Carver worked hard to keep up as she stormed up the stairs.
He tripped on a step, catching himself on the railings. “Woah, slow down! We’ve got plenty of time!”
She kept going at the same pace. “I simply need to finish my report on time, so I don’t get in trouble.” So I don’t get fired - although actually, I doubt I would be fired, if he hasn’t been yet and he’s done absolutely no work.
As she reached the top of the stairs, she paused for a moment. Mr Carver was following her around. She hadn’t properly thought about it like that, she’d only thought about how he’d been annoying her. It was unusual for someone to attach themselves to her - she knew she was boring. In all the years she’d been working here, she’d never exchanged more than a polite ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’ with her fellow coworkers. They mostly led similarly boring lives, but some were more open for conversations and chatting then she was. Mr Carver had been working there for a good month or so now, surely he knew there were better people to converse with?
He’s a dirty creep.
Mr. Carver joined her on the top step. She gave serious thought to pushing him down the stairs, but shook it out of her head for the time being.
“Why are you following me?” she asked bluntly. She was aware of the rudeness of her words but did not particularly care. “I demand to know!”
The look on his face changed from a cheery smile to one of confusion, and then to anger, and then back to a smile. “I’m not following you, I’m just trying to be friendly, that’s all!”
“I don’t believe you - why choose me to be friendly to, out of all the other people that work here who would happily return your friendship?”
He moved away from the top step, keeping his eyes on her. “I just thought you might’ve been lonely. I’ve worked here a while now and -”
“No you haven't!” Janey snapped, stomping her foot on the tile floor. “You’ve been here for a while, but you certainly haven’t worked! I’ve seen you smoke, I’ve seen you eat and drink and dance and prance around like an idiot but I haven’t seen you work!”
She threw her arms up in the air and began to stomp away, back to the office. She didn’t want to look at him anymore. It was past lunchtime now, and she needed to finish her report.
“Listen, Jane - Janey - I’m sorry, I -”
I should push him down the stairs right now.
I should push him down the stairs and say he fell and there was nothing I could do.
I should have put sleeping pills in his food and watched him as he fell into darkness.
“I was just concerned about you, that’s all!” He said, reaching out to grab her shoulder. “Your mother said you haven’t been yourself lately, I was just checking up on you for her, I do work here, just not this department, ask at the desk, Lewis Carver, I do lots of work in-”
Push him down the stairs he’s lying.
With one swift movement, almost like a dance, Janey swung round and gave Mr. Carver a great big shove in the chest. He toppled backwards, reaching for the rail but missing. There was an almighty thwack! as his head hit a step. Janey peered down the stair well and he rolled down it, already unconscious, possibly dead.
Good riddance. This wasn’t her thought, in fact, the last couple of thoughts hadn’t been hers. She’d just blindly listened to them because they came from her voice. What did I do?!
You pushed him.
There were a few moments of calm, as Janey composed herself and tried to push away the thoughts that kept getting louder in her mind. She took a deep breath and started to descend the stairs.. This was something new and spontaneous that she had done, perhaps he had been proud as he fell. A deep feeling of dread and panic was rising up from inside her, but it was drowned out by thoughts of getting back to her report, or maybe getting an extra day to complete it. She no longer felt like herself, in fact, she felt like she was becoming someone else. Like someone else was trying to push their way forward to the front of her personality.
“Mr. Carver!” she screamed, putting on a show. “My God, someone help! He’s fallen down the stairs!”