In their years together, Nexus had never really slept through Will's morning escapes. Today, her eyelids parted the least bit as her husband slipped from their bed, a hint of gray gleaming out, but no other sign betrayed her state of rising consciousness. He had again failed to pull the maneuver completely off. Her responses ranged from being touched by his kind, if awkward, attempts at stealth, not wishing to disturb her, to genuine bemusement that he should believe her that dead to the world. Her lips moved around a light exhalation.
She resisted allowing herself back to full awareness today, lingering in the half-dreamworld where one has control over everything except the gate of awakening. It must inevitably open. And then, light, dazzlement, and—like one about to emerge from a cave into the open air, but turning back at the last instant—she was about her house, and there was the party mess to clean up. She groaned. Exhausted, she had left the chaos to deal with in the morning, knowing she would regret it. Will's movements this morning through the rooms had telegraphed more than the usual pre-commute shuffle; might he be out there doing some of the chores? How sweet! And yet, she rose and discovered he had not disturbed a single vessel. Well. It was, after all, a party for him Was it fair that he should have to clean up after his own party?
She had just time to dump the dozens of bits of uneaten food and skim the top layer of dishes, loading them into the dishwasher and punching the button. The machine hummed to life and the rush of hot water pounded an air bubble, shaking the plumbing in the walls. A bleary look around—was there anything worthy to call breakfast? Who could believe that a dozen people could leave such wreckage? Not a bit of crockery, plate, or silverware left clean. She remembered: they had dined as if it were their last night on Earth. Back to the bedroom. Oh, damn, the soap! Another trip to rummage under the kitchen sink, and the unpleasant odor of bleach bellowed out at her. Something leaking? She'd leave him a note. Hurriedly, detergent was poured into thewasher, steam rolling out, the door slammed shut for the second time. It was not in Nexus' nature to run late, and she had fallen behind already. She dressed and flew out the door to her office. The rest would have to wait for later.
Fair to say that, between orchestrating and executing the secret plans for the party over the last several days—preparing and hiding the food over at her Papa's house, arranging some entertainment, and intercepting replies from two guests who failed to understand quite what "surprise" means—and the demands at the office, Nexus felt as if she were flailing in a whirlwind, and half a night's sleep did little to relieve her sense of unreality. The notion had been, as Will was a notorious spoil-sport, not to wait until he turned forty and allow him to preempt any special celebration she might plan. She would hold the big party this year, and—she felt sure--he would enjoy it in spite of himself. Hosting it on Thursday night, the actual night of his birthday, meant a logistical nightmare, but also aided the well-meant subterfuge. Who holds a party on Thursday? She had no conception that he had, in fact, suspected; but he never let on.
Nexus arrived at her place of business with the general stream of lawyers through the main doors of the firm's offices—for her, late. She disliked this, not only because among the crowd of these men she knew few on friendly terms, having done their professional bidding without the least social connection, but because she privately thought of herself as one of the most vital people in the concern, by virtue of her position. Her new, official job title read "Head of Research," though in truth she had always made, an occasional day-or week-intern aside, the whole of the department. Many people counted on her, whether they acknowledged it or not. The first internal calls and e-mails to her desk began to trickle in around 8:30, and she prided herself on never failing to pick up the phone. Her presence before 9 am made, in fact, no formal requirement of her job; however, she had spent two years arriving over an hour early, and the legal personnel, and more pertinently, their assistants, had gotten used to the habit and come to rely upon it. She adjusted her tortoise-shell hairclip in a moment alone, having briskly turned a corner ahead of the crush, hoping her appearance no reflection of her mood. A digital clock blared red-8:57 AM--down from the wall.
New duties had been lately thrust upon her beside all this, anduuh!--now this latest nonsense about moving her office. Ascending the two dark stairwells above ground level—preferable to a crowded elevator, especially at this hour—had never endeared her modest workspace to her, exactly. But now that an era might be ending, she felt nostalgic, and the benefits of the old arrangement outweighed the prospects of the new. She arrived and jabbed her key in her door, and upon opening it immediately discovered that her three filing cabinets, in which she kept the references and forms which she used daily and needed close to hand, had already been removed by the workmen, following her yesterday's early departure on last-minute party errands. She murmured something that came out "Sugar," and then tried to hang her coat on thin air, dropping it. Other things were gone—the comfortable sitting chair ostensibly for visitors, seldom used except by her, to recline and elevate her stockinged feet, when she needed a few minutes from out behind her desk or in the stacks downstairs. During those brief respites, with the door barred, she could close her eyes and regather her strength. In place of the missing items, she found something that, when she marked it, nearly made her scream: a thick manila envelope, corded and marked INTEROFFICE. It lay on her lamp table (the one personal luxury she afforded herself—the pretty shaded lamp that normally occupied it had already disappeared,) the latest in a series of stupid nuisances that stood between her and the useful work she was able to do less and less of lately; she suppressed a violent impulse to throw it out the—well—into the nearest shredder. She stopped; she shook her head. Wake up!
Here raveled an odd moment: a crux, or fray. Many people, contrary to the popular myth, do not uniformly perceive Time as a linear series of events, or Experience as a catalog of sensory impulses. Often, something akin to a wave of accumulated intimations, visceral emotions, and intuitions, form the organizing principle of such consciousnesses. Past and future share a refracted face, beckoning nether and forth. Both the dead and the unborn make claim; and can compel as much as the living Now. Until later that day, Nexus had never had an office window.
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