The Slender Thread
Answered prayers cause more tears than those that remain unanswered. —Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada
12/15/08 1:19:11 PM
If you expect nothing, you can never be disappointed.
Apart from a few starry-eyed poets or monks living on a mountaintop somewhere, however, we all have expectations. We not only have them, we need them. Theyfuel our dreams, our hopes, and our lives like some super-caffeinated energy drink. Charlotte was done living, but she wasn’t done dreaming—although she deﬁnitely felt like her dreams had been put on eterna-hold.
12/15/08 1:19:14 PM
ying of boredom wasn’t an option.
Charlotte Usher was already dead. She drummed her spindly ﬁngers impassively on her desk, thenslid the three-wheeled ofﬁce chair she was sitting on to one side of her cubicle and then the other, craning her neck in hopes of getting a slightly better view down the hallway. “I have no life,” Charlotte grumbled, just loud enough for Pam and Prue, seated in cubicles nearby, to hear. “Right. None of us do,” Prue crowed. “Now shut it, I’m on the phone.” “Like you should be,” Pam chimed in, usingher hand instead of the mute button to silence the receiver and keep her “client” from hearing her talk. As Pam and Prue chatted busily away, Charlotte stared down resentfully at her own phone. Each phone, like the
12/15/08 1:19:17 PM
cubicles, was identical. They were bloodred, with a single ﬂashing light in the center. No dial pad, noway to call out. They just received. In fact, she didn’t know it was a ﬂashing light from ﬁrsthand experience because, so far, it had never rung. It’s not even as if she were down the hall and missed a call or something. It had never rung. Not once since she’d been here, which felt like a long time. “Maybe something is wrong with the connection,” Charlotte moaned, pretty much summing up not justher lack of phone time but her lack of enthusiasm as well. She spread her arms out on the desk and lay her head in them, like a pale, fragile egg in a curly nest. “Watched nails never dry,” CoCo whispered sympathetically, seeing Charlotte staring at her phone as she gamboled by her cubicle. Sitting there day after day incommunicado was terribly frustrating and more than a little embarrassing forCharlotte. Everyone else’s phone was ringing off the hook! After all, wasn’t she the reason why all her classmates, now fellow interns, were there in the ﬁrst place? Heck, even the new girl, Matilda Miner, who sat directly opposite Charlotte at work, was clucking away, ﬁelding hundreds more calls than she was. “I know, it sucks, right?” Maddy said, peeking her frizzy head over the dividerseparating them. “It sucks that no one is calling you.” Charlotte nodded halfheartedly and just as she began to spill her guts, Maddy’s phone rang. Again.
12/15/08 1:19:20 PM
The Slender Thread
“Oh, sorry,” Maddy interrupted, stating what was all-tooobvious to Charlotte. “I can’t talk now. I’ve got to get that. We can talk later, okay?” “Sure,” Charlotte saidresignedly, leaning her head back down, this time twisting her eyes upward at the video camera pointed directly at her. Monitoring her? Mocking her was probably more like it. Nevertheless, she tried to keep a stiff upper lip, like some put-upon British teenage royal in a welcoming line. If there was one thing she’d learned, it was that her conduct mattered — especially if someone was watching. Shelooked back down, squinting from the glare of the white walls and the incandescent ofﬁce ceiling lights above and greeted her solitude with the grace and dignity beﬁtting an intern of her pedigree. She straightened up, crossed her legs at the ankle, folded her bony ﬁngers on her lap, pursed her lips into a tight little smile, and continued to . . . wait. Charlotte started reﬂecting — something...