Start with part 1.

Monday morning in the office, cupping her mug of Kurig coffee in her hands, Vera smiled thinking of her weekend. Her coworkers were all in a similar mood, sipping quietly, until the door banged shut.

Niles stomped into the room. A few coworkers glanced behind him, looking for Ray. But Ray was not there this morning. Most looked away, uninterested in making small talk with Niles, but Vera smiled.

“Good morning, Niles!” Vera sang.

“Hm. Morning,” Niles replied.

It seemed he had not enjoyed his weekend. When Vera gave him the key last night, he gruffly revealed that he had seemed to be close to snatching second place. But as the judges called out the awards for third runner up, third, second and then first place and none of them was him, he was astonished. The loss seemed to hit him harder this morning.

He had not even thought to bring Ray in to work with him, she thought with outrage. He hardly seemed to need or want Ray, she told herself again. And she was comforted.

The day went by fast enough. Lunch especially. Vera rushed back through the doors with a windswept, hurried, look and apologized energetically to her cubicle mate, Dave for her lateness. Then she settled back down as if all were business as usual, plucking a stack of papers waiting to be sorted through and arranging them into tidy straightness with a quick tap, tap on the desk. Dave stared at her for a moment, and then continued with his work.

At five everyone began shuffling about, gathering their things. Dave headed for the door.

“Bye, Vera,” he said over his shoulder.

“Bye!” Vera called.

One by one, coworkers passed her as they left for the night. Some said a friendly good night and others were completely silent and ready to simply leave the office behind. Finally Niles popped his head out from behind his desk. Slinging his bag over his shoulder as he passed, he gave her a half wave and a grumbling good bye before he left. Only one or two coworkers remained.

Vera quickly gathered all her things and turned to leave as well, without saying a word.

Continue to the next part.

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