A sequel to "A Room With A View "
Jim O'Rourke glanced up from the stack of papers he'd been feeding into the high-powered copier, just in time to catch sight of the smartly dressed young woman who'd just walked into Reproduction. That was one of the few perks of working here at Moore and Ryan, the nineteen year old told himself, even if he was only doing so part-time while he went to college. The women you got to meet were in a class he normally didn't find in his native Brooklyn.
Or at least that was what all of his friends told him and for the most part, at least so far, he had to agree. Before any of the other copy drones could spot her, Jim put his assignment on hold and quickly headed for the countertop that separated the small reception area from the larger work one.
"Welcome to the lower depths," Jim smiled, making light of the departments basement location as he brushed a lock of his sandy hair out of his eyes, "what can I do for you this afternoon?"
"Is Mario around?" the twenty-seven year old Hispanic woman asked, a noticeable anxiety in her voice.
"I'm afraid he had to leave early today," the young man replied, trying hard not to be too noticeable as he checked out the attractive woman, "but I'm sure I'll be able to help you."
"I hope so," the black haired woman said, a look of concern on her face as she laid a large stack of folders and loose papers on the counter.
Jim listened attentively as the caramel skinned woman explained that she needed eight hundred copies of the pile of documents in front of her made into a report. Glancing through the material with the professional eye the college student had developed over the last eight months, he quickly decided that would hardly be a problem. With copying and collating, it would only be an hour or two's work at most.
"Even if I needed it before five?" the woman asked, the simple question explaining her predicament.
That, thought Jim, might be a problem. It was no wonder she had wanted to talk to Mario, who was the assistant manager responsible for the Reproduction Department. It was her bad luck to have come in on a day when his daughter had delivered his first grandchild and he was off at the hospital. Not to mention that there were three other projects already in the pipeline, all of them promised for today and none carrying less than the signature of a department head.
"That might be difficult," Jim admitted as he glanced up at the large clock over the door.
"Even if I said my job might depend on it?"
Jim didn't put it into words, but the look that flashed across his face said that he'd heard that one before.
"I know that sounds melodramatic," the woman said, "but it's really true."
She went on to explain that the report had originally been printed two days ago, in plenty of time for a major presentation to the company's stockholder meeting this evening. It was only late last night that she discovered that certain data her group has been responsible for had been reported incorrectly. It had taken her pretty much the entire night to redo the numbers and make all the corrections. Something her boss wasn't going to care about if it wasn't there to be handed out at the meeting.
"I don't know if I can..." Jim started to say, then stopped in mid-sentence as he looked into her face and realized that he'd seen this woman before. Or at least he thought he did.
He paused for a moment more, his face blushing a deep red as a long ago memory resurfaced. A condition evident enough to catch the woman's attention.
"Are you all right?" she asked.
"Maria?" Jim asked in turn, "Maria Gonzalez?"
"How do you know my name?" she asked, sure that she hadn't given it and the work order with her signature was still in her hand.
"You used to live in an apartment house in Brooklyn, about three years ago," he continued.
"Do we know each other?" Maria asked, her question answering his.
"Jim O'Rourke, I lived just across the hall," he finally explained.
"Jimmy O'Rourke," Maria repeated as she tried to match up the memory of the skinny teenager with the much more developed young man in front of her. "My Goodness, I never would've recognized you."
With the growth spurt that Jim had gone through the year after Maria had moved out of the apartment building, it was easy to see how she wouldn't have made the connection. The opposite, however, was hardly true. With the exception of longer hair, the former waitress looked pretty much the same.
"Well I should've recognized you," Jim said, trying to banish any residual trace of embarrassment. "You look exactly the same."
Maria thanked him for the compliment, her face flashing a smile of appreciation. Her eyes, however, then glanced down at her report, still reflecting her need to get it done quickly.
"Don't worry," Jim said as he picked up on the hint, "it'll be ready in time. I promise, I'll take care of it personally."
A look of relief filled Maria's face as she took Jim's hand with both of hers and thanked him. He said it was nothing, the least he could do for an old neighbor.
Jim stood at the counter and watched Maria exit and disappear around the hallway corner. He then took another minute for his hard-on to go down before getting back to work himself.
"Damn Jimmy," Alex Willis, his best friend on the job asked him as he went back to the twin copiers both of them had been working at. "Why the hell did you promise her that report would be ready in time? We've got enough as it is to keep us busy until quitting time."
"I promised her, that's reason enough," Jim said as he turned his on machine back on and began to feed paper into it. "And I can get it done if I work on it through lunch, especially if you help me."
"You want me to give up my lunch and not get paid for it?" Alex said, his tone showing his reluctance.
"Do I have to count up how many times I covered for you on afternoons when you blew out of here early last summer?" Jim countered, his question putting an end to Alex's reluctance.
"Geez, you'd think she showed you her tits or something the way you're bending over backward to help her," Alex muttered instead, low enough for only Jim to hear him.
"Actually she did," Jim answered, if only in his thoughts, "even if she doesn't know she did."
With that he speeded up the normal pace of his work so that he could finish the project in the copier and get to Maria's as soon as possible,
"Jimmy, you are a lifesaver," Maria said when she showed up a few hours later and picked up her report.
"I'm glad I could help," Jim replied, "and I really prefer Jim now."
"Of course," Maria smiled, "you're not the little kid across the hall anymore."
Glancing over her shoulder, Maria gave instructions to the two boys from the mailroom as to where they should take the piles of reports they had just loaded on their hand trucks. As they left, she again turned her attention back to Jim.
"I know you had to have really hustled to get this report done for me," she said, "and I want you to know how grateful I am."
"It's okay," Jim smiled. "I was happy to do it."
"At least let me buy you dinner to show my thanks," Maria insisted, "I know you had to have skipped lunch at the least."
"You don't have to..." he started to say and then changed his mind, "oh why not. But nothing too fancy, I wouldn't want you to go to too much trouble."
"We could just go to Harrahan's over on Kent Avenue," she proposed, "say around six."
"Six would be fine," Jim said, thinking what the hell, he had earned a good dinner at least.
"I'll see you there," Maria promised as she went off after the mailroom clerks to make sure their important cargo made it to where it was supposed to be.
Six O'clock came soon enough and most of the staff had already punched out when Alex came up to Jim to say good night.
"So we're even now, right?" he said, thinking this was a good time to try and get out of any future obligations.
"Not a chance," Jim grinned, "not with the amount of times you skipped out of here. But I'll tell you what my friend, I do appreciate the help and you went a long way towards wiping the slate clean."
Alex figured that was good enough and said his goodnight. The weekend was here and the last thing he wanted to do was hang around work longer than he absolutely had to.
Dinner at Harrahan's more than made up for the skipped lunch. He'd even had a few beers to go with it although Jim was pretty certain that the waiter really hadn't bought the bogus ID he showed when he ordered. But Maria evidently was a regular and they were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Dinner conversation had consisted mostly of how people they both knew were now doing. Maria had asked about his parents and was sad to learn his dad had died the previous year. His mom, he told her, had moved out of Brooklyn to live with her sister in Queens. His oldest sister, Susan was now married with two kids of her own and Judy, the middle child was engaged to a guy she was already living with.
Mentioning Judy's engagement, Jim asked Maria what had happened to Carlos, the man she had become engaged to just before she had moved out of the apartment house. He was about ten years older than her, Jim remembered, and owned his own home contracting business.
"In the end, it just didn't work out," Maria said briskly.
.... There is more of this story ...