A Thousand Miles From Home - Part 06





Don was in love, Ollie could spot it a mile off. And the focus of those little cartoon hearts that Ollie imagined were slowly floating from Don’s eyes wasn’t really all that attractive, at least not as far as Ollie was concerned.

She was actually really quite average looking with a giant toothy smile. And her hair? What was going on with that hair? It was like a giant poof of curls that sprang out of her head in all directions.

But she was smiling at Don, and Don was smiling stupidly at her, and at that point Ollie knew that Don was lost. Ollie was a little surprised, actually. He’d never seen Don flip over a girl like this. And she’d only been in the room for a little under two minutes.

And now Don was switching things up with this introduction business. Ollie knew what Don was doing. It was genius really. Here was a sure fire way to get her name, and something interesting about her.

“I’m Andy,” the grumpy supervisor from earlier was saying. “And I enjoy a quiet evening at home alone with a good book.”

No one in the room seemed the least bit surprised by Andy’s announcement, yet Don managed to feign interest.

“Great, Andy. Good to know. And how about you?” Don gestured to her, the reason behind this whole introduction spectacle.

Ollie leaned forward slightly, knowing that Don would be hanging on her every word.

“My name is Karen Walters,” she said, her voice sounding plain and really quite ordinary, “and I try to learn something new every single day.”

Well there you go, Ollie thought. Don was lost.

The rest of the group went by pretty fast, but Ollie could see that Don had most of his focus on her. Karen Walters. Ollie was a little worried. Don wasn’t one who involved himself in flings, and that’s just what this would be. It’s not like she was going to come back to Kansas with them, so nothing serious could begin in the week they were going to be here. And Don wouldn’t go for the one night stand, that just wasn’t Don’s style. Well, not anymore.

Soon Don was into his spiel about Columbus and what it can do. He showed Columbus at work on the big screen, pulling an application for Douglas Adams, Don’s favorite author, and quickly took the group through how it was going to work. Ollie was surprised to see Andy react somewhat favorably towards the demonstration. Which basically meant that at no point did Andy change his blank and bored expression for one of disdain or contempt. Progress was a long and winding road.

Don completed his speech and opened the floor to questions. There weren’t too many at this point, and Ollie sat by and watched Don quickly handle the few that were thrown his way.

“Okay, if there are no other questions then I’ll let you all get back to work,” Don was saying as Ollie’s phone vibrated.

Ollie took a quick glance at his phone and saw the following text from his wife, Susan:

MISS U.

Ollie typed his response:

MISS U 2.

For the next few minutes as the group filed out of the room, Don tapped away at his phone, holding a long distance conversation with Susan using as few letters as possible.

OLLIE: TOOTH?

SUSAN: NOT YET

OLLIE: GRLS AT SCHOOL?

SUSAN: OF COURSE

OLLIE: I MISS THEM

SUSAN: THEY MISS DADDY

OLLIE: DON IS IN LOVE

SUSAN: ???

OLLIE: HE MET A GIRL. LOVE AT 1ST SIGHT

SUSAN: SHE COMING TO KS?

OLLIE: LOL HE NOT TALK 2 HER YET

SUSAN: NOT TALK AT ALL?

OLLIE: NO. GOT 2 GO. TALK 2 U LATER. LUV U.

SUSAN: LUV U 2.
And with that, Ollie put his phone away. He looked up and noticed that he was alone in the room. Ollie looked at his watch, one o’clock. The next group wasn’t scheduled to come in for another thirty minutes. Don probably went out for a smoke. Ollie decided to join him.

Ollie arrived at the smoking area to see Don and Karen sitting together, smoking, talking, and most of all, laughing. Ollie wasn’t exactly jealous. He was happy for his friend. But he couldn’t dismiss the worry over how Don was going to feel at the end of the week when they had to leave her behind.

Ollie turned around and meandered about in the break room, looking through the vending machines, hoping something would appeal to him. Nothing did. Ollie thought about sitting, and silently cursed himself for leaving his book back in the small conference room. Ollie tried to have a book with him at all times. He liked to be prepared. You never knew when you’d find yourself stuck somewhere with nothing to do. At those times a book came in handy. Sure, he had his phone. He could surf the web or play a game or two, but Ollie would always prefer a good book.

Ollie rose, looking at his watch again, twenty minutes to the next group. He decided to just go back to the training room, taking a short stop at the small conference room to get his book, when Don and Karen came in from the smoking area. They were both smiling and laughing.

Ollie caught Don’s eye and Don guided Karen over to him.

“Ollie, meet Karen. Karen, this is Ollie.”

“Oliver Jordan, Miss Walker,” Ollie said, offering his hand. “Pleased to meet you,” he said as they shook hands.

“My, how formal and polite,” Karen said.

“Just like my mother taught me,” Ollie said, smiling.

“Well, your mother taught you well,” she said.

The three stood there for a moment in what seemed like forty-two and-a-half awkward hours, but was actually just shy of a full minute before Don broke the tension.

“Okay, well it was nice talking to you, Karen. I’ll let you know later if I’m available to take you up on your offer,” Don smiled. “but for now I think Ollie and I have to get back.”

“Thanks for the cigarette,” Karen said, smiling and quickly touching Don’s hand. “It was nice meeting you, Ollie. I hope we can spend a little more time together this week.”

“Uh, okay, sure. Nice meeting you too,” said Ollie as she turned and walked back into the main area towards her cubicle.

Don never took his eyes off of her.

“Just what in the blue bloody blazes do you think you are doing?” Ollie asked.

“What?”

“What are you doing?”

“I had a smoke with a girl.”

“A girl you can’t take your eyes off of. Good Lord, Don, you’re ogling her like a construction worker.”

“I am not,” Don said, looking over at Ollie for a moment before sending his gaze once more back to her retreating form. She turned once and smiled, waving at Don before disappearing onto the Floor and the jungle of cubicles. “Besides, she’s beautiful.”

“Is she?”

“You don’t think so?”

“She’s not really my type.”

“She’s beautiful,” Don repeated, still staring at the space she last occupied.

“Okay, snap out of it, Slick. What’s this about an offer?”

“She wants to take me out for coffee after work.”

“Well, you can’t go.”

“And why not?”

“Don,” Ollie said, sighing, “we aren’t here to form emotional attachments. We have a job to do. We do our job and we leave. You can’t afford to leave a broken heart behind.”

“It’s just coffee,” Don said, pouting slightly.

“Don, if you could only see that dumb, love struck, idiot puppy dog look on your face. You like this girl. I know it. You know. Heck, she knows it. But it can’t happen. We are leaving at the end of the week. She’s not coming with us.”

“I know,” Don said, pouting even more. “I’m not stupid, Ollie. But I’ve never met anyone like her before. I can’t stop thinking about her.”

“You’ve only known her for a little over an hour! And you’ve only been separated now for two minutes! Give it some time.”

“I know, I know. It’s just-”

“It’s just what, Don? You going to spend the week romancing her, sleep with her, then leave?”

“No, no I wouldn’t do that.”

“Of course not, that’s not you. You need to put your whole heart into it. You don’t have the time for that and you’re only going to get hurt. Walk away now. Don’t get attached. You can’t afford it.”

“It might be too late for that.”

“Well, just be careful, Don. Okay?”

“Okay, thanks, Ollie.”

“Hey, that’s what friends do, right?”

Don smiled.

“Right?” Ollie repeated.

Don just laughed.

“No really,” Ollie continued, affecting a look of abject confusion and embarrassment, “that is what friends do, right? I have no idea.”

Don gave Ollie a look of concern mixed with a leery sense of doubt. Ollie just held on to his mask of uncertainty and shame.

“Seriously?” Don said, placing a hand on Ollie’s shoulder in genuine concern.

Ollie smiled, “No, not really. Not at all.”

Don smiled back and punched Ollie playfully on the same shoulder his hand was just moments before, resting, “Jerk!”

“It takes one to know one,” Ollie replied, using their old childhood adage.

“We should get back,” Don said. “The new group will be coming in soon.” Don made for the training room and Ollie followed.

“You’re going out for coffee with her,” Ollie said, not in the form of a question.

“You bet your skinny white bottom I am.”

To be continued . . .


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