“Thank you for calling. This is Sheila, how can I help you?” I don’t really want to help but that’s what we have to say. Honestly, I don’t want to speak to anyone at all. I had a terrible night and I know that everyone who’s taken a moment to glance at my face would have noticed my swollen, bloodshot eyes.
It’s nearly 9:30 and the noise level in the open workspace has increased considerably. There’s always more chatter on a Monday morning. Everyone catching up with each other about what they did over the weekend. I don’t participate and hope no one asks me to join in. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the occasional small talk with co-workers, it’s that I haven’t got anything I want to share. I spent the past two days arguing and defending myself against claims of infidelity. As if anyone would even want to have an affair with me. I’m 53 years old, overweight, and haven’t been called pretty once in my life. But Jeff would hear none it. A few texts from some stupid man who had the wrong number but wouldn’t stop with the sexually explicit messages – even though it was clear that he had the wrong person – seemed to be all the proof he needed. His paranoia has been growing since being laid off and I’m beginning to fear for my safety. He’s never been violent before but he’s changed so much.
I’m still listening to the caller ramble on about her billing problem when there’s a loud bang near the reception area and the conversation around me ceases immediately. Another booming sound reverberates around the us. Then I see him. Jeff, his eyes wild and his face red, is steadily making his way toward me. He hasn’t said a word but is scanning the room, like he’s looking for someone in particular.
I am completely unable to do anything besides watch as he turns to his left, brings the shotgun to his shoulder, and shoots Paul in the face. The group of women he had been with scream and drop to the floor.
“Was it him, Sheila?!” He’s not looking at me when he shouts but, instead, moves to the right a few steps where Carl is still seated behind his desk. Jeff raises the gun again and I can see the back of Carl’s head explode.
I jump to my feet as he’s reloading, pulling shells from the pocket of his black parka. “It’s no one, Jeff! I told you! There is no one. Please, dear God, please stop!”
And he does stop. He stops, looks me in the eyes, and aims the shotgun at me. “You fucking whore.” He says it quietly, calmly, and I can barely hear him.
Without lowering the weapon, he marches up to the front of my desk and presses the barrel to my forehead. It’s still hot.
“Whore, ” the word reaches my ears a split second before the blast.