Not only is this the last Wednesday Briefs of 2014, it'll probably be my last post of 2014. I was going to write up something pithy to cap off the year, but instead I've got this. I'll write up some kind of wrap-up post for the year later this week, though!
In the meantime, enjoy the last 2014 installment of Washed Right Out, in which Riley makes a friend and something wicked his way comes...
Washed Right Out, Chapter Fourteen. Prompts used: have a character return a gift.
When Riley had returned to the Belle Facce office with a stranger in tow, the sleepy series of cubicles suddenly took notice of his new blond friend. Fiore quickly found himself the source of work coming to a sudden halt as everyone made a beeline to introduce themselves, and ask him how he and Riley met.
Say we're childhood friends or something, Riley said. Say you're an old school pal who just happened to run into me on the sidewalk. Say you're a visiting alien from outer space who finds our way of life fascinating. Anything but you're the random guy who saved me from my abusive ex-boyfriend and then walked me across the street because I was too afraid to do it myself.
"We literally just met!" Fiore chirped, crushing Riley's need for a cover story. Luckily, Fiore didn't mention Jonathan, or the confrontation between the three of them.
Eren was one of the first to realize Riley had not come back to work alone. He became the self-appointed interrogator of the bunch, even going so far as to make Fiore take a seat so he could keep an eye on him. Even when everyone else had lost interest and gone back to work, Eren bothered Fiore about his favorites, including colors (yellow and blue), food (soup), video games (none), sports that didn't involve touching balls (track, after some rather immature snorts and giggles from them all), and for some reason words that began with the letter 'W'.
"Winch," Fiore answered. "I like the sound of it. It just sounds mechanical. Reminds me of when I was a little kid, sitting in my dad's auto shop, and watching him raise cars up for repair."
"You have an answer for everything, don't you?" Eren demanded. His wide nostrils flared with every question.
"Of course I do!" Fiore grinned.
"What's the worst thing you've ever done?" Eren shot back.
Fiore's grin slipped a bit on its peg. "Err... I returned a gift. It was a really ugly sweater and it didn't fit and I was allergic to forty percent of it."
"What's so bad about that?"
Riley, who was sitting courtside to this little ping pong match, butted in. "That doesn't sound so bad, if it was a bad gift."
"It was from my grandmother," Fiore explained. "She bought it because she thought I lived in a really cold environment and would need it. It was her last Christmas."
"That's horrible!" Eren gasped, as if his own grandmother had been the one to buy the wretched sweater of love.
Riley gave Eren a light elbowing. "Shut up. It's not his fault she died."
"Or is it?"
"You're a weird guy, you know that?" Fiore stood. "This has been fun, but I better go back to work."
"It's cool, Riley." Fiore smiled. "The flowers don't arrange themselves."
Inside, Riley was devastated. Just because his co-worker couldn't keep his mouth shut, someone who had saved him from a terrible situation was leaving, probably for good. Still, he wasn't willing to prolong the process, and let Fiore slip out of the office with a farewell and a small hug.
Before he left, Fiore turned and said, "You know what, Eren? My grandmother wasn't even that nice a person." The door clicked shut behind him.
Eren opened his mouth, as if to make a smart ass remark, but saw the look on Riley's face and quickly slinked away.
Somehow, Riley found the mental energy to click through his work inbox one more time, mentally noting what he would have to work on Monday morning. Not today, he thought. He just couldn't start anything today. He was ready to go home, order a pizza, and make a Riley-shaped indent in his couch while watching television—any television, it didn't matter to him, the more mindless the better.
I don't think I can take any more surprises, Riley thought. He shut off his computer for the day, realizing he wouldn't be doing any more work on a Friday like this one. The chair squeaked as he slumped back, enough to eliminate any ergonomic benefits.
“Riley! Riley!” Eren was standing in front of Riley's desk, his face pale and shocked. “Um, I know you're pissed at me, but I think you should see this.”
Riley stood. “What's going on?” Eren rarely got this serious about anything that wasn't related to his photography gear or his man troubles.
Eren gulped, hard enough that his Adam's apple bobbled around in his throat like a trapped bird. “It sounds like two servants of Death himself are downstairs—and they're asking for you.”
“Seriously, shut up.”
“No, really, some of the people in the lobby are freaking out! I think they said they were coming up here—”
Eren shut his mouth as soon as the door to the office opened. The quiet Friday murmurs of lazy conversations came to a halt.
“We have come for the one called Riley Paolini!”
Riley turned around and looked into the face of two women in long black cloaks and hoods, carrying tall sickles. It was everything his bigoted Southern grandparents had ever feared: Death was a pair of hair stylist lesbians with a costume fetish.
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