“Paranoia, paranoia, everybody’s coming to get me…”

The song blared through her headphones. As it turned out the most effect way to ignore the obvious signs of her boyfriend’s double life was to listen to songs that carried an ironic undertone. Anything with an aggressive baseline did the trick too. 

Magnolia’s head bopped as she slammed her fingertips into her keyboard. Typing to the tune of the songs also helped to keep her focused on her marketing responsibilities instead of whatever social influencing her boyfriend may or may not have been doing with his – 

*Ping* 

A notification sound cut through Magnolia’s jam. Her boss had sent her an email. The report she had sent over earlier wasn’t matching his records. Annoying, she thought as she rolled her eyes. She wasn’t usually the one to make mistakes, especially at work. That was Sarah’s job. As if on cue Sarah watched her office phone lighting up. After it stopped, she reached for it. Feigning surprise that there was no one on the phone. 

Magnolia hit pause on her music. Anyone who called the office would have the option to be transferred over to her extension when the person they had been trying to call didn’t pick up. Perks of working in a small office. On most days Magnolia didn’t mind, but as her phone rang and Sarah snuck a glance over her shoulder, Magnolia wanted to rip the phone from the cord and pelt it across the room. 

Taking a deep breath in, Magnolia answered the phone in her most cheery voice. 

“Hi Sarah?” 

“No this is Magnolia, are you looking for Sarah?” 

“Yeah, Sarah, hi,” the man continued. 

“No, I’m sorry. Not Sarah, I can check and see if she’s available though?” 

“Oh,” disappointment ran through the man’s voice, “yeah, can you? I need to talk to Sarah.” 

“Of course,” Magnolia said, “may I ask who’s calling?” 

“It’s Bill,” Bill said, “Bill who is returning Sarah’s email.” 

“Okay, thanks Bill. Hold on for one second.” 

Magnolia put Bill, Bill who wanted Sarah, on hold and turned to face her co-worker. 

“Oh, is it for me?” Sarah said looking up from her desk. 

“Yup, it’s Bill,” Magnolia said, “I’m transferring him over now. Thanks.” 

Before Sarah could process a thought, Magnolia transferred Bill to her line. Watching Sarah as she made an effort to pick up the phone, Magnolia began grinding her teeth. A habit both she and her dentist wished she would stop. 

“This is Sarah,” she breathed into the phone. “Oh hi Bill! I was waiting for your call.” 

Magnolia turned back around and put her headphones back in. For a moment she thought about lowering her desk into a seated position. She hit play and as the singer yelled into her ear. Her foot tapped on the floor. She had too much energy to sit, and she knew it. 

Opening up the email from her boss, she read his comments on the report. Opening up the spreadsheet she ran through the numbers. She had used the wrong set. Updating by hours accounted for and not monies owed, used, billed, and remaining. Stupid mistake. Stupid mistake from a stupid girl. Magnolia opened up a new window and found the numbers she should have been using all along. 

Focusing on the formulas and the data itself, she did her best to not beat herself up. It was a new monthly report. Last month had launched the first one. She wasn’t dumb or stupid. She was distracted. For a moment she thought of her boyfriend. He was doubting the things that most people always took for granted. The things Magnolia had long since accepted and had let go of. Life was tough. It was hard, it was sad. It was a gift. By proxy, so was everything in a person’s life. But, instead of seeing the world with her “rose colored glasses” as Donald explained, Magnolia needed to be real. “Nothing in life was dependable,” Donald had spat at her the day before, “it’s a crapshoot. An awful, effing crapshoot.” 

Magnolia had scoffed out loud at the thought. What he seemed to want was for her to also be in the beginning stages of a midlife crisis. But other than being younger than him, Magnolia had carried a much different mindset for much of her life. She didn’t need to have a midlife crisis, regardless of whether it was her own or someone else’s. 

As if on demand Magnolia’s cell phone vibrated across her desk. Pausing her music again she looked down, Donald’s name flashed across the screen. Magnolia looked at the time. Maybe a lunch break wouldn’t be a bad thing. 

Answering her phone, she whispered into it, “hold on.” Locking her computer, Magnolia grabbed her sunglasses from her desk and headed toward the door. Pausing briefly in front of Sarah’s desk, Magnolia whispered “lunch.” She would figure it out. Or she wouldn’t. Magnolia didn’t really care at the moment. 

Walking out the door into the sunlight she put the phone up to her ear. “Sorry,” she said, “was just walking out the door for lunch. What’s up?” 

Silence met her. Looking down at her phone it was background. She wasn’t connected to a phone call. For a moment Magnolia noted that she should probably not be so hard on Sarah. Or at least try not to be. Unlocking her phone, Magnolia called Donald back. 

“Hey,” he said, “what’s up?” 

“Nothing,” she answered, “just calling you back.” 

“Oh, nice. I’m actually pulling up to Matt’s now,” Donald said, “but I’ll see you tonight after work?” 

“Yup, see you tonight.” 

Donald was on this big kick about saving money, but was somehow always taking his lunches at the various stores their friends’ owned. Not that he didn’t get great prices, because he did. But saving $50 while spending $125 was still spending $125. Magnolia shook her head. His money, his problem. She was saving her money. Spending it too, on the things she needed or when she really wanted something. Doing her best to refocus her energy, Magnolia turned on her podcast and started out on her walk throughout the office complex. 

The chilling story of a murdered wife filled her ears. To this day, officers hadn’t recovered her body. Magnolia felt sorry for the woman and for her surviving family. Like mostly everyone interviewed on the podcast, Magnolia believed it was the husband. Not that she thought all men were the epitome of evil, but in this case evil was breed in the bloodline – to the daughters and sons alike. Magnolia was listening intently as the host wrapped up the previous 20 or so hours into one beautiful parting speech. 

Magnolia got the chills. For a moment she thought she might even cry. She didn’t, but for a second it seemed as if she could, and that was something very different for Magnolia. She had just rounded the corner behind the building and was now facing the parking lot entrance. Glancing up for cars she didn’t see any and began to cross. Pain splintered through her body as she landed on the grassy area. As her eyes fluttered, she briefly saw the general maintenance man hovering above her – a cigarette still hanging from the corner of her mouth. 

While Magnolia was rushed to the hospital, her life clinging to the last few minutes of the podcast she had been listening to, Daven, the maintenance man, explained to police what he had seen. 

“She was walking. Walks almost everyday around the complex with her headphones in. Sometimes she reads.” Waving his cigaretted hand around as if to erase what he had just said. “She walked around the corner. Looking for cars. Once she was on this side,” indicating wildly toward where Magnolia had been walking when she was hit, “a car came in, wide. Almost too wide for the turn, whipped around and headed back out down the one way entrance. Completely clipped her. She flew in the air, and boom, landed in the grass. Tyler can get the security footage.” 

Standing there with the police Daven smoked the rest of his cigarette. “She was a nice kid, you know.” Throwing his butt on the ground, less than a half a foot away from the outdoor ashtray, Daven nodded his head for officers to come with him. “The tapes won’t help, but like I said Tyler will get them for you.” 

“What do you mean they won’t help,” the officer asked? 

“Car was moving too fast and at a strange angle. The cameras don’t reach that far. If it caught anything at all it was her hitting the grass. Gonna take a real Sherlock type to catch the asshole who did this one. That’s all I’m saying,” Daven nodded his head with finality. Without speaking another word, he walked officers down the hall to where Tyler sat queuing the footage up. The officer thought about what Daven had said – maybe she would wake up. Checking his notes he once more read the EMTs initial thoughts. Maybe in spite of it all Magnolia would wake up. Maybe she’d be the big break. Officer Owen almost chuckled to himself, chances are, he thought, this motherfucker is going to get away scott free. Probably doesn’t even know the girl got hit. Damned hit and runs. 

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