Can't Help Falling(10)

By: Kara Isaac


Picking up the stack of photocopying that had been left on top of the filing cabinet, she double-checked the instructions. Eighty copies each. That should keep the photocopier humming for a while.

Walking down the hall, she stepped into the photocopier/stationery cupboard. As she crossed the threshold she was met by a loud bang. Emelia jumped, a small scream slipping from her lips.

Startled, the petite redhead standing at the photocopier also let out a shriek.

They stared at each other for a second.

“Sorry. I didn’t know anyone else was here.” They spoke in unison, then paused.

Emelia glanced at the red flashing lights on the copier. “Do you need some help?”

The other girl looked at her with an expression of defeat. “Could you? It just keeps jamming and I can’t work out why.” She gestured to the floor by the machine, which was strewn with a collection of rumpled, half-torn pieces of paper. “I think it just hates me.” The accent wasn’t English. Australian, maybe?

Emelia placed her papers on a shelf and walked over. “We’ve had a few battles this week. I make no guarantees, but I’ll see what I can do.”

She started opening doors and flicking knobs, pulling out crinkled pieces of paper as she went.

“I’m Allie, by the way.”

Emelia glanced at the friendly green eyes and smattering of freckles. The woman’s auburn hair was pulled back in a messy ponytail. She could have been anywhere between her midtwenties and midthirties. That was a contrast to the norm at the charity. All the other volunteers she’d met had decades on her.

“Emelia.”

Reaching deep into the bowels of the machine, she reached for one of the last places she’d discovered paper could get caught and felt her fingers brush against the edge of a sheet.

“Are you new here?”

“Yes. I started on Monday. I’m the new fund-raising coordinator.” She said it with far more confidence than she felt. What did she know about fund-raising? Yes, she’d helped Ava with some event-related stuff for LA Lit but the woman had been a seasoned veteran of the LA charity scene and made it all look easy.

“Thank goodness. I’ve only been volunteering here a few weeks but even I know we need you badly.” There was no hint of a joke in Allie’s expression. “Where are you from?”

“Boston.” She didn’t really think of herself as from anywhere. But Boston was where she’d been happiest. When she’d had dreams of being an investigative reporter working for the Post or the Times. So that was what she claimed. “You?” Her fingers managed to grasp the corner of the paper and pull it free. She crumpled it up and dropped it to the floor to join its comrades.

“New Zealand. Have you been in England long?”

Emelia flicked knobs and switches, closing the copier doors as she went. “Almost a couple of weeks.” Standing, she closed the final door. “That should hopefully do it. Let’s give it a shot.”

Allie loaded the feeder again, tapped “20” into the keypad, and hit the green button. They both watched as the machine whirred and then started spitting out copies.

“Fund-raising coordinator and photocopier miracle worker.” Allie smiled. “Don’t you dare go leaving anytime soon.”

Emelia flushed. Why, she had no idea. Of all the praise she’d had in her life, it wasn’t exactly near the top of the list. Fortunately, the sound of the machine spitting out sheets of paper covered the potentially awkward silence. “Glad I could help. It’s the last turny thing. The one right at the back. Where the paper gets stuck. People don’t usually think to look there.” Now she was just blabbering like an idiot. She pivoted to collect her copying from the shelf.

“Emelia?”

She turned back. Allie was gathering up her set of papers. “If you’re new in town, you probably haven’t met many people yet. Our age, I mean. This place isn’t exactly brimming with youth.”

“Um, no. Not really. I’ve been trying to get settled.”

“I’m having a house party on Saturday night. Just a small gathering. You should come. I mean, you don’t have to. Obviously. But if you don’t have anything better to do.”

What did she say to a party invite from someone she’d known all of two minutes? This didn’t happen in LA, where the people she crossed paths with specialized in the superficial.

Allie grabbed a pen and scribbled something on a Post-it. “Look. No pressure. But I just moved here in September so I know what it’s like to be in a new city.” She handed her the piece of paper. “This is my address. Anytime from seven thirty.”