Please join me in welcoming author Holly Day back to Stories That Make You Smile! Holly is here today celebrating the release of her shiny new novelette, A Well-Functioning Cubicle. Let’s all take a quick moment to bask in the droolworthiness of that cover and that fun title! Read on to learn about what “holiday” it is today and how that ties into this story, and a fun excerpt from the book:
Hello, everyone! Thank you, Addison, for allowing me to come back again so soon after my last visit 😊 At some point back in the thick of winter, I made a rash decision and told my lovely publisher, JMS Books, that I wanted a book release on March 26th, and then another one on April 2nd. Be careful what you wish for because I got it, and here we are.
The last time I was here, I talked about The Blood Witch and how I wrote it for National I am in Control Day. The story I’m here to talk about today is called A Well-Functioning Cubicle, and I wrote it for today.
Do you know what today is? It’s National Flash Drive Day – a very important day 😆
I never used to reread books, never. If I’d read them, I didn’t touch them again. I don’t know if it’s age or that there is too much going on in the world, but since the pandemic hit, I find myself less and less willing to pick up a new book and more and more inclined to pick up something old and familiar.
I’m rereading books I haven’t thought about for ten years or so, and I find something restful in that. Sometimes I get a little disappointed, a book I used to love doesn’t sweep me off my feet the way it did when I first read it, but mostly I find that I can relax. I’m secure in where the plot is going, and I don’t have to think.
I’ve ruffled through old memory sticks, portable hard drives, I’ve even tried to blow life in my old e-reader from waaaayyy back when. So when I saw there was a National Flash Drive Day, I instantly thought of long-forgotten books.
Reading a story about someone who spends all day reading books might not be the most interesting way to spend your day – though it has a nice meta-perspective to it, to read a book about a book.
In my mind, the image of someone who hates his job began to grow, and what do we do to escape? We read. I had Paxton, a man who’d promised himself never to work in an office again, applying for an office job. There are no other jobs available, and he has bills to pay, so he bites the bullet. He imagines that he can lazy about, install the Kindle and Spotify apps on his work computer and sit off the time.
He’s not that lucky. Instead, he has to not only share a cubicle with Jace, but he also has to share his computer, and they’re not allowed to install anything. The solution? A flash drive with old books in pdf format. Do you remember when the first ebooks came? Pdfs.
I loved writing this one. I love Jace who’s slightly OCD about how to organise the cubicle. Crooked labels are a no-go, and everything has its place. When he one day finds a flash drive filled with gay romance books in his drawer, he doesn’t know what to do 😊
Jace Villin likes straight lines and clean surfaces. Life is so much easier when everything is in its right place, and he and his friend Felicity have a good system for the cubicle at work. They have a drawer each, one side of the bulletin board each, and they don’t interfere with each other’s territories. But then Felicity quits, and Jace has to share his cubicle with someone else.
Paxton Sallow promised himself never to work in an office again, but there are no job openings, and he has bills to pay. The job might be the most boring he’s ever had to endure, but at least he can amuse himself with moving Jace’s things around. It’s amazing how upsetting a crooked label can be.
Jace doesn’t know what to do with Paxton. He wants to snarl at him to respect his boundaries at the same time as he wants to run his fingers through his hair and kiss him silly. Paxton knows he should leave Jace alone, but he can’t help himself. He wants to see Jace outside of work, but how will Paxton get him to agree to have a cup of coffee with him when he runs off as soon as he tries to ask him out?
Paxton chuckled low under his breath as he watched Jace’s stiff back move toward the exit. It wasn’t until he reached the last desk where Andrea worked that he dropped his shoulders. He slowed his steps, and while Paxton couldn’t hear what Jace said, he heard Andrea’s laugh. It had him look at Jace again. A barely-there smile played at his lips, and he waved goodbye to Andrea and left.
Groaning, Paxton focused on the screen. He so did not want to answer emails today. An image of Jace clad in nothing but skimpy speedos, cutting through the water, played before his eyes. That would’ve been a lot more fun to watch than staring at a screen all day.
With a sigh, he pulled the old flash drive from his pocket. He didn’t know what was on it, but when he’d popped it into his laptop yesterday evening, there was a folder with e-books. It had been years since he’d opened it, so the books must be from before he bought his Kindle. He was oddly excited about seeing what titles he had on there.
He held in a sigh. “Andrea.”
“How are you today?”
“I’m good, thank you.” He smiled at her. “You?”
“Oh, fine. Did you… eh… say anything to Jace?”
Paxton raised his eyebrows. “I did. I said hello, asked his plans for the day, asked about his cat, and wished him a lovely afternoon. Why? Aren’t we allowed to talk?”
“Of course, you are, it’s just… be careful with Jace. He’s…” She swallowed. “Look, he’s great, but he likes things a certain way, and while it’s not my place to tell, there are some anxiety issues.”
“Anxiety? As in panic attacks? PTSD?” Damn.
“Eh… I don’t know. I don’t think there is a big trauma, though who knows, but he’s a bit OCD. Please don’t tease him and don’t touch his things. He’s my best worker.”
Paxton stared at her. “I haven’t teased him.”
“Don’t touch his things.”
“Felicia, or whatever her name was, who worked here before me didn’t touch his things?”
“Felicity. They’re friends. It took several months, but they’re friends now.”
Pax frowned. “Meaning she can touch his things now?”
Andrea’s gaze flew over his face. “Are you trying to agitate him?”
“What? No.” Though it did amuse him when Jace got prickly.
Andrea shook her head. “I…” She sighed. “I don’t know. Be careful, okay. Keep your things in your drawer and don’t open his. Keep your notes on your side of the pinboard and don’t touch Odin—”
Paxton chuckled. “The one-eyed god.”
Andrea grinned, and for a second Pax believed he could like her. Maybe.
“The god of war and death, which is an apt name for the monster.” She shook her head. “Get to work, Pax. No more slacking off, and please, try to at least make a dent in the inbox today.”
Paxton almost asked what the minimum amount of email per hour and still be allowed to keep the job was, but since the chat had been somewhat pleasant, he didn’t.
He logged into the email server and glanced at Jace’s drawer—a pretzel would be nice. That’s when he saw his name taped on the bottom drawer. With a chuckle, he opened it. Inside were a notepad and several pens, no pretzels though.
Shaking his head, he closed the drawer and opened the first email of the day. When he’d answered ten, he popped in the flash drive and opened the e-book folder. Pdfs, did anyone read pdf files anymore? It didn’t matter. Since he wasn’t allowed to download apps on the work computer, pdfs were perfect. He scrolled through the titles, remembering some of them fondly and drawing blanks on others.
He picked a title, a paranormal gay romance he would deny ever having read should someone confront him, and then went on to answer ten more emails.
All day, he kept it up, reading a few pages, answering ten emails, reading a few pages, answering ten emails. Since Andrea didn’t come around to give him hell, he figured it was a good enough workflow.
When he neared the last hour of the day, he reached into Jace’s drawer to steal some crackers. He wanted pretzels, but there were hardly any left.
The last thing he did before leaving was pull off the strip with his name from the drawer only to put it back a little askew. Grinning, he turned off the computer and dropped the flash drive into his drawer.
About Holly Day
According to Holly Day, no day should go by uncelebrated and all of them deserve a story. If she’ll have the time to write them remains to be seen. She lives in rural Sweden with a husband, four children, more pets than most, and wouldn’t last a day without coffee.
Holly gets up at the crack of dawn most days of the week to write gay romance stories. She believes in equality in fiction and in real life. Diversity matters. Representation matters. Visibility matters. We can change the world one story at the time.
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