All Work and No Play

By: Coleen Kwan

“Giles, it’s not a popularity contest here. Just because I don’t kowtow to you like everyone else does, doesn’t mean we can’t work well as a team.” She stopped short. Had she really uttered those words?

He leaned back in the chair, a small, almost triumphant smile on his lips, as if he’d wrung a confession out of her.

“I like you, Anna,” he said, looking so smug she wanted to pour her coffee over him.

“Oh. Well. That’s such a relief.”

“I can tell.” His grin widened.

She gritted her teeth. “We should get back to work. Our deadline’s this Friday.”

“I haven’t forgotten. Hey, want to try peer programming? It might get us there faster.” He scooted his chair closer, looking ready to park himself at her desk.

A flutter started in her chest. “Uh, no thanks. I think we’d work better separately.”

No way would she be able to concentrate on work if they did peer programming. The technique involved two people sitting and working together closely, one person writing the code while the other reviewed it and provided impetus. Anna had done it plenty of times before, but she wasn’t game to try it with Giles. Not when the office was half-empty and her hormones were going haywire over him.

“Okay.” He rose from the chair and pushed it back into place at the desk next to her. He seemed disappointed, and for a moment she regretted turning him down.

“Thanks for the coffee. And the biscotti.”

“You’re welcome,” he said as he returned to his desk on the other side of the work pod.

The biscotti, she reminded herself, had probably been given to him by some adoring coffee shop worker whom he’d effortlessly charmed. She pulled her attention back to her work, determined to treat Giles like any other of her colleagues.

When Giles had been assigned to her project, she’d thought it best for him to finish Neil’s tasks, while she completed Oscar’s work. She was reviewing one of Oscar’s programs when an uneasy feeling began to grow in her. The uneasiness mounted as she checked more programs and ran through her own suite of tests. By the time she was finished, her insides were knotted and her hands were cold and unsteady.

This could not be happening! The last time she’d felt so nauseous was at university when she’d rocked up for an exam only to discover she’d studied the wrong subject. Back then, she’d only been in danger of dropping her grade point average. This was far worse.

Frustration welled up in her, and she knew she was ready to explode. She wanted to yell and punch her keyboard and hurl her stress balls at the wall. Instead, she pushed to her feet and hurried to a nearby stationery closet, a tiny, windowless room.

As soon as the door clicked shut and she was alone, the bottled up yell tore from her throat. She stomped around the tiny closet, fisting and unfisting her hands, while her mind raced, trying to outpace the panic that threatened to drown her.

What had Oscar been thinking? Why had he done it? Neil, yes, she could envisage him doing something sneaky like this. But not Oscar. Why had he left so many bugs in his programs and tried to cover them up with phony tests? She’d liked Oscar. She’d been happy for him when he finally found a girlfriend, despite thinking the woman was a little dippy. Anna had wished him well on his journey of love to India, though he’d left so abruptly.

Now, he’d gone, and dropped her in the proverbial crap. She’d have to comb through all the programs he’d written and re-test and debug them. And that was on top of the other work she had to complete. And everything had to be finished by the end of this week. No ifs, no buts, Lionel had warned her.

She couldn’t go running to her boss and tell him about Oscar. Not yet, anyway. If she did, it would look like she was making excuses for not meeting her deadline. And that she wasn’t capable of managing her subordinates. No, she couldn’t let that happen, not on her first project as manager.

The door opened, and Giles stepped into the closet. “Anna?”

She instantly stiffened. “Yes?” What the hell was he doing here?

He stood by the door, looking strangely diffident, almost concerned. “I saw you come rushing in here, and you looked rather discombobulated. Is anything the matter?”

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