“Lost?” A Short Story

“Lost?” by Paula G. Akinwole ©

Prompt by Kitchen Table Literary Arts
Write a short scene between at least two characters in a workplace setting. One of the characters has just arrived for his or her (or its) first day of work. Be sure to include details, and even try your hand at dialogue.

Kayla had been looking back and forth between four different corridors for the last seven or eight minutes. Each path looked just like the other, dark and lifeless. There were no signs or indicators to tell her which way to go. She felt panic start to set in. It played around in the furls of her eyebrows and danced on the corners of her lips. Whenever her anxiety swelled up, it displayed itself in her face. No matter how much she tried, she couldn’t hide in plain sight.

“Hello, are you lost? Can I help you?”

A tall dark skinned woman stepped in front of Kayla. Her frame was large enough to block out everything in Kayla’s path and made it impossible for her to see anything other than her. 

“Hello?” she said in a heightened and annoyed tone while snapping her fingers in her face as if to knock Kayla out of a trance. 

Kayla’s eye’s met the woman’s. They were a dark cold brown that seemed to glimmer and bounce off the fluorescent lights around her. Her deep sunken sockets were surrounded with wrinkles like rings on a tree and they spread into her forehead that was riddled with her thoughts about encountering Kayla in the hallway. Her face was beautiful though. Old age had settled upon her like a well deserved gift. Her gray locs were the same size each and speckled with black hairs as if painted on. Kayla could see her teeth were coffee stained and one was missing from the left front side though it could hardly be noticed past the bright red lipstick that covered her full lips. 

“Sorry. Yes. Yes, I’m lost. I’m supposed to be going to suite 813, The Keller & White Group,” Kayla finally responded being happy that someone had found her and was willing to help. She nervously shuffled, afraid she was stumbling over her words too much for a good first impression.

“It’s just right there,” the woman answered swiftly, pointing down a random corridor. As she pointed, the lights in the hallway illuminated revealing door numbers and plaque as if her acknowledgment gave them permission to turn on.

“Oh,” Kayla stepped back now, noticing the darkness around her had lifted and she could clearly see every room and door sign. 

“Your first day?” the woman asked.

“Yeah… yes, today is my first day” Kayla quickly fixed her responses being careful not to sound too relaxed. Every skinfolk ain’t your kinfolk she could hear her mother’s voice in her head. 

“Well, don’t look so scary,” the woman continued. “You working for the White’s but the Keller’s is good people.”

“You work there too?”

“I wouldn’t call it working”

Kayla nervously looked at the woman trying to read her response. Her aloofness was leaving little to be desired and Kayla couldn’t tell if her space was as safe as she had hoped. 

“You’ll be fine,” the woman added, hoping to release Kayla from the uneasiness she had just revealed with her nose. ” but you can’t let them see you sweat like that. You gotta have tough skin in this game, girl. You a woman and you mulatto, they wanna wine and dine you before devouring you whole.”

The woman looked Kayla up and done. She wore black slacks and a pink silk undershirt with a black blazer. Her shoes were comfortable and jewelry modest. She looked more like an intern than an account manager. Her makeup was subtle colors and her wig was perfectly glued on but was obviously covering up natural hair that hadn’t been flattened enough to make the wig look natural. The woman noticed a small ankh tattoo on Kaylas’s left breast. When Kayla saw her looking, she pulled her suit jacket over it.

“What’s your name girl?” the woman asked.

“Kayla Adan,” she answered, her eyes meeting the woman’s.

“What’s your name?” the woman asked again

Kayla looked again, this time noticing the woman’s eye’s had relaxed into a soft warm brown. The rings that had revealed her years were now swirling like soft blush on her cheeks. Her forehead was taut and the sunken shiver of her sockets now protruded like thorns on budding roses. The painted strains of her hair had melted from the roots to the tips as Kayla searched for the missing tooth to no avail.

“It’s Keyna, Mrs. Keller. It’s nice to meet you.”

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