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The first time I saw Sandra James wear the scarf was at the group interview. She wore it as a bright violet accent to a dark violet designer suit. Sandra looked to be the most sophisticated, professional woman there, and it worried me; I believed she would beat me out of the job. As it ended up, we were both hired in to the customer service department. I would see her wear the same scarf every day since then, and that pretentious purple thing got gaudier by the week.

Because we were hired at the same time, our cubicles were beside each other. Despite this, I spoke to her less often than many of my other coworkers. Most of us would gather around a table at 10 15 when we took our break, gossiping over coffee about the ridiculous demands customers would make and what we had to put up with. Debra would always lead our gossip circles, directing the conversation and making her opinions known most loudly. We discussed work, home life, love life. Sometimes a few others floated in to our circle for a day or two. We spoke with nearly everyone who worked there. But not Sandra. She always took her coffee from the break room back to her desk, and spent her fifteen minutes of freedom on the phone to call her lover—I could tell by the phrases I heard her speak, by the sparkle I saw in her eyes, and the smile she wore; this was when she really smiled a genuine smile, not just the type of upturned lips one normally keeps to appear pleasant. She did the same thing during lunch hour, when she would eat a paper bag lunch alone in the break room as quickly as possible before returning to her desk to place another call.

After a few months, some of the other customer service girls began to wonder about her. At one point or another we had each tried sparking conversation with her. We had invited her to join us but she always declined without giving a reason. I tried nearly every day for the first month until it became clear that she didn't care to discuss much about work or home, answering questions with quick, vague, normative phrases: Yes. No. Good. Fine. That's funny. Oh. OK. How nice. That's upsetting. How unfortunate. And then she would turn her head back towards the faint light of the screen, and the corners of her mouth would fall in to a frown and she would go back to work.

Eventually, she became a subject of gossip herself. Our table would hush and we would lock our eyes on to her as she entered the break room, filled her cup, and left, and then we would say things we hoped our boss wouldn't overhear. Why doesn't she talk to anyone? How can she afford those brands on this salary? Who does she think she is? Does she think she's better than us? Aren't we good enough for her?

Of all of us, Debra was the most bothered by her. Debra was an ambitious woman who grew up poor and had an eye for anything expensive, but couldn't afford the things she believed would make her happy. Unlike Sandra, who apparently could. It was Debra who suggested it, and everyone else who voted that I should be the one to ask her about it. Out of everyone, I had spoken to her most often, and because my cubicle was beside hers, it would be more natural for me to have noticed than anyone else. We wanted to satisfy our curiosity without offending her too deeply; it was a delicate operation. I decided to approach her in the break room while she prepared her coffee, so the group could overhear our conversation.

"Hey Sandra," I said. I took my empty coffee mug with me, and for an awkward moment we both stood there, listening to the gurgling of the coffee machine.

"Hey," she said, glancing my way. Maybe it took her a moment to figure out I was talking to her.

"I like your scarf," I said, and smiled.

"Thanks."

Silence.

"I noticed that you wear it a lot, pretty much every day."

"That's true."

I glanced over at the girls, they were watching with thirsty ears. I felt I was failing them. The coffee machine slowed to a drip. "Sorry for asking, but I was wondering, why do you wear the same scarf every day?"

Sandra rolled her lips in to her mouth and pressed her penciled eyebrows together. She turned to face me and said, "It was a gift." Her voice had all the implications of it being the most obvious thing, and she was clearly at least mildly offended by the question.

"Oh," was all I managed to say.

Sandra filled her cup and left the break room. After I watched her go, I filled my own cup and sat down next to the girls. Her response had raised more questions than it answered. We spent the remaining break period and the following lunch hour discussing how touchy she'd been about the subject. There must be a reason for it, we decided. A juicy reason.

Over the next few weeks, we passed our time pondering over who could have given it to her. My theory was that it was given to her by a lost loved one, which is why she wore it every day; she didn't speak much because she was grieving. It wasn't a very popular theory. Lindsay believed that Sandra was secretly a lesbian, and the scarf was given to her by her lover. The other half to that rumor was that her girlfriend was the jealous type, so Sandra couldn't speak much to other women. Debra believed Sandra was really a very poor girl, and that her expensive clothes, shoes, and handbags were bought by a sugar-daddy, and that she didn't say much because she couldn't expose her secret. She even went as far as to suggest it was probably why she took the job here, and that her secret had been exposed at her previous place of employment so she quit to avoid embarrassment. Tina believed she was a hooker, and only took this job as a cover for her taxes. I didn't believe that one. Somehow, I expected hookers to have much more to say. Another rumor floated around the office that she was having an affair with a wealthy foreigner.

Eventually, we exhausted that discussion and returned to looking down on the customers we aided earlier in the day. It wasn't until the company Christmas party a few months later that the topic arose again.

It was an hour in to the party when Sandra arrived. It was a typical sort of affair; the boss rented out a small hall in a mediocre hotel, and it was decorated with the gaudy bright green and red garland one would expect. He'd also chosen Christmas music sung by modern rock and R&B singers to hang too loudly in the background. Almost the whole company was there, amounting to around one hundred people. No one was dancing. The other customer service girls and I met up at Debra's to drink a little before the party began, and we were all tipsy by then, aside from Debra, who was very drunk, and Tina, our designated driver, who was completely sober. When Sandra walked in on the arm of her husband, we all looked over and Debra laughed.

"I told you," Debra said to Lindsay, "I told you she wasn't a lesbo. I bet that's her sugar-daddy."

We all sized him up. Tall, strong arms, beer belly. His jeans and a T-shirt ensemble looked lazy compared to Sandra's four hundred dollar dress. I knew how much it cost because Debra had been on about buying it for the past week, intending to wear it to the Christmas party, but had ended up buying the knock-off from a discount store.

"I bet you he played football in high school," I said. "I bet you 20 bucks." I pointed to my purse, trying to show them all I meant business.

"Can you believe that?" Debra said, looking at me. "That's my fuckin' dress."

"It's not that sexy, anyways," I said. "You can pull off a style that shows more skin." Sandra's dress was old fashioned, skin tight and sparkling black, with long arms and a full skirt, cut on the sides to reveal her slender legs coated in black tights as she walked. As always, she wore the violet scarf around her neck.

"Fuck her," Debra said. "I'm gonna get another drink." She wandered off, and Tina followed her to the punch bowl.

"This could get ugly," I said to Lindsay.

"Yeah. Let's watch." Her eyes widened with excitement. She grabbed my arm, and we walked towards them as nonchalantly as we could manage.

"Hey Sandra," we both said, as we drew nearer.

"Oh, hi." She clung to her man's arm.

"Aren't you going to introduce us?" Lindsay said, and smiled. "Who's this big hunk of man you got here?"

"You didn't tell me you had friends here," he said to Sandra, looking down at her.

"They're just co-workers. We don't talk. Just like I told you."

"Hey now," Lindsay said. "We can be friends. Let's all be friends!"

"Yes," I said. "Why don't you introduce us, Sandra?"

Sandra hesitated. "Patrick, these are my co-workers, Lindsay and Janet. Janet sits next to me. Janet, Lindsay, this is my husband, Patrick."

"Pleasure to meet you," Patrick said, and he shook hands with Lindsay and then with me. "So, what has Sandra told you about me?"

"Practically nothing," Lindsay blurted. "We wouldn't've known she was married if it weren't for that ring on her finger."

"Oh, really?" Patrick said. I couldn't tell who he was talking to because he was looking at Sandra, and Sandra was looking up at him.

"Yeah, really," Lindsay said, and giggled. "Why don't you just fill in the gaps and tell us about yourself." She sipped her drink, then smiled at him, batting her lashes.

"Oh, I'd like to," he said, now looking at Lindsay. "I'm surprised she hasn't said anything. This girl's got quite a mouth on her."

"Could've fooled me," I said.

Just then, Debra appeared between Lindsay and I, her arms swinging behind our heads. "Hey girls." She smiled at me, then at Lindsay. Then, she glared at Sandra. "Hello, whore." Debra stepped forward, drawing her arms down from behind our necks, and splashed her drink on Sandra's dress and on to her scarf. Lindsay and I stood still in shock, our mouths wide open.

"Excuse me," Sandra said, and headed for one of the bathrooms.

"She got what was comin' to her," Debra said. She looked down at her empty glass. "I need another drink." She left us for the punchbowl.

"What was that all about?" Patrick asked.

"Oh, uhm," Lindsay was able to pull herself together faster than I was. "Deb's just pissed because Sandra's wearing the same dress. Actually not the same dress. Deb's is a knock-off."

"Heh, I always told Sandy that she shouldn't spend so much on clothes. Now look where it got her. Guess now she'll see I was right all along."

"I'm going to go help her clean up," I said.

"What do you think of my dress?" I heard Lindsay say as I began to make my way across the party.

Sandra wasn't in the first bathroom I checked, she was in the second. "Hey," I said, opening the door. "Sorry about my friend. I'm here to help." We were alone in the bathroom, her scarf was on the counter, and Sandra was dabbing a paper towel on her dress. When she saw me, her eyes shouted at me in shock, she grabbed the scarf and held it up to her neck. But it was too late. I had seen the dull purple streaks burned in to her throat. The door slammed shut behind me. "Oh my God." I walked over to her. "What happened? Are you OK?"

"I fell down some stairs." Sandra said. "I just fell down some stairs. I'm fine." Hot mascara ran down her cheeks, melting her foundation. "I'm a very clumsy person."

As soon as we finished cleaning her up, Sandra and her husband left the party. I couldn't enjoy the rest of the night, no matter how much I drank.
Critique requested. Or you could just tell me what you think about it.
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Daily Deviation

Given 2013-01-06
The Gift by ~witwitch What is it about that horrible scarf? A fantastic short story, full of typical office gossip and eventual truths. ( Suggested by autumnlit and Featured by BeccaJS )
:iconalcetore:
Alcetore Featured By Owner Oct 19, 2013
Sandra D:
Reply
:iconautumnlit:
autumnlit Featured By Owner Sep 25, 2013
:blackrose: Your beautiful prose has been featured here: fav.me/d6nss4z
Reply
:iconwitwitch:
witwitch Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2013  Student Writer
Why thank you! :meow:
Reply
:iconelvilynkrasna:
ElvilynKrasna Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2013  Student General Artist
Wow, this was great! Your writing style is very smooth, and guides the reader through each sentence effortlessly. I do somewhat wish the narrator character was a little more dynamic, but I still love this anyways :)
Reply
:iconwitwitch:
witwitch Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2013  Student Writer
Thank you very much for taking the time to read and leave a comment. :meow:
Reply
:iconelvilynkrasna:
ElvilynKrasna Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2013  Student General Artist
It's my pleasure :)
Reply
:iconpushyreeder:
pushyreeder Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2013  Professional General Artist
what is this about?
Reply
:iconwitwitch:
witwitch Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2013  Student Writer
It's about how we can be too hasty to judge others.
Reply
:iconpushyreeder:
pushyreeder Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2013  Professional General Artist
Oh
Reply
:iconwitwitch:
witwitch Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2013  Student Writer
Was it confusing?
Reply
:iconpushyreeder:
pushyreeder Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2013  Professional General Artist
A little bit.
Reply
:iconwitwitch:
witwitch Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2013  Student Writer
How so?
Reply
:iconvargensaphia:
VargenSaphia Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Congrats on the daily deviation! It's rare to see any literature there
Reply
:iconwitwitch:
witwitch Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2013  Student Writer
Thank you. :meow:
Reply
:icongingersanps:
Gingersanps Featured By Owner May 20, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
This story had a twist to the end. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Though, if I do say, I wouldn't mind if you put in a scene with them talking about their over-the-top customers. It's my own preference, so its not needed, but I believe it would make the story "pop" a little more. If that makes sense. I hope it makes sense. Though, I think that's all I had to say. The story was really powerful, and it was very realistic. Many women go through something like this daily. Overall, it was well written. I'll be reading more of your stories.
Reply
:iconchaosthekitty:
ChaostheKitty Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I enjoyed reading this story. I could actually imagine watching this unfold as a third party spectator. Very good, Wit.
Reply
:iconxxevilblondiexx:
xxEvilBlondiexx Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Really well written. I wasn't expecting the ending, but now that I think about it I can see all the clues pointing to it and it's believable and all. Sad, but really good work! And congrats on the DD!
Reply
:iconjellybeanzee:
JellyBeanzee Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2013
I couldn't stop reading this! So sad at the end and the events of catty coworkers that led to the end. Beautiful but sad work. :heart: Do continue doing what you do.
Reply
:iconwitwitch:
witwitch Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2013  Student Writer
Thank you for taking the time to read and leave me a comment. :heart:
Reply
:iconjellybeanzee:
JellyBeanzee Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2013
You are most welcome. :heart:
Reply
:iconwalkingren:
WalkingRen Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2013
This was a good read, and I'm glad that The-Vibeke complains about it so much so that I could have the opportunity to read it. I guess there's not much to critique that others have not said... :la:
Reply
:iconwitwitch:
witwitch Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2013  Student Writer
Heh, I guess something good came out of it. :)

Thanks for taking the time to read and leave a comment. :meow:
Reply
:iconwalkingren:
WalkingRen Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2013
=P

don't mention it
Reply
:iconrandomrobskii:
RandomRobskii Featured By Owner Jan 26, 2013  Student Filmographer
:iconclappingplz:

Very nice! Congrats on the DD!
Reply
:iconwitwitch:
witwitch Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2013  Student Writer
Thank you. :meow:
Reply
:icondei-bon:
Dei-bon Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2013  Student Filmographer
Congrats on the DD!
Reply
:iconwitwitch:
witwitch Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2013  Student Writer
Thank you. :)
Reply
:iconeuterpe-the-egret:
Euterpe-The-Egret Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
I don't normally read things on DA but I must admit that I'll be reading your writing from now on.

I read quite a lot (at least a book a week while at university. When I'm out I read anywhere between 3-4 books per week) and can usually guess the endings of books within the first few chapters (or paragraphs in this case). I was pleasantly surprised by the way you finished this piece. It was a sad revelation but it was well done. Looking back you left enough clues to make the connection become solid in the end but not be too obvious before you revealed her secret. The husband fit the profile of an abusive husband to a "t" when you first introduced him and I started to have suspicions at that time.

I really just wish there were more here for me to read. I guess I'll just have to browse through your gallery and be satisfied with what is in there. :)

Very excellent job.
Reply
:iconwitwitch:
witwitch Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2013  Student Writer
Thank you for all of the kind words. :meow:

I hope I can stay up to par. :)
Reply
:iconcreativity-squared:
Creativity-Squared Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2013  Student General Artist
Congrats on the daily deviation!! :heart: You deserve it.
Reply
:iconwitwitch:
witwitch Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2013  Student Writer
Thank you. :meow:
Reply
:iconcreativity-squared:
Creativity-Squared Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2013  Student General Artist
You are very welcome :heart:
Reply
:iconnomyai:
nomyai Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2013
Interesting, the scarf was what caught my attention first. I had the feeling it was hiding a scar or abuse of some sort that Sandra was trying to hide. The conflict of how she acts on the phone and how she acted at the Christmas party intrigues me, just who is she talking with on the phone? I'm still a bit torn about her expensive clothing, an attempt to attract a better mate? Hard to say exactly.

Nicely written, builds well and ends abruptly. Well done!
Reply
:iconwitwitch:
witwitch Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2013  Student Writer
Thank you for taking the time to read and leave a comment. :)

She's on the phone with Patrick, her husband. In reality, women in abusive relationships often behave lovingly towards their abusers. They often view their abusers as victims, and think their love can save them. The phone calls are also a form of control; she can't make friends at lunch or break time if she is required to call him.

The expensive clothes don't really mean anything specific. It could be an attempt to feel beautiful, since women in abusive relationships usually have low self esteem. Women don't usually dress the way they do for men, they dress for themselves. I did it, however, to show that this type of thing can happen to a woman regardless of whether she is rich or poor.
Reply
:iconhumbug-liqourish:
Humbug-liqourish Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Student Writer
This was really well written,and I loved the way that curiosity of the co-workers transforms into the bitchy nastiness that is drawn out of the women. The sentance 'I'm a very clumsy person' is stark and losely veils the real, and very nasty, truth behind it.
I also really liked the way that you used really unexpected discription to portray emotion, 'eyes shouted in shock' and the use of 'rolled in her lips' and 'pressed her eyebrows'. It was unexpected and it managed to make the scene that much clearer in the mind's eye.

I personally really enjoyed it, congrats on the DD,it was well deserved!
Reply
:iconhauntedwhisper1610:
Hauntedwhisper1610 Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2013  Student General Artist
I really enjoyed reading this. It had great depth and the scene was perfect, everything was exactly as it would appear to the outside observer.
Reply
:iconwitwitch:
witwitch Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2013  Student Writer
Thank you for taking the time to read and leave a comment. Every piece of feedback helps me know if I've been successful with this piece or not. :meow:
Reply
:iconthemonsterofthestory:
theMonsteroftheStory Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Really captivating. Things are rarely what they seem to the outside observer, I've learned that continuely throughout my life. It's really very good, & it could be someone's real life story - that's one of the greatest parts for me.
Reply
:iconwitwitch:
witwitch Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2013  Student Writer
Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. It's good to know I've accomplished what this piece set out to do. :)
Reply
:iconthemonsterofthestory:
theMonsteroftheStory Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
You're really welcome. It's very important to tell stories like yours, it's needed. I think the impact they make on the world is critical - so thank you for telling them , & doing it so well.:clap:
Reply
:icondeathangel67:
DeathAngel67 Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2013  Student General Artist
I agree with the last comment, very well written. The story kept me interested the entire time. I was curious about where it would lead the entire time I was reading it. I find Sandra to be a highly relate-able character (I came from an abusive home setting), and the way she acts in the story is very spot on. You get the feeling that something is going on behind the scenes that isn't pleasant, and the suspicion only increases as the story continues. Very well told.
Reply
:iconwitwitch:
witwitch Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2013  Student Writer
Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. I appreciate the feedback. :)

Sorry to hear about your past. I hope your current situation is better, and wish you all the best. :hug:
Reply
:icondeathangel67:
DeathAngel67 Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2013  Student General Artist
I was able to get out of the situation when I was about 10 or 11, so no worries, and thank you. I write bits and pieces here and there but have never put any of my writing on DA. I enjoyed reading and I look forward to your future works. :)
Reply
:iconmandatory-option:
Mandatory-Option Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Very well written! Congratulations on your Daily Deviation! You really deserved it!~
Reply
:iconwitwitch:
witwitch Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2013  Student Writer
Thank you. :meow:
Reply
:iconsavagefrog:
SavageFrog Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I remember reading a horror story with a similar theme when I was younger but honestly I'm truly impressed by this since even though it reminds me of that story, it gives it a more sinister & realistic touch.
Reply
:iconwitwitch:
witwitch Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2013  Student Writer
Interesting. Thank you for your thoughts and taking the time to read. :)
Reply
:iconsavagefrog:
SavageFrog Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Your welcome & thank you for sharing this curious story.
Reply
:icontrueshinken:
trueshinken Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
This is so amazing. Congratulations, you're very talented.
Reply
:iconwitwitch:
witwitch Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2013  Student Writer
Thank you for the kind words. :meow:
Reply
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