WORDS Liesel Schmidt
As hard as she tried, Eve couldn’t quite figure out how to begin the conversation. For months, she’s sat across from the guy in the suit, with his serious, quiet manner and eyes that looked straight into your soul. They were like a stormy sky, those eyes, a blue-grey so intense they were almost startling. The first time she saw them, her breath caught in her throat, and time stopped.
The bus hit a pothole and jostled everyone, tossing the straphangers around and jumbling them together like toys dumped from a bin. Eve was glad she was sitting. She caught his eye—those steely blue eyes—and found herself smiling awkwardly. He raised an eyebrow and smiled back. And time stopped again.
How did he do that? Eve wondered. She shook her head at the silliness of the thought and looked away, up at the handrails, then down at her hands, tightly folded in her lap. Anywhere but at his face.
“They should really do something about the potholes on this road,” a voice said, forcing her to look up.
He was talking to her.
“They really should,” she agreed. Eve inwardly rolled her eyes at herself. It was such an obvious reply. Couldn’t she have come up with something better than that? Some bit of witty banter to show him just how interesting she was?
Eve felt a sharp jab at the realization that she really wasn’t all that interesting. She’d been riding this bus, quietly riding it to a job that she’d been at for years, working for a company that barely registered her presence. It was maddening. But still she stayed, unsure of what she would do or where she would go if she left.
Mr. Blue Eyes rose from his seat as the bus slowed, coming to a halt at his stop. He shot her a quick smile as he walked past her, moving toward the open doors and off the bus. She’d caught his eye as she’d smiled back, and time had done that thing again. And then they were off, three more stops until hers, where she would disembark to start a day without any distinction from the rest.
As the bus drove on toward her stop, Eve considered her life. She was two years away from forty, unmarried and completely lacking in prospects of the romantic or professional kind. But on both fronts, she felt stuck and completely powerless to change things. A move on either would require bravery that Eve felt she didn’t have, so she didn’t see her circumstances altered anytime soon.
The bus’s brakes shrieked to a stop, and Eve realized it was hers. She rose to her feet, settling her long purse strap across her chest as she walked toward the front of the bus. She nodded at the other familiar faces she passed and spoke a quick good-bye to Glen, the bus driver who had been on this route for as long as she could remember. He’d turned fifty last month, and she’d brought him a gluten-free, vegan cupcake, since he’d started a new diet.
Eve stepped from the bus onto the sidewalk, and then started walking toward the tall building at the end of the block. It was an imposing structure, all steel and concrete and glass. Cold, a lot like the people in it. She took a deep breath and pulled the glass door open, the brass handles icy in her grasp.
The elevator whisked her up to the fifteenth floor, depositing her to the bustling world where she felt so utterly out of place. Everyone else here was sleek and self-assured, confident in their place on the food chain. Eve was just here because she’d somehow managed to slip past the well-placed gatekeepers who kept out the riffraff. They had looked at her résumé and waved her through, and now she was here, a dandelion in a hothouse full of orchids.
It hadn’t always been this way. She’d once been part of something that made her feel alive, feel seen and appreciated. But it had all fallen apart under the weight of competition, greed, and complacency. And then, she somehow landed here—out of desperation and despair, out of all the things that kept her locked up in a job she felt sucked the marrow from her bones.
“Eve?” Ted, the head of HR said, walking up to her. “Need you in the conference room.”
He was off before she could offer a response, so she hurried after him. He was already in the conference room by the time she caught up.
“Ted, what’s—” her voice caught in her throat when she looked up.
The man with the blue eyes from the bus was sitting at the table, next to Ted. He offered a small smile of recognition, and then straightened his mouth into a grim line.
And time stood still.
“Eve Chisholm?” he said, flicking a glance down at a folder in front of him on the table.
She nodded dumbly.
“Please, sit,” he said, indicating the chair opposite him with a nod.
Eve sat, still saying nothing as a thousand thoughts ran through her mind.
Who was he? Why was he here? Why did he want to see her?
“I’m Wesley Evans. I’m an efficiency expert your company has hired to streamline workflow and economize where possible,” he said. It sounded rote, like something he’d said a thousand times, to a thousand different people, in a thousand different settings.
Eve studied his face as he spoke, watching his eyes, watching his mouth. Would he mention anything about the bus?
“I need to talk to you a bit, see what your role is here, what you feel you bring to the company, what your goals here are, things like that,” he said, finally sounding a little less scripted. He took a deep breath and offered an almost apologetic smile. “Sound good?”
Eve stared unseeingly at the menu on the wall. Coffee. All she wanted was coffee, just plain coffee with none of the frills or ridiculousness that made ordering coffee take thirty minutes. Why was that so difficult?
She turned around and came face to face with him. Mr. Blue Eyes. Wesley.
“Mr. Evans,” she said, trying not to sound as flustered as she felt. She’d just spent the better part of an hour talking to him about herself. Her job, her goals…all the things she felt would be what he wanted to hear to keep her in her job.
“Can you sit?” he asked, nodding toward a table.
She nodded, wondering what he could possibly want to talk to her about.
“I shouldn’t really be doing this, but—” he cut himself off, shaking his head. He locked eyes with her and seemed to find resolve. “You don’t belong there, Eve.”
“I beg your pardon?” She wasn’t sure she’d heard him right. Was he firing her? In a coffee shop? Could he even do that?
“You’re not about to be let go,” he said reassuringly. “Don’t worry about that. But you don’t belong there. There’s something in you that needs more than this, I can see it. But you feel safe, so you stay.” He paused and measured his words, then leaned forward and almost whispered. “Take a risk. You owe it to yourself, Eve. Find something that makes you feel alive and go for it.”
Eve offered a wan smile. “You make it sound so easy,” she replied, hearing the resignation in her own voice. “It’s not. I did that before and I lost everything.”
Wesley sat back and considered her. Then he shrugged. “That happens. But you keep trying, even when you lose,” he said, rising. He reached in his coat pocket and pulled out a card, laying it on the table in front of her. “Give them a call.”
Eve had been at the new job a few weeks and was thriving, coming alive. Her life had changed immensely, all thanks to that card—and Wesley.
She’d also been taking a different bus route, one that took her to work in this new part of town. She didn’t see him anymore, but she thought of him. And she missed those blue eyes.
“Go to dinner with me, Eve?”
She heard her name and looked up from her computer.
And time stood still.