This is my entry in the Earth Day 2011 Story Contest.
Thank you so much to durablue and petitmort for editing and for their insightful suggestions and to steelersfan for proofreading this story.
Note to readers: there is sex at the end of this story, but there's a fair amount of relationship development before you get there. If you're looking for a 'wham, bam, thank you ma'am' type of story, you might want to move on now.
Thank you, dear readers, for your time reading my first contest entry. Votes, comments, and feedback are most appreciated. ~ sleeplessgurl
March 3, 2011
Rika was talking about important stuff. Matt knew it was important, but he was distracted by her beautiful face. He had been staring at her lips again, the way they moved when she spoke. They were so pretty with that full pouty grin and that pink lipstick that shined against her flawlessly smooth brown skin. Those lips begged to be kissed. Or at least he thought so. He noticed the way her dark eyes sparkled whenever she got animated or passionate about something, the way she wrinkled her nose when she laughed or talked about things that annoyed her.
He tried to pull his focus back to her words. It was important. He had learned so much from her in a few short months, that is, when he wasn't fantasizing about her. Pay attention, he admonished himself for probably the hundredth time.
"...and finally corporate Real Estate reports that solid waste collection in the building is down eleven percent over last year and electricity consumption is down eight percent over the same quarter last year, even though we have more employees. This is great news, everyone. This makes a great impact on our overall carbon reduction goals. It seems our campaigns to encourage employees to use less disposables and turn off their equipment are showing real results," Rika concluded, smiling briefly at the people seated around the meeting table.
He nodded thoughtfully to acknowledge what she'd said. He was sure no one would be aware that he was staring. After all, she was talking and it was only polite to look at her while she was leading the Green Team meeting.
Rika was stunningly beautiful. Matt couldn't help staring at her whenever she was around. He'd only joined the Green Team to get an excuse to talk to her. When he hadn't been distracted with thinking about her lips or about her ... other parts, Matt found he had actually learned a lot about environmental sustainability and eagerly enjoyed participating. But he couldn't help that he sometimes got distracted.
After her report, she mentioned that it was time to start planning for Earth Week events.
"Remember, it's a short week. Earth Day is on Good Friday this year, so we'll have to do the big event on the Thursday, since all our Canadian offices will be closed on the Friday."
She asked the assembled team of twelve people for ideas. A few people made some suggestions. Rika jotted them down, cheerfully acknowledging each person's idea and thanking them for it. Then after they decided on a direction, she started listing things that needed to be done, and Matt kept volunteering to take on tasks. He loved the way she smiled at him every time he volunteered to do something, so he kept taking on more to see that special smile again.
Matt had joined the company in early September as a software coder and tester. The job was okay and paid reasonably well. The location was convenient. He liked his coworkers and the company—so far. It was a large successful growing firm, unlike the last place he'd worked where impending layoffs had sent him on a job search.
He'd seen Rika in the elevator on his third day and was instantly drawn to her. She was stunning. Small and delicate and beautiful. But the elevator was full and she was with her friend—a good-looking tall skinny Asian guy. About a week later, he'd seen her in the food court, again with that same guy. They way they leaned their heads together conspiratorially, they looked so intimate. Matt figured he must be her boyfriend.
The next time he saw her in the elevator, it was not so crowded. He was alone, when she got in, talking animatedly with two other women. She didn't seem to acknowledge him at all. But he'd finally gotten a chance to see her name on her photo ID tag: Tharika Jayasuriya. Matt tried not to stare. But he couldn't help stealing glances at Tharika. Her chocolate brown skin was absolutely flawless, and she always wore a little makeup that went with her clothes. On that day, she had a hint of purple eyeshadow to go with her blouse and a deep pink lipstick that made her lips look so deliciously kissable. She had deep dark eyes with a bright laughing expression. Her long silky black hair draped down her back and seemed to flow like water as she moved.
Since it was a hot September day, she was wearing a short skirt and strappy sandals, showing off perfectly pedicured toes and her long thin shapely legs, with that same smooth flawless chocolate brown skin that just called out to be touched. He imagined sliding his hands up those perfect legs...
Her petite frame was perfectly proportional, with round high breasts that were displayed nicely in her light purple blouse with a few buttons undone to provide a hint at her cleavage. He had no idea how old she was, but he would guess early twenties. She had not a hint of accent; she just sounded Canadian.
He was curious about her and frustrated by the fact that he didn't know anything about her.
What kind of name is Tharika Jayasuriya? What does she do here at the company? What does she like to do when she's not at work?
Nearly every time he saw her—whether in the elevator or the cafeteria or the food-court beneath their building—she was with that tall guy. Matt had read his ID badge too: Jason Cheung. She called him Jay. He called her Rika. Matt was sure they must be dating. Just looking at the way they were together, they had to have an intimate relationship. She touched him frequently when she spoke to him. They shared jokes. He made her laugh. Her face was so beautiful when she laughed. Matt felt a pang of jealousy. He knew it was completely irrational. He had no claim on her whatsoever. Yet, he wanted her to be touching him that way, to be laughing at his jokes, looking up at him with that beautiful smile and the twinkle in her deep dark eyes.
October 11, 2010
The company's Pride group was holding an event for National Coming Out Day. Matt and a few of his teammates decided to go to the event. One of his closest friends on the team, David, was already "out" but he explained to Matt that National Coming Out Day was about showing solidarity and support, making it okay for others to come out—if they wanted to. Matt knew he was clearly straight, but it didn't really matter to him what anyone else was. He knew how difficult it had been for some of his friends to come out in high school and university, so he was happy to go and support the cause with David.
The event was well attended with over a hundred and fifty people milling about the cafeteria, eating hors d'oeuvres, waiting for speeches to start. Matt noticed that Jason Cheung seemed to be one of the organizers. He asked David about it.
"Jay? Oh... he's so hot, isn't he?" David swooned. Matt just laughed.
"Oh right, you wouldn't think so," David chuckled, rolling his eyes. "Yeah, Jay's one of the leaders of the Pride group."
"You mean he's gay?" Matt asked incredulously.
"That's usually why you'd be leading a Pride group, isn't it?" David quipped with a good natured sarcasm.
"But he's always hanging out with that girl..."
As if on cue, Rika showed up at Jay's side.
"Rika," David supplied, nodding toward her.
Matt knew her name, but didn't want to be too obvious.
David laughed and added, "Yeah, they're practically joined at the hip aren't they?" Matt grunted his agreement.
David looked at Matt suspiciously for a moment then continued nodding towards them, "We were all in New Employee Orientation at the same time. They're on the same team. I think they just became fast friends."
"Gay?" David supplied, looking at Matt who was still staring at Rika. "No. At least I don't think so."
"Oh," Matt said softly, as it dawned on him that if Jay was gay, then he wasn't Rika's boyfriend. Maybe Rika doesn't have a boyfriend?
David watched Matt, his eyes narrowing for a moment, as Matt's eyes followed Rika around the room.
"Oh. You LIKE her, don't you?"
"No," Matt said a little too vehemently.
"C'mon, let's go talk to them," David said, starting to walk toward them with a mischievous grin.
Matt grabbed David's arm and pulled him back. "David, NO," he said a little too loudly. A few people around them looked over.
David regarded Matt. "Have you even spoken to her yet?"
"Ummmm," Matt hesitated and looked at the floor.
"Why the fuck not?"
"I just haven't had a reason to."
"Don't be such an idiot, Matt," David sighed, exasperation clear in his body language. "If you want her, just talk to her."
Matt just shrugged his shoulders.
David sighed. "You're hopeless. When exactly was the last time you got laid?"
"Nevermind," Matt sulked.
Matt rolled his eyes at David.
"Well... you want a reason to talk to her?" David asked. Matt raised his eyebrows hopefully and nodded.
"Go green," David said simply.
Matt furrowed his brows quizzically. "What?"
"She's an environmental activist. She leads the company Green Team. You know: the people who send out the Green Tip emails, and run all those campaigns to encourage us Neanderthals to be more environmentally friendly."
A huge smile spread across Matt's face.
"You're welcome," David said.
"Oh," Matt smiled. "I owe you one, David." Matt grinned even more broadly as he watched Rika flit around the room.
When they got back to their desks, Matt emailed the Green Team mailbox, saying he was new to the company, had heard about the Green Team, and wanted to get involved. Rika replied from the mailbox a few hours later, with an enthusiastic, "welcome to the team" message, and she sent him an invite to the next Green Team meeting—in two weeks.
Matt wasn't really an environmental activist, but he did try to do his part. He thought about his daily choices. He always recycled and commuted to work on the subway. Although, it helped that he worked over a subway station and lived two blocks from one.
But now he knew something about her—something she really cared about—and he finally had a reason to talk to her. He could barely wait for 2 weeks to pass.
He opened a browser window, and typed:"What does a Green Team do?" And he started to read:"Green Teams are informal groups of staff members from an office, department or organizational unit that meet regularly to educate themselves and their colleagues about sustainability... " He read and read, and as one link lead to another, he started to learn so much.
October 26, 2010
Matt walked into the Green Team meeting armed with notes and ideas jotted on the backs of discarded printouts. He'd tried to look his best today. He wore black pants and a black button down shirt that was un-tucked. His dark curly hair looked deliberately mussed. He'd caught more than one woman checking him out that day, so he felt good about how he looked.
Rika looked at him as soon as he walked into the meeting room. As he walked toward her, he felt as if she were watching him, but he couldn't be sure. He thought he saw her eyes travel over him and return to his face. He tried really hard not to let his eyes do the same, but he couldn't help noticing that she was wearing a thin dark green v-neck sweater that hugged her curves and showed a bit of cleavage. He deliberately pulled his eyes away from her chest and back to her face. When he walked up close to her, he was engulfed in the most tantalizing scent.
At this close range, he realized how much taller he was than her. Matt's lithe muscular frame towered over her tiny body. He approached her smiling an extra friendly smile, and he couldn't help the twinkle that was in his eyes.
"Hi, I'm Matt Riley," he said, extending his hand. She looked into his grey eyes, recognition leaping into her face as he mentioned his name.
She slid her hand into his. His big hand engulfed her tiny one. Her hand was warm and soft, her skin so smooth. He could have sworn she shivered as they shook hands, but perhaps he imagined it. She looked at him for a second and her eyes widened slightly until she averted her gaze and looked away. He watched as her gaze moved about his face, avoiding his eyes. He wondered why she did that.
"Oh, right!" she exclaimed, perhaps recognizing his name from their email exchange, he thought. "From the twentieth floor, right?" she added. Her gaze darted back to his eyes and quickly away again.
"That's right," he said, smiling broadly.
She looked back into his eyes again and smiled warmly.
"Welcome," she said. "We're always glad to have new members."
Matt took a seat at the conference table, as people gathered in the room. Many greeted each other or Rika as they assembled.
He watched Rika as she dialed into the conference call. He watched the way her delicate hand moved on the keys of the polycom phone. He watched her face, as the automated voice asked for her name. Her melodious voice made him feel warm inside as her name rolled off her tongue, "Tharika Jayasuriya."
He couldn't help staring at her as she talked. But as she led the meeting, he developed a new level of admiration for her. He was immediately impressed with how she took control of the meeting, how she encouraged everyone to participate, and mostly by her level of expertise and professionalism.
After the meeting, Matt went back to his desk and started researching everything Rika had talked about with which he was not familiar. His search led him to increasingly interesting sites, and he started learning more about environmental sustainability.
March 7, 2011
In the past few months, Matt found he had made many changes in his life because of the things he was learning from Rika. He had started carrying a travel mug with him in his knapsack, so he wouldn't have to get disposable cups when he bought coffee. He had started buying almost entirely eco-friendly products, like Seventh Generation. He had started gently reminding his friends when they were making poor environmental choices. He even found himself becoming judgmental of those who behaved the way he had, just a few short months ago.
Matt had also become much more active in researching ways to help Rika with sustainability initiatives at work, and then he always came to the Green Team Meetings prepared with suggestions. He loved seeing that light in her eyes and that beautiful smile come to her face every time he made a suggestion or took on a task that needed doing.
Matt tried to make the most of every conversation he had with Rika. In one-on-one conversations, he would ask her personal questions. He started by just throwing in easy seemingly innocuous questions like commuting and purchasing habits, but managed to get more personal as time wore on.
Whenever possible, Matt would go to Rika's desk to give her an update on things he'd been working on. He knew he could send an email or instant message, but he always wanted to see her in person whenever he could. It gave him an opportunity to see her beautiful face and to ask more questions of her.
This day, Matt could smell Rika's intoxicating perfume as he walked up to her cubicle. It always caused his pulse to quicken and thoughts... so many thoughts... to swirl through his head in a matter of moments. He pulled himself together and walked into her cubicle, greeting her cheerily. After he had given his update on earth day planning tasks, he told her a bit about what he had been researching and asked if she could suggest any reading material.
"Ishmael." She said simply. "You have to read it."
"Yeah. It's a great book. The full title is Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit, by Daniel Quinn. Ray Anderson says he has read the book seven times. But it wasn't the first book he read on sustainability. He got his epiphany from reading Paul Hawken's The Ecology of Commerce. That's a good one too. Then someone recommended Ishmael and he said he's read it seven times."
Matt watched as her face got animated and her eyes showed that happy glow as she began to talk about it. It made her look so beautiful. Between the scent of her perfume washing over him, and the glow in her face, Matt had restrain himself from moving in closer to her.
"Ummm. Sorry. Who is Ray Anderson?" Matt asked.
"Oh. Sorry. He's the CEO of Interface Flor." She got even more excited as she began to speak about someone she obviously had a great deal of respect and admiration for. "I've heard him speak four times and actually got to meet him once. Interface is the biggest carpet manufacturer in the world."
"What does a carpet manufacturer have to do with environmental sustainability?"
"Exactly! See that's what's so cool about it! Interface is a carpet and flooring manufacturer that is doing amazing things in environmental sustainability. I mean Incredible. You know what the number one input to carpet manufacturing is?"
"Petroleum! But see, they've done amazing things. Like they invented carpet tiles, so you only have to replace small sections of warn or soiled tiles, instead of the whole carpet. They were the first to recycle carpet. They have all these innovative programs to capture emissions and reuse them to fuel their plants. Like in one of their plants in the States, they actually capture methane from a local dump and pump it like nine miles to their plant and use it as fuel. Did you know methane is twenty times worse than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas?"
"Hmmm," Matt knew that once Rika got on a roll like this, he only had to nod, smile and listen, and she would keep going.
"Well, actually, people debate about how much worse methane is, but that's another story." She smiled like she'd just told an inside joke, and continued, "But the point is, it's a win win win situation. The company works with the city to have access to the dump. The city is happy because the dump reduces faster and doesn't pollute the surrounding residential areas with a bad smell. The company gets cheap fuel, and of course, there's the environmental benefit of keeping methane out of the atmosphere."
"Cool," Matt said, nodding. He loved the way she got so animated when she talked about this.
"Yeah," she acknowledged his response. "Anyway, Ray Anderson is such an incredibly inspirational speaker. Now that he's completely transformed his company, he goes around the world speaking to others promoting sustainability. In one of his speeches, he was asked what inspired him and he mentioned Hawken's book and then he said he's read Ishmael seven times. I wrote down the name of it and thought, 'wow, I want to read the book that Ray Anderson has read seven times'".
"I'll bet," Matt watched her eyes sparkle as she talked. He loved how her lips moved and curved into that beautiful smile as she looked up at him, briefly, to punctuate certain points.
"I can see why he's read it seven times," Rika continued. "It's the kind of book that presents a completely different paradigm—a different way of looking at... well... life. But yet, as impactful as it is on your consciousness, it's easy to fall back into your old ways of thinking. I can see why he would read it over and over again. In fact, I'll bring it to you tomorrow and you can see for yourself."