No prompt used.
The challenge: 1) Omit one of these elements: filter words, thought words, adverbs, bland verbs and 2) include one of these elements: a bargain, a liminal space, a sacrifice, a stranger.
I chose to exclude filter words and include a stranger.
Raiyo did his best to ignore the shaking of his hands and the uncomfortable feeling of sweat soaking his clothes. If he squeezed his hands together to keep them from shaking and ignored the rest of the issues, perhaps he could make it through his first meeting with the whole department without embarrassing himself.
As his turn to stand up and tell what he had been up to closed in on him, Raiyo thanked his past self for his wise decision of wearing a black shirt.
On the opposite side of the table, one of the coworkers caught his attention when they stood up. The man — their boss, Brian, had addressed them as Levi — sported a plastered, awkward smile on his ghastly pale face and gray eyes that darted all across the room even before he spoke up.
“So, uh…” Levi eyed the other people present. “It’s the same old for me. I have nothing new to report. Everything’s on schedule on my end.”
“You have been here with us for two years now, correct? Have you considered moving up in the hierarchy?” Brian’s question made Levi squirm ever so slightly.
Levi’s eyes were fixed on the conference table in front of Brian instead of the man himself when he answered. “I’m comfortable where I am now. The pay and workload I have right now are perfectly suitable for my lifestyle.”
Brian’s eyebrows shot up. “Don’t you have any ambition?”
“Uh… No?” Levi’s demeanor was picking up higher levels of awkwardness every minute he had to stand and answer to Brian’s questions in front of everyone. “I don’t know what to do with my life.”
Raiyo’s heart jumped at those words; they resonated with him. He had no idea what he wanted to do with his life, either.
Who was this awkward man who seemed to be just as nervous, uncomfortable and aimless as him — and let it show?
In the silence that ensued as Brian tried to come up with something to say, Raiyo made his decision. He wanted to get to know this man and learn how he dealt with life.
Brian’s eyes lit up. Levi’s own widened a little, as if in anticipation of an unpleasant idea to be launched at him.
“I actually have an idea on what new you could do. We have a new recruit, Raiyo,” Brian gestured at Raiyo, who paled when all the eyes turned to him, “who comes from the same studying background as you. He’s currently studying at the local university. You could help with training him and perhaps even his studies. Of course, that would mean that you get a raise.”
Levi stood in place, frozen. Raiyo could have sworn that the poor man’s face got even paler than it already was. Everyone’s attention was fixed on the awkward man again, and the silence increased the pressure each second.
Levi turned to make eye contact with Raiyo. Raiyo gave him a small, awkward smile, a feeble attempt at saying “I’m awkward as well”.
Levi turned back to Brian. “Very well. I’ll do it. Can you get the paperwork for adding that to my contract done today?”
“Absolutely!” Brian grinned. “Thank you, Levi. Myra, do you mind if we skip to Raiyo now that I brought him up?”
Raiyo froze. While Levi did his best to sit down without making any noises, the woman next to him replied, “Of course not. Go ahead, Raiyo.”
Raiyo took a deep breath through his nose and stood up, then plastered a less awkward but just as fake smile on his face. “Hi everyone. I’m Raiyo. Umm… I started here three days ago, so I’ve spent my time training until now.” As he got nothing more than nods, he sat down, relieved.
The rest of the meeting went in a blur as Levi and Raiyo eyed one another, both confused and intrigued by the other’s actions. They could not wait to get out of the meeting to learn more about each other.
Who are you, awkward stranger?