Ramona no longer cried at the sound of running water. She realized this after an extensive hand scrubbing session in the ladies restroom. Steven's aroma was gone from her hands now, like he had disappeared from her life.
Back at her cubicle she was relieved that there was no tuna fish can on her chair. The prank started after she and Steven started dating. Now that it was over, people had lost interest in their daily routine of torture and ridicule.
At lunch she sat alone at a small table next to the atrium window. An untended garden struggled to survive in pale light from a plastic dome on the roof. Small pebbles and dirty sand reminded her of the beach where she and Steven first met.
It wasn’t long after she started at the office when a coworker invited her to a house party by the lake. She rode up with her friend Leslie but was abandoned by the other girl in favor of some guy with a hundred gold chains around his neck. Ramona left the house and went for a walk to get away from the boring conversations.
The sun had set but it was still very warm, so she took off her shoes and walked in the shallow surf to cool off her feet. She started skipping stones across the dark water. Then someone began throwing them back at her. It was the first of many things that Steven had in common with Ramona.
She began visiting him every weekend and before she knew what was happening she was digging a pond in the back yard and filling it with fish.
“Hi Ramona. Mind if I join you?”
Ramona looked up at the tall girl standing next to her table. Leslie pulled out the other chair and sat down without waiting for an answer.
“I’m sorry we haven’t talked in awhile, but I wanted to tell you how bad I feel that you and Steven broke up.”
It was the first time Leslie had said anything to her since the day Ramona was forced into moving to the cubicle in the far corner. The other girls had complained about the odor of sundried fish that followed her everywhere. Leslie had failed to speak up for her friend and the two of them had avoided each other ever since.
“It’s a shame because he seemed to be really good for you. I mean, you started wearing all those bright colors, and makeup too, though a bit too thick for my taste. It was nice seeing you blossom like that.”
Ramona thought about Steven’s poor eyesight and how she had worn the bright colors so he could see her. She hated explaining those things about him, so she kept quiet and nibbled at her sandwich.
“I was hoping you’d let me take you out for a drink after work. Maybe it will help get your mind off of things.”
Ramona looked through the small glass window. The barren landscape made her thirsty so she accepted Leslie’s offer.
They met at a small bar near the diner where Ramona used to get the day old doughnuts that Steven loved so much. It was a dark lounge with red leather chairs and electric candlelight chandeliers above every table.
After ordering their drinks they slid into one of the sticky booths and stared at each other. It took a second round for the conversation to really get going and by their third drink they were laughing and talking about everyone in the office.
Ramona smiled at Leslie for being so considerate. The drinks did take recent events off of her mind and she was happy to have her old friend back.
Leslie gave Ramona a ride so she wouldn’t have to take the bus home. When they got there Leslie needed to use the bathroom despite Ramona’s insistence that the house was a mess.
They went inside and Leslie wasted no time throwing her purse onto the couch and running down the hallway to take care of her business. When Ramona sat down, a can of tuna fish rolled out of the open clutch. She looked at it and felt the anger well up inside of her. Steven had said that Leslie could not be trusted and he was always right about his feelings.
Running into the kitchen, Ramona placed the can on the counter, walked out to the back yard and started crying. Steven had left her with all of these responsibilities and she had hoped her friend would be willing to help her out.
Something in the pond began splashing around and Ramona remembered she had forgotten about supper.
“Are you out here Ramona?”
Leslie saw the other girl wiping the tears from her face.
“Oh Ramona, you have to get over him. I lied earlier. I know he was no good for you. I ran into your mother one day and she told me that Steven was a real snake.”
“He wasn’t a snake. He was a sea serpent.”
“A what? What’s the difference?”
Ramona wanted to tell her about his colorful fins and gills and how most snakes couldn’t even talk, but Steven spoke four languages. Instead she grabbed the other girl by the wrist and threw her into the pond.
“Oh my God! Are you crazy? What the hell is the matter with you? Help me out of here – Oh My God! Something’s biting me. It’s biting! Help me!”
After watching the girl thrash around for a few minutes, Ramona returned to the kitchen and shut the back door. Being a single mother was going to be tough now that Steven was gone, but with a little help from friends like Leslie the burden might not be so tough to bear.
“That's the difference between a snake and a sea serpent you bitch.”
Then she opened the can of tuna and made herself a sandwich for the next day’s lunch.