Ryan sagged in his chair and drove the heels of his palms into his eye sockets. The most messed up hour of his life and it wasn’t about to end any time soon.
And naturally, Matt would have to be there to rub it in his face.
“You realize you just signed on for 24-7 duty to that pill? Voluntarily!”
Ryan turned around. Matt wasn’t the only one witnessing his fall from sanity. Madi stood in the doorway, a worried look on her face. She was looking over the mess on the screens, the security feeds which were not going away – and could not until Ryan made this work – and at him like she was about to start crying. Not that he blamed her. If he were a chick, he’d probably cry to see this too.
“It’s okay, Mad, I got this.”
“You can’t stay here night and day.”
“I’ll… improvise. I can come up with some sort of standby setting.” But that wouldn’t be for a couple of days.
“Don’t worry, man, we got your back,” Matt said. “I saw a dusty old cot in the store room from the early days. We can fit it in here no problem.” Funny as ever. Bastard. He’d probably done this to get a laugh out of it.
“Thanks a lot.”
Matt shrugged humbly. “I live to serve.”
Madi punched him in the arm hard enough to make him yelp and dragged him away. Ryan took a breather before he seriously sat down with the code. A facility full of programmers under normal circumstances could have this done in a day. But these weren’t normal circumstances and he was pretty much on his own.
Ten and a half hours later, He’d put in two grocery orders, one food delivery, adjusted the house temperature, set timers to record shows on TV, sprinkled the lawn, wrote three letters of resignation to Celia and discarded each. He was going on five cups of coffee and two saltine crackers, his eyes were watering and his hands cramping.
But the environmental systems were up and linked so he didn’t have to physically monitor them anymore and he had a standby for the night that would record whatever orders Victoria Marlow gave like messages so he could replay them in the morning and do her bidding.
He learned a bit about her, too. She had a closet full of shoes but walked around barefoot. She had a house big enough for a family but she lived alone. She had a state of the art entertainment system in the living room but she spent most of her time in a little den with a worn rug in front of the fire place, e-reader in hand.
It was purely selfish to note all those things. Knowing it meant he could adjust the heating system to keep the floors warm so she wouldn’t complain of cold feet. He could concentrate his efforts in just a couple of rooms in the house where she actually lived and he knew to have the TV set to stream an e-book webpage when it was turned on, instead of trying to guess her favorite channel. It made his life just the slightest bit easier.
Someone had brought him the cot and Madi had gone to his place to get him a pillow and blanket and his toothbrush. Ryan Hotels and Resorts was now officially open for business.
God, he didn’t even realize how exhausted he was until he stopped. Someone had brought him a microwaved dinner which had already gone cold but he ate it anyway, starved for any kind of sustenance. The Marlow house was quiet now. Night lights were on, security engaged, windows and doors closed for the night, except for the bedroom window she’d left slightly ajar to let in the night air.
It was late. Everyone else had already left, with the exception of a handful of night owls keeping an eye on the other side of the globe. Ryan had used to think they’d pulled the short straw. Not so much anymore.
He watched Victoria – after all she’d put him through today he was not about to address her by anything but her first name – cook herself dinner and read for a while. Watched her emerge from the bathroom in a man’s t-shirt and shorts, put on lotion and climb into bed. When the lights turned off, he watched her sleep until his eyelids became too heavy to hold up anymore.
With the ready made cot calling his name, Ryan fell asleep at his desk to the sight of Victoria curling on her side as though cold.
He dreamed of winter and snow, in a bleak, empty landscape with symbols and codes shining above him like stars.
Virtual Copyright 2011 Alianne Donnelly, all rights reserved, may not be reprinted or reproduced in any manner, written, electronic, or otherwise without express permission from Alianne Donnelly.