Andrea sat at the large formal reception desk staring at her blood red nails and scrutinizing her cuticles. With the stark fluorescent lights overhead and the big glass foyer windows to her right, she could see the nail technician had made a hack job of her beautiful nails. She tutted and sighed to herself, the noise reverberating around the large office lobby. She hid her hands on her lap and wondered why was it so hard to get good customer service these days? Has no one got any pride in their work or their appearance, she mused as she noticed the bicycle courier striding towards her.
His brown hair was tied in a low ponytail at the back of his head, yet somehow, many locks of hair still managed to cover his face. The escaped locks blended with his beard so only his piercing blue eyes could be seen on his face. Like a polished news reporter awaiting her cue, Andrea straightened back her shoulders, smoothed her freshly blow dried hair with her hand and greeted the courier warmly.
“Welcome to Kelbank, how can I help you?”
“Package for Lisa Sampson,” the courier grumbled while fidgeting over his shoulder into his black plastic satchel. He never made eye contact or acknowledged Andrea’s beaming face. Previously, the rudeness of the couriers would bother Andrea. She couldn’t understand why they never looked up at her as she spoke or why they never entered into polite conversation or even to remark on the weather. She had later learned, from Tom the security guard, that these couriers were paid by the number of jobs they delivered and so to them, time really was money.
“No problems, where would you like me to sign?” Andrea answered. The hairy courier offered an electronic screen and Andrea traced her well-practiced signature across the device.
“Thanks,” the courier called, as he strode hurriedly out of the reception area, already onto his next job.
Andrea examined the light brown cardboard box with interest. Lisa Sampson was one of the bank’s rising stars. She was always first into the office and Andrea had never actually seen her leave it. From what Andrea could gather, Lisa had never taken a holiday either. Many of Lisa’s colleagues would often speak about this and her in a very uncomplimentary way. She was often referred to as a “ball buster” or they would inquire as to “who did she think she was”. Andrea often wondered why the employees of Kelbank never remarked about Lisa’s peers in a similar fashion. No one ever questioned Andrew Scott or Neil Patel’s ball busting capabilities!
As Andrea turned the cardboard box over in her hands and turned to place it onto the shelf behind, she noticed some writing in the bottom corner. In small black bold letters, it simply said, MELO. After 30 years of accepting parcels and packages on behalf of the employees of Kelbank, Andrea had become remarkably familiar with the latest brands and trends of online shopping. She knew exactly where to get designer handbags at discounted prices or which site sold the most popular protein powders. However, MELO was a new name to add to the list. Andrea reminded herself to google it later and check out what they might be offering for the young rising star of Kelbank. As Andrea swivelled to face the front of the office, Lisa Sampson arrived at the reception desk.
” Andrea, do you have a package for me please?” Her matter of fact tones snapped Andrea out of her inquisitive thoughts.
“Certainly, Lisa here you go. I hope it’s something nice.”
“Thanks,” Lisa smiled, taking the box and immediately shoving it into her over-sized handbag. Andrea watched as Lisa strode away purposefully towards the lifts. Lisa was an attractive woman, but Andrea often thought she would be more attractive if she embraced her femininity a bit more. Lisa often covered up her natural curves and sizeable bosom with ill-fitting shirts and baggy suit trousers. Her hair style, rather than being feathered and soft to highlight her features, was cut in a severe and angular way so that her strong nose took over her small pretty face.
Andrea sighed and turned back to her computer screen, rubbing the bridge of her nose with her fingers. Maybe she was just old fashioned and not able to keep up with the young employees of Kelbank like she used to. She had tried to embrace the latest fashion trends but always found herself returning to the comfort of a neat fitted skirt and an ironed blouse for her work wardrobe.
* * * * * *
Lisa clutched her handbag like she was carrying the crown jewels in it and waited anxiously for the lift to arrive. She could not wait to get back to the safety of her office and rip open the package. It had been a month since she had placed the order, but it had felt like a lifetime waiting for it to arrive. Lisa smiled to herself; it actually had been her whole life that led to this moment. Excitement began to build inside her. Her lips twitched as she tried to hide her smile and she shifted from foot to foot to make use of her extra energy.
As Lisa stepped out of the lift and strode towards her office, she prayed no one would interrupt her on the way. She kept her head down, desperate not to make eye contact while her stride became a little shy of a jog. Lisa reached the safety of her office, closed the door and leant her back against it. The coolness of the door dried her back, which she just noticed had been perspiring. She let out a long sigh; she hadn’t even realized that she had been holding her breath. Taking three deep breaths she steadied herself and went to sit behind her white desk. She cleared the Financial Times and pushed back her keyboard to make room for the small brown cardboard box and placed it in front of her.
” Here goes nothing….” Lisa said out loud to herself and ripped open the package.
* * * * *
The next day Andrea sat behind the large reception desk at Kelbank and busied herself with invoices. She was deeply absorbed in the work, figuring out why she had two invoices for one set of ink cartridges.
“Package for Lisa Sampson.”
Andrea jumped. The hairy courier had appeared in front of her again. He again fidgeted over his shoulder to retrieve the package. Flustered at being caught off guard and unable to give her usual greeting, Andrea quickly signed for the package without uttering a word. As she took the package, she noticed it was identical to the one from yesterday. A small light brown cardboard box, with the word MELO written in black lettering, in just one corner. She placed it behind her and turned to her computer and googled MELO.
After 20 minutes of frantic clicking, Andrea’s search uncovered nothing of any substance. References to an American Basketball player and an Italian restaurant in Western Sydney were all that she could find on MELO. Andrea became increasingly disheartened, she used to know everything, about everyone within the walls of Kelbank. Nothing got past her but now it seems her detective skills were beginning to slow, along with her tired body.
Later that afternoon, Lisa Sampson appeared at the reception desk to collect her package. She thanked Andrea and similar to yesterday, thrust the small box straight into her over-sized handbag.
“Have a nice afternoon,” Andrea said, smiling at her.
Lisa hesitated at the reception desk as she noticed Andrea’s genuine smile and warmth. She never felt any warmth from the other employees of Kelbank. She wanted to say something, to tell Andrea about her package but something stopped her. She thanked Andrea again and hurried back to her office alone.
* * * * *
Every day for the next few months, Andrea, Lisa, and the hairy courier performed the same ritual. Every day the package was passed between them, pleasantries exchanged, and no-one mentioned what might be in the small light brown cardboard box. Andrea was beginning to think this ritual was becoming very odd, when just as suddenly as it had started, it stopped. One day she realized she hadn’t seen the courier or Lisa Sampson for a week. Andrea called out to Andrew Scott, as he stumbled back into the office after another boozy lunch.
” Is Lisa Sampson in the office today?” she inquired.
“No, she’s off for 6 weeks, thank god,” the beers at lunch loosening his tongue. Andrea couldn’t believe it – the workaholic Lisa Sampson had finally taken a holiday! Good for her, Andrea thought to herself, as she watched Andrew steady himself against the wall as he waited for the lift.
A few weeks later, Andrea welcomed the hairy courier back to the Kelbank reception desk, with her usual warm greeting.
“Package for Luke Sampson,” he said, smiling and looking directly at Andrea. Andrea signed for the package, delighted that after months, the courier was finally willing to acknowledge her. She signed for the package and wished him a good afternoon. Her zealous response seemingly caused him to smirk! Andrea really couldn’t figure out these guys at all she thought, as she turned back to her computer to look up the staff directory.
Luke Sampson must be one of the new contractors, in to help with the large IT project, she surmised as she typed in the name and began searching for the new employee. Her lips slightly twitched with irritation as she typed. How had she missed a new employee? Her radar of Kelbank’s activities really was beginning to slip. Some might have called her a gossip, as she often enquired as to who people were, or looking up what their packages were but to Andrea, information was power. To be a great receptionist, you needed to know everything and everyone to truly be effective.
“Hi Andrea, can I collect my package please?” said a deep voice from the other side of the reception desk.
Andrea turned with a jolt as she looked up at the man who had interrupted her search. She stared at the man in front of her, he was very familiar, yet she could not remember his name. She could not work out where she knew him from.
“I’m very sorry sir but could you remind me of your name please, my old age is starting to kick in” Andrea responded, embarrassed at yet another senile moment.
“It’s Luke Sampson,” he answered. His eyes earnestly searched Andrea’s face for recognition, his fingers fidgeting with his over-sized black briefcase. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other anxiously, as if he had too much energy to contain.
” Ah yes, your package has just been delivered.” Andrea turned and retrieved the package. She passed the small light brown cardboard box to the gentleman in front of her.
As Luke took the box and placed it into his over-sized black briefcase, Andrea noticed the small black bold lettering in the bottom corner of the cardboard box, MELO. With a gasp Andrea’s hand flew to her mouth and now she realized where she knew Luke Sampson from.
“Nice to see you again,” Andrea said with her usual warmth.
As she turned back to her computer, Andrea let out a big breath. She thought she had seen everything in her 30 years at Kelbank but today was another first. She giggled to herself as she turned back to her invoices; maybe she wasn’t becoming too slow after all. Maybe after all these years, she still had some things to learn about the goings on in Kelbank.
Luke walked away from the reception desk with a lightness in his step. If old fashioned Andrea could be so warm, then hopefully everyone else will be too.