Contributor: Kevin Pierce

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A man walks up to my desk with a small girl in tow. I glance up just enough to see that his shirt and pants are dirty, a contrast to the girl’s Sunday-best blue dress.
“Name?” I ask.
“Margaret Brooks.” he says.
I press the button on my intercom and restate the name. “One moment, sir.”
The man places his hand on my desk and leans over. I can feel that his face is close to mine. “How long will we have?” he asks.
I focus on his dirty shirt. “One minute.”
“But I have so much to say.” His voice shakes.
I sigh. “So do they.” I say, gesturing behind him to the endless line of fidgeting onlookers.
He straightens up. “You’re right, of course. One more question. Does she know?”
I look up at his face for the first time. His mouth is drawn tight, and looks like he could use a shave. His eyes are at once open wide and sharply focused as they meet my own. “No.” I say, looking down and pressing the button on my intercom. “One minute.”
A woman’s voice rings out from the speaker. “Hello? Roy, is that you?”
The man moves forward and kneels down, face to face with the intercom. “Yeah, Maggie, it’s me. Clara’s here too.”
The girl’s face brightens. “Hi Mommy, it’s me.” she says.
The woman laughs. “I’d know your voice in a second, sweetie. Have you been a good girl for Daddy?”
“Yes, Mommy, of course. He’s been letting me stay up late and even let me skip school today – it’s been so much fun! His cooking isn’t as good as yours though. I miss you – will you come home soon?”
“Of course, baby. They told me it’s all going to be okay, and that I’ll be home in a couple of days.”
I look up at the man in front of me again. His eyes are wild, brimming with tears as they dart around the room. His fists clench as he turns to his daughter. “Say goodbye to Mommy.” he says. “I’d like to talk to her now.”
The girl nods enthusiastically. “Daddy wants to talk to you now.” she says. “I love you, and I’ll see you soon. Bye bye!”
“Bye bye back, Clara. Mommy loves you.” says the woman. “How are you, Roy? I hope it hasn’t been too much of a hassle while I’ve been away.”
The man’s fists begin to shake, but his voice remains steady. “It’s been no trouble at all, Mags. Listen, I just wanted to say how sorry I am about all of this. All the arguments, everything – you wouldn’t be there if not for me.”
“Oh honey, don’t be sorry.” says the woman. “It hasn’t been bad at all – like a vacation, really. And I’ve never missed you so much. In a way, I needed this. I can’t wait to see you.”
The man swallows hard. “I can’t wait to see you either.”
“Ten seconds.” I whisper.
“I – I have to go now – our time is up.” says the man. “I love you so much.”
“I love you too.” says the woman.
The moment she finishes the phrase, I press the button on the intercom, silencing it. I scan the list on my desk, crossing off the woman’s name to the sound of sobbing in front of me. Looking past the man, I gesture to two large men behind him to escort him out. I take a deep breath and look back at my list.

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Kevin Pierce is a recent college graduate and amateur writer. He recently finished his first novella, and also writes short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. He is currently working on his first novel-length work.
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