Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Blood Drive

"Come on, John, you should join us!" Chris strutted down the hallway with a girl on either arm, leading them to the conference room that held the yearly blood drive.

He'd started working mere weeks after the previous year's blood drive, and still didn't fully fit in with his coworkers. As a whole, he never had socialized with his coworkers, and they kept insisting on trying to drag him down to donate with them, but he wouldn't, couldn't go. Only they never let him explain.

Chris came back around to his cubicle, the girls gone, thirty minutes later. "Alright, they left, but the blood drive staff will be back later this week, and you're not getting out of it this time."

"Chris, I told you. I can't donate."

"Oh, stop that. If you want to fit in here better, donating blood will help that. You don't have a condition that prevents you from donating, do you?"

"No, but--"

"Being frightened of needles is nothing to be ashamed of."

"But I'm not--"

"John, stop making excuses. If making excuses is what you do to get out of things, you're not going to be able to keep working here. The leads and supervisors don't put up with excuses if you don't get your work done on time, and donating blood puts you in an even better light."

He tried to turn away, get back to his work which was slowly piling up around him, but Chris grabbed the back of his chair.

"You're not running away. You will donate on Friday, even if we have to drag you down to the conference room. You'll thank us later," he whispered in John's ear, before pulling away and returning to his own desk.

~

The week passed slowly, even as busy as he was. Everyone else got along together, even the newer staff that joined after John. He knew the material, worked well, the supervisors liked his attitude, but he didn't socialize with coworkers. Work was work and socializing was done in the time left over, which was never very much time.

A shadow stood close behind him, breaking his reverie, but he didn't turn around. It always threw off people when he didn't get nervous with someone looking over his shoulder, even when it could potentially be the president of the company. Warm breath slid over his ear, and he knew who it was.

"Why won't you join us, John?" Katie whispered in his ear.

"Join you what?" He really didn't want to know, and knew what this was probably about anyway, but knew she wanted him to ask.

"Donate blood of course. And afterward, I could show you my special way of getting your strength back."

"I can't."

"You can't? But why not? Wouldn't you like to come back to my place and let me help you out? You work too much, you need to relax. Just join us for a pint." She giggled at her joke.

Katie made for nice eye-candy, but he didn't try for anything. He knew he didn't have a chance, and he didn't mix business and pleasure even if he thought he had one. "No. I'm not going to come."

She sighed, and he could almost hear her pouting. "I'd rather you walked over there and just did it, John, but if Chris ends up dragging you, my offer is null and void."

"I'm not going to donate, and I'm not interested in your offer."

"Keep telling yourself that, and maybe you'll feel better. Maybe."

John could picture her walking away, waiting for him to turn and glance at her, knowing she'd probably wink and toss her hair dramatically. He took off his glasses, rubbed his eyes, and then tried to get back to work, but someone else stomped up behind his chair, spun it around, and there was Chris.

"Johnny boy, Johnny boy. We hate to do this, but it's for your own good." Two other guys stood behind him, and John knew them both, but hadn't bothered learning their names; he wasn't very good with names, so there was little sense remembering those of someone he didn't have to interact with regularly.

John stood, and stared them down.

Chris backed off a step. "Whoa there boy, we're not going to hurt you. Just going to escort you down to the nurse's office and make sure you don't get lost."

John scowled, bent to his computer, locking it down, and then strode off toward the blood drive conference room.

~

In front of the room was a desk, and behind that desk was a nurse who wore a familiar face. "John, is that you? I didn't know you worked here."

John's scowl fell and he smiled back at her. "Almost coming up on a year. Barely missed you guys last year."

"What are you doing here? I mean, obviously you're working but I mean, here?" she gestured to the space in front of her desk.

Chris stepped in front of John. "He's here to donate."

She laughed. "John, you can't donate here."

"I know. I've been trying to tell them, but they won't let me explain."

The nurse came around the desk and put a hand on his shoulder. "Relax, honey, their hearts are in the right place. Boys: John can't donate because he's not eligible yet. He's a regular donor, and has been donating with us since he turned sixteen, every fifty-six days like clockwork. You boys should look up to his example, instead of just donating when the drive comes to your work so you have a reason to sluff off and not get anything done."

Their jaws didn't drop, but from the expressions on their faces, they might as well have. The trio shuffled away, tails between their legs, to get back to the work piling up on their desks.

"How long until we see you next, John?"

"Four weeks. I'm already scheduled."

"Want us to give this place credit for it?"

"Sure, but just this once."

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