بعد عقد اجتماعٍ إثرَ حملةٍ لتحسين ظروف العمل، يختفي هاتف أوفيليا الخليوي. خلال بحثها عنه تتفتح عيناها وتدرك بأن بعض زملائها لا يرونها مرأى المساواة بينهم
Ofelia stopped in front of the screen at the bus stop to search for her bus on the list. Seventy three… three minutes, she read. She reached into her bag looking for her phone. Oh, no, where did I leave it? She ran back to the house in the corner and rang the bell. Luckily somebody was still there. She thanked the woman’s voice that opened with the buzzer and ran into the meeting room that she had left some few minutes before. She remembered how Charlie had stopped talking during the meeting, when she disagreed with his point. When Charlie got quiet his physical change was so subtle. Only recently she had learned to interpret that pink cheeks could mean annoyance or anger. In Nicaragua, that would have been expressed by an angry voice and fiery eyes. Maybe, it would have involved a grand discussion. Eventually, after the discussion, everybody would have clarified their perspectives and a common conclusion would have been reached. A stitch in time saves nine, she had always repeated to herself remembering her mother’s words. But Charlie had just gone silent. He had shown his irritation with her accent and expressiveness before, more so after the referendum. Every day he was more openly unfriendly. Ofelia’s point was dismissed anyway. She also remembered when she joined the group. Her comrades were amazed about her solidarity with their cause to fight against employers’ use of zero-hour contracts. “It is my cause too”, she said, but she feel treated as an outsider, not one of them.
All my life depends on a mobile phone, she thought, almost crying while searching on tables and chairs, and under all of them. She clearly remembered that she had left her mobile on the table where she was chatting with Jess, Charlie’s girlfriend, at the end of the meeting. She hurried to the loo to do her thing in the minimum required time. I came back, and took my backpack. I must have taken my mobile too… Back from the toilet, Charlie was chatting with Jess, and forcibly smiled at Ofelia. Together, they had all gone out of the building with other members of the group. Outside they dispersed. She turned left towards the bus stop, some turned right, the rest of them walked straight ahead into a small street.
After the futile search, Ofelia pulled the heavy wooden door to close and jumped on the sidewalk. I will reach them! I need my mobile. She ran for two streets, moving her head and her eyes in all possible directions. To her relief, she saw Jess, Charlie and their friend Hannah through the window, inside a small Tesco. It was a miracle. The kind of thing that you want to happen, but cannot believe that could actually happen. Her friends were scanning the shelves in one of the isles. She approached them: “I am so lucky to find you!”. Hannah smiled at such an intense show of excitement. “Hi”, answered Jess as her cheeks turned pink. A new pink that must have had another meaning. “Sorry, did you see my mobile?” Charlie interrupted: “No, we have not”. “Well, thank you, I was hoping that maybe you had seen it or taken it by mistake… well, thank you”. Ofelia kissed them goodbye. As she turned at the end of the isle, her eye caught Charlie wiping his cheek with his sleeve. She wandered around other isles, not knowing what to do. She was going to go out with other friends that evening, but she did not have any of their numbers, so she would have to miss the outing. She was really upset. Then, she saw kiwis in one of the fridges, and decided to buy some things she needed. She went to pick up a basket, and saw through the window that Jess and Charlie were arguing. She could almost read his lips: “Damn it, I won’t”. Then they walked away. Hannah had apparently left before.
The following day, she went to the library and read an email from Charlie: “You won’t believe it, but your mobile turned up in my bag”. He had taken my mobile! That is what they were discussing in front of the super market. Bastard! Why? Then she remembered that the year before her boss had hidden her papers from the Home Office to force her into accepting his new job proposal with increased workload and reduced salary. Ofelia’s tears of impotence made trails on her cheeks to match the drops running down outside the window.