Jane Johnson is Plain Jane to everyone in her life, even herself. She longs for some excitement to penetrate her life with the full thrust of change. Her wish is granted when she wins a contest she doesn’t remember entering and finds herself aboard a fashionable cruise liner with a rich, handsome neighbor in the next suite. He’s in possession of a most unusual book that fills her with a deep, sensual longing she can’t overcome. A desire that threatens to swallow her in sweet, sensual dreams.
I’d never known such delicious desire, such ravenous, lustful wonder, until that book fell into my hands. And it literally fell into my hands.
But my story starts before that, at the office where I worked. It was one of those steel prisons where people live their entire lives in small, gray cubicles. Human interaction is a choice, pay increases a dream, and advancement a lie. I worked on the thirteenth floor, and everyone joked that people on that floor were especially cursed to boring lives. I was proof enough of that. Even my name was plain Jane. Jane Johnson. I toiled my days under a plain name in a plain office in my plain job and life. Never did I believe anything wondrous, anything wonderful could come to me, but somehow it did. Maybe it was fate, but I had a feeling something had its tendril in the matter.
I sat in my cubicle typing up a report on my computer with a stack of more paperwork beside me when a shadow fell over me.
It belonged to the bully of the floor, Stimson. He was a burly guy with a sneer on his lips and a leer in his eyes. He leaned against the entrance to my cubicle and looked me over.
“So what’s Plain Jane doing this weekend?” he asked me.
“Nothing. . .” I mumbled.
“What’s that? I can’t hear you over how lame you are,” he sneered.
“I really need to get to work,” I told him.
“No, what you really need to do is pick up your mess,” he argued. He swiped his hand across my desk and knocked into the stack of papers.
“Hey!” I yelled as I tried to grab the pile, but missed. The pieces of paper flew in every direction and littered the floor with a carpet of mess.
“Now pick it up before I tell Mike,” he growled.
Mike was the floor manager, and he demanded everyone’s cubicles be as clean as a five-star restaurant kitchen. He was also more of a coward than me and let Stimson get away with everything but murder. Murder would have meant too much paperwork filed with L&I.
I slid down on my knees and tried to gather them as fast as I could, but Stimson was faster. He pressed his foot on the papers in front of him and smashed them with his shoe.
“Oops. Did I do that?” he laughed.
I gathered the paper against my chest and tried not to cry. “Why are you doing this to me?” I sobbed.
Stimson leaned down and grinned at me. “Because I can. What’re you going to do about it?”
I cringed. “Just leave me along, okay?” I pleaded.
“Why should I?” he growled.
“Jane, letter for you!” came the shrill voice of Mike.
That was my ticket to freedom, in more than one way. I threw myself past Stimson and out my cubicle. Mike stood at his office down the hall, and I hurried to him with the papers still clutched against my chest. He frowned at the mess in my arms.
“What have I told you about keeping clutter out of your cubicle?” he scolded me.
“I-I know, sir, but I was just-” He stuck an envelope in my face.
“I don’t care. Whatever it is deal with it, and this letter. You know company rules. No personal mail is to be sent to work,” he reminded me.
I plucked the envelope from his hand and looked over the return address. “Fantasy Cruises?” I read aloud.
“It’s one of those cruise liners that go around the world, but don’t let me catch you sending spam to you office address again, got it?” Mike ordered me.
“Yeah, sure,” I half-answered. The name on the address was definitely mine, but I couldn’t remember ever contacting a cruise company.
I turned and stumbled back to my cubicle. Stimson was gone, but there was still the mess on the floor and in my arms. All that was forgotten, though, as I dropped the papers onto the floor and dropped into my chair. Something told me this envelope was important. I tore it open and read the contents aloud in a hushed whisper.
Dear Miss Johnson;
Congratulations on winning an all-expenses paid trip on our Caribbean Cruise! No purchase is necessary, and this offer is void nowhere! Merely contact our booking office at the number below to confirm your reservation. When arriving at the ship please present this announcement as your ticket. We hope see you soon under the warm Caribbean sun!
It was signed by the company’s entertainment director. I thought it had to be a joke. There was no way I would’ve won any contest, especially one I didn’t remember entering. I read and reread the letter, but it always said the same thing. I’d won, and all I needed to do was call the number.
I reached for my purse and the phone it contained. A hand reached out and snatched my winning ticket from me. I whipped my head up and looked into the grinning face of my constant antagonist, Stimson. He waved the ticket in front of me.
“What’s this? Somebody get a traffic fine?” he teased.
I frowned and tried to grab it, but he lifted it out of my reach. “Give it back!” I demanded.
His eyes widened a fraction of an inch. “Is the little pussy cat growing some claws? What’s this thing for, anyway?” He glanced over the contents and his smile widened. His eyes flickered to me. “Well, what do you know. It looks like the little pussy cat has won a prize for me.”
“It’s not yours!” I shot back.
He stepped back into the hall. “It is now.”
I don’t know what came over me. Maybe it was the years of his torture, or the chance of escaping the daily grind, or maybe I was just fed up with my miserable existence. Whatever it was it made me let loose a vengeful cry and jump my tormentor. I shoved him against the wall opposite the entrance to my prison. The air was knocked from his lungs, and in his weakness I grabbed the ticket and stepped back.
It was only a heavy push, but my chest moved up and down like I’d completed a triathlon. I’d never been a physical person, but this man, this monster had pushed my angelic patience to the limit and beyond. Now he stood there with a mixture of disbelief and fury on his face.
“Why you little-”
“What’s going on here?” Mike yelled. He stormed down the hall and stopped between us. His eyes turned from me to Stimson and back again. “Well? What happened?”
Stimson pointed a finger at me. “She shoved me for no reason!”
I started back and my mouth dropped open. “You stole my ticket!”
“I’ve heard enough!” Mike shouted. He turned to me and frowned. “Jane, you knew company policies and yet had something mailed to you. Now it’s started this fight that I’m going to have to report to HR.”
“No buts. No nothing. Pack up your things and go home. You’re suspended without pay until further notice,” he told me.
“Now!” he ordered me.
I turned away, but not before I glimpsed the triumphant grin on Stimson’s smile. The crowd around us grumbled among themselves, and Mike turned to them with a glare.
“Get back to work!” he barked. Everyone but Stimson scattered to their holes. Mike turned to my oppressor and glared at him. “You, too, Stimson.”
Stimson bowed his head. “Of course, sir.” He disappeared from the view of my cubicle.
Mike strode away down the opposite end of the hall. I stumbled over the mess of papers and fought back the tears in my eyes. This wasn’t fair. I’d only fought for what was right, and here I was the only one punished. Stimson would get off with a stern reprimand and I would lose at least a week’s worth of pay, not to mention the humiliation in front of so many of my peers.
“Enjoy your little show,” a voice hissed. I turned to find Stimson at the entrance to my cubicle. His eyes were narrowed and shining. “When you get back I’m going to make sure you get what’s coming to you.”
I glared at him and flung my purse over my shoulder. “Maybe I’m not coming back,” I told him.
He scoffed. “You’re coming back. You don’t have anywhere else to go.”
“Maybe I’ll find some other place to go,” I returned.
He sneered at me. “You’ll come back and then I’ll give you what’s coming to you.” He slithered away.
I stepped outside and stalked down the hall past Mike’s office.
“Jane?” Mike called through his open door. I paused and looked inside. He sat behind his large desk and had a tired smile on his face. Mike gestured to the seat in front of his desk. “Could we talk?”
I glanced over my shoulder at my cubicle, and past that at Stimson at the end. He grinned and nodded at me. I looked back to Mike.
“No, we can’t, because I quit.”
I turned my back on Mike, Stimson, and my entire life, and boy did it feel good.