Maya looked at the seeds in the pot. They looked suspiciously like mouse dropping but as Tom jiggled the “goodies” at her, she couldn’t help but feel it was easier to eat them than to have him abuse her until home time. He had assured her it was really good quality Belgium chocolate surrounding them. She had even seen him eat a handful. And it was snack o’clock. She took a handful.
“Thatta girl,” said Tom. He wandered back to his booth just behind her.
Maya put the first dark chocolate covered seed into her mouth. She paused. She bit. It was… weird. Not even a bad weird. Possibly a good weird. Possibly. Either way, the little seeds were definitely very moreish. So as she worked, Maya nibbled. Seed after seed were chugged through her mouth, down her throat, gullet, into her stomach, and bizarrely, after only that small handful of seeds, Maya found herself full. Uncomfortably so, even. She looked round. Tom appeared to still be stuffing his face with the seeds. Weird she thought. She’d not even had much for lunch.
Maya got up and wandered to the kitchen. There was no one there but the detritus of the office lunch hour filled the sinking, waiting for the cleaning fairy to come and work her magic. Why couldn’t anyone in this place ever use the dishwasher. Maya recued a glass from the back of the top shelf of the cupboard. She filled it from the tap. It always amazed her that they building needed a separate tap for fizzy water. What water main did you get sparkling water from?! Maya took a long drink. She was suddenly really thirsty. And yet still strangely full. Weird. Maya topped up her water and went back to her desk. Man, did she feel rough. And the stomach pain. Like someone punching her over and over again in the gut.
That was the last thing she remembered.
Tom looked up. Maya had just come back from the kitchen. Least she could have done was offer to make a cup of tea. Cheeky mare. Mind you, Tom thought, she didn’t look well. Not well at all. Usually coffee-cream brown and sparkly of eye, she looked suddenly dull and tired. Maybe that dreadful boyfriend of hers was dragging her over the coals again. Oh well, her problem, and if she needed a shoulder to cry on her knew half a dozen lesbians of his acquaintance who would offer. He sighed. Mind you, these seeds were good. Who’d have thought healthy food covered in chocolate would equal a happy Tommy?
When he looked up from his computer again. He noticed Maya was slumped over her desk. Was she ok? Was she crying again? Oh, dear God no, not again.
Tom im’d her and waited. Im’d her again, waited. He sent a nudge, secretly relishing the fact he knew it would annoy her.
He looked up from his computer. No. She was not moving. Someone was going to notice.
Tom got up and walked over to Maya’s desk.
“Hey doll-face,” Tom said.
“Hell-ooo?” Tom waved at Maya.
Tom poked Maya. Maya didn’t move. Tom rolled Maya over. There was something which looked suspiciously like chocolate coming out of Maya’s nose.
The news coverage was sensational to say the least. The lovely girl who died in suspicious circumstances at work. The interviews with the incredibly camp man who found the body. This missing boyfriend. The grieving, the manhunt, the arrests. All massively out of hand. What everyone missed, but Tom, was what happened after the furor died down. Her body, Maya’s, was folded up in a box and planted. There had been plans to put a tree in the grave, a marker, of love and respect and her existence at some point in time. A nice idea but the practicalities of the act made Tom shudder. But, it turned out planting a tree was not necessary. A day or two after the funeral, the befuddled Tom found himself at the grave, not really sure why he was there or how he got there. There was something on the grave. It looked like someone had left a weedy looking shrub. Maybe that’s what her nutty boyfriend thought was a fitting tribute. Tom bent down to try to heave it out. The little beggar wouldn’t move. Oh, well, maybe a gardener or someone more hardy, with less well manicured hands and wearing something other than an expensive pink cashmere polo sweater, would pull it up. But they didn’t. The scrubby shrub continued to grow. Tom observed and photographed it on his phone every time he went. The tree was actually more interesting than the grave. It was dark, dark brown and smelt of something vaguely familiar. The smell got stronger the larger the tree grew. The bark was shiny too, like Bakelite. But it was in the spring that the real shock came. The flowers appeared. And they smelt like the bark, but so, so much stronger. They smelt of chocolate. The flowers dropped off and little tiny nuts develop. Around August, Tom finally had the guts to pull off one of the nuts. It was soft and shiny like the bark. Like a… like a kinder egg… Tom shook himself. He was clearly loosing the plot. He squeezed the nut. It squelched. Tom was uncomfortable. He was pretty sure if he tried to explain this to anyone they would have him straight in to the office therapist. Tom pulled the shell apart. Inside, rolling around in the palm of his clammy hand, we something he’d never have expected to see. In his hand were chocolate covered seeds. He tasted them. Exactly like the ones he and Maya ate the day she died.
The world swam before his eyes. Tom lost consciousness.