”Dr. Kemp, I advise you to increase your funds, for it will benefit both of us. ”

A calm voice from the other side of the speakerphone reverberates across the room, with a neutral calmness emanating from the womans voice.

In the doctors office on the far side of the east wing of the building, Dr. Herbert Kemp adjusts his glasses as he contemplates his subsequent decisions. He takes a deep breath and then slowly nods his head in agreement as he responds with an affirmative. ”I have spoken with Mr. Riggins regarding this matter. He has agreed that we should move forward with further funding until my funds begin to dwindle. As long as we keep paying Mr. Riggins, that is. ”

”Yes, indeed. That is correct. ” Mrs. Jenkins voice is gentle and reassuring. Her tone reminds Herbert of when he first began working at the facility. It was during one of his initial visits to talk about their current financial situation before the companys board meeting.

The man breathes out a sigh of relief.

After the call, Dr. Kemp decides to go home early.

He walks down the hallway of the East Wing, which is deserted at this hour. The halls are eerily quiet save for the soft creak of rubber soles on the linoleum floor as he goes through each door of the empty hallways. Theres nothing but darkness ahead of him. He tiptoes, not letting any noise leak into the corridor behind him. Not even the occasional sound of footsteps can be heard in the vast silence.

It is nearly midnight when Herbert makes it back to his flat. When he enters, he sees Eleanor curled up on his sofa, sleeping soundly. Shes holding her Laboratory Manual as she sleeps. For someone who doesn like reading much, she sure seems to be interested in what is in this book.

Herbert slips off his shoes and walks past her as quietly as possible. Shes come home early from her job in the hospital. He sits on a wooden chair near the kitchen counter where the kettle sits, waiting to boil water. With all that happened yesterday, hes exhausted. He falls asleep on the wooden bench in front of the kitchen table. A moment later, the kettle whistles loudly as steam rises from its spout, waking Herbert.

He sits up and turns off the stove. He looks at the couch and sees Eleanor writing in the Lab Manual. He thinks for a moment as he watches her read through the pages and then goes to the fridge. Opening it, he grabs his favorite bottle of beer. He unscrews the cap, twists off the top, and then pours himself a large glass.

The phone on the wall starts ringing.

He glances at the clock as he downs half his beer and sets the mug down. Its only 8 oclock. If Eleanor were awake, she would have already answered it by now.

She must think hes gone somewhere because she closes the textbook and stands up, placing the pencil she had been using into her lap.

Before he could walk up to the phone and answer it, Eleanor seemingly teleported to it.

”Hello? ” Eleanor speaks on the telephone, asking the caller from the other side about their identity. It takes seconds to register before Herbert realizes the call was meant for him. The unprecedented horror in his eyes cannot be hidden from the confused Eleanor as she looks at him quizzically.

”Who is this woman? ”

The callers shrill voice can be heard from the telephone, almost like a siren stabbing the soft eardrum of a newborn baby. The phone was instinctively dropped as Herbert scrambled his lazy ass to run toward the dropped telephone.

”I was going to ask you where your funds are going, but you are playing around with a girl! ”

The mature voice of the woman floats around the room, making Eleanor scratch her nape uncontrollably. She sighs and walks away to her room before shutting the door.

He sighs audibly. He needs to keep his ventures a secret lest his mother grows disappointed in him.

”The money deducted from the account is for… office supplies! ”

His chest tightens as he knows this feeling all too well: lacking.

”Guess what. Your youngest brother got a medal at school today. Unlike you, you never brought home any medals from your college. ”

As much as Herbert wants to refute his mother, he can hear the genuine happiness in her voice, making him give up on that idea. Her joy is essential to him, which is why he worked so hard in the first place. He has no right to talk too hard to his mother.

”Yes, mommy, I get it. At least I graduated now, and Im working now. Ill be sure to work hard to repay your retirement. ”

He waits a moment for her reply.

”Its good that you still remember how to address your mom. Also, are you free on the weekends? ”

Herbert gets his bag and shuffles around his files, flipping them one by one until he comes across his calendar. He looks at the calendar. Tracing his fingers across the small boxes with the date numbers, it lands on the weekends. He sees that he has two appointments on that day.

”Uhh, sure, mommy, Im free at the weekends… ” he says tentatively.

”Ok! See me in France; oh, and by the way, bring the little girl with you! ” the telephone is abruptly hung up.

Herbert sighs. He puts the telephone back on its socket. He walks back to the couch, slumping into the rigid foam and reaching for the TV remote before opening it up. The news channel is reduced to mindless white noise as he contemplates his life up to this point.

Herbert looks to the hall as a door swings open. Eleanor walks out in her elephant-themed pajamas and a bag of crisps in her hand. She plops down beside him on the couch and opens up the bag. Almost like clockwork, Herbert grabs a bowl from under the coffee table in front of the sofa.

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