We are waiting on the edit of Maggie, and as I explained to my therapist yesterday, everything is too hard. Folding laundry? Too hard. Going for a walk? Too hard. Driving? Definitely too hard. However, some signs of brain activity are returning, so here is a tiny scene for you.
“As you know, Maria, the current state of the economy requires our company to develop agility in an effort to meet the rapidly changing realities of the marketplace.”
The HR manager smiled, her hand resting on a black folder with FINERGY etched in gold on it. She was in her forties. Her makeup was applied with technical precision. Her acrylic nails, translucent pink and of professionally acceptable length, bore small white snowflakes, a nod to the holiday season. A rose quartz necklace dripped from her neck, each bead polished, matching the nails and the nearly transparent pink frames of her eyeglasses.
She seemed plastic, poured into a corporate mold, allowed to harden, extracted, polished, and then placed in the conference room, with her rigid smile and by the book hair. A kind of generic mass-produced manager.
The two men sitting on either side of her had come from the same factory and wore identical expressions of a dutiful concern for the office drone they were about to cut loose. A united front, in case there were issues.
“In light of these developments, we’ve had to make some difficult decisions.”
The corporate we. Fun things about polished plastic – it tended to be slick. Nothing stuck to it, responsibility included.
“We’ve decided to go in a different direction, Maria.”
First name basis, designed to provide an illusion of a personal relationship. We are all family here. Surely you understand, Maria. Nothing personal, Maria.
“You’ve been an asset to our team; however, we must reduce our overhead obligations.”
You are not a person, Maria. This was ridiculously badly handled. Painfully drawn out, full of empty platitudes. Just abysmal.
“We have chosen to let you go.”
“Try to not see this as a setback, but rather a new opportunity to learn lessons and apply them in your future endeavors.”
No, not just badly handled. Gloriously badly handled, as if they had made it a point to hit every checkmark of what not to do when firing an employee. Now tell me you will walk me to the door…
“Cory will walk you to the door.”
And we have a home run.
“Good luck, Maria. We are rooting for you.”
The temptation to offer a golf-clap applause was almost too much, but it would’ve been irresponsible under the circumstances. Arrangements like these came with certain expectations, and they had to be honored.
The box they offered was too large for the meager possessions living on the desk. Sweeping them into the box under Cory’s watchful gaze took mere seconds. An elevator ride followed, the mirror inside offering a reflection of Cory, stone faced in a Brooks Brothers suit, looming over a woman in her thirties, olive skinned, dark hair cut in a bob, Harper blouse from Torrid a size too large. Quite the contrast.
The trek across a wide lobby was next, complete with pitying glances from former co-workers, at once sympathetic and wary, as if instead of a tired woman in business attire they had spied a leper in filthy rags and worried the disease might spread.
The glass doors of Callas Tower swung open, offering freedom and sunshine. Cory walked out and planted himself in front of the door ready to put his life on the line for the protection of corporate secrets in a case the ex-employee decided to storm the door.
Too little, too late. Heh.
It was time for the dejected walk down the street and out of sight.
The city was going about its business, oblivious to the small tragedies of firings in the name of corporate agility. Thick grey clouds clogged the sky. It would start drizzling soon.
A gunmetal grey BMW iX slid closer to the curb, whisper quiet as only electric vehicles could be. The rear passenger window rolled down, revealing a woman’s face. She was quite beautiful in a quiet way. Light brown eyes, flecked with gold and framed by naturally long eyelashes. A lovely face. Chestnut hair, braided in a kind of updo that would have been too soft and romantic for the HR trio in the conference room.
She’d changed her hair color. It suited her better. Her usual blonde always felt soulless somehow. Too cold.
She tilted her head. “May I offer you a ride?”
“Do we know each other?”
She smiled without parting her lips. “Not closely, but it’s about to rain and your office is at least 20 minutes away.”
Oh. She knew. How?
“In that case, thank you. I’ll join you.”
A driver emerged, took the box, and opened the passenger door on the other side. Getting in took only a moment. A large red Doberman sat on the front passenger seat, strapped in by some strange seatbelt contraption, its gaze alert and watchful.
The car slid back into traffic.
Letting go was like a light, imaginary stretch. A brief effort, followed by a slight lightening of the load.
Gone was the olive skin, the short dark bob, the blouse, and the utilitarian black slacks. He was tall again, his regular persona firmly in place, familiar like an old glove. He stretched for real this time, working a kink out of his shoulders. The hunched posture had taken a bit of a toll.
She watched him with genuine fascination. He should’ve been used to it by now but coming from her it felt refreshing.
He pulled his cell phone out of his Zegna suit and picked his second-in-command from the contact list. Zachary answered instantly.
He ended the call, tossed one long leg over the other, and smiled.
“I believe I will dump FINERGY as well,” she said.
“I highly recommend it.”
“Now I’m in your debt, Prime Montgomery.”
“Not at all.” He slid his glasses a little higher on his nose. “Please, call me Augustine. Now then, what can MII do for House Harrison?”