“Goodbye everyone,” Traci said answered by unharmonious keyboards clacking from the maze of ice blue office cubicles.
Traci was having a great day at NeverMore, Inc. until she found out it was her last. After working there for one year, four months, seventeen days, and two and a half hours, she was being pushed out of her best job ever.
She filled her backpack with the items from her desk; a Fulani Diva jumbo paperclip, a desk-sized poster of a praying mantis eating a butterfly, a chipped and tea-stained Employee of the Month mug that she had found in the breakroom, and a personal journal. She looked over everything else and swept it all into the wire trash bin next to her desk.
Traci took the elevator to the C-Suite level and tossed her employee badge on the desk of Sheila Townsend’s secretary. The VP offices were lavish with views overlooking City Centre and new Renaissance Retail Plaza.
“Ms. Townsend is on an important call at the moment. Please have a seat.”
She couldn’t decide whether to wait or just walk out and avoid another confrontation. It was a temp-to-perm position. The longer you stayed on as a temporary employee, the better your chances of being hired as a fully vetted employee. That was the golden ticket Traci was searching for; a permanent job. She decided to wait.
She placed her hand on her stomach and took a long deep breath,
Four things you can see. Door. Window. Lamp. Candy dish.
Three things you can feel. Pants. Chair. Floor.
Two things you can smell. Stargazer lilies on the desk. Armpits.
One thing you can taste. Wintergreen Tic Tac.
Relax, breathe, refocus.
Ms. Townsend’s secretary waved her inside the large sunlit office with pearl white dentil molding and magenta walls. Or was that lavender? She dropped her backpack on the floor in front of Ms. Townsend’s desk, and sat on the zebra printed horse-hair and chrome chair and stared at the senior executive.
“Do you want to search it before I go?”
“Ms. Simmons, I’m sorry we have to let you go. We gave you plenty of warnings, but we didn’t see the necessary changes in your interpersonal skills to continue keeping you on the team,” Ms. Townsend said, sliding a small stack of papers in front of her.
“The team,” Traci muttered. The way she said “inter-per-son-al” made Traci grind her teeth.
“Yes,” Ms. Townsend said, “Your current benefit package will remain in place for 90 days. After that point, we believe Ms. Rios will secure other employment for you.”
Traci followed the expertly lacquered fingernail from page to page, signing on the blank lines next to her name, like an obedient child. When they reached the last page, Ms. Townsend took back her pen and shuffled the papers into a monogrammed walnut tray.
“Good luck to you,” she said while tidying her desk., “Is there anything you would like to ask at this time?”
“No,” Traci said and took in a deep breath. “Yes.”
Ms. Townsend tilted her head to one side and watched Traci rub her hands together.
“I thought my work was ... acceptable.”
“Ms. Simmons, you have strong research skills and you can put them to good use,” Ms. Townsend said tapping her pen on her desk. “with another firm. I’m sure.”
Traci shrugged, picked up her backpack, walked to the door and stopped.
“What color is this?” she said touching the wallpaper.
“This stripe right here,” she looked closer at the small details, “What color is it?”
“I have no idea,” she said with a hint of disdain.
“Of course, you wouldn’t know,” she said with a side-eye glance over her shoulder.
Ms. Townsend nodded to her secretary, who swiftly ushered Traci out of the office.
On the bright side, leaving the office early meant less traffic and no crowds at the bus stop. She purchased a ticket at the electronic kiosk and took a seat in the small alcove. There was a sudden flash in the sky. She squinted and watched a large window dangling from the line of an industrial crane. Construction workers balanced on the massive geometric scaffolding lured it into place on the new Proctor Place Residential Towers. “More luxury condos, just what we need,” she thought.
A gray-haired woman sat down next to her frantically wiping away the melted ice cream dripping down a little girl’s elbow. The wearied woman looked back at her, shrugged and sighed. Traci returned a sympathetic smile and distanced herself from them, taking a position to be first to board the RA-12 coach to Magnolia Grove. At least she would not have to squeeze between the reusable totes and luggage people carried onboard from the terminal that connected City Centre with the regional airport. She garnered an empty window bench and used her backpack to block another passenger from sitting next to her. The loud exhaust fan circulated the muggy air overhead but gave no reprieve from the sweltering heat. She pushed the window open behind her and closed her eyes until the driver announced her stop. It was a ten minute walk to her house from where the bus dropped her off, fifteen if she detoured around the block to the mini-mart, which she would do today. They sold the basics, which is all she ever needed, and liquor. Definitely needed that today.