“Ms. Holloway, I’m afraid we are letting you go.”
“What?” I leaned in.
Mr. Whelms continued after clearing his throat, “Due to recent budget cuts your employment here is terminated.” Cold pebble-shaped eyes peered at me through the most hideous pair of glasses that ever had the misfortune to be created.
“I’m the best Accounting Assistant this company has,” His words swirled somewhere above my head and made me dizzy with confusion.
He scrunched up his pink colored face and chuckled, “I think you’re exaggerating a bit, don’t you?”
Steam threatened to spew from my ears, “Since I’m the one who created the new system for data processing, no.”
Mr. Whelms leaned back in his office chair and sighed, “Please turn in your ID on the way out.”
The frustration bubbled over like a volcano and before I could put a cap on it my hand made contact with the mahogany desk. Mr. Whelms jumped at my outburst and used his sausage fingers to contact the front office. “Jamie, please send for security to escort Ms. Holloway from the premises.”
“This is ridiculous.”
“And I’m sure you can tell your mother all about it later.” A smug expression clouded over his face as he watched my eyes grow wide with rage. His grin highlighted the extra fat in his cheeks. Why get rid of me and not Brandon two cubicles over who watches porn during meetings or Susan who mysteriously disappears to the bathroom for twenty minutes each day.
The realization came crashing down, “This is because I know about the affair you’re having with Jamie, isn’t it?”
He blinked several times at my statement before putting on his best attempt at a poker face, barely concealing the conniving gears underneath. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“I’m talking about me seeing you screwing your secretary over this desk while your wife went to Tahiti for the weekend.” My voice leveled and I refused to touch the smooth surface of the desk, contaminated with an illicit affair.
Mr. Whelms held his stance, “Despite the heinous story you created to cope with being fired or maybe blackmail your way out of the unemployment line, I assure you I love my wife.” His wrinkly lips twisted into a grin.
I shook my head, “You’re a sic-”
“Now, Ms. Holloway there really is no need for a temper tantrum.” Considering his defenseless position in a compact room with an enraged woman, someone might assume he would know when his life may be in danger.
“Yes but last time I checked I’m also the boss while you’re a replaceable number puncher.” I scrunched my fingers into a ball so tight they ached by my side.
I locked my jaw, “I worked hard to be here.”
Mr. Whelms waved his hand as if dismissing all the overtime I put in on holidays and weekends, “Who do you think everyone will believe? The man who signs their paychecks or the girl who hides away in her cubicle and holds no authority.”
The door swung open and two security guards grabbed the back of my arms.
Mr. Whelms looked at me with humor dancing in his eyes. “Goodbye, Ms. Holloway.”
I grit my teeth together as he straightened his tie and waved while I made an undignified exit. The guards dragged me through the building and pushed me out of the entrance. A box of desk knick-knacks and a few dozen stress balls followed shortly after I regained my balance. I snatched my purse off the sidewalk before anyone could swoop in and steal it.
I turned my back to the building and expected to see my car waiting to take me home to a nice long bubble bath. My heartbeat matched the pace of my footsteps as I ran to the empty space where I parked.
“It’s gone, lady,”
I swiveled on my heel to see an old man in an over-sized coat sitting in the alley. “What do you mean it’s gone?”
He continued peeling his orange, “They towed it,” Just my luck.
“How should I know? You’re the one that’s shitty at parking.”
I threw my head back and groaned at the sky, “This can’t be happening.”
“That’s what I said when a bird pecked out a cat’s eyes, all for my leftover sandwich crust.”
A dozen different swear words swirled around my skull and marinated my brain in frustration. I gave the building a final glance before starting the long walk home.
When a month had passed I hit my breaking point. After fifteen interviews and no job offers, I spent my time pretending to be dead on my soon to be auctioned off couch. Taking breaks to scarf down stale Cheetos every once and awhile.
I knew my days as a renter at the Melody Condominiums were numbered and rapidly diminishing. Out of fifteen corporations, no one could see the value in me as an employee. I nearly began to wonder if Mr. Whelms could be right about being replaceable.
I rolled over, crushing the bag of Cheetos under my weight, and screamed into a beige sofa pillow. Not paying any attention to the orange dust stain it would leave behind. I contemplated life and my lack of a college degree to hang over the fridge. I earned stained furniture, greasy hair, and no income.
" I’ve become my mother.” I moaned and rubbed my eyes until they were watering from irritation or emotional distress. I refused to let myself crash and burn without a fight or at least a small protest.
I peeled myself off the couch and searched through the house for a newspaper. If I couldn’t find something in my field I would have to widen my parameters. I dug around the papers on the counter, mostly spreadsheets, and fast food coupons until I remembered where I left it. Buried in the trash bin under a cup of soggy coffee grounds.
I shook off whatever I could before spreading it out on the counter and flipping to the classifieds. I scoured the help wanted list with my fingertips and highlighted the jobs I could convince myself to do. There were multiple ads for construction and babysitting, none of which held my interest but times were tough.
Just as I was about to cave and call a mother of four for an estimated salary I saw an open position at a nearby department store. Strawberry yogurt coated a portion of the ad and obstructed the last sentence but I didn’t need it. The hours weren’t half bad and they were offering a little over minimum wage. I’d have to cut costs, like electricity and food, but I could make it work. Sold to the desperate lady in sweatpants.
I wiped the yogurt off on a napkin nearby and typed the numbers on my phone. The tone ringed several times before the other line picked up.
“Hello?” A man answered. He didn’t sound too excited to be talking to me.
I decided to be the bigger man, “Good afternoon, my name is Tara Holloway and I saw your ad in the paper.”
The other line crackled and a loud bang echoed through the receiver before the voice returned. “Are you interested?”
I listened for a response. “Hi, Tara. I’m Kat and I handle new employees.” The man passed the phone to a perky sounding woman with a southern accent.
“Is the job still open?”
“It sure is. Just come down to the store and we’ll figure out if you’re a good fit.”
“Does tomorrow work?” I decided to be persistent, fueled by the desire to not be forgotten, and leave space for a middle-aged woman.
“How about tonight? Swing by and I’ll get the interview out of the way.” I scanned my food covered clothing and loathed the idea of stepping in front of a mirror.
I didn’t have much of a choice though, “Works for me.”
“See you then, darlin’.” I heard the soft crackle of her finger pressing against the end call button.
“Wait!” I shouted through the receiver, “I know this is stupid but can you give me the name of the store?” I peered down at the soggy mess in front of me, “My newspaper has seen better days.”
Kat’s voice returned, “It’s Pink Cherry.”
My eyebrows pinched together and I reread the description, “I thought this was a department store.”
Kat giggled and so did a few other voices on her side of the conversation, “It is.”
“But I-” The call cut off before I could finish my sentence and I was left standing alone in my kitchen with yogurt covered hands and an interview to get ready for.
Whoever said my twenties would be the best years of my life was dead wrong. I hit rock bottom within a few years of being on my own. The good thing, however, was there was nowhere to go but up.