Cindy Giordano hurried across the parking lot, threw open the door to Wallis and Jameson Architectural Designs, and stepped inside. A glance at the wall clock brought a sigh of relief. Even with traffic nearly gridlocked, she’d managed to arrive at work a few minutes early.
The receptionist didn’t return her smile.
“Good morning, Chloe. I thought I’d be late for sure. A tractor trailer was overturned on Parkview and—”
The usually cheerful and perky Chloe sat chewing her bottom lip, and worry lines creased the area between her brows. She strangled a No. 2 pencil with a nervous twisting motion as she rose to her feet.
“Is something wrong?”
“Ricky said to send you to his office as soon as you got here.”
Next to Chloe’s desk, a corridor passed through cubicle city to the far wall where the passageway split into a T. The table that held the coffee urn, stacks of Styrofoam cups, and fixings stood strangely silent. A man peeked over a white partition in her direction but turtled his head back into concealment when their gazes met.
“What’s going on? Why is it so quiet back there?”
Chloe’s pencil snapped in half with a pop. She flinched. “You’d better go see Ricky.”
“Okay, I’ll do that now.”
Rick Jameson’s door stood slightly ajar. Cindy gave a light rap with her knuckle and pushed it open more. “You wanted to see me?”
“Yes, please come in, close the door, and have a seat.” He motioned to a leather armchair.
Cindy sat with hands folded atop her purse. “What’s up, Ricky? Why the hangdog look, and why’s everyone so quiet this morning? It’s like a tomb out there in the cubes.”
The boss ran a hand over his salt and pepper hair. “There’s no decent way to segue into this, so I’ll just come out with it. You’re a good kid, and I like you. But, I’ve got to cut back on staff, and I’m going to have to let you go. Sorry, kiddo.”
“Have I done something wrong?”
“This has nothing to do with your performance. I couldn’t be more pleased. We’re in a bit of a slump and not making enough money right now. We decided to lay off the person with the least seniority. Unfortunately, that happens to be you. Let me know if you need a reference for your next job.” He slid an envelope across the table.
Cindy picked it up. “What’s this?”
“It’s your final paycheck and a little something extra to let you know how sorry I am.”
She tucked the envelope into her purse, stood and extended an arm across the desk.
Sadness filled her boss’s eyes as he cupped her hand between his. “Thanks for giving me a job, Ricky. It’s been nice working for you. You’re a good man.”
His lips lifted into a frail smile. “Right now, I don’t feel like such a good guy.”
“Well, you are.” Cindy went to the door, opened it and looked back before stepping through. “Take care.”
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