Computer Information Technology’s office was on the west side of Crescent Hill. It shared an office park under the water tower directly next to the highway. The building was only one story tall with a parking lot in the back and the front.
Shane pulled into the back lot only a few minutes before eight in the morning. Grabbing his laptop bag from the back of the car, he crossed the lot, swiped his security badge at the glass door and made his way to his cubicle.
He smiled as he thought about trading this gray fabric set of three short walls for an actual office with a door. Just as quickly as the thought came to him, he mentally chastised himself for counting his eggs before they hatched. Shane was hopeful that he would get the promotion and everything implied that was the direction that he would be going, but until someone was showing him to his new office he shouldn’t be picking out wallpapers and furniture. Not yet anyway.
Tossing his bag into his chair, Shane kept walked past the cubicle and straight into Steve’s office. Plopping down in a chair across from his manager, Shane crossed his left leg over the right and laced his fingers.
The man sitting across from him was portly in a way that made people think of the holiday season and fat white guys with big smiles and bigger beards. That kind of thinking was exactly why Steve Horton only had a thick gray mustache and never grew out a beard. He sat in a full suit and tie and was clicking through emails on his company-owned laptop.
“Did the paperwork go out?” He asked.
Steve leaned back in his chair, “Yes, it went out fifteen minutes ago and was emailed back, signed and ready to go, about thirty seconds before you came in here.” He spread his hands wide on his desk as his smile creeped the edges of his mustache up.
“Great,” Shane laced his fingers behind his head and leaned back as far as the chair would allow. “The gross profit on that was over ten percent, so you and I should both a nice bonus when the end of the quarter comes around.”
“I saw that. If I could convince your colleagues to stop giving away product and to sell things for what they were worth, then I would be a much happier man.” Steve’s mustache began to twitch, almost like a thick gray caterpillar as his mouth tried to smile and frown at the same time. “As a matter of fact, I wanted to,” he paused to find the right words, “talk to you about some of this morning’s developments.”
Shane did his best to hide his excitement. His face remained entirely still as he said, “It’s not even eight, yet. What kind of developments are you talking about?”
All hints of mirth left Steve’s face as he spoke.
“As you are probably aware, Sara hasn’t been hitting her goal for quite some time. A month ago we put her on probation. Unfortunately, she was incapable of meeting goal before that time was up and we were forced to let her go.”
Shane actually had been aware. Nothing in the office ever stayed a secret for long. The numbers were tracked on a marker board in the main bullpen, and it was plain to see that Sara had been missing her forecasted goal for the last three months. When the folks in Chicago had called and told Steve to put Sara on probation, it wasn’t ten minutes before everyone in the office was aware. Steve was a great guy, and a very lenient boss, but he gossiped like a teenage girl.
Of course, Shane wasn’t going to say any of that to Steve.
“Wow, that’s horrible,” he said instead. “Is she alright?”
Steve nodded. “It didn’t come as a surprise to her.” He folded his hands on the desk. “This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for anyone. She can move on to find a position that better fits her, and now her position is available for an enterprising person such as yourself to move into.”
Shane opened his eyes wide, “Are you saying that her job is mine?”
“If you want it.”
“Of course, It would be my pleasure.” Not only was it happening, it was happening quickly.
“You’re aware of what a Global Account Manager does?” The question was rhetorical. Everyone on the sales team was aware of the roles of the others. Knowing your colleague’s roles meant there wouldn’t be any confusion if someone was working on accounts that weren’t theirs.
Shane nodded. “The GAM deals directly with the decision makers of the international accounts.”
“So,” Steve went deeper into the explanation, “if we’re helping Coca Cola upgrade their servers, you would oversee the deal from the initial conversation to maintaining the relationship for as long as we would have it.” Steve resumed leaning back in his chair. “In this example, that would also include the commissions for each of Coca Cola’s upgrades.”
Shane couldn’t help himself and laughed. “This is amazing. I’m up to the challenge. When can I start?”
“Tomorrow morning,” Steve reached across the desk and shook Shane’s hand. “That will give you the day to box up your stuff.”
Shane left Steve’s office and had to stop himself from running to his car. Once he was inside, he started beating on the steering wheel, slamming the roof, and fist-pumping the air.
Too excited to think, he got back out of the car and locked it. As he turned away from the car, a tall blonde woman was only inches from his face.
“Hey Shane, I don’t know if you heard,” Sara Durant said, “but CIT fired me this morning.”
“Um,” Sara’s face was entirely too close for Shane’s comfort and he leaned back onto his car to gain some space, “yeah. I just heard. Are you alright?”
She suddenly realized her proximity to Shane and took a step back. “Yes and no,” emotions filled her eyes. There was sadness and…something else in there that Shane wasn’t certain about.
Was it guilt? Shame?
“On a financial level, everything is going to be fine. I mean, I had a backup plan.” She became flustered, obviously wanting to tell him something but avoiding it. Then she gave a tight-lipped smile. “I had to have a backup plan, didn’t I? Jenny’s about to go to Virginia Tech and we just finished building our garage.”
Shane nodded, not understanding any of this and only wanting to find the exit out of this awkward conversation. “Having a backup plan just makes sense.”
Sara nodded. “In the end, nothing matters except the kids and Herm.” Shane vaguely remembered from some Christmas part years ago that Herm was her husband’s name. After a brief pause Sara came back to herself and looked directly into Shane’s eyes. “I’m sorry, just so you know. Sorry that it had to be you.”
Shane was confused but, ever the salesman, he shook his head. “No,” he said gently, “you have nothing to apologize for. You should take a day, no, take a week and just relax for a bit before you start thinking about your next steps.”
She shook her head. “I have plenty to apologize for, but you’re right. I haven’t done anything to you, yet.”
With that, Sara Durant turned and started across the parking lot toward her minivan.
Shane was back inside the office before Sara had left the parking lot.
“What the hell was that about?” he demanded of Steve. “Sara Durant wasn’t escorted out of here?”
“Whoa,” Steve was holding up his hands, “was she still here? Did she attack you?”
Shane shook his head. “No, but she just got really weird and all up in my face out there. Why was she still here?”
“Calm down,” Steve was lowering his voice to imply that they both should. “She left amicably. Nobody thought she was going to go crazy.”
“Well, she did,” Shane was starting to come down from his getting spooked and took a seat in the same chair he had just been sitting only a few minutes ago.
He took a deep breath. “Sorry, but that was just weird.”
“Why? What did she say?”
Shane shook his head. “I don’t know. None of it made sense, but she apologized to me, and when I told her that she had nothing to be sorry for, she said ‘yet.’”
Steve’s brow lowered. “That’s ominous.”
“No shit, and scary, too.”
Steve held up his hands again, it was the same gesture, but the implication wasn’t ‘calm down’ so much as ‘I understand.’
“Understandably, she’s not in the best of places right now. I promise you, this won’t be a problem in the future.” He stood up and grabbed something wedged between the wall and his desk. It was a flattened cardboard box. “Start migrating to her office and by the end of the day, Sara Durant will be a distant memory.”
Shane liked the sound of that, but the awkward conversation with Sara hung with him the rest of the day, and only seemed to grow as more of his belongings filled her former office.
All of his feelings stemmed from that last thing that she had said to him. Was she going to have a reason to apologize to him? Was the job so difficult that apologizing might have been her way of saying good luck? Was she waiting in the parking lot with a cleaver and no restraint? Whatever it was, he couldn’t figure it out and it was haunting him to the level of obsession.
His office was filled with his meager cubicle’s worth of belongings within an hour. After the move, Shane stay mostly to his new office the rest of the day getting used to it while he worked on putting together quotes for his customers and emailing them out.
When the work day had ended, Shane had already been on the road home for about ten minutes. He felt like he should be preparing another pizza, bourbon, movie night, but his heart just wasn’t in it. Throughout the day, he continued to go over all of Sara Durant’s conversation in the parking lot and kept finding new pieces to it that he wasn’t certain how to take.
What had she meant by a backup plan? Was the backup plan why she was sorry? She’d emphasized that only her husband and daughter mattered. Did that mean that she was going to do something drastic that might pay out for them?
Shit, Shane thought, was she going to kill herself?
His mind was spinning as more and more questions came to his mind. Each one was darker than the last.
By the time that he had reached his apartment he couldn’t even bring himself to enjoy the great news.
Maggie wasn’t there, and it was just as well. He had texted her the great news when he had received it and her excitement came in a the form of emoji’s and an explosion of exclamation points. Unfortunately, she had to work at her book store that evening and her own apartment was closer to that job, so Shane probably wouldn’t see her.
While it was unfortunate, it wasn’t entirely so. Shane was happy that Maggie couldn’t see him with his mind so preoccupied with Sara Durant’s cryptic conversation.
Finishing off the remainder of the previous night’s bottle of Maker’s Mark, Shane fell asleep on his couch and stayed there until morning.