“They called me in on Monday.”
“What do they want?”
“I don’t know, but Ted sounded…”
Maire watched Evan’s face with a growing apprehension. He had always been impossible to read.
“He sounded nervous.”
“Let’s go out for breakfast today, Evan.”
After that the two of them walked the beach for hours — not speaking about it. They made an effort with the dogs — to act as if everything was normal. But it wasn’t.
A dozen hours later it was Monday.
“I don’t have a job anymore. They fired me.”
The big sale had been hush hush and the whole company was on pins and needles for weeks.
Fear hung in the atmosphere, not joy. Fear like a stagnant haze as the suits strolled leisurely through the building.
The toll the first round was about 15 people.
They had been led to the corporate slaughter by co-workers indifferent to any outcomes.
Coworkers they had toiled side-by-side with for years.
“You need to leave the premises and never come back,” they were told, by the supervisors.
“We’re going to escort you out now.”
The span of time between that day to the following Monday was intolerable for Maire. She was going to have to go back to work there, and face them. after this week off. How could they, how could they, how could they, how could they she thought. How am I ever going to be able to walk in that door?
No one called at first. With condolences.
“Thirty seven years, ” Evan said.
“Thirty seven years and I can’t go back on the premises?”
On Monday next Maire drove to work with her heart pounding. Big silvery cakes and urns of flowers filled the fourth floor conference room. There was a party going on upstairs. A celebration. For the new owner.
“Aren’t you going up?”
Maire aimed her eyes like daggers at them. And then went silent. The head of Human Resources was holding big meetings all week the whole company had to attend. They had papers to sign, and insurance to sign up for. They had 401k’s to deal with. They had cake to finish off.
“I’ll have a latte, and a croissant, ” Maire smiled in the coffeehouse, on Tuesday morning.
“How’s it going?” the waitperson asked.
“They fired my husband and fourteen others.”
“I heard. It sounds bad.”
Maire hadn’t realized Patrice was standing just behind her in line.
Patrice’s husband had been the one to do the escorting.
“I love those croissants too,” Patrice smiled. “Aren’t they great?”
“How’s Evan doing?”
Gradually people trickled by her desk or in hallways with that question. Sparingly. One or two per day, in the first few weeks.
“Oh, he’ll be all right,” they said. “He’ll find something.”
But at home at night it was a different story, when the phone never rang. Evan was waiting for a word, from anyone. Anyone to say one thing.
Like “I miss you.”
And that was the hard part. The waiting.
Finally, one old co-worker called.
But there was nothing really to say.
“What are we going to do Evan?”
His papers came in a large envelope in the mail.
“Maire, can you help me figure these out?”
Maire’s mother wasn’t any help, nor was Evan’s.
“You made your bed and now you have to lie in it.”
“Pride goeth before a fall.”
“Pride goeth before a fall,” Evan’s mother had said.
It was worse for Maire’s friend Hermosa. Hermosa had been one of the first fifteen. And every night she called Maire in tears. She was a diabetic. They had called her on a three way conference call and told her she no longer had a job and there was no reason to come back. Hermosa was in bed when the call came, recovering from surgery. The sort of surgery diabetics have because of complications.
In the Human Resources office Maire had to sign papers releasing Evan from any obligation to her. It was all part of the deal. He could retire, but he’d be losing his entire pension if he decided to take the maximum payments up front. Maire signed. Evan had one week to fill in all the blanks on all those papers.
Maire was called unexpectedly up to Ted’s office on Wednesday morning. Apparently Patrice hadn’t liked the look on Maire’s face. Or the fact that Maire had not replied about how fabulous the croissants were at La Belle Tartine.
Ted planned on throwing his weight around, Maire thought as she entered, and Steve was in there as well. His assistant. Over the years Ted had worked his way up to a private office with faux cherry furniture. He had a large window now, overlooking the city.
“We don’t want any trouble out of you,” Ted said.
“How many years have we worked together Ted?”
Maire watched the pigeons circling the sky from his large window. She really didn’t want to have to look at them as she spoke.
“I need this job right now, and besides, Evan’s father needs him right now — so actually this is all for the best.”
Maire looked at Steve and remembered how she had convinced Ted that he was the right man for the job, a few years earlier.
He was smirking.
“We think you’re slipping, ” Steve said four months later, in his faux pine office. Sheila was in there too. Sheila was Steve’s assistant, now.
“C’mon Maire. Tell us what’s wrong,” she said.
“You made a mistake on this one.”
How could they, how could they, how could they, how could they, she thought.
Typing her letter of resignation was the most powerful thing Maire had ever done. The hardest part was realizing that no one understood how she felt. Not Evan, not her family, not her best friends at the company. The friends she had lunched with, gossiped with, bought baby shower gifts for. The faces she met at the snack machine late at night when she was working on a big problem only she could solve — the nights she chose between the peanut studded caramel bars or tiny cheese crackers because she was starving, having missed lunch and dinner and — the faces she sometimes brought a bunch of spontaneous flowers to.
These were the same faces who ooohed and awed over things like the Chocolate Chip Espresso Brownies she would make for the potlucks.
She thought of the way that Ted and Steve had stuffed them down, over the years, eyes glinting. Crumbs dropping.
She thought of the way that nothing any of them had ever said to her had been true, and that, actually, there was no camaraderie at all in the whole building.
She thought of all of this as she packed her cubicle.
A few people came by, to say goodbye.
A couple of tears fell, and a couple of hugs were exchanged.
Outside, there was going to be air.