From Heels to Sandals

The only thing worse than doing a job you don’t like, is getting fired while doing it. After I learned this just one hour ago, I tried to hold my tears until I left the building. But as soon as the door hit me in the ass, I opened the floodgates and kept crying all the way home so that I now look like something out of The Walking Dead. Relieved to be finally home, I put my key in the lock and push the wooden dented door open with my shoulder.

“Surprise!” Jules jumps up from behind the kitchen counter in our shared house, wearing a little paper party hat and holding two glasses of champagne.

I drop my bag on the floor and kick off my high heels. “What is all of this? What are we celebrating?”

“Come on, Lexie. You just bought a house. I’m so proud of you. Although I’ll really miss having you as a roommate. Look at you. You are all grown-up now.”

I laugh. “Sure. Grown-up and jobless.”

She puts the glasses down. “What do you mean jobless? That phone call from before… Where you told me we couldn’t talk because you were getting fired?”

I look at her, waiting for her to let it all sink in.

“You weren’t actually being fired when I called, were you?”

I nod and pull up a chair. “I’m afraid so. For once I wasn’t joking.”

Jules immediately takes off her party hat and hands me a glass of champagne while sitting down as well. I gulp down the entire glass in one go. Okay, so it’s not champagne. Cheap wine. But it’ll do the trick.

“Oh, girl. I thought you were kidding. Who picks up their phone when they are being fired?”

“Me, apparently.”

She suddenly jumps in her chair and puts a hand over her mouth. “What did your mother say?”

I give her a stern look. “Do not—I repeat—do not tell my mother. She can’t know.” I take my phone out of my bag and show Jules a picture Mum sent me earlier. She’s standing next to a cake that has ‘Congratulations, Lexie’ written all over it in chocolate and that’s surrounded by wool balls.

She pulls a face. “What is that?”

“That is my mother at her knitting club. Celebrating me buying a house.”

“Uh oh, it’s going to be hard keeping this a secret from her.”

I shrug. “Maybe. It’s not like she visits me at work or anything. I’m sure it’ll be okay. I’ll tell her I switched jobs once I find something new.”

“If you don’t want to end up on the street like a stray cat, you can always work as a barista. The coffee shop at the corner is still hiring. Can you believe it? I don’t think I’ve had my coffee served to me by the same girl more than once over the last couple of months. I wonder what is up with that place that no one works there longer than a month.”

“All day long in that coffee smell while serving rude costumers who are running to jobs that you would choose any day over serving coffee? Who wouldn’t get depressed working there?” I sit down on the couch and put my feet up. “I want to find a job that I actually like. Let’s face it, working at California Network was nice since it paid so well and I hardly had to, you know, work. But maybe it’s time for me to actually make a career. I just don’t have a clue about what I want to do.”

“Wait here.” Jules runs to her room and I hear her fiddling with some papers. She comes back wearing her big black glasses and holding a stack of papers. “Don’t worry, Lexie. I’m going to find you your dream job. Consider me your personal counselor.”

I cross my legs. “Sure, why not. I’ve got nothing to lose.”

“Okay, here goes. Do you like children?”

“Like them, as in, want them? Maybe, some day, but I haven’t given it a lot of thought yet. I would first have to find a boyfriend and I don’t want to have kids with someone, like, right away. Also I don’t–”

Jules cuts me short. “Like them, as in, would you want to be confronted with them professionally? On a daily basis?”

“No. And I don’t want to work with dogs either. They produce too much saliva.”

She writes something down. “Okay, so that rules out working with old people as well. You should see the amounts of saliva my grandmother produces.” She taps her pen on her nose. “Do you like to cook?”

“You know I can’t cook, Jules.”

“Hmm. Maybe we should approach this differently. List your strengths and weaknesses.”

I shrug. “I’m too tired to think about that now. I really appreciate your help, I do. But I think it would be better to turn off my brain for a couple of hours before smoke starts coming out.”

Jules puts her papers on the coffee table and takes out her phone. “Hi, Tony, it’s Jules. Yes, the girl who always orders two pizzas instead of one.” She pauses. “And the extra toppings, yes. Anyway, we’ve got bit of a crisis going on. I need the usual, but with olives this time. And a bottle of wine. We’re going to need it.” When she puts the phone down she grabs my hands. “Help is on the way, sweetie. Let’s get fat and drunk together and forget about jobs. Just for tonight, though. Tomorrow you are going to get your sweet ass out there and find yourself a job.”

We hug. “Thanks, Jules. I love your sweet ass, too. Even if it’s getting fat because of me.”

16 thoughts on “From Heels to Sandals

  1. Sofie says:

    I hope this is okay. Here are the first 1000 words that I initially had and then deleted. Maybe these will bring more clarity to the story:

    I let my cursor go back and forth between yes and no, wondering why there isn’t a third option. At least Facebook events let you tick the maybe box. But this RSVP form is merciless.
    “I don’t know about this, Jules,” I say, clasping my mobile phone between my ear and my shoulder. “Do we really have to go to this alumni event?”
    “Of course we do, Lexie. It’s been eight years since we saw these people and I’m dying to know what happened to them.”
    I laugh. “You just want to know if Keith is still single, but I really doubt he is.”
    “He could be divorced.”
    “Maybe. But I’m not going to this event just to drool over some guy’s ass. I have better things to do than that.”
    Jules sighs. “Is this because of… him?”
    I bite my lip. “Of course not. Besides, he would never go to something like this.”
    “Well, I’m going and so are you. There will be free food. And I read something about an exotic cocktail bar.”
    “Sounds tempting, but…”
    “But what? Come on, Lexie. A night of fun, just the two of us. Please.” I can just imagine her pouting right now.
    In a moment of weakness, I tick the box yes and then quickly change it back to no. But before I can hit submit I see my boss making his way to my desk, so I immediately close the web browser and sit upright.
    “Sure, I will sort that shipment out for you right away,” I say in a super friendly voice. I’ll admit it. I’ve become a master at pretending to work. Seriously, if there was a university course for it, I would have graduated summa cum laude. It’s not that I don’t want to work. There simply isn’t enough to fill eight hours a day at Pens United. I tried asking my boss for more work but he never had any extra tasks and after a couple of weeks I just stopped asking. So I spend most of my days working for a couple of hours and the rest is a fine balance between reading celebrity gossip online with a very serious face, talking to Jules over the phone and checking the time every half hour. On really slow days I even read books with my e-reader’s browser app.
    “So I guess your boss just walked in,” Jules says.
    “Certainly, miss,” I answer.
    “This is not over, you know. We are going to this event. You and me.”
    “Have a nice day, miss,” I say and start rummaging through some files on my desk, pretending I don’t see Mr. Heraldson walk my way.
    I look up from my fake file sorting and throw him a big smile. “What can I do for you, Mr. Heraldson?”
    My boss smiles back, but something about that smile makes me shiver. It’s the kind of smile you give someone at a funeral. This doesn’t look good.
    “I’m afraid I have some bad news, Lexie.”
    “Oh?” I think about what I could’ve done wrong but there is nothing that comes to mind. Except from pretending to work that is. But he can’t possible know that, right? It definitely has to be something else.
    “The company is having some financial trouble. It seems that people aren’t that interested in buying exquisite writing equipment anymore. Young people…” He shakes his head. “All they want is to type and swipe on tablets or phones. No one appreciates the art of writing by hand anymore.” He takes out a neatly ironed handkerchief and pats his sweaty brow.
    “So we are going to introduce a new line of products?” I ask, feeling excited about a new challenge. I’ve been waiting for something like this for months.
    Mr. Heraldson slumps down in an office chair and awkwardly flaps his hands around. “I don’t know how to tell you this, Lexie, but no. There will be no new product line. We have to close. Completely. I’m afraid you are out of a job.”
    I feel as if he has just hit me on the head with my computer. “But I just bought a house. I even put it in the family newsletter. My mother already told her friends at the knitting club.” I feel my chest tighten at the thought of breaking the news to my mother. She baked a cake in the shape of a house to celebrate my going from nomad to mortgage-paying-slave. She’s probably cutting it at the knitting club at this very moment.
    Mr. Heraldson frowns. “I’m sure the, erm, knitters will understand. Look, I will pay you for one month extra and then—”
    A loud noise starts blaring through the room and cuts him off.
    “Oops, that’s my phone, sorry.” I pick up my mobile. Jules. Seriously, she’s not letting this alumni thing go, is she. “I think I should take this.”
    “Excuse me?”
    “It won’t take long, I promise.” I smile at him and turn around to pick up. “Yes?” I try to whisper but I know that my boss can hear every single word anyway, since our office space is as big as Harry Potter’s bedroom under the stairs. “I’ve already told you that I don’t want to go.”
    “Oh that. No, this is about something else entirely.”
    God, her thoughts are always all over the place.
    “I really need your advice on something. Can I send you a picture?”
    “Can’t it wait? I’m kind of busy at the moment.”
    Jules laughs. “Why, what are doing? Reading the latest gossip? Or making dirty art out of post-its?”
    “Of course not.” It was true that I sometimes made stuff out of post-its. And then I used WhatsApp to send my results to Jules. But for once I’m doing that and I probably would never be able to do it again after today.
    “Look, I’m in the middle of getting fired. I will call you back.”
    I switch off my phone and turn back to Mr. Heraldson. The spots on his face have now spread out to his neck. It looks as if he doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
    “Are you finished? That was really rude, young lady.”
    I smile sheepishly. “Sorry.”
    “As I was saying, I can pay you for one month after you leave. As a thank you for all the hard work you have done here over the past few years. I’ll also write you a nice recommendation letter. But after that, you are on your own.”
    “Where will you go then? Pens United was your life.”
    “True. It’s time that I take a step back and retire. I’m getting way too old for all of this business stuff.”

  2. Gentle Reader says:

    This may be tough to hear, and I’m sorry, but…

    Honestly, I think it’s a bad idea to begin a book with two characters engaging in idle chit chat, particularly over the telephone. Here’s an article on this you might want to check out:

    http://writingright-martin.blogspot.com/2011/07/dialogue-and-telephone.html

    You’ve got a couple of seconds to grab a reader’s attention, and too much phone banter before something happens is risky.

    Also, the scene paints the protagonist as a slacker. Some people would be turned off by this kind of person and wouldn’t care about the rest of her story. Some may wish they could fire her themselves. Readers need a reason to want to go on a journey with the protagonist for the length of a book. First impressions of a character are so important. Barbara Kyle wrote a wonderful article called “Making an Entrance” that is a great read:

    http://www.barbarakyle.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/39/2013/05/Making-an-Entrance.pdf

    One thing that I need to know about a protagonist to become invested in a story is what she wants and why she wants it. I like the humor in the piece, but the humor alone isn’t enough to make me care enough about this protagonist to keep reading. One way to make me care about the protagonist is to give the protagonist some special skill (no, not jabbering on the phone). I would care about this protagonist more if she used her spare time at work to go after something specific that she really wanted.

    Good luck, and keep writing! Feel free to throw a cyber mud pie at me.

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