“Hey, did you see the new intern?” Mel asked me. “Her name’s Kiera, she works in HR.” I swiveled my chair to grab the stapler on the desk behind me and rolled my eyes at him along the way.
“Didn’t you almost get let go the last time you tried to ask an intern out?” I asked.
Mel snorted. “Only because she didn’t want to get coffee with me. If I’d asked her out to dinner, we wouldn’t have had a problem.”
“I’m sure that was it,” I replied sarcastically, shaking my head. “It had nothing to do with the office’s policy about not dating co-workers.”
“Look, here she comes!” Mel warned, then ducked back down into his own cube.
I glanced over my shoulder, but not because I was interested in checking her out or anything. We were going to be working together, and I figured that I should at least know what she looked like.
“Too bad about that no dating policy, huh?” Mel remarked.
But I couldn’t reply because the sight of her took my breath away.
Some people have a “type.” A guy I knew in college only dated girls who were getting philosophy degrees. A friend of mine from high school would only date someone if their eyes were brown. I had never spent much time thinking about that type of thing; I hadn’t put much thought into what I wanted my “ideal” partner to look like.
And now, I didn’t have to.
As she walked toward us, my life flashed before my eyes, but not in the usual way. Instead of seeing a rewind of my childhood and every embarrassing moment I’d experienced in junior high, I saw a sort of fast forward: a romantic walk by the river in the middle of the night, a wedding (featuring my mom crying happily), a stupid argument about lighting fixtures and curtains in a new house, taking our kids to the park on a beautiful Spring day, holding hands at our 50th anniversary dinner.
I was startled back into the present by Mel standing up and intercepting Keira before she walked by. He introduced himself, asked how she liked the company so far, and (ugh) winked at her. She replied politely, glancing at me once, and did a good job of ignoring Mel’s creepiness.
“Since you’re new, if there’s anything you ever have a question about or anything, you can ask me,” Mel told her.
“Thanks,” she said. “Actually, I have a question…”
“Sure, anything you need!”
“Could you tell me where to find Alex Hanson?”
Mel grinned and pointed at me. Still unable to speak, I waved a hand at her.
“Oh,” she said, her face going businesslike. Then she looked down at the floor and mumbled something under her breath. It sounded like, “okay, I can do this.” Then she squared her shoulders and looked me in the eye. “I’m sorry to be the one to have to tell you,” she began. “I definitely made sure it wasn’t some kind of human resources ‘prank the new kid’ thing. But… um, you’re fired.”
My mouth fell open. Mel shouted, “What?! Seriously?” In a very professional tone, Keira reminded Mel that he wasn’t part of the conversation she was having with me, and he retreated to the relative safety of his own cubicle. Then she quickly but efficiently went over the details of my severance package with me.
“This definitely isn’t something I thought I would be doing on my first day,” she said when I stood to shake her hand. “I’m sorry we won’t be working together.”
“That’s okay,” I told her, “you’re just doing your job. It’s not your fault.”
“Thanks for understanding. And, um, I guess all I have left to do is tell you that you’ve got half an hour to clean out your desk, and then security will be up to escort you out.” She smiled apologetically. “Sorry again.”
Mel got up as she walked away, and immediately vented his feelings by shoving me sideways. “Did that actually just happen, Alex?” he asked.
“It did,” I said. “I just got fired.” I laughed suddenly, then grinned at him. “I guess today’s the first day of the rest of my life.”
“Are you in shock or something?” Mel asked, putting a concerned hand on my shoulder. I shook my head at him, too happy to even try to wipe the smile off my face.
“Too bad for you about that no dating policy, huh?”