“Then I suppose we’re finished here,” Mrs. Chambers said as she closed the folder. She paused for a moment and looked down the table at the vampire who had laid his head on the table and just sat there unmoving. “I’ll let you break the news to your team.” She quietly put his folder into her dark leather briefcase, which had been hidden under the table. “I’ll be in my office when you are done.” She ended with a nod and walked around him.
The sound of her stiletto heels against the fake hardwood floor of the office hit him like stake each step. Soon enough, there was a little hiss of the door being pressed open. Then the hiss of it shutting.
Today was a bad day.
He heard mumbling outside for a moment before the door hissed open again.
“I just heard the news, Matt,” Hal’s voice came through. “Congratulations! We’re going to be peers on Day Shift.”
“Yay.” Mattias didn’t move, just lifting his wrist and spinning his hand with his head down on the table.
“That’s the spirit!” Hal responded in all genuine seriousness, taking Matt’s response as an actual ‘yay’, which warranted a groan from the man. “I’ll get your team,” He heard the man clap and excitedly move towards the door. “You just enjoy it.”
Mattias groaned and rolled his head against the conference table for a moment. This is not what he wanted to do with his life, and he had just agreed to do it through the worst possible season. Holidays. Not only that, he had doomed his team to the same thing. Or, at least, those that agreed to come along on corporate’s new fantastic adventure for them. He assumed he would lose some. People didn’t do this job because they loved it, though. They did it because it was this or starve. He had just chosen this over starving.
A few more moments of existential thoughts and silence was all he had to endure before the door pushed open and his team began to cycle in. A few of them wouldn’t even get the offer. He still didn’t move, he just laid there and dreaded it a bit longer. Sweet, loving dread. The only constant companion he seemed to have.
“Just have a seat. When you’re all here, Mattias has an announcement.” Hal’s voice called out from the door. Shuffling of feet and moving of chairs finally warranted some semblance of life from the team leader.
Mattias sat up and glanced around at his team as they sat down. He went through his mind real quick on how to do this and then opted for his usual strategy of just stumbling through. He even started with his usual, “Uh… yeah. So…” He stammered before finally finding some footing in his disappointment. “Bad news first. They’re shutting down the night shift.”
His team was taken aback, a series of “What?” and “Really?”, one “Finally,” and a gasp or two. None that he particularly tied to any individual.
“Good news. They offered us all transfers to the day shift. Half will stay on Hal’s team… half are going to be joining a new team. With me.” Mattias, at this point, was nervously talking with his hands. The motions of his hands didn’t necessarily follow any rhyme or reason. They were just there to distract people, in hopes they wouldn’t notice his pausing and trying to come up with a plan. “On the day shift.”
“Day shift?” One of the team spoke up. He let out a sigh afterward. “Like, nine to five?”
“Seven to Four, actually.” Mattias corrected.
“Seven to freaking four?” The team member spoke up. “No man, I’m out.” The team member pushed back on his seat and stood up, shake his head. “I ain’t working nine-hour days and driving forty minutes both ways. I’m out.” He didn’t sound too upset, but his heavy footfalls were quick and out the door. “Consider this my two weeks,” He called from outside the conference room.
“We’re a right to work state, so, you don’t need to give two weeks,” Hal answered, sort of to the team that was in the room, before chasing after the member leaving.
“Carlos isn’t wrong. If this isn’t what you signed up for, the company will give you a small severance, and you can go.” Mattias added, waving towards the door. “Anyone else?”
A few team members glanced around before a couple stood up and walked to the door. One more raised her hand. “Any, ya know, pay raise?”
“Nope. Cost of living and a chance of a raise at the end of the year. A transfer, not a new offer.” Mattias shrugged.
“I’m out too… gotta job during the day,” The woman spoke and stood up. “So, like… bye.”
“Bye, Liz.” One of the remaining team members gave her a wave as she left with the others.
Then there were six members left in the room. Mattias took a deep breath and asked the question on everyone’s mind. “So, everyone else is stuck, right?”
“You bet. I’ve got rent coming up, so…” One of the team said.
Mattias nodded and let one of his hands lull back towards the door. “Alright then, Hal can handle the outgoing guys. Let’s talk about what’s happening with us. Starting next week, we’ll be on the day shift. Ashley, Maddox, and Lindsay are with me. Shantelle and Braxton will be sticking with Hal. So, you two will be doing the exact same thing, just a different time of day – and a bit of a busier workflow.”
“Define a bit,” Shantelle said with a grimace, twisting her lips into an exaggerated frown because she knew what was coming.
“Well, you know how many guests we handle as a team every night…” Mattias spoke with a sigh, “That number, except per person…”
“Up to a hundred guests per person? Seriously?” She protested. “Best damn believe I’d be the hell out of here if I didn’t need the damn insurance.”
“You and me both,” Braxton chimed in with a little raise of his hand as if he needed to add that for permission.
“I get it, trust me,” Mattias added. “But, yeah. Tomorrow is a paid day off so you can get things in order. And we’ll start back Monday. That’s all you need to know. So, you two can go home if you want.” He added.
“And us?” Maddox asked as he leaned back and put his feet up on the table.
“You three stay. Our jobs are changing.”
“Oh, good. I love it when unannounced changes disrupt my entire life, and I have no recourse,” Ashley chimed in, only to be interrupted.
“Yeah yeah, we’re all screwed, don’t launch into some political…” Maddox twisted away from the woman in all black.
“I was going to say bullshit. Not sure what you said is a real word.”
“A little vocabulary would go a long way in making you into a more fulfilled person, Maddox.” She retorted, with him mimicking her with his hand making little mouthing motions. “Fine, be an ass.”
“Ass, I know that one.” Maddox jumped a bit.
By then, Shantelle and Braxton had both slipped out of the room, and Mattias was just waiting for the two to get done. As they seemed intent on starting something, he decided to interrupt. “Any thoughts Lindsay?”
Lindsay shrugged. She was the only other non-human on his team currently. She was a Fomorian – ostensibly related to the fey folk, but always at odds with them. They weren’t well-liked. Her hair was like seaweed in color, her eyes pale gray like ocean fog, and she always smelled a bit like saltwater, though she tried her best to cover the scent with perfumes and deodorants. Her choice in fruity flavors of such things though just made her smell like saltwater taffy. Which was an improvement to most. The main signifying feature of her race was that they were part fey, part giant. So, she was large. She stood a full foot taller than Maddox, who was already freakishly tall for a human. She was their gentle giant, though. She didn’t talk much. And guests would have never guessed she was a Fomorian. On the phone, her voice was quiet and soft, with a little bit of husk.
Really, he was lucky. Ashley was a Wu – a Chinese witch, despite the fact that she was mostly Vietnamese. She was familiar with the non-human world. Or rather, her grandmother was a Wu, and Ashley had a mild interest in such things but wasn’t practicing. It made her more comfortable around him than most humans. Maddox was straight-up human – but his brother married a Lycan, so despite his general demeanor he never treated anyone any differently because of the background in the occult. So, the fact that their team leader was a vampire never really seemed to bother them. They were often ignorant of the situation’s details, of course, but never in a way that had bothered him. It was luck.
“So, since Ashley still isn’t talking, what is the new… gig?” Maddox asked, leaning back in his chair with a glance over to Ashley.
She twisted her lips and crossed her hands in her lap.
Mattias took a breath. “Seasonal Guest Enrichment and Retention Team,” He let that sink in.
“What the hell does that mean?”
“It means when someone screws up, we go fix it. We call the guests, we fix the problem. Whatever that is.”
“Damn it, we’re damage control? For Christmas?” Maddox figured it out quickly. “So, when a damn manager snaps at some already pissy old bat,” He held up a hand and pointed to Mattias. “Sorry, no offense,”
“Why would I be…”
“We have to deal with the fallout. Right?” Maddox didn’t pause in his thoughts.
Mattias gave a nod. “Yes. Basically.”
“Oh good. So, they’re throwing us to the wolves. Nice.”
“Yeah. Apparently, our retention scores were through the roof on Night Shift. So… congrats on keeping customers coming back despite the nonsense – and now that is your whole job.” Mattias said with a forced smile.
“I kind of like solving problems. Better than taking random calls.” Lindsay’s voice cut through, causing the others to look over at her.
“Well, we’ll be helping with that too, let’s face it,” Mattias whispered out.
“Well, shit. So, what we do now, but more.”
“And no pay increase.”
“Right, because there is no way they could pay for that. Their struggling, so much.” Maddox groaned and spun about in his chair a bit. “What else? We have to wear business casual now too?”
“Yes.” Mattias said, “Coats, ties, dresses for the ladies.”
“What? Why? It’s not like the guests even see us.”
There was a lull in the conversation before Mattias had to go over the specifics, exactly how it would change things. It didn’t matter though. No one listened. It was just time to get the information out. He’d go over it again the next workday. And likely the next after that. They had to change directions, and inertia was a hell of a thing to overcome. But they would overcome it. That or they would starve. Those were kind of the only options. Well, some of them might not starve, but anyone of them would struggle.
The meeting ended, his team went home, and he sat there alone. At least for a few minutes, just thinking about what had happened, what was coming, who he would become. Instinctively, he packed up to go home too. It was a strange feeling – this mix of dread and resignation to a fate he hadn’t looked into. Things blurred together, he felt adrift and at the same time on a course he couldn’t control. A low-level manager in a job he hated, with little chance to expand his horizons. His thoughts were interrupted as he left, interrupted by a cold sound of speech from a woman he had just met.
“See you Monday morning, Mr. Holland.” Ed’s voice sent a shiver up his spine. She looked pleased with herself and gave him a little wave. He couldn’t help but feel frustrated with her existence at the time, the way she was all but oblivious to the dynamics of the team and only operating on a single diction from some corporate report puller who had never worked with a customer in their life.
He gave a half-hearted wave, a purchased smile, and then headed out. Back to his old car, and back to the night from whence he came. He knew this feeling was frustration. He had felt despair before, he had felt the heavy hand of fate guiding him on a path he didn’t want in a way that forever altered his life – and this was not that feeling. This was just frustration. Still, he felt like a piece of him was stolen, that he was bound for a place he didn’t want to go. He dreaded it. But it let him survive, one more day, one more night. It kept him alive.
So he could keep doing what he loved.
Which, he would one day figure out.
He sat in his car for a moment as that thought sank in. What was he doing this for? He could just… quit and do nothing. But he enjoyed a comfortable life. And that would have made sense if he had any sort of direction he wanted to go with. He needed to think, to talk to someone. So, he pulled out his phone, and with a thumb, he spun down a list of names. He stopped at Rory.
Hey, He typed out, I’m out early and got some news. Wanna grab brkfast? He watched as his phone autocorrected a misspelled breakfast.
Gotta work early. Sorry. What’s up? The words popped up with a little chime on his phone. He stared a minute.
Nothing. Just changing to the day shift. Mattias responded, staring at the screen and being bathed in blue light for a minute.
Lame was all that came back through in the next text.
He paused, and for a few minutes, he thought about just driving home and going to sleep. But, it was unhealthy to bottle up your emotions, to dwell on them. He knew he needed to meet and talk with someone. But with
He scrolled down the names again and selected another. Olivia.
Want to grab breakfast? He typed and clicked send.
Two or three minutes passed, leaving him regretting that choice. The screen darkened and he was sitting alone in the dark, in a virtually abandoned parking lot before most people even woke up. He realized he was texting people who likely were still asleep or getting up and ready for work. He finally twisted his keys in the ignition, and the car rumbled to life. And he resigned himself to go home.
What did you do? A chime alerted him to the text. Luckily, he had barely put his car into drive.
Got a ‘promotion’.
Really? Sounds ‘good’. Where do you want to meet?
That Bakery on Clay St?
Fine. See you in twenty.
He realized that he was visiting his ex in hopes of finding some solace. Good plan. Excellent plan. What could make you feel better than realizing that what you are ruined what you wanted to be? And now you’re stuck in a dead-end job that you hate. He let his head hit the steering wheel before sighing and steeling himself. The Mountain Witch was the best thing he had ever known, and she would know what to tell him to calm down. He was sure of it. She always did. Even if he didn’t like to hear the answer sometimes.