It was a typical Tuesday afternoon for Patrice Pristine. She had just finished filing her boss’s expense report for the last month and was setting up his 9 AM meeting when he unexpected burst out of his office.
“Ahhh, Patrice, what are you doing here still?” he asked, looking startled to see her. Patrice looked at him over her horn-rimmed glasses.
“I’m always here at this tme, Mr Hiedeman. It’s only 2 PM,” she replied.
Mr Hiedeman looked uncomfortable. “Oh, I see HR hasn’t told you yet…”
“Told me what?” she asked. An uneasy knot was beginning to form in the pit of her stomach, but she swallowed it down. Mr Hiedeman looked even more uncomfortable.
“I’m sorry, I really shouldn’t be the one to tell you,” he said haltingly.
“Tell me what?” She could really feel the dread now, right down to the tips of her perfectly manicured fingernails, still posed over his calendar.
Her boss adjusted his tie as if it was choking him. “Well, you see, it’s just that the company is… Well, downsizing, in a way.”
“Downsizing,” she said as if she was in a dream.
“Yes,” he latched onto that word as if he were a drowning man clinging to a lifejacket. “Downsizing. And I’ve just gotten word that they’ve decided your salary is… Well, too high really. We just can’t afford it anymore.”
“My salary… Is being cut?” she asked. It had never been much anyways, but her living expenses were small. It might mean a few sacrifices, one less manicure here, a bag of looseleaf tea less there. But Mr. Heideman didn’t seem less uncomfortable.
“Oh no, no. We couldn’t do that to you, you’ve been such an asset to the company. We decided it would be an insult to pay you less than what you clearly deserve,” he stammered.
“But…” she said, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
“They’ve decided to terminate your contract,” he said with finality. “They hired a new girl, straight out of college, she barely expected a pittiance…”
Mr Heideman went on but Miss Pristine barely heard him. She looked about her desk that she’d sat at for the past 20 years. It was covered in small knick knacks and curios she’d collected over the years. And soon it would all be in a box in her apartment. Her eyes fell onto a blue mug beside her monitor. It was empty now, she’d finished the bag of tea she kept in her desk.
She stood up suddenly and Mr Heideman stopped his rambling. “Are you alright, Patrice?”
“Yes,” she said. “Yes I am… If you’ll excuse me, I think I need a cup of tea.”
She picked up the mug, then glanced at the rest of her desk. “I’ll be back for my things tomorrow,” she said, turning to head for the elevator.
She was out of the building and breathing in the crisp spring air before she realized she’d forgotten her jacket. Standing there with nothing but her blue mug, she considered her options. Head back in now like an idiot or go home for the rich cup of Earl Grey she knew was sitting in her kitchen. It only took her a moment to decide on an option.
Her sensible heels made a distinctive sound as they clipped their way through the company parking lot. It wasn’t until she was standing beside her steel blue car when she realized her keys were in her purse… Which was still sitting with her coat at her desk. She almost turned back then but an insidious thought crossed her mind. That was no longer her desk. That was the new girl’s desk, Miss I’m-Younger-And-Probably-Prettier-Than-You-And-I’ll-Whore-Myself-Out-For-A-Pay-Cheque’s desk. She clenched the mug tighter and clip-clopped all the way out of the parking lot. She could walk.
The city streets were still slushy under her heels as she began her walk home. The old homeless man on the street gave her a wave as she passed.
“Hey Miss, got some spare change?” he asked, smiling at her with his broken smile.
“No,” she replied as she walked by, “I’m just going home for a cup of tea.”
Her heart did a flutter as she walked past a bus stop. Surely that could get her home quicker. But her brain quickly reminded her that her bus pass and spare change was also still in the office, beside her old boss. She stomped on past the bus stop.
“Hey Miss, do you need a pass?” yelled a young hipster waiting at the stop.
“No thank you,” she said, “I just need a cup of tea.”
As she approached King street, she noticed an orange barricade across the street. Perhaps some construction or something was going on. She vaguely recalled hearing news about King Street being shut down but that was ridiculous, they couldn’t shut down the whole street. She breezed past at man in a uniform making gestures at her.
“Ma’am, this road is closed for the parade!” the officer said.
“It’s alright. I’m just going home for a cup of tea,” she replied, dancing past the barricade and onto the empty street.
One right-hand turn away, she noticed the same barricades along Queen street. Now that was outright absurd, you can’t shut down two major city roads. It was as absurd as firing a loyal employee to hire some fresh college bimbo. She stormed past that barricade too, blind to the people around her.
“Hey Miss, would you like to ride on our float? Our Miss Springtime Faerie Queen had to bail!” shouted a man dressed in green and pink sequins.
“No thank you,” replied Patrice Pristine. “I’m just going home for some tea.”
When Patrice saw the familiar sign for her road, she let out a great sigh of relief. She was almost home, and just minutes away from her cup of tea. She set off with purpose down her quaint little road, waving at the Johnson’s house as she walked. Just footsteps from her front door, Mira Johnson ran up to her wearing a full chainmail tunic.
“Patrice, thank god you’re home! A dragon kidnapped Geoff and I didn’t know who else to turn to!” She held out a longsword with a massive ruby set in the hilt. “Will you please help me rescue him?”
“Not today,” Patrice said, “Right now, I just want a cup of tea.”
The blue mug made a satisfying clunk as Patrice set about boiling some water. She heard a knock at the door as she filled her infuser, but decided not to answer. She’d had enough shocks for today, she thought, finally relaxing while the mug of tea steeped.
“I guess she’s not home,” said the TV host standing on her doorstep. He turned to the TV crew and handed his over-sized cheque for 34 million dollars to his assistant. “Come on, let’s go check on her neighbours.”