Buffy Summers was daydreaming again. It was easy for her to think about all those wonderful times when she was a kid with no responsibilities. She'd play roller hockey with the next door neighbors; the summers were a cool, refreshing swim at the pool with the high diving board in her childhood home. She had it made and now she's an adult, whatever that means.
"Summers?" She heard her name being called and turned to the voice. It was just Anna; the surrogate den mother of the workplace.
"Boss is calling you." She motioned her wrinkled hand toward the hallway.
Buffy bit back and stood up from her chair, nearly everyone was looking at her now. This felt like all the embarrassing moments in high school when she got called into the principal's office without knowing anything.
She made her way to the back halls of the office at the end. The last time this happened to her she was blamed for something that someone else in the office caused. This happened often. Buffy just went with it for fear of being fired. She was pretty sure she had a few enemies in the building. Not to mention it doesn't help that her personal attendance record may have been corrupted since recently. She blamed her cousin for lending her that hand-me-down wreck of a transportation.
Buffy knocked first below the letterhead on the door of her main supervisor. He was the person who had hired her; the only employee here who she thought would always have her back in the most professional sense.
"Come inside Ms. Summers." She heard from behind the door. His voice was low and quiet, that can't be good.
Buffy slowly took a seat and clasped her hands together soundlessly. Her palms were starting to sweat and she knew if she didn't have it under control her supervisor was going to have more reason to question her. She hoped he didn't. It was a good thing he wasn't attractive. He was still married and neutered by his wife so she didn't have to worry about any weirdness.
She believed he liked her despite her not always being the best at her job. She tried, really. But by the blasé look in his eyes right now, she didn't know what to think. She put on her best professional smile and stared forward. Eye contact, she had to remind herself of this and ignore his mannerisms.
"Buffy, I called you in here for a big reason. I know how hard you try here and your dad helped you get this position and I owe him a favor for something he did for me a long time ago. But…" He paused, licking his lips to make sure she was still breathing. Buffy was hanging on to his words and she was doing her best not to interrupt him. "…I don't know if you're making progress here in this firm."
Buffy's jaw dropped. She mentally told herself to pick it up and attempted to regroup her nearly appalled expression. "I do try very hard at this company. I admit, I take responsibility for coming late a few times—"
"Twenty." Christ, he actually kept track.
Buffy's stutter came back and forced everything she had to keep it under wraps. Her livelihood was at stake here. And she was going to find out why the one person whom she thought had her back all this time was suddenly losing faith in her.
"I'm sorry, I hold myself accountable, no excuses. I will do better from here on." She hoped using her lawyer terminology would win some points or at least his belief in her abilities. "I can promise you, I won't let you down."
She used the smile her mother gave her, showcasing what her genetics bestowed onto her in valiant features to her boss. It was the only good thing her mother gave her. Maybe if she had her mother's love she wouldn't make so many mistakes in the workplace.
"Buffy, I am so sorry. You know I am not saying this as a personal decision. To be perfectly frank, your lack of attendance speaks volumes. I don't have any other choice. The policies are as stands. This company has rules. I often see you daydream, go off in your own world when you are on the clock supposed to be doing work. Sometimes you only do half a job and not all of it because you refuse to ask for help. Like the time you broke Annaka's computer when your station was heavily infected with some malware and didn't alert the floor tech."
Buffy gulped. Hearing her weaknesses pointed out loud was not doing her any good. Maybe she needed to hear it. What he was saying wasn't entirely incorrect. She had a habit of finishing her processing onto other employee's stationary. But that last one was for a good cause. Buffy wasn't a math or computer wiz. Her father may have boosted her recommendation to the supervisor before she was officially hired. It was probably catching up to her now. Her father taught her to be more independent right out of high school. She had managed to work in the company for a couple of years. But her amateur knowledge is showing now clear as day.
Maybe it was too good to be true. She could have tried harder. This is true. Buffy wasn't the type of person to give up, even if work was tough for her. Who really knows the person who influenced the situation? Anna, as old and unpractical as she was, couldn't have directly come to the supervisor to rat Buffy out. There was probably someone in the office who thought she was on the take. That she was only hired because her dad made it happen. It wasn't true, Buffy did try but she didn't think her boss focused on her weaknesses more than her other more positive qualities.
She didn't want this to happen; she had to think of something. Anything to make him reconsider.
"I'm sorry. I'll try harder. I know it sounds bad and I do apologize." Buffy said, the dejection already paramount in her tone, she was beginning to crumble, her professional voice taking a backseat. She was losing confidence fast.
Blinking back the first batch of tears, she threw her hair back, collecting herself.
This can't be it. Her supervisor looked at her as if she was a contestant on a game show and she just told him the wrong answer to a question he asked.
"I apologize too." He said, clearing his throat. "I can't let you stay here Buffy. I just can't, you're a liability to this firm."
This is the most emotion she'd seen from her supervisor, this was huge. He actually cared about her. But if that were true then why is she feeling as if the world was a vortex and she was being sucked inside?
Buffy looked down, clucking her tongue. She almost lost it there. Arguing with him was pointless and they both knew it. If only her father didn't sprout her up in his referral, if only she were more competent and less of an incumbent, if only she actually had something in life she was good at and didn't have to make her parents force her to do things she wasn't excited about, if only she was like everybody else, had their life together, came on time, focused on one thing and was exceptional at it. If only things worked out for her right now. If only someone believed she could do it right and give her another chance.
She looked up, her eyes almost seething with a mixture of anger, waves of tears and pain.
"You are making a mistake."
He sighed and leaned back in his chair. He had so much power. He could give her one more chance. He could change everything by granting her another chance to become a better worker. He looked at her, dark green eyes bore into her near meek hazel ones. She swallowed roughly, waiting for him to say something.
"Your fate here is decided, if I let you stay, I'm taking the biggest risk of my life. I can't be biased Buffy. Don't give a two weeks notice, I will send your final pay check today in the mail. Sorry."
Buffy launched up from her seat. She couldn't hear anymore of this. Now he was patronizing her and it was overstepping his professionalism. He is acting like the victim but also putting on an image that he cares. If he cared then this conversation would have never taken place or even dragged on. His pretentious empathy was only making things worse.
She huffed up and grabbed her bag, about to leave his office unexcused when she turned around. Last bit of self-assurance still left in her system and she was going to use it.
She turned around completely and stared at her supervisor, looking him up and down as if she were scanning his body for impeccable danger.
"Remember when you asked me to dinner that time before the Christmas party? I still remember that. I am so glad I said no."
She backed away and continued. "I don't waste my time with scum bags like you."
With those last words she didn't catch his reaction but she was sure he didn't see it coming. Just like his future pending divorce. She never told Human Resources about the incident and she didn't want legal troubles involved but she knew she had the last word. Being separated is not the same thing as being divorced; apparently he didn't get the memo.
She closed the office door behind her and ran to the bathroom. Her tears were coming with her as she collapsed on the couch letting every possible emotion there was out of her.
A bunch of people came into the ladies lounge and gawked at her, she could feel their eyes on her like she was an animal inside a cannel and this was the last thing she needed.
"Leave me alone ok?"
Buffy only heard Anna's voice ushering people out saying she has it handled. The only thing on Buffy's mind right now is drinking and downing a chocolate tub of ice cream from Safeway.
She felt Anna crouch to her level and rub her back gently while she wept all she had left.
"I don't want to talk about it. I am so embarrassed you don't even know."
"Of course I know, Brian is a douche bag honey. The whole office is on to his act. We didn't expect he would do this though. We thought it was going to be someone else actually."
Buffy raised her tear-stained face. "You knew?! Oh my god, why didn't you tell me he was going to fire me?"
Anna brought over some tissues and watched Buffy dry her face and blow her nose.
"No, we didn't know…we just knew it was going to be someone from this department."
Buffy never told Anna about Brian's advances toward her when she was first hired. Back then he wasn't married, he played the field and later being newly married still didn't stop him from the beginning transgressions on his own employees. Buffy had to wear long black skirts and baggy clothes to hide his prying eyes. It wasn't her fault she looked like her mother. None of this was her fault. She was just trying to do her job. Apparently it wasn't good enough. She knew he was hard on her after she told him no to dinner. But it was obvious he liked her. He didn't need to tell her. He would find moments when she was in the kitchen on break to be alone with her but most of the time other co-workers had come in, spoiling his attempts.
God knows what would have happened if they were working late overtime. Buffy wouldn't have a safety net much less a forced ride home.
"Yeah well, why didn't I see it coming? I should have. My dad should have never gone to this company with my lack of experience."
Anna sighed, brushing Buffy's hair out of her eyes so she can clean off her blotchy tears. "I know sweetie, I know. Maybe this is meant to happen in some way. I know how uncertain this sounds but, maybe you can finally look at something fresh along your path. It isn't over until it's over, you know?"
Buffy almost laughed at the corniness of her former co-worker. Anna was the one who always looked out for her. Since Anna never had children she considered Buffy her daughter if she ever had one. Anna gave her encouragement every time she would come in late or get scolded at work.
"Yeah, maybe I could find something I'm decently good at. I don't know what I qualify for though."
Anna chuckled, helping Buffy stand up straight as she sat next to her, holding her hand. "Honey, you are young and you have amazing talents that you probably haven't found yet. But I know you need to survive, so that's why I brought this…"
Anna presented the Classifieds section of the Los Angeles times. Buffy was deathly afraid of it. Anna seemed persuasive and handed her the folded newspaper with circle markings over various job titles.
Before looking at it Buffy stood up from the couch, she went to the bathroom to completely clean up her face and when she emerged Anna was waiting patiently for her.
"Thank you." Buffy said sincerely. "I think I just need to leave this place."
"OK well I hope you are feeling better. You have my number, if you want some help finding something new then just call. Until then, don't let him get to you. He's a bastard and his marriage is falling apart."
It's impolite to laugh now of all times but the corners of Buffy's mouth couldn't help but lift up. She let a giggle slip but caught herself taking a deep breath. She needed to breathe. All of her emotions were just laid out on display. Even if it's around Anna, she still wasn't one to be so dramatic. She supposed this time it was ok, she was just blatantly laid off from 2 years of steady work.
"Maybe you will also find someone who is on the same level as you. I know you are quite private and I respect that but I want you to be happy. You are such a beautiful, strong girl. Any man will be so lucky to have you in his life. Since Anatoly passed, there isn't a day where I don't think about the moments we shared together. I want you to find your happiness. Keep your eyes open. If he knows you feel the same, he won't let you go."
Buffy sniffed upon hearing this. She gave a sad smile but she knew better than to stretch it outward. Anna was just trying to make her feel better; this isn't a guarantee for everyone in their life. Least of all people, to her.
Buffy dusted herself and straightened out her work clothes, getting ready to leave the building for good.
If Buffy didn't know any better, this was a departure far from what they normally share with each other. This is beyond office comradery. Anna sounded genuinely concerned and this is what scared Buffy. But falling in love, finding that one person as she just said is a lot harder than people think. Her life is too chaotic to even notice a man giving her attention. Maybe her life will get better, who knows, but her love life, that remains non-existent and she was ok with that.
Buffy hugged Anna and they said their goodbyes as she collected her belongings in a box, making sure to turn the corner from cubical hell and never look back. It felt like a promise she would keep. Never would she look back and dread. Having that last minute heart to heart with Anna truly helped. And she did have the older woman's number in case she needed help. But Buffy didn't want to abuse that privilege. Life is best battled by yourself most days because in the end of everything, you are always alone and can't rely on anyone else.
She pressed the button and stepped inside the elevator. She forgot the Classifieds were tucked under her arm and glanced at it with lazy, tiring eyes.
"Hopefully this leads to bigger and better things. I don't even know anymore." She stared at it then sighed sadly.