Chapter 2

Take this job

Luke smiled as I handed him the signed contract, and signalled for the girl in the mint dress to come on over. He introduced us. Her name was Erica. She would help me tie up any loose ends I needed to in order to move myself into the flat above the café. I could live up there as technically I wouldn’t be leaving the café. That made it all easier. I could have visitors, and the situation would seem a whole lot more normal. Or less weird? I didn’t know which yet. Luke explained that Erica as in a similar situation to myself, well similar in that she had the same desired outcome of not dying. Or rather not being dead in her case. She also lived in the flat upstairs, but her story was a bit more complex. She was 9 months in to a 12 month stint as her death was a harder mystery to solve. Apparently she had gotten into some trouble, or perhaps it was an attempted suicide? I didn’t want to pry. A drug overdose was involved. She had been missing, was still missing. Her family were looking for her. Luke had found her slumped in the doorway of La Morte one morning. He had picked her up and taken her inside. Suspended her impending death and made her a deal. She would do 12 months in the café and then she could go back to her family. Her life. Back too normal. She didn’t mind. In fact she was enjoying her time at La Morte. Coffee strong enough to wake the dead she smiled. The only thing she missed was company. Real company. Not just customers. Luke was away a lot so he didn’t count, she smiled awkwardly this time, and Luke laughed. He agreed. She missed her family. Her friends. Her cat, Arnold, whom she was sure her mother would have adopted. After all she had always threatened to take the cat home.

Luke smiled knowingly as Erica walked off. She returned a few moments later. In her had was an old, black telephone. It had a brass dial, with ornate numbers in the little holes.

‘Make your calls,’ he said, as he stood up to leave, ‘take your time. You have all afternoon.’

I watched Luke head out the door into the sunlight, before turning to the phone. First call was to my boss. Get the easiest one out of the way first. I was quitting. He could do nothing about that. Selling my apartment and organising the move would be more involved. Sherry, the receptionist, answered on the third ring. I told her to ask Michael to meet me at La Morte. Well I wasn’t going anywhere. Then I told her what the deal was. Well. She said she would have him here in 5 minutes. I hung up the phone and smiled. I could wait that long before I started on anything else.

Erica brought me a glass of water.

‘Well don’t you look like the cat that got the cream? I think this change might be good for you,’ she observed, smiling.

‘I’m quitting my job,’ I explained.

‘Sounds like you would have quit it sooner or later judging by that smile on your dial.’

‘Yeah, it was the pits. My boss is on his way over here now.’

‘Oh, in that case can I get you anything?’

‘No, I think I want to make this quick and painful,’ I smiled.

‘You got it,’ she laughed, ‘in the meantime I’ll get you a list of other numbers you’ll need, you’re going to have a busy afternoon.’

Erica left me to it. Swishing off in that mint dress of hers. A few minutes later the door opened. In walked Michael. He looked pissed. Or tired. Or maybe even happy? I could never tell with this guy. It took his eyes a moment to adjust to the light. Or lack of it in this dusky place. Then he spotted me. He smiled slightly and headed over. Taking a seat opposite me in the booth, he signalled for service. He was always like this. Impatient, demanding, looking for solutions before weighing up his options. The menu was right in front of him. He didn’t even glance at it. Straight to ordering. He was perfect management material. If your want your manager to be a dick, that is.

‘So, you wanted to see me here?’ he asked as Erica wandered over, ‘coffee black, and a muffin, blueberry and white chocolate please,’ he said to her without looking up.

‘Sure,’ said Erica walking off again. Vaguely I wondered how far she walked in a day. Around the café.

‘Yes,’ I said simply, ‘thanks for coming down, I couldn’t be bothered coming back to the office to be honest. I quit,’ I said with satisfaction.

Michael looked at me and went through the usual emotions. Shock, denial, anger, acceptance.

‘Fine, how much notice are you giving?’ he asked stonily.

‘I’m owed 6 weeks leave,’ I replied, ‘take that as my notice, but I’m not coming back to the office, I’m done.’

‘I can’t accept that, you need to …’

‘No I don’t,’ I interrupted him, ‘I don’t have to do anything for you, what I am suggesting is perfectly legal, you can’t deny my leave and you can’t force me to go back to the office, I’m done.’

‘Well this really sucks,’ he said, looking down at his hands, ‘you’re really leaving me in a spot here, if you’re looking for something else, I wouldn’t expect me to give you a good reference.’

I couldn’t resist sticking the knife in now. I knew what I was about to say I hadn’t planned to share with him. But it was too good an opportunity to pass up. I wanted the bastard to feel bad.

‘I’m dying Michael. I have cancer,’ I said, and watched his face fall. Fuck him.

‘Oh, ah… sorry,’ he said. I watched him squirm awkwardly in his chair.

‘And I don’t think threatening to give me a shit reference is going to help me at this point.’

‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that, really, I was just angry you’re leaving.’

‘You’re a shit boss, Michael.’

‘Oh well… yes… I guess I deserve that. Don’t worry, I’ll sort out your pay and your bonus,’ he added.

A bonus huh? Guilt money. I wasn’t owed a bonus. But whatever. I’ll take it.

‘Thank you.’

He got up to leave just as Erica returned with his coffee and muffin, ready to take away. He nodded curtly to her and pulled out his wallet.

‘It’s on me,’ I said looking up at Michael, who continued to look awkward. It was no longer satisfying. I wanted him to leave. He seemed to sense this and stood up to go.

‘Better get back to the office,’ he said, ‘all the best.’

‘Sure.’

‘Do you mind if I tell the office why you’re leaving?’

I thought about this. I realised that as soon as Michael started spreading the word I would start loosing control of my personal information. Word would get around fast. It was my own fault for being sadistic.

‘Not yet please,’ I settled on. That way I could control the dissemination of my information. I hoped. I sighed. I knew Michael would probably tell them anyway. If only to save his own ego. It would not do to have his staff leaving because he was terrible.

‘Sure,’ he answered. I knew he was lying.

‘Good-bye Michael,’ I sighed as he turned and walked away.