Home > Summer Rental(3)

Summer Rental(3)
Mary Kay Andrews

Ms. Stone’s lips pursed slightly. Her fuchsia lipstick had feathered into the deep creases in her upper lip. She had a mustache too. Ellis wondered why she didn’t wax it, or at least get it bleached.

Now Ms. Stone was tapping the file folder again. It had a glossy photograph of BancAtlantic’s granite-and-chrome headquarters building on it, and the words TRANSITIONS FOR TOMORROW were superimposed across the photo.

There was a clattering outside the window of Ms. Stone’s seventh-floor office. Ellis looked up and saw a window-washing apparatus glide slowly past. But the men on the apparatus were not window washers. They wore dark jumpsuits, and they were wrestling with a huge chrome logo, consisting of eight-foot-high letters: CG, in flowing script.

It occurred to Ellis that the bank’s new owners were not waiting until tomorrow for transitions.

“This is your separation package,” Ms. Stone said quietly. “You’ll find it’s quite generous. You’ll have your pension, of course. Your buyout will give you two weeks’ salary for every year of your service with the institution.”

“Institution?” Ellis said dully.

“BancAtlantic,” Ms. Stone reminded her. “Although,” she said, glancing down at the wristwatch strapped to her unnaturally narrow wrist, “as of three minutes ago, BancAtlantic ceased to exist. We’re CityGroup now. It’s an exciting time, isn’t it?”

Somehow, Ellis thought, she would not have chosen “exciting” as the adjective to describe this moment. She finally reached over and picked up the file folder which Ms. Stone had been inching towards her. She rifled through the contents. It contained legal forms and memos, and just looking at the fine print of the documents made a vein in her forehead throb. She had to get back to her office, read the documents, and try to process everything.

She stood up. “How long?” she asked. “I’ve got a big project I’ve been working on, and the report should be done by next week.”

Ms. Stone blinked. Ellis could have sworn she hadn’t seen the woman blink before. Ever.

“Oh,” Ms. Stone said. “I thought you understood. Your termination is immediate.”

“Like, right now?”

“I’m afraid so,” Ms. Stone said, holding out her hand, palm up, expectantly.

Ellis Sullivan was not normally a woman given to sarcasm. But somehow, the occasion seemed to cry out for … something.

“What?” Ellis said hotly. “It’s not enough you just fired me? You took my job, my career, eleven years of my life? And for that I get, what? Twenty-two weeks of pay? Are you freakin’ kidding me? What do you want now, lady? A kidney? My spleen maybe?”

Ms. Stone’s mustachioed upper lip twitched. “That’s entirely uncalled for,” she said, her voice tight. “This is purely a professional business decision made by the executive committee. Please don’t try to make it personal.”

“Not personal?” Ellis cried, fighting back tears.

“Not in the least,” Ms. Stone said. She stood up now. She was a good six inches shorter than Ellis. She was holding out her hand again. “I’m going to have to ask for your employee security badge.”

Ellis ripped the laminated badge from the beaded silk cord that hung around her neck, and flung it right in Ms. Stone’s face. The woman blinked again, and then ducked, but the badge glanced off her chin before falling onto the desktop.

“The cord’s mine,” Ellis said. “It’s not company property.”

“Fine,” Ms. Stone said. “Understood. And now I’ll need your BlackBerry. The company’s BlackBerry, that is.”

Ellis winced. “I don’t have it with me,” she admitted. “It’s in my office. I’ll drop it off here after I clean out my desk.”

Ms. Stone smirked. “Your desk has already been cleaned out.” She crossed to the door and opened it. A security guard in an unfamiliar charcoal gray uniform stood in the hallway, clutching a large cardboard carton. Sticking out of the top of the carton was a goofy red-plush stuffed bear wearing a T-shirt with the BancAtlantic logo stitched in green script. Ellis had won the bear two years ago at the department’s Christmas party. Her Louis Vuitton pocketbook, the one she’d splurged on after her last promotion, was draped across the security guard’s arm.

Ms. Stone jerked her head in the direction of the pocketbook. Ellis took it from the guard, reached inside, and unclipped the BlackBerry.

Ms. Stone ducked, but all the fight had suddenly drained from Ellis. She put the BlackBerry on the edge of the desk, turned and followed the waiting security guard down the hall and into the elevator.

There she held out her arms for the carton. “I can take it from here. Don’t worry. I won’t come running back upstairs with an Uzi or anything.”

The guard shrugged. “Sorry. I’ve gotta escort you all the way out of the building. It’s policy.”

She punched the “B” button on the control panel, and they rode the elevator down to the basement parking garage in silence. The guard followed her to the Accord. She opened the trunk and he put the carton inside it, handing her a slip of paper that had been lying on top of the contents.

“It’s an inventory of everything from your office,” he said apologetically. “If you could just initial it, you know?”

She scrawled her initials at the bottom of the page without even looking at the list and handed it back to him.

He nodded. “This really sucks, man. I hate this part.”

“Not your first termination of the day?”

“You’re my eleventh,” he said gloomily. “After lunch, we’ve got commercial loan. The whole stinkin’ department.”

Ellis nodded. It was no consolation to know that the rest of her company was being disassembled and discarded, one department at a time. “See ya,” she said, knowing she wouldn’t.

She hadn’t known what to do with herself for the first two days after what she’d come to think of as T-day. The first morning, she’d gotten up at her usual 6 A.M. and groped in the dark for her BlackBerry. After a brief moment of panic, she’d remembered that the bank had repossessed it, along with her former identity. Then, groaning, she settled back into the bed, realizing she really had no pressing need to get up.

What followed was a week of bereavement. She went two days without bathing, lived in grungy yoga pants and sweatshirts, subsisted on a steady diet of cold cereal and daytime television because she couldn’t bear leaving the town house. Anyway, where would she go? After seven straight days of therapy courtesy of Dr. Phil reruns, she’d forced herself to go out and buy the iPhone. She even bought a perky pink rubber jacket for the thing.

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