Hale 12 Week Masthead

Love Your Work: Week One

Trish Smith

December is here, and with it comes all the madness of the festive season!

In the midst of all the chaos we hope you will enjoy sneaking away for half an hour or so every Friday as we bring you each new instalment of our Summer Serial – Love Your Work by first-time Canberra author, Trish Smith.

She recommends reading it in a hammock, with a large glass of iced tea nearby and your phone on silent.   

Here is the first instalment – enjoy!

And if you get to the end and can’t wait to see what happens next, you can download the whole book to your Kindle here.


UNRECRUITED LOVE
A blog about the heart-breaking search for your one true job.

ABOUT ME

Posted by Ms Love

– – – – – – – – – – –

 You know that feeling you get when you leave the room after a job interview and you can’t remember a single thing you said? You vaguely recall telling the story of that time you had to utilise your highly developed organisational skills in order to regroup and achieve a positive outcome. And you might have said something about prioritising conflicting demands in a high-pressure situation. But mostly you’re relieved it’s over and you just hope the people sitting on the panel didn’t notice the nervous rash that started in your cleavage and spread up to your face like an advancing army of little red men.

Welcome to my blog. I work in the recruitment industry and a big part of my role is interviewing people for jobs. The whole process is a fascinating insight into human behaviour and I thought I would write about what people say when they’re in the Hot Seat, what the panel said about them as soon as they were out of earshot, and what you can possibly do to improve your chance of winning that dream job. Because it doesn’t matter how much you’d love that job—sometimes the job just won’t love you back.

Obviously I’ll change all the names to protect the innocent and so that I don’t get busted and lose my job, because wouldn’t that be ironic? I’ll be anonymous, but you can call me Ms Love.

• • •

CHAPTER ONE

UNRECRUITED LOVE
A blog about the heart-breaking search for your one true job.

BREAKING THE ICE

Posted by Ms Love in:

Tales from the Hot Seat

– – – – – – – – – – –

 The interview starts the moment the candidate comes through the door. They enter the room either full of bravado or so nervous they don’t know where to put their hands. The panel notes their posture, their clothes and the whiteness of their teeth. For some applicants the interview is off to a bad start even before they have answered the first question. His satchel, what is that—is it made from hemp? Why do these young kids come in wearing their sunglasses on their heads?

But not every panel member is swayed by the applicant’s choice of briefcase; sometimes they give them the benefit of the doubt and wait for the poor kid to seal their own fate with a verbal response. Today’s Tale from the Hot Seat was a case in point.

The young law graduate sat at the other end of the table, swallowing hard and wincing slightly as his Adam’s apple pressed against the bulky Windsor knot at his throat. He kept glancing at the glass of iced water that had been set down in front of him but he seemed too nervous even to have a sip. All the uncomfortable silences to come were punctuated with the sound of cracking ice cubes. You know things aren’t going well when you can hear the ice cracking.

The most senior panel member asked the first question: “Why do you want to work here?”

You know, it’s amazing how few people have a good answer to this question. If this was the only interview question they had to answer, most people wouldn’t get the job.

“Um—well I grew up in this town, and my family all lives here.”

“We mean, what’s the reason you applied for this job in particular? In this department?”

“Oh, right! Um—well—while I’ve been at university I’ve been working for Whitten Beattie and Tate—um—for the past couple of years but—um—I don’t want to work for a big—um—corporate law firm. What I really want is to—um—to do something meaningful with—you know—something worthwhile for the greater good. That’s why I want to work for my government. I really believe in public service.”

Crack.

“I mean, I want to have meaning in my career and—um—work towards the bigger picture, for the greater good.” He paused and looked at each panel member in turn, his eyes finally meeting mine. I smiled at him, nodded some encouragement, and he smiled back. “And I really like living here, also.”

Crackity-crack.

I’m sorry to have to report, Dear Readers, that despite this young man’s charming enthusiasm and quite extraordinary academic transcript, he didn’t make the grade. It’s a common tale—he had the skills and qualifications on paper, but he couldn’t provide a single, compelling reason why he wanted the job.

Also, he was facing a tough crowd. After he left the room one of the panel members said something unkind about his poorly fitting, ugly brown suit. I sat quietly and made notes on his file: “Whilst the panel made allowances for nervousness, the candidate was unable to articulate specific reasons for applying and did not take the opportunity to draw on his legal work experience or his academic achievements to demonstrate his suitability for the position …” and so on.

It was a harsh call, but at the end of the day the panel has to make an assessment based on that half hour of face-to-face contact. I imagine it’s a bit like speed dating, except that here you have thirty long minutes to prove to somebody that you’re going to be the kind of boyfriend who forgets your birthday and leaves toenail clippings beside the sink.

I really hope that kid finds a job. And perhaps a girlfriend to help him pick out a new suit.

Comments:

Mandi on: Breaking The Ice

Oh dear, my palms were sweating in sympathy, just thinking about that poor young man and the snooty panel members. I hope he finds a nice new suit too.

Sophie on: Breaking The Ice

I’m glad you still do these interview gigs from time to time. I love hearing about what goes on. It’s nice to know I’m not the only person in the world who loses the ability to form complete sentences during a job interview.

Claire on: Breaking The Ice

I’m grateful you have taken a break from writing about your bathroom renovations. I come here for the sardonic observations of an anonymous recruitment consultant, not the boring navel-gazing and inner turmoil of someone who can’t decide between Italian and Mexican tiles. Stay focused, Ms Love.

KateM on: Breaking The Ice

I want to know whether anyone on the panel was wearing an ugly brown suit.

Vanessa on: Breaking The Ice

I agree with @Claire – this is far more interesting than your bathroom and I feel a lot less guilty about reading your blog during office hours if I can learn something useful from it. Today’s lessons? Think of an answer to that first question. And drink the iced water.

Abby Lucas O’Brien sat at her desk with her laptop open to Unrecruited Love, reading the comments on the previous day’s blog post and trying to look like she was working on a new contract. She leaned to one side to see past the screen and out to the cubicles that filled the corner of the seventh floor of the office building. She wondered if there might be something going on that she could turn into a blog post for today.

There was a dull hum from the air conditioner and somebody was having a loud phone conversation with their mother which definitely wasn’t worth telling anybody else about. Her boss, Kayley Barnes was out to lunch with a client. It was a Monday so the other two senior account managers she shared this end of the corridor with, Mark and Mark, had jogged down to the lake for their boot camp session.

The junior consultants, Brittney, Chantelle and Annabella—the three secretarial school graduates who were affectionately known as The Pink Ladies—had gone to the cafe on the ground floor where they were no doubt dissecting the latest episode of The Real Housewives of New York City over their skinny lattes and double choc chip muffins.

Abby’s phone started to buzz from under the pile of contracts on her desk and she tipped several pages onto the floor as she scrambled to answer the call.

“Good afternoon, Avenue Consulting. Abby O’Brien speaking.”

“Abigail, it’s Kayley. I’m bringing Dave Eddison back with me to sign the contract. It’s in the Department of Health file on the group drive. Make sure it’s ready on my desk. We’ll be there in two minutes.” Click.

Abby resisted the urge to throw the phone across her office and into the large flowering philodendron in the corner, but she didn’t want to risk hitting the glass panel that separated her from Claudia, the executive assistant she shared with Kayley and the Marks and who sat at a desk just outside her office. Instead, she placed the handset down gently and took three deep breaths—through clenched teeth.

Avenue Consulting was a high-end recruitment agency with offices in a number of cities across Australia, including Canberra. Like all recruitment agencies in Canberra, it was almost exclusively concerned with supplying the federal government with permanent and contract staff, most of them IT professionals but some administrative and policy staff.

When she was a twenty-two-year-old university graduate Abby joined the company as a junior account manager, just a month after the Canberra office opened. She worked hard and moved quickly from that entry-level position to managing a handful of very important, very lucrative clients and several dozen contractors. Over eight years in the job, Abby almost single-handedly grew the agency into one of the largest in town.

While she was no longer required to conduct interviews, she volunteered herself for the occasional selection panel—just for the opportunity to get out of the office, network with public servants and keep up to date with any changes in the marketplace that might affect business. Not to mention the blog fodder—a steady stream of funny stories and cautionary tales to tell on her anonymous, fly-on-the-wall blog!

Kayley Barnes had been transferred from Melbourne headquarters twelve months ago to take over as general manager in Canberra. She had been unable to forgive the director for moving her. Kayley’s opinion of the nation’s capital was formed when she visited for three days on a school field trip when she was fourteen. As far as she was concerned it was a country town full of war memorials, office blocks, politicians and public servants. She believed a move to Canberra constituted a demotion.

Her indignation manifested in her attitude towards all the senior staff, but in particular Abby, which was condescending at best and downright disrespectful at worst. This phone call was just the latest example of how she spoke to Abby: abrupt, demanding and frequently misinformed—Dave Eddison and the Department of Health was one of the Marks’ clients, not hers.

“Claudia?” Abby stood up and walked out to the executive assistant’s desk.

“Hmm?” Claudia was absentmindedly munching on a carrot stick and surfing the internet. Claudia had come out to Australia from Scotland on a working holiday and promptly fallen in love with a young rugby union player from Queensland. Just as she was about to marry him and settle down on the sunny Gold Coast, a team made him an offer he couldn’t refuse—in Canberra. Claudia was a reluctant resident, and an even more reluctant executive assistant, given that she had two science degrees. Abby was thrilled to have her because she was extremely capable, and she despised Kayley almost as much as Abby.

“Can you print a copy of the contract with Health for me, please? It should be on the group drive.”

“Already done it”, she said, handing the pages to Abby without looking up from her screen.

“How did you know?”

“I checked her schedule this morning and printed it then. I knew she would forget to take it with her.” Kayley’s six-month long flirtation with Dave Eddison had developed into a full-blown crush, culminating in her extraordinary decision to take him to lunch, even though he wasn’t her client. “She can’t think straight when she’s around him. It’s pathetic. And yet she put so much effort into her outfit today. Did you notice? She’s wearing the fake Chanel and everything.” Claudia reached into her bag of carrots.

“You could have given this to her on her way out.”

“Yes, I suppose I could have.” She crunched on a new carrot and smiled sweetly.

“Claudia, you’re amazing, thank you.” Abby took the contract and walked down the corridor to Kayley’s desk. She dropped it onto the pile of other contracts sitting in her in-tray. As she turned she noticed a red folder under a stationery catalogue. The label was peeking out from the side and the lettering caught her attention:

PERFORMANCE REVIEW – Canberra Office

For a moment Abby considered grabbing the file and running with it into the ladies’ room. There had been an internal audit of the office a couple of months earlier and everybody in the office knew that the results of the investigation would determine the staffing levels for the following year. The rumour around the office was that the company was downsizing across the country.

Abby and the Marks had discussed it over coffee a few days earlier and the three of them agreed that it was possible that at least one of the senior account managers would be made redundant. The red file almost certainly contained recommendations from headquarters as to who should go.

The elevator doors opened and Abby could hear Kayley’s stiletto heels clicking across the marble entry foyer. Her shrill giggle—the one she seemed to reserve for male clients whom she was trying to schmooze—confirmed her arrival on the floor. Abby quickly retreated to her office, logged back into WordPress and started typing.

UNRECRUITED LOVE
A blog about the heart-breaking search for your one true job.

THE SCARLETT FOLDER

Posted by Ms Love in:

Working Girl

– – – – – – – – – – –

 Dilemma of the Day: Remember I was telling you about that internal review process that head office put us through? Well, the results are in. And they’re in my boss’s in-tray…

So, what’s it going to be?

Plan A: Pretend I never saw the stupid red folder in her stupid in-tray and cross my fingers and wait and see.

Plan B: Mention it to The Pink Ladies and wait for them to sneak a look and start spreading the gossip.

Plan C: Something even sneakier that you suggest. Please advise. Thanks.

• • •

About half an hour later Kayley appeared in the doorway.

“Abigail, can I see you in my office?”

“What, now? I was just about to—”

“Yes—now. Thank you.”

Abby locked her screen, grabbed a notepad and a pen from her desk and followed Kayley down the corridor. Twelve months spent working for an office psychopath had taught her the value of taking notes during meetings—collecting evidence of what was said and what was agreed to. She stepped inside Kayley’s office and closed the door behind her without having to be asked.

One of Kayley’s favourite games was Summon the Subordinate into the Office and Pretend to Be the School Principal. The Marks found the whole show especially amusing, even more so when it was Abby’s turn to be the schoolgirl and they could watch from their vantage point across the corridor.

Abby sat down in the chair opposite Kayley, resting her notepad on her lap, pen poised and a fake smile on her face. She noticed that the red folder was gone, and that the contract for the Department of Health was now sitting in the centre of the desk.

“Abigail.”

“You know, you can call me Abby” she said, for the one-hundredth time. Kayley ignored her.

“I want to talk to you about this contract.” With a flourish, Kayley placed her left hand on top of the contract. Kayley wore an obnoxiously large diamond on her ring finger and she took every opportunity to wave it around in her colleagues’ faces. Kayley was extremely secretive about her private life, but one of the account managers from the Melbourne office had already spilled the beans—it wasn’t an engagement ring. She’d bought it for herself on a trip to Hong Kong. And it wasn’t a real diamond. Abby glanced at the ring and bit her lower lip to stop herself from smirking.

“Alright.” Abby had no idea where the discussion was heading. She thought they were going to be talking about the performance review.

“The contract you printed for me? The one for Health? The one Dave was going to sign?”

“Yes.”

“Did you look at the contract before you printed it?”

“Er, no.”

“Did you look at the contract after you printed it?”

“No, I didn’t look at it. I just put it on your desk.” The fact that Claudia had printed it was irrelevant.

Kayley picked up the contract and handed it across the table to Abby. Abby took it, and glanced at the front page. Everything seemed to be in order.

“Take a look at the last page.”

Abby flipped the contract over and noticed it hadn’t been signed. She flicked back through the pages scanning the text, and then paused—something wasn’t quite right.

“Do those figures look right to you, Abby?” The third page contained all the financial information relating to the contract: pay rates, superannuation contributions, margins, and so on.

“No. These figures look a bit out of date. Our margins, for a start, are larger now. These figures look old.”

“Yes, they are. They are four years old. Can you explain to me why you printed off a copy of the 2013 agreement?” Kayley snatched the contract out of Abby’s hands, stood up from the desk and stomped over to the paper shredder in the corner of her office. “Can you explain to me how it is possible that you could make such a monumentally stupid mistake? What kind of an idiot are you, anyway?” The paper shredder crunched loudly through the pages and made a laboured, grinding sound when it got to the staple holding it all together.

Abby could feel the heat rising in her throat, and was quite certain her neck was starting to turn red. The colour would soon spread to her cheeks. She was both incensed at Kayley’s outburst, and confused about why the wrong contract had been printed. She knew that Claudia wouldn’t have done this on purpose.

“Well? Can you imagine how embarrassed I was in front of our client? This is a multi-million dollar account. He now thinks we are incompetent. He now wonders how we will cope, handling the rest of this arrangement. He now wonders if all the technical people we have found to run his project are as incompetent as we are. He walked into my office with the express purpose of signing the contract, and walked out not having signed the contract and not sure whether to continue with this deal at all.” Kayley kept talking, enjoying the sound of her own voice, savouring the stunned expression on Abby’s face.

Out of the corner of her eye Abby could see the rest of the office reflected in the glass panel behind Kayley. The Marks had returned from the lake and were failing miserably to be inconspicuous as they walked past three times in their fluorescent workout gear. Even Claudia had done a lap of the office in the hope of hearing a snippet of what was going on. Abby started to draw small circles on her notepad. She was trying to pay attention to what Kayley was saying but really all she could think about was how she was going to describe Kayley’s hideous orange and white stilettos to the readers of her blog. Seriously, who buys orange and white stilettos?

Kayley’s phone rang and she huffed loudly as she picked it up. A moment later, she put her hand over the mouthpiece and instructed Abby to go back to her desk, and said she would send for her again when she had finished the call.

Abby hurried back to her office and unlocked her computer. She needed to see what had gone wrong with the contract, and why Claudia had printed the wrong one. Claudia had a double degree in chemistry and physics, with honours—attention to detail was practically in her DNA. Abby went to the group drive, printed the contract with Health and double checked the numbers. The contract on the group drive was the same one she had given Kayley. It was the outdated version. But—she had done exactly what she had been asked to do.

Abby picked up her phone and hit ‘1’ on the speed-dial.

“Em? It’s me. I’m having one of those days.” Emma was Abby’s best friend since primary school, and always the first person she wanted to speak to whenever there was a crisis.

“What’s going on?”

“It’s Kayley. She just called me a stupid idiot.”

“Nice. What happened?”

“She asked me to give her a contract. I did. Turns out it was the wrong one, and now she’s throwing a tantrum at me.”

“Did you give her the wrong contract?”

“Well, yeah, but the one I gave her is the one she asked for. I don’t know why it’s the wrong one but I did what she told me to do.”

“Where are you now?”

“Back in my office. She had to take a phone call but I’ll be going back in a minute. Honestly Em, I’ve just about had it, I can’t work with her anymore.” Abby paused and waited for Emma’s advice. As well as being a lawyer, Emma was quick thinking and level headed. She could always talk Abby out of a mild panic.

“Take a deep breath. You can’t let her get to you like this. OK, whatever happens next, write it down. Keep a record. And be careful what you say, too. You don’t want to give her anything she can use against you later. Stay calm.”

“Alright. I’d better go. I’ll call you back.”

“OK, bye.” Abby logged into her blog to check for comments.

UNRECRUITED LOVE
A blog about the heart-breaking search for your one true job.

Comments:

Mandi on: The Scarlett Folder

I’m sure you’ve got nothing to worry about. You seem to be always so busy. How could they possibly do without you?

Vanessa on: The Scarlett Folder

Definitely Plan B. Unwitting accomplices are very useful.

KateM on: The Scarlett Folder

Could you be so sneaky? I don’t think you should. Just wait and see.

Claire on: The Scarlett Folder

Why don’t you just quit? Go on, I dare you. I double-dare you. At least then you’d have something more exciting to write about than your bathroom tiles.

CHAPTER TWO

“Abby?” Claudia’s sharp knock on the door snapped Abby out of her daydream. “Sorry to interrupt, but Kayley wants to see you again in her office.” Abby collected her notebook and the newly printed copy of the contract on her way out. Tucked into the back of her notebook was a plain envelope containing her one-page letter of resignation.

Kayley was standing behind her desk with her back to the door as Abby walked in, staring out her window, but she turned as she heard Abby tap on the door.

“You wanted to see me again?” Abby tried to sound as bored as she possibly could.

“Yes. Sit down.” Kayley stepped towards her chair and swung it around.

“No, thank you, I would rather stand.” Abby had a hint of a challenge in her voice. She stayed right where she was, propped up against the doorway and deliberately leaving the door wide open. Kayley raised one eyebrow and also stayed standing.

“Suit yourself. That was Dave Eddison on the telephone. I have managed to smooth things over, and we’re going to sign the correct contract later this afternoon.” Abby didn’t flinch. She was quite sure that Kayley wanted her to say thank you for rescuing the situation, to apologise for the mix up, but Abby wasn’t planning to do any such thing. She just stared back, and this put Kayley ever so slightly off-guard. “I have to tell you, I’m completely at a loss to understand how you let this happen.”

Abby remained silent and stared back at Kayley, waiting to hear what else she had to say.

“Look, Abigail, there is no easy way to say this, so I’m just going to say it. I think you need to seriously think about whether or not this office is the right place for you at this time.”

Abby still didn’t flinch, but underneath her calm exterior her stomach was churning. She had entered Kayley’s office intending to resign, effective immediately, and she expected that Kayley would try to talk her into staying. But now it seemed Kayley was actually suggesting she quit. And according to Abby’s employment contract, Kayley wasn’t allowed to do that.

“Kayley, are you asking me to resign?”

“I’m asking you to consider your options.”

“My options? I have three options. I can stay, or I can choose to resign, or you can fire me. I’ve been with this company for eight years, I have a spotless record and reputation, so I am not going to resign. That leaves staying, or sacking. It’s your call.

“You can’t stay. You gave me the wrong contract. You almost cost the company one of our biggest clients or, at the very least, an embarrassing and costly legal battle.” They both knew that either scenario was highly unlikely, but Abby didn’t bother arguing with her over this point.

“And that’s why you’re firing me?”

“I’m firing you because I no longer trust you to be able to do your job properly.”

“Kayley, I did exactly what you asked me to do. I gave you a copy of the contract from the group drive.”

“It was the wrong contract!”

“Well, I don’t know why it was the wrong contract, but it was the one you asked me to print off. Here, have a look. I printed this one a minute ago from the group drive.” Abby handed the contract to Kayley, who immediately turned to the last page where the numbers were. “See? This is the same contract that you took for Dave to sign.”

“It’s wrong. I don’t know where the hell you got this from but the numbers are wrong and you made us look like fools to our client.” Kayley thrust the contract back to Abby. “You made the mistake and as far as I’m concerned your position here is untenable.”

Abby took a deep breath and remembered Emma’s advice to stay calm. It occurred to her that there was probably a perfectly reasonable explanation for the mix up but that Kayley was in no mood to investigate. If she was looking for an opportunity to leave this goddamn place, this was her moment. “Alright then.” Abby turned to leave the office.

“Where are you going?”

“Back to my desk. I’ll start packing up my things. I’m going to need a letter stating that my position has been terminated due to unsatisfactory performance, or whatever you want to call it, with today’s date on it. I can let payroll know, and they’ll need to start calculating my severance pay …” Kayley had reached for a scrap of paper and was scribbling madly. Abby realised that Kayley would do whatever she asked her to do if it meant Abby would be going home today. “And I suppose I’ll need to sign release forms and various other things. Brittney or Chantelle will be able to help you find what you need in the admin file. As soon as that’s all done, I’ll go.”

“I think it’s for the best.” Kayley put her pen down and sighed loudly. “Don’t you?”

“I’ll assume that’s a rhetorical question.” Abby stepped into the corridor and walked purposefully to the stationery storeroom to collect an empty cardboard box, and then back to her office. Claudia was on the telephone, engrossed in a personal conversation, and Abby gave her a wink as she walked past. Back at her desk, Abby looked up a number on the internal directory and dialed it on her mobile phone.

“Hello, this is Megan Forsyth, head of Human Resources at Avenue Consulting. I am not able to take your call right now. Please leave me a message and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you.”

“Hi, Meg, it’s Abby. Can you call me back, on the mobile? It’s urgent. Thanks.” The next number she dialed was Emma’s.

“What happened?”

“Well, she asked me to resign, and of course I refused, so then she said she was terminating me on the grounds of poor job performance.”

“You’re kidding.”

“No.”

“She can’t sack you for that, without notice, without going through some kind of performance management process. She should know that.”

“She’s got no idea. She’s got a degree in sales and marketing, not industrial relations. Plus, she’s not particularly bright.”

“Well, she’s just exposed Avenue Consulting to an enormous financial risk. Do you know anyone down in the HR office in Melbourne?”

“Em, I’ve been working for this company for a long time. I know everyone.”

“Excellent. Well, call me back when there’s more news.”

“OK, bye.” Abby started clearing her desk and shelves. She was surprised to find that all her belongings fitted comfortably into the one box. Although Abby had been at the company for eight years, she’d kept her desk free of the kinds of things that most office workers accumulate over that length of time.

There were no photos, no trinkets from her last overseas trip, and no fancy but pointless paperweights. The Pink Ladies had been there for only a couple of years, but between them they had enough junk on their desks to furnish a small apartment. Abby’s desk was neat and tidy not because she liked the uncluttered look, but because she never liked her job enough to make her workspace look loved or lived in. She was eyeing off the philodendron in the corner when Kayley appeared in the doorway.

“I am very sorry that it has come to this, Abigail.” She took a step forward and held the envelope out for her. “Here’s your letter.”

Abby didn’t say a word as she accepted the envelope, opened out the letter and started reading. She could not have written it better herself. She was being terminated for ‘unsatisfactory job performance’ effective immediately, and there was even a line claiming that Abby’s actions exposed the company to ‘enormous financial risk’. How ironic.

“Thank you.”

Abby’s mobile rang and she glanced down to check the caller ID. It was Megan Forsyth. “Will you please excuse me? I need to take this call.” Kayley left, closing the door behind her, oblivious to the storm that was now brewing.

“Hi Meg.”

“Hi, what’s up? What’s urgent?”

“I’ve just been fired.”

What?!

“Kayley’s just handed me a letter, advising that my position has been terminated, effective immediately, on the grounds of poor job performance.”

“You’ve got that in writing?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh, shit. What happened?”

“She asked me to print a contract off the group drive for her to give to one of our clients to sign. In their meeting she discovered it was out of date, and then she came into my office and accused me of giving her the wrong contract. I showed her that I gave her the contract off the group drive that she asked for, but she sacked me anyway.”

“That’s it? That’s the reason?”

“Yup.”

“Was it the wrong contract?”

“It was out of date, but it’s the one she asked me to print for her. I’ve got no idea how the wrong contract ended up on the group drive, but she sacked me anyway.”

“OK, Abby. Give me half an hour. I need to find out what happened. I’ll call you back. Will you be at your desk?”

“Call me on the mobile, just in case. Thanks, Meg. Talk to you soon.”

Abby glanced at the phone on her desk and smiled to herself as she saw the red light beside Kayley’s line come on, indicating that it was busy.

Abby put the letter into the box of personal belongings and thought seriously about taking the plant, even though it was company property. Claudia tapped on Abby’s door as she pushed it open and popped her head in. She noticed the empty desk. “What’s going on?”

“I’ve been fired.”

“Oh my God!”

“Yup.”

“Kayley fired you? Why?”

“The contract we gave her for Health—it was the wrong one, and she’s fired me for poor job performance.”

“But I gave you that contract. What do you mean it was the wrong one?”

“It’s not your fault, Claudia. We did what she asked us to do. Anyway, it doesn’t matter now. She’s on the phone to head office. I’m just waiting to hear back from Megan Forsyth.”

“I can’t believe this” said Claudia. “What are you going to do?”

“What’s going on?” The Marks had changed back into their suits. “Where’s your stuff?”

Abby relayed the story. Everyone in the room was astounded by the wording of the termination letter, and knew that Kayley didn’t have a leg to stand on. “Oh, wow” said Claudia, shaking her head. “She’s absolutely screwed.”

“Pretty much.” The red light was still on next to Kayley’s phone line. “Look, I’ve still got to clear off my hard drive. I’ll talk to you all later, OK?” Claudia and the Marks returned to their desks and Abby logged into her blog. She clicked on New Post and started writing.

UNRECRUITED LOVE
A blog about the heart-breaking search for your one true job.

WELL, THAT WAS UNEXPECTED

Posted by Ms Love in:

Not Working Girl

– – – – – – – – – – –

 Thanks for your ideas. I was going to do it, I was actually going to quit. My boss had just done something that I still can’t quite believe (long story, I’ll save you the gory details) so I got myself all worked up and ready. Even came up with a bit of a speech, the kind where you get to say all the things you’ve been meaning to say to someone who has made your life a misery but you never get the opportunity. This was going to be my opportunity. And she completely blindsided me. She FIRED me. And she was wearing particularly ugly shoes when she did it.

But you know what? I couldn’t be happier.

PS thanks for your comments – you guys are awesome.

• • •

Claudia ducked back a few minutes later.

“Hey, sorry to bother you, I was just wondering how Patrick took the news.”

“Oh God, I haven’t even called him!” Abby felt her stomach churn as Claudia started laughing in surprise.

“You haven’t told him? Why not?”

“No reason, I just hadn’t thought to call him yet.” As soon as the words left her mouth she realised their significance. She hadn’t thought to call her husband and tell him that she had lost her job.

“Well, in that case, I’ll give you some privacy.”

Abby stared blankly for a minute before she picked up her phone and punched one of the speed-dial keys. “Can you meet me at The Joint House in five? Yep, OK, thanks. Seeya.” Abby grabbed her handbag and headed out the door. She asked Claudia to call her on her mobile phone if and when Kayley finally showed up. She headed for the elevators, passing Kayley’s office on the way and resisting the urge to look in.

A few minutes later she was at The Joint House, standing in the queue and biting her nails. The Joint House was her favourite cafe, located just a couple of blocks from her office building but far enough away to not worry about bumping into one of The Pink Ladies.

“Hey, gorgeous, I was hoping you’d call, what’s happening?” One of the Marks, the taller one, had joined her in the queue, and as she turned to talk to him the other one arrived.

“I’m unemployed.”

“Yeah, we know, so what are you going to do now?”

Abby shrugged her shoulders and ordered three short blacks.

“You won’t have any problem finding another job” said Mark. “Judy over at PeopleTech has been dying to steal you away from this place ever since you won the Defence account. Just give her a call.”

“I’m not sure I want to work in recruitment anymore.”

“Ha! Told you! You owe me twenty bucks” said one Mark to the other. “I knew you were going to say that, Abby. I’ve been waiting to hear you say that for the past two years.”

“You have not” said Abby. She picked up a table number and they all walked outside to a table under one of the big market umbrellas.

“I have. I’ve been waiting since the end of October two years ago when you went through that whole performance appraisal thing and had to fight for a pay rise despite your sales figures going through the roof. I still can’t believe you didn’t leave then.”

“I thought you would quit after they hired Kayley to replace Hamish, when they should have promoted you” said the other Mark. They all nodded in agreement.

Their coffees arrived and the three of them each emptied a sachet of sugar into their cups, stirring twice with a spoon before tapping it on the side of the cup in perfect unison, like a team of synchronised swimmers. They had done this more than just a few times before.

Abby sipped her coffee and stared down the street towards their office building. “You know, you’re right. I should have quit back then. I don’t know what was stopping me.”

“What’s the word for being stuck in one place? Inertia?” asked Mark.

“Yeah, inertia. She was inert” said the other Mark. “She needed a little push.”

Abby reached into her handbag, took out the envelope with her resignation letter and held it up for the Marks to see. “I was going to quit, as a matter of fact. When I went into her office I was going to resign. Here’s my resignation letter.” One of the Mark’s read it out loud.

“So what pushed you?” asked Mark.

“Oh, I don’t know.” Abby stared into her coffee, avoiding eye contact. But her reddening cheeks betrayed her.

“You’re blushing. Come on, what’s going on?”

“It’s silly. And it’s a moot point anyway because I got sacked first.”

“Tell us anyway.”

“Somebody dared me.”

“Are you serious? You’d quit for a dare?” asked one Mark.

“Who dared you?” asked the other.

“It doesn’t matter who. But it reminded me of this time when I was in sixth grade and Glen McPhee double-dared me to jump off the ten metre tower at the Civic pool, in front of all the other boys, and I had to do it. Nobody has double-dared me to do anything since 1996. I’m less brave now than I was at twelve.”

“So, did you jump?”

“Of course! And I haven’t done anything that crazy and impulsive since then. Until now. Except that I didn’t actually quit. She fired me.” Abby took her last sip of coffee.

“Semantics. Either way, you’re out of a job. So what are you going to do? You could work on the client side? You should call someone at Defence or Foreign Affairs.”

“What does Patrick think?” asked the other Mark.

“He doesn’t know. I haven’t called him yet.”

The Marks banged their espresso cups down melodramatically. “You haven’t called him yet?” they exclaimed in unison. Abby laughed.

“You guys crack me up. I’ll call him when I figure out what my next step is. He’ll be less inclined to freak out if I already have a plan.” Abby had convinced herself that not calling Patrick wasn’t such an indiscretion. And she wanted to have a better idea of what her payout would be before she told him.

“See? You are brave. My first call would have been to Jen to tell her I’d been sacked.”

“Yeah, but your wife is scary like that. She likes to know exactly what you’re doing at all times” said the other Mark.

“Whatever. So when are you going to call him?”

Abby’s mobile began to vibrate loudly on the table. She grabbed it, and her handbag, and started walking away, out of earshot. “Speak of the devil. See you boys in a minute.”

“Hey, how’s it going?” Patrick’s voice gave Abby a sudden pang of guilt. She should have called him. She should have called him an hour ago.

“Hey, I’m glad you called. I’ve got some news.”

“Yeah? What’s up?”

“I just got fired.”

“What?! What happened? Why? Hang on, I’m going back into the office. I can’t hear you out here in the workshop.”

Patrick worked at O’Brien & Sons Auto Mechanics. Patrick was the ‘& Sons’. He didn’t have any siblings but when Allen opened the workshop he wanted to give the impression of being a big family business. In the beginning, if anyone ever asked about the other sons, Allen said they were away at a trade show or a car race.

Patrick did his auto mechanic apprenticeship in his dad’s business, and then worked there for several years. When he was thirty he started thinking about one day taking over from his father, so he enrolled part time in a management degree at the University of Canberra. At the time Abby was doing her third year of university and that’s where they met. Shortly after Patrick graduated, his father sold him a half-share in the business and he had helped grow it to one of the busiest garages in Canberra.

“OK, door’s shut, now tell me what happened.”

Abby cut to the chase. “Well, Kayley accused me of something that I didn’t do, and when I pointed out that I had actually done exactly what she had asked me to do, she got all defensive, and then she sacked me.”

“What did you do? What did she say you did? I don’t get it.”

“Oh God, Patrick, it doesn’t really matter. I was actually planning to go into her office and quit, but she beat me to it.”

“Quit? Why would you quit if you hadn’t done anything wrong?”

“Because I just decided that I’d had enough.”

“And when did you decide this, exactly?”

“About ten minutes after I talked to her.”

“Why didn’t you call me?”

“It all happened so fast.”

“Right. And now you don’t have a job! I can’t believe you didn’t call me, Abby.”

“At what point should I have called you? Before or after she falsely accused me of giving her the wrong contract and calling me a stupid idiot?” The conversation was not going the way Abby hoped it would.

“You should have called me when you were deciding to quit. The timing couldn’t be worse, I’ve just got the—”

“Well, it was a snap decision Patrick!”

“I’ll say! You’ve certainly taken me completely by surprise Abby. Anything else you’re planning to do that you want to tell me about? Oh, hang on, you don’t make plans—you just go ahead and make a snap decision! Hang the consequences!”

Abby was silent. She wanted to hear Patrick tell her that he was sorry she’d had such a terrible day at work. She wanted some sympathy. She turned to look for the Marks, who were now walking towards her looking concerned. Suddenly, Abby lost control.

“Patrick! Didn’t you hear what I said? I was accused of something I didn’t do, then I was given an incredibly unprofessional dressing-down within earshot of the entire office, and then I was sacked. I have had an absolute shit of a day, and you’re pissed off that I didn’t call you and—what? Ask your permission? If anybody ever treated you like that at work you would have my full support to take whatever steps you felt were necessary. I wouldn’t question your judgement.”

Abby turned away from the Marks just as the tears in her eyes threatened to spill over. “I have to go, Patrick. I have to go back to my office and finish deleting files. I’ll see you at home.” Abby hung up. She and the Marks walked silently back to the office.

Back at her desk, Abby logged in to check her blog. She discovered a flurry of new comments. It seemed that Abby’s subscribers were sitting at their computers, waiting impatiently for the next notification of a blog post, and for the next instalment of the saga.

UNRECRUITED LOVE
A blog about the heart-breaking search for your one true job.

Comments:

Mandi on: Well, That Was Unexpected

OMG! Ms Love! You’re right, this was completely unexpected. I hope you’re OK!

Sophie on: Well, That Was Unexpected

Holy shit (I have nothing more to say)

KateM on: Well, That Was Unexpected

Oh no! I can’t believe she fired you! What on earth happened? Hurry up and write about it again! ((hugs))

Vanessa on: Well, That Was Unexpected

Actually, this is much more exciting than reading about your bathroom tiles. But I’m sorry that you’re going through it!

KarenB on: Well, That Was Unexpected

Long time lurker, first time commenter. I’m really sorry that you’re going through this but I imagine the payout figure will be MASSIVE. Fingers and toes crossed.

Bernadette on: Well, That Was Unexpected

I agree with @KarenB – you should get a tidy little sum out of this! So I guess congratulations are in order! Whoooppeeee!

Tracey on: Well, That Was Unexpected

You should be relieved, you’ve been complaining about her for ages. I’m sorry it ended so unpleasantly but at least it’s over. You should cash your great big fat cheque and take your husband to Paris for a holiday.

Claire on: Well, That Was Unexpected

You should cash your great big fat cheque and take yourself to Paris for a holiday.

CHAPTER THREE

Abby was cleaning up files on the drive and daydreaming about Paris when her mobile rang. The caller ID was blocked.

“Hello?”

“Hi, it’s Meg. I’m calling from a telephone in a hotel lobby. I’m wondering if I should have taken two cabs.”

Abby smiled at the thought of Meg sneaking around, and then wondered at the reason for it. “Why are you calling from there?”

“Because if anyone knew I was talking to you I’d lose my job. Look, Abby, I’m not going to lie to you. Kayley couldn’t have made much more of a mess of this if she had tried. I’ve just spoken to our lawyers and they’re obviously worried about an unfair dismissal claim. I have to ask, just between you and me, are you looking to take this any further?”

“I haven’t made up my mind yet. I need to have a think about my financial situation. I need to do some calculations, and then weigh up whether or not a claim is worth pursuing.”

“Do you want your job back?”

“Definitely not.”

“In that case, can I offer you some advice?”

“Are you allowed to?” Abby was sure that the lawyers would have told Megan to do whatever she could to protect the company’s interests.

“Of course not. So let’s call this a suggestion, rather than advice—just between you and me.”

“OK.”

“You might want to factor the Director’s Bonus into your calculations.”

“Ah, I see.” Every year the best-performing account manager across all the national offices was awarded a very handsome bonus. Abby had never won it, but she had come close the last few years. The announcement wasn’t due to be made until the Christmas party next month, but the winner was determined in July based on the previous financial year’s figures.

“Just make sure you leave here with everything you’re owed. This company has done extremely well thanks to you, Abby, and I don’t want to see you cheated out of your entitlements. So, aim high.”

“Thanks Meg.” Abby hung up the telephone and walked confidently down the corridor to Kayley’s office. She needed to see the performance review for herself, because nobody could know that Megan had spilled the beans about the Director’s Bonus. Kayley’s office door was closed. Abby tapped lightly on the glass and waited. After a few moments Kayley stood up and motioned for her to come in.

“I cannot believe you called head office” Kayley uttered through clenched teeth. Abby almost laughed out loud.

“You sacked me, Kayley. Why wouldn’t I call head office?”

“I sacked you because you gave me the wrong contract. There’s really nothing disputable about that.”

“Oh, I reckon there is. In fact, I’m pretty sure that whole mix up was your fault. I gave you exactly what you asked me to give you. You asked for the contract from the group drive, and that’s what I gave you. If the figures were wrong, that was not my fault. Actually I’d have to say that I’m ninety-nine percent sure that it was your fault.”

“What do you mean my fault? How can it be my fault?” she said, incredulously.

“Here, let’s have a look. May I?” Abby moved around to Kayley’s side of the desk and sat down in Kayley’s chair. With a few clicks of the mouse she opened up a couple of windows on Kayley’s desktop. “See this? This is the group drive, and here is the 2013 file, and here are the contracts.” Abby clicked on one of the files. “And here is the contract we made with the Department of Health in 2013, this one called DH2013.”

Kayley stood silently behind Abby with her arms crossed tight.

“Now look over here, Kayley. The 2017 file contains all our current contracts, and if we have a look in the Department of Health folder we will probably see one called DH2017.” The mouse hovered over the document.

“Exactly!” said Kayley, obviously feeling vindicated. “That’s the one you were supposed to print off for me, but you printed the 2013 one!”

“No, that IS the one I printed off for you. See this?” Abby opened the document to reveal the outdated numbers. “The version that was saved to the 2017 file was not the one that you were working on. The one that you were working on is somewhere else entirely, and I’m willing to bet it’s on your desktop.”

Abby quickly minimised all the open windows to reveal Kayley’s over-crowded desktop. Amongst the dozens of shortcuts and icons was a Word document called DH2017. She opened it up and, just as she has suspected, it was the updated version.

Kayley shook her head. “No, I don’t know how that happened; the one on the main drive should be the most recent version.” She leaned forward and tried to take the mouse from Abby’s hand. “Let me see that.”

“Kayley, have a look at the document history. The document history doesn’t lie.” Abby clicked opened a couple of windows and pointed out the damming evidence. “Here, see this? This is when you checked the original out of the system, here’s where you saved it back onto the hard drive, and here’s where you created another version and saved it to your desktop. All time-stamped, all user-stamped. You didn’t follow office procedure when handling multiple versions of a document and that’s how you ended up with the wrong contract. It was not my fault, Kayley, it was yours.”

Abby got up from the chair to make room for Kayley who was now making it obvious that she wanted to sit down and take a closer look. “You can stare at that screen all you want, Kayley, it won’t change the fact that this was your mistake. Kayley shook her head and sighed heavily as she realised what had happened. She slumped back in her chair and for half a second Abby almost felt sorry for her. What a complete balls-up.

“Can I ask you a question?” said Abby finally.

Kayley looked uncomfortable for a moment before she nodded her head.

“What did the September quarter performance review say?”

Kayley’s eyes narrowed ever so slightly. “You don’t work here anymore, Abby. I don’t have to tell you anything.”

“No, I suppose you don’t. But I’ve been working for you long enough to be able to read you like an open book, Kayley. So I’m just going to make a bold assumption. I got the Director’s Bonus, didn’t I?”

Kayley just sat in her chair, staring at the gigantic, ridiculous lump of cubic zirconia on her ring finger, unwilling to make eye contact with Abby.

“I’ll take that as a yes.” said Abby.

“Take it however you want. I don’t care. I just want you to leave.”

“I’ll be out of your way soon enough, Kayley. I just need to call my lawyer. Who will probably then call your lawyer. So maybe after the lawyers are done talking I’ll be ready to go.”

“Fine. Whatever.” Kayley picked up her telephone and started dialing. She looked up at Abby and huffed loudly. “Do you mind?” she sneered. Abby turned and walked out. When she got back to her office she found Claudia standing in the doorway.

“Take me with you, Abby? I don’t care where you’re going, but please take me with you.”

“I will call you as soon as I figure out what I’m going to do. Right now though, I need to make a phone call.” Claudia left, closing the door behind her. Abby was about to pick up the phone when it started ringing. It was Meg.

“Hello, Abby? It’s Megan Forsyth here. I’ve got you on speaker-phone and I’m here with Tanya and Leon, the company’s lawyers, and Siobhan, who I think you know, from the finance team.” Several voices said hello.

“Good afternoon everyone” replied Abby, also putting her phone on speaker and quietly pulling a notepad and pen out of her box of stuff.

“Abby, this is Tanya. I was hoping we could have a chat with you.”

“Sure. Can you give me a second? I just need to close my office door.” Abby silently pulled her mobile phone out of her handbag and as she walked over to her door she activated one of the voice recording apps. She opened and shut the door for effect, then put the mobile on the desk next to the speaker and sat back down. “OK, Tanya, I’m back.”

“Now, let’s not beat around the bush. The circumstances of your dismissal are regrettable and the company wants to avoid a costly and drawn-out negotiation, as we are sure you do too. We hope that we can come to an arrangement today that is mutually acceptable.”

“Abby, this is Leon. We have had a look at your current leave entitlements. Obviously the company is required to pay these out to you. In addition, we would like to offer you three months salary. We believe that three months is the most you could expect to be awarded if you decided to take the matter further, but you would avoid all the costs and waiting times associated with going to the tribunal.” Leon paused. Was he waiting for Abby to thank him for his generosity? She in turn waited for him to mention the Director’s Bonus, but everyone in the Melbourne office was silent. Finally, Abby spoke.

“I feel I should tell you I’ve just been in Kayley’s office. We figured out how the contracts got mixed up. Kayley had been working on a new version of the document and didn’t save it properly to the group drive so, as it turns out, it was her fault. The other thing I learned is that the Canberra office did very well in the quarterly performance review. And that I have won the Director’s Bonus this year.”

Abby paused while she drew breath—her heart was pounding. She waited for a response but there was none. “No doubt my lawyer would suggest that three months salary is a fraction of what the tribunal might award in light of this revelation regarding Kayley’s mishandling of the contract, and of course the extraordinary termination letter she gave me. The tribunal itself might be interested to learn that you tried to get me to agree to a severance package that didn’t include my Director’s Bonus. That’s a twenty-five thousand dollar entitlement that you were obviously hoping I wasn’t going to find out about.”

Abby put her pen down on the desk, sat back in her chair and gripped the armrests in an attempt to stop her hands shaking. She breathed out slowly and waited for someone to speak.

“Abby, this is Tanya, I’m just going to put you on hold for a moment while we consider our position.” The line clicked and Abby was left with soothing elevator music. She closed her eyes and waited. After a few minutes, Tanya was back on the line.

“Abby? I’m going to have to talk to a few more people here. Can you sit tight? We should have some numbers for you shortly, and I’ll reconfirm with Megan the—er—entitlements.”

Abby looked at her watch. It was almost five o’clock. “Alright, I can hang around for another half hour or so, I’m just packing up my office.”

She hung up the phone and, still feeling slightly shaky, logged into WordPress.

UNRECRUITED LOVE
A blog about the heart-breaking search for your one true job.

GOODNIGHT AND GOOD LUCK

Posted by Ms Love in:

Not Working Girl

– – – – – – – – – – –

 It’s all over bar the shouting. Actually, there won’t be any shouting. Hopefully just a really big cheque. Paris does sound pretty good right about now.

Am considering next move. Am contemplating a new career. Do people get paid for sitting around, drinking coffee and playing AngryBirds on their mobile phone?

• • •

By a quarter past five everyone in the office had heard the news Abby was leaving and had dropped in to wish her well as they left for the day. While Abby waited for the Melbourne office to call back, she searched online for cheap airfares to Europe. Abby thought about what Claudia had said. Take her, but where? She really had no idea what she was going to do next.

Finally, at about six o’clock, Kayley entered Abby’s office without knocking, and placed a plain white envelope in Abby’s in-tray. She looked so tired and emotionally exhausted that Abby really did feel sorry for her. Kayley had handled a fairly innocuous situation by going in with all guns blazing, and she had succeeded only in shooting herself in the foot. Kayley did not make eye contact with Abby, as she hurried out of the office.

Abby picked up the envelope, tore the end of it off and removed the enclosed pages. The first page was a standard letter confirming her job title and period of employment. The second page outlined the restrictions regarding Abby’s business relationships with clients of Avenue Consulting—essentially she couldn’t have any. The third page was a break down of her final payment: outstanding commissions, holiday pay, and not three but six months salary. And the Director’s Bonus.

$99,867.45 after tax. Holy cow.

She looked at the cheque, stapled behind the last page. She then looked again at the comments on her previous post. Have a holiday, they said. Go to Paris, they said.

Abby tucked the papers into her handbag, then picked up the box containing her coffee mug and the souvenir box of felt-tip pens, and headed for the elevators.

She was half way to her car when her phone rang. It was Patrick.

“Hi.”

“Hi. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have yelled at you like that. You just surprised me, that’s all. I’m sorry you lost your job.”

“Thank you.” Abby put the box on the roof of her car and leaned against the door. “I am sorry I didn’t call you. I know I should have.”

“No, no, it’s fine, you did the right thing. It’s just that, well, the timing is really bad, Abby. We can’t afford for you to be unemployed right now.”

“I’ll find a job quickly, Patrick. And besides, I’ve got my severance pay.”

“God, I didn’t even think of that. Thank goodness. Well, that’s going to make it easier.”

“Make what easier?”

“I started telling you on the phone. I got the valuation from Jim. Remember I asked him to do an independent valuation on the garage? I think dad’s getting ready to sell.”

Abby’s stomach started churning again as she realised where Patrick was going with this. Patrick had always talked about wanting to buy his father’s share of the business, but his dad had never been ready to retire. But last month Allen’s doctor had advised him to start taking it easy because of his high blood pressure, and this had inspired a change of heart.

“Oh, really? What did the valuation say?” Abby asked cautiously.

“He reckons $280,000 is a fair assessment, so I’d need to come up with half that to buy dad out. We won’t have to borrow so much, what with your payout. How much did you get?”

Abby didn’t know what to say. She had received her cheque less than twenty minutes ago and already Patrick had figured out how to spend it. They had joint accounts, and throughout their four-and-a-half-year marriage their salaries had been combined to pay for things like the mortgage, the kitchen renovation and the one-quarter share in a beach house at Jervis Bay. Pooling their resources had been the smart thing to do, and they had both benefitted from doing so—they had a nice life.

But Patrick had never before asked her to channel any of her salary into financing the business. Abby couldn’t help feeling as though this money was hers. It wasn’t really a salary cheque, it was pennies from heaven. Aside from the trip to Paris, she had started to wonder about how else she might use it. Setting up her own consultancy was one thought she’d had.

“Hold on, Patrick. If you need $140,000 to buy your dad out, we can take out a business loan.”

“Well, yeah, but we’d be paying a fair bit of interest on that. So, how much did you get?”

“Can we talk about this when I get home? I’m on my way.”

“How much did you get, Abby?” Patrick persisted.

“About a hundred thousand.”

Sweet Jesus! Are you serious?! A hundred thousand? Oh my God, Abby! That’s fantastic!

“Yeah, I know.”

“Wow, I had no idea it would be that much! That’s like winning the lottery.”

“Yeah.” Abby’s stomach continued to churn. “Look, Patrick, I’m back at the car and I just want to get going. The traffic on Northbourne Avenue is likely to be bad. Can we talk about this later? I’ll pick up something for dinner on the way.”

“Sure, sure, OK. I’ll be leaving here soon. I’ll see you at home.”

“Alright. Bye.” Abby hung up the phone and tossed her handbag and the cardboard box on the back seat of the car. As she was getting in the driver’s seat she suddenly thought to double-check that she hadn’t left anything on the roof, and as she stood back up she smashed the top of her head on the door frame.

She yelped in pain and fell into her seat, clutching her head with one hand as she slammed the car door shut with the other. The shock of the pain together with the crushing realisation that her entire payout was about to be consumed by Patrick’s business caused her to scream louder.


© 2017 Patricia Smith

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.

First edition 2017

Author’s Note

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is unintentional or coincidental.

Much of this story is set in the city of Canberra, which is my beloved home town. There are some long-standing institutions that I have used as ‘props’ in my story, but they are unwitting accomplices and the tales I tell about those institutions and the people who work there are completely made up.

Trish Smith

Trish was born and raised in Canberra, and now lives in the inner north with her husband, two daughters and two cavoodles. She is a part-time public servant and is the founder and creative director of Airpocket, an online travel goods business. In her spare time she enjoys walking, reading and staring dumbstruck at the cheese section of the Ainslie IGA. This is Trish’s first novel.

More about the Author

  • Helena Twells

    A fun read Trish! Looking forward to the next instalment, I hope Abby keeps her mitts on her cash $$$ 😀

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