Since I had a three of the five parts that make up “The Job” posted, I figured I may as well post the whole thing. Here is part 1 of 5, with the rest coming out each day this week. Enjoy and feel free to comment.

Ann stood motionless against the steady stream of Sydney’s night life. She pretended to stare at the menu posted on the window, but in truth, she was just nervous and apprehensive about going in and facing her past.

She chuckled to herself for making it sound more dramatic than it really was. She had faced much worse in the past year and some. But high school was either something you loved or hated. For Ann, it was closer to the later than the former. These two women knew her back then, and hadn’t been shy about telling her how great their lives were now. Ann had kept the details of her life purposefully vague. It would probably take more than a few instant messages to share how her life had changed, how she had changed. But as she watched her two friends flirt with a group of well-dressed men at the table near them, she realized some things hadn’t changed at all. She also realized a few stiff drinks would make this go much more quickly.

Ann sighed, grabbed the door handle, flung it open and walked in, ready for anything.

Hugs and kisses were the first order of business, as well as the usual compliments about how great they all looked despite their busy lives.

Kara had always been the first to brag about anything, from when she got her period to how much she threw up on the Sydney FC striker she ran into at a party a few weeks back. She got away with a lot because she looked like a typical big-breasted blonde with a body to match. If she was that vapid, Ann would have had nothing to do with her. But she was also business smart, and one of the senior partners of one of the largest marketing firms in the city.

Jillian was always the over-achiever. From being class president, to having five children, to running for town council and, with any luck, mayor of a town of nine thousand-plus just outside Canberra. She was no supermodel, but she looked five to ten years younger than she was. Ann joked about Jillian having a Dorian Gray-like painting in her house somewhere, but she didn’t get it. She had ambition and energy to spare, but knowledge of pop culture, or a sense of humor? Nope.

Then, it was Ann’s turn.

“Are you still living in Millers Point?” Kara asked. “For government housing, I hear they are pretty nice.”

“Oh dear, public housing?” Jillian chimed in with what sounded like concern.

“That didn’t take long.” Ann murmured under her breath.

“It’s nothing to be ashamed of.” Jillian added. She may have been genuine about her support, but it just sounded condescending.

“I haven’t lived in Millers Point for about a year now, since I got a promotion at work.” Ann answered, leaving it wide open for more questions and back-handed comments.

“Is this the job at the mall?” Kara asked.

“No, she was taking a business course at night.” Jillian corrected.

“Business course? Weren’t you terrible at math?”

“You don’t need math for a business course if it focuses on secretarial work.”

“You, a secretary?”

“I think the term is Office Management, right?”

Ann just sipped her drink, wondering why she was still here listening to them unintentionally belittle her life. When they stopped talking and turned to her, Ann looked at Kara and said, “Not the job at the mall.” Then turned to Jillian and added, “I started as an Office Manager, but I was promoted to…” She trailed off, trying to remember what they called her. The only word that came to her was, “Liasion.”

Kara tried to hide her laughter, but it burst out. Jillian just smiled the kind of smile that makes you want to punch that person in the face. It was times like this that Ann wondered if her boss had created a time machine. If so, she’d go back to just before she walked in here and tell herself to not bother.

Once Kara calmed herself down, she asked, “So who do you ‘liaise’ for?”

“Brach Consulting.” Ann replied.

The humor machine in Kara’s face seemed to break down, turning her smile into Billy Idol-like sneer of incredulity.

“Brach Consulting?” She repeated.

Ann nodded as she sipped on her drink.

Jillian noticed Kara’s expression. “Who is Brach Consulting?”

Ann put her drink down and tried to think of how to best explain what they did.

“They are a think-tank.” Kara answered, her face still stamped with a failed Rebel Yell. “Their areas of work are incredibly diverse, from quantum theories to space exploration to cybernetics and pretty much anything that was considered science fiction ten years ago. Some consider them the C.I.A. of brain-trusts. I’ve heard they even have an office in Trident City.”

Jillian looked at Ann impressed, if not a little overwhelmed. “Wow.” She turned back to Kara, “How do you know about this company?”

“My company sent a proposal for a contract, to develop their brand.” Kara replied quietly, equally overwhelmed, with a hint of disbelief.

Ann sat up straight. “Wait, I remember getting a proposal about a month ago. Was that you?”

“Oh, I, umm, I can’t remember when that was sent.” Kara replied, flustered.

“Don’t worry, their pretty selective of whom they work for.” Ann said, trying to sound nonplussed.

“Do you have any business cards?” Jillian asked.

Ann opened her mouth to reply, then paused, thought, then said “No. I’m waiting for the new batch.”

“That’s too bad.” Kara said, her jealousy caused unflattering lines under her eyes.

“Oh!” Ann added before digging out her Blackberry Passport. A few taps and swipes and she handed it over to Kara.

“That’s the company website.” She chuckled nervously. “The boss liked that picture. They said it made me look tough and intimidating.”

Kara and Jillian squeezed together to look at a simple website with the Brach Consulting logo, a brief description of the company, and a picture of Ann in a simple, but expensive business suit, looking very corporate badass.

“Cool!” Jillian whispered.

“Wow.” Kara replied, genuinely stunned, as she handed the phone back to Ann.

Although the two show-offs were humbled, that wasn’t Ann’s intention. Despite their quirks, they were still her friends, who had stuck with her through all the bad times.

“It seems like a pretty sweet job.” Ann began, “But honestly, I fell into it totally by accident. Sometimes we work like hell to get good things, and sometimes they come out of nowhere.” She looked towards Jillian, “Like your husband, right?”

Jillian smiled and nodded.

“And if memory serves, Kara, when I was wasting away my life with Football Boyfriend number two, you were working your ass off to make a name for yourself in marketing and development, so people saw your work and not your hotness.” Ann added.

“Was Football Boyfriend number two the one that was really hung? Because that’s not wasting away your life.” Kara replied, hiding her emotions beneath humor, as she always did.

Ann smiled before finishing, “My point is, we have all had our ups and downs. Maybe I’ve had more downs than ups, but at least, in this moment, we are all in the ups.”

Jillian raised her glass. “Here here!”

“Agreed.” Kara raised her glass.

Ann joined them, clinking their glasses before taking a well-deserved drink.

Once they set their drinks down, Kara and Jillian leaned forward.

“So how did you get that job?” Jillian asked.

“Through one of those job placement companies.” Ann replied, smiling.

“Bullshit.” Kara answered.

“Seriously!” Ann confirmed. “But where I worked wasn’t known as Brach Consulting. It was a satellite, sub-contracting office, or something like that. For me, it was just another job, and until the day I discovered who was truly behind it, my days were all the same.”

***

Tales from the Infinatum: The Job Copyrighted © 2013 Mark James MacKinnon.
Any use of these characters, without permission, is strictly prohibited. Any similarities to individuals, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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