COPYRIGHT Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder. All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.
"How long—how long have you worked here?" she said, getting down off the machine. I couldn't quite read her expression. She seemed sort of dryly amused.
"I just started. Like a couple of weeks ago. How about you?"
"Years—five years. Where do you work?"
I didn't think my stomach could sink any lower, but it did. "Uh, I was hired by Consumer Products Division—new products marketing?"
"You're kidding." She stared in amazement.
"Don't tell me you're in the same division as me or something. That I'd know—I'd have seen you."
"I used to be."
"Used to—? Where are you now?"
"I do marketing for something called Disruptive Technologies," she said reluctantly.
"Really? Cool. What's that?"
"It's boring," she said, but she didn't sound convincing. "Complicated, sort of speculative stuff."
"Hmm." I didn't want to seem too interested. "You catch Goddard's speech?"
She nodded. "Pretty heavy. I had no idea we were in such bad shape. I mean, layoffs—you sort of figure layoffs are for everyone else, not for Trion."
"How do you think he did?" I wanted to prepare her for the inevitable moment when she looked me up on the intranet and discovered what I really did now. At least later I'd be able to say I wasn't really holding back; I was sort of polling on my boss's behalf—as if I had anything to do with Goddard's speech.
"I was shocked, of course. But it made sense, the way he presented it. Of course, that's easy for me to say, since I probably have some job security. You, on the other hand, as a recent hire—"
"I should be okay, but who knows?" I really wanted to get off the subject of what exactly I did. "He was pretty blunt."
"That's his way. The guy's great."
"He's a natural." I paused. "Hey, I'm sorry about the way our date ended."
"Sorry? Nothing to be sorry about." Her voice softened. "How is he, your dad?" I'd left her a voice message in the morning just to say that Dad had made it.
"Hanging in there. In the hospital he has a fresh cast of characters to bully and intimidate, so he has a whole new reason for living."
She smiled politely, not wanting to laugh at the expense of a dying man.
"But if you're up for it, I'd love to have another chance."
"I'd like that too." She got back on the machine and started moving her feet as she punched numbers into the console. "You still have my number?" Then she smiled, genuinely, and her face was transformed. She was beautiful. Really amazing. "What am I saying? You can look me up on the Trion Web site."