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     It was as though Bryan had slipped down Alice’s rabbit hole. Even though he had worked at Cedar Walk Pets for nearly two years he had really never worked side by side with his fellow employees nor had he had direct contact with Cedar Walk’s customers before. The pet spa was a very different place from 9:00 a.m. to five p.m. than it was from nine p.m. to 5:00 a.m.!

     As his shift was coming to an end Sonia found him at the front desk answering a phone call concerning Cedar Walk’s hours and location. Bryan felt comfortable with this subset of information so she caught him answering the questions in a relaxed and informative manner. Once she had his eye she mouthed, “Come see us before you go, okay?” to which Bryan nodded assent.

     He walked to the office the women shared and knocked on the door frame. “Bryan,” said Lauren looking up, “come in. Close the door. How did it go today?” she asked, nodding toward the office’s empty chair.

    “Good question! It went well? I guess I thought I knew this place pretty well but every time I turned around I realized that what I usually do around here isn’t what I will be doing, you know? Kind of like living in a house as a kid and now I’m the mom? Different. Challenging, but fun.”

    “Well we like what we see,” Sonia answered. “Your interactions with your fellow employees are great and you have a nice balance between respectful and conversational when you interact with clients. I think once you know some of the ins and outs of retail pet care and are more comfortable with our particular products you’ll be dynamite.”

     “Well, I hope so. Doing a good job is important to me.”

     “Cool,” Lauren said. “That’s mostly why we called you in. Uhm, two things. Your bike? I know you stored it in the break room during third but that won’t work now. We’re going to have to have you leave it outside. There’s a covered area where it should be pretty well protected.”

     “Yeah, Sorry. I already thought of that but I didn’t bring a lock with me. I will Sunday.”

     Sonia nodded and said, “That’s fine. We didn’t think about it either. You’re the only one who rides here and it’s not like our clients show up on bikes with their pets in backpacks. The other thing is your vacation request. The timing is okay but it’s a little long. I just want to make sure that you understand that the paid vacation is for forty hours, alright?”

     “Oh, sure! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to make it seem like I expected to be paid for more. I need to go down to Florida. I have some family things to work out. I certainly didn’t expect to get paid for more than the week you told me about.”

     “Okay. Good. That’s not a big problem then. If we can be flexible with your schedule we can probably tweak it so it barely matters. Have you work as close to forty before you go and then another forty hours when you get back? Maybe pull a couple of longer shifts to make that work? Sound fair?”

     “Completely. I didn’t communicate very well I guess.”

     “No,” Lauren interjected, “it’s fine. We just wanted to make sure we’re all on the same page. We’ll throw in hours when we can. We try to avoid unnecessary overtime but we’ll work it out. So, let’s be clear: You can work from say five till say one in the afternoon on Wednesday May sixth and then we have you any time after Saturday the sixteenth.”

     “’Any time’ doesn’t mean third shift, right?”

    “Yeah, yeah,” Lauren answered brusquely. “No more third after next week and Zach’s trained. So that’ll work? I think that just means that you’ll lose one day of pay for the week of the third, you good with that?”

     “Completely.”

     “Cool,” Lauren responded. “Anything else for now?” she asked Sonia.

     “No, I don’t think so. Welcome to the daylight, Bryan,” Sonia said rising and offering him her hand. “Now let’s go. It’s been a long day.”

     Bryan gathered up his gear and was rolling his bike out into the sunshine when he saw Amy at the front desk. “Hey!” he said. “I thought of you when I woke up this afternoon.”

     “If I had a dollar for every time somebody said that to me! What was the occasion?”

     “I rode to work today! First time riding to work in a week. No sugar mama to drive me.”

     “Did she dump you already? I’m available for consoling after nine. I could come over to your place and make you feel better.”

     “No, but thanks! Cassie was working and I had to ride here. I think we’re going to have dinner at my place. I could cook for you too?”

     “Hmm- three way, huh? Yeah, not on a first date. Thanks though. I’ll see you next week?”

     “Regular schedule plus two mini shifts on Friday and Sunday. I’ll see you Sunday. I work two to six and then nine to five. Not looking forward to that.”

     “Oh, come on. I’m not that repugnant. I’ll see you Sunday, Bryan. Have fun with Mama Sugar.”

     “I plan to. Take care,” he said as he rolled his bike out into the early evening sunshine.

     Bryan grabbed his phone and punched Sandy’s number. “Hey, sweetie, how are you?” came her reply.

     “Great, great. Just got off work. Any plans?”

     “Yes! Remember I told you about Giving Tree Theater in Francisville? I can get us two tickets to opening night of ‘The Miracle Worker.’ Are you up for plays two nights in a row? Gatsby’s tomorrow.”

     “Sure. How much are tickets?”

     “They start at sixteen dollars. So you’re up for it?”

     “Absolutely. What time?”

     “The show is at eight and it’s what, six ten? How soon can you be here? Or should I come get you?”

     “No, no. I can get there. Say half an hour? I’ll come right over.”

    “Great! I’ll make dinner and it should be ready about the time you get here so we won’t have to rush. This is exciting! Oh! How was work?”

     “Exciting. And I got our vacation approved. And I have to lock my bike outside. Lots of stuff! I’ll tell you about it over dinner?”

     “Perfect! Be careful. Love you, Boy Wonder.”

     “Hey! That’s not Disney! I love you too, Cat Woman. I’m looking forward to feeling those claws.”

     “’I don’t care how you get here, get here if you can,”” she sang to him. “See you soon.”

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