Standing at the end of the aisle was Shane. He looked down at Clara, and then at the papers she had dropped all over the floor in front of her.

"Oh crap! Sorry if I scared you," Shane said. "It can get really quiet back here sometimes."

"You did, but it's fine," said Clara. "My fault for letting myself get so distracted."

Shane bent down. "Well, at least let me--"

Before he was able to reach the Pier Demo Study file and its contents, Clara scooped everything into her arms.

"I've got it," she said, shoving the loose papers into the accordion folder. Even though they'd just slid out a few seconds earlier, it didn't seem possible that the documents had actually all fit inside. Clara kept rearranging and pushing, forcing the loose ends in.

Shane slowly pulled back and said, "It's nothing to worry about."

Clara could tell she was coming off as nervous. "I want to clean up my own messes," she said, trying to sound relaxed.

Shane nodded slowly. "Admirable," he said.

Clara finished with the folder and put it back in its place with a weak, "There we go."

"Well," Shane said, "they just asked me to come by and see if you were okay with pizza for lunch."

"Definitely," said Clara, standing up. "I love pizza." She was so thrown off that her words felt like they were being spoken by someone else. And that person sounded inane.

"Okay, I'll put you down for a couple slices," Shane said. "See you in the conference room." He walked off.

"Thanks, Shane," said Clara.

She took a deep breath and looked back down at the Pier Demo folder on the shelf. One last document inside – a report that had been printed on some kind of old-looking paper with holes along the side – was still sticking out. Clara decided to leave it like that. She figured no one would notice, and fixing it wouldn't be worth the risk of getting caught again and looking like some kind of office snoop. She headed back upstairs.


From Clara's estimate, about eighty percent of the firm's employees made it to the main conference room for lunch. The team stretched down the length of the long table, with a few extra people lining the walls, sharing small supply carts or their laps to hold their food. Clara liked it. It felt cozy.

The energy in the room felt natural. Everyone was chatting about silly things – food preferences, their families, and what sounded like the stranger aspects of life in an engineering firm. "Okay," Clara thought, "the company isn't forcing this group lunch on its people. They're definitely here by choice. They actually like this little ritual." She could see why.

And she loved the conference room itself. It was on the top floor, so it had an even better view of the beach and festival preparations than the window near her desk. The upper part of the walls were lined with photos of the firm's projects, the largest being an impressive matted print with a rendering on the left side and a photo of the final building on the other. It looked to be the firm's highest profile work. Clara wondered if she'd have the chance to get involved in any of the ongoing building projects during her time there.

Shane sat next to her, which she was grateful for. He always found a way to work her into the conversation, and he would explain any inside jokes or other references that she didn't get. Not many people she knew at school ever thought to do that. It made her feel like an adult – at least, an entry level one.

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