"Not today," Michelle corrected, getting to her feet. "Worries can start tomorrow. I haven't even had a first full coffee yet." She bent to pick up her box. "He's here. My brother."

Dolores, frowning, peered around but there was no traffic on the industrial little side street. A faint rumble in the distance resolved into a muffled, thumping beat as a red Toyota turned the corner, pulling towards the curb.

Michelle waved. "There he is."

Dolores regarded the car with furrowed brows; speech was unnecessary, and also difficult over the bass, as the Toyota stopped in front of them.

"Don't worry! I'll tell him to turn it down," Michelle shouted, in understanding.


Dolores, emitting a steady stream of mumbled gratitudes, heaved herself into the cramped back seat of the Corolla, trying to avoid the Red Bull cans and binders piled into the footwell. Bryan smiled a hello and apologetically tried to scoop most of the mess out of her way.

"Thanks for picking me up." Michelle manoeuvred herself into the front seat, the box on her lap. "This is Dolores. She lives near me."

Bryan waved in the rear view mirror, already focusing on pulling out into traffic, despite the chirping alarm indicating that his sister still fumbled with her seat belt. "No worries! Least I could do."

"I-we've-could've taken the subway," Michelle reminded him, succeeding with her seatbelt. "But I do appreciate it. I feel a bit..."

"Dazed?" Bryan suggested, adjusting the stereo up.

Michelle adjusted it back down. "I guess. Half-asleep? I didn't get a chance to drink my coffee." Her brother glanced over, appalled.

Dolores leaned in between the two seats. "Did The Crawfish not offer you a coffee?"

Michelle giggled. "I didn't know that nickname reached downstairs!"

Dolores nodded vigorously, sincerity glowing from her face. "Oh yes! I can't stand that woman, no one can."

"Who's this?" Bryan asked.

"One of the company's general managers." Michelle made snapping claws out of her fingers. "Everyone hates her. I was warned about her when I showed up for training on the first day." She shifted to address Dolores. "Did she have a bunch of HR with her when you saw her too?"

"Yes," Dolores agreed, her eyes wide as Bryan propelled the Corolla through a busy intersection with well-honed video game manoeuvres, "I was friends with one of the HR women. They offered us coffee and muffins but no one took one. I asked what I had done, why they were letting me go, but nothing. Just budgets, they said."

Michelle frowned sympathetically. "Not surprised."

"What did they tell you?"

"I didn't bother asking," she admitted. "I knew from the randomness of other people in my studio who had the 'meeting'-" she gestured with air quotes "-that it wasn't personal, just a round of layoffs."

"I've been there seven years," Dolores admitted glumly, "and they couldn't tell me why they had to fire me..."

"Seven years!" Bryan exclaimed, twisting in his seat to address her directly, which caused both women to yelp in alarm before he returned his incredulous attention to the road. "In the same job?!"

"Yes." Dolores looked from his face to Michelle's. "Yes, it was a good job. I was lucky to have it."

"Seven years," Bryan muttered.

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