Charlotte got back from lunch feeling much better about her day. She was back on track to being sure of her plans for the day. Everything was going to work out just fine. This is what she was supposed to do.
“Charlotte?” Her supervisor was at her desk again. He probably wanted to know what happened with the presentation this morning.
“Can I see you in the meeting room please?” He looked uncomfortable.
Charlotte was immediately on high alert and cursed under her breath. She must have done worse than she originally thought. She didn’t even bother to look at the clock before following her boss into the meeting room.
“Hi, Charlotte. Please sit down.” This was her boss two levels up. Charlotte thought her name was Shannon or Sharon or something. She had been at the presentation. This could not be good.
Charlotte silently took a seat and folded her hands into her lap, swallowed hard and looked up.
“Charlotte, there’s no easy way to do this so I’m just going to get to the point. I was at your presentation today and it was abysmal. We expected much more from you. Due to this poor presentation, we lost the bid we were looking to you to secure. We are currently working to recover for a second chance, however, we are going to have to let you go. This kind of performance is unacceptable.”
Charlotte opened her mouth to object, but nothing came out.
“I understand this is difficult for you, but please don’t make it any harder than it needs to be. Your supervisor will escort you to HR where you have some paperwork to fill out and an exit interview to complete. You will be allowed back to your desk at 5:30 when the other employees have left for the day. We will provide you with a box for your personal items so you will have no need to return to collect them. We expect your desk to be completely devoid of personal effects before you leave. Is that understood?”
Charlotte silently nodded. She fought to hold in her tears, refusing to blink. Her supervisor touched her on the elbow. She jerked away, stood up, and walked out of the meeting room holding her head high. She marched straight for the HR department. She knew that if she made a scene, security would be called and then she wouldn’t be allowed back in the building to retrieve her items at all.
When she got to HR, she was met by a plump lady named Gwendolyn. Charlotte studied her short, tightly curled gray hair and her living room curtain floral dress. Was that lace around her collar, too? Gwendolyn looked tired. Even so, she smiled at Charlotte.
“Hello, dear.” Her voice was pleasant and comforting. Charlotte started to choke up. “Please follow me.”
Charlotte numbly followed her, watching Gwendolyn’s round rump sway her dress back and forth. They rounded a corner and went into a room. There was a couch in there. There was a small desk with an office chair. On the desk was a stack of papers. Charlotte assumed this would be her paperwork.
“Please have a seat. I forgot something. I will be right back.” Gwendolyn’s comforting voice broke into Charlotte’s stupor. She heard the door close behind her. Charlotte suddenly felt completely abandoned. She sank into the couch and stared around the room.
Charlotte suddenly burst into tears as she realized this was real. This didn’t happen to people in the movies. They were able to talk their way back into the job or given a second chance! They weren’t fired on the spot.
Gwendolyn returned to Charlotte’s sobs. She left again and came back with some cheap office tissues. She set the box next to Charlotte on the couch and left again, closing the door behind her.