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Silberman's Books. Friday, May 1st, 2015. 12:08pm

 

It looked like it as going to a really nice weekend weather-wise, which usually meant busy mornings and afternoons at the small independent bookstore at the corner of Pratt and Frederick; as much as purists might scoff, Lynn knew when she reopened her family's store that adding the cafe elements would help drive revenue. True, some people just stopped in for coffee and a bagel as part of their daily routine, but they often grabbed a paper, magazine or gift card for a friend, so the hassle of  milk and coffee deliveries was, in her eyes, totally worth it.

 

Except for days when the milk order was running late; then Lynn wanted to hang herself. They were out of skim by 10:30 and almost out of soy, which tended to make many of the older lactose intolerant customers grumpy; they still had lots of almond milk, but there were often allergy issues. Lynn was in her office sitting behind her massive desk, trying to reach the dairy for the third time since before opening.

 

"Oy gevalt, this is nuts; who doesn't have voicemail in this day and age?"

 

Meanwhile on the sales floor, Maddy was helping a young couple find a special book for their niece's fifteenth birthday, and Lance was working the bar, a bandana covering his head as usual. Meanwhile Gretchen, Lynn's personal assistant, was sitting at one of the tables with her MacBook, a stack of completed applications and a large Americano within easy reach.

 

- - -

 

There was indeed a 'Now Hiring' sign taped to the window next to the front door, just as Fast-Forward said there would be; now Sam just had to go up the stairs and head inside.

Edited by Heritage

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Sam paused on the bottom step, partly to compose herself before entering, and partly to once more roll back the sleeve of the too-big sweater she'd had to borrow from Asli. She knew that what she ordinarily wore wasn't a real costume, and wasn't likely to attract a second glance on the street, but she still hadn't felt comfortable showing up in her Starlight clothes. She wasn't exactly what you would call a top-tier hero, but no matter how unlikely it was, there was always the risk of someone recognizing her. A risk she didn't feel like taking today, if she could help it. Her hair was tied into a tight braid instead of her usual ponytail, and she had taken out her earrings.  A paper-thin disguise to be sure, but the best she could do at the moment. She made a mental note to look into getting a mask.

The door felt cool against her palm, which was sweating slightly despite the fact that she never got hot anymore. She glanced at the sign - yeah, this is the place - and pushed inside. She glanced around the interior of the store, trying to decide which of the employees looked least busy. After a moment, she settled on the guy with the bandana, and approached the bar.

She leaned in slightly towards him, and kept her voice quiet. She had been shushed by enough librarian-types in high school for one lifetime. "Uh, 'scuse me," she said. "I'm here about the job?"

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GM

Lance was indeed between drink orders when the blonde with the ponytail approached the bar; he was big with a friendly face, and wore a purple Kansas State t-shirt under his brown Silberman's apron.

 

"Oh yeah, great!" He stepped over to the register side and pulled out a pre-printed application. "Here you go; do you want to fill it out right now? I can get you a clipboard and pen, if you'd like."

 

The application was a simple double-sided sheet with the usual questions; name, address, phone number, questions about the previous three jobs the applicant had held, schooling, special skills, hours preferred and space for up to three references.

 

When the young brunette with all the earrings heard Lance handing the blonde the application, she looked up from her MacBook and cooly looked the new applicant up and down; her gaze wasn't hostile, merely analytic.

Edited by Heritage

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Sam accepted the application, as well as a pen. She was about to ask for a cup of coffee as well when she felt eyes on her, and glanced around at a young brunette who seemed to be eyeballing her. She took a moment to repress her reflexive paranoia - there was no way this girl could know who she was - and, grabbing the form, quickly retreated to one of the tables to fill it out.

She placed the tip of the pen to the paper, and stopped. Name. No turning back after this. She hadn't officially used her birth name in...a while. For a variety of reasons.

Samantha Madison Lawrence, she wrote, and looked quickly around, as if expecting a SWAT team to come crashing through the windows. No such thing occurred. She let out a quiet breath, reproached herself for being an idiot, and returned her attention to the application. She put down Asli's apartment as her place of residence, carefully omitted mentioning her real "special skills," and decided she had no preference for hours. Commuting is not a problem. Neither is fatigue. Richard Cline was her reference, and she thought it was probably a pretty good one at that.

And...she sighed. Yes, I have been incarcerated.

After a while, she was done. She surveyed it critically, winced at her crappy handwriting, and stood. She approached the bar again, tapping it to get his attention. "Finished. Where do I take this?" she asked, holding up the application. Geeze, it really is like high school. Hope I don't flunk everything again.

Edited by R. Bluefish

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Lance turned to smile at Sam. "Great! Uh, let's see; Gretch, are you reviewing applications right now?"

 

The brunette girl nodded and waved the new applicant over.

 

"Yeah, I'll have a look at it."

 

She noted Sam's slight discomfort and cocked her head slightly to one side.

 

"Do want something to drink? Coffee, water or anything?"

 

There was something bird-like about her demeanor, or perhaps like a small rodent of some kind; she held you intently with her gaze, as though studying a morsel of food. There was curiosity, but not a great deal of warmth. There were a number of tattoos visible on her forearms, mostly bars of music, and the words 'The Future Is Unwritten' were on the knuckles of her left hand.

Edited by Heritage

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"Coffee's good," said Sam shortly, seating herself across from her. While these days caffeine didn't seem to affect her any more than...anything else did, the taste alone was almost enough to fool her into thinking it did. Besides, ever since recently abandoning her extended fast, she made a point of tasting things at every possible opportunity. She had quite a bit of lost time to make up for.

She placed the sheet of paper on the table and slid it across to the other woman. "So, here's my application." There didn't seem to be much else to say about that that wasn't already reflected on the form, so she nodded to Gretch's tattoos. "Nice ink, by the way."

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Gretchen looked down at her arm and shrugged, a hint of a smile on her lips.

 

"Eh, you go to art school these days, you kind of have to get some, or else they think you're a cop; thanks, though."

 

She scanned the application quickly, her dark blue eyes like precision optics, and occasionally marked or circled an item with a pen; at one or two points she stopped, idly tapping the back of the page with a finger as she carefully studied the document. In the meantime, Lance thoughtfully brought over a large cup of coffee on a tray, along with cream and sugar on the side; he offered Sam a friendly grin and an encouraging wink.

 

At last, Gretchen set the paper aside, crossed her wrists on the table and smiled slightly. 

 

"Okay, your work experience is decent; I've seen better, but I've seen much worse. Like, scary bad. And thanks-"

 

She tapped the section refering to Sam's record.

 

"For being honest about this; it's actually really appreciated."

 

Then she frowned slightly as she picked up the application again.

 

"Uh, under 'References', you only list one, a Richard Cline? Why do I know that name..."

 

She turned to her laptop and rapidly typed in a search; a few seconds later, those intense scanning eyes widened just a fraction, then flickered between Sam and the screen. The young woman then slowly closed the laptop and crossed her wrists again, and looked to be choosing her next words carefully. 

 

"Are you...at liberty to explain how you know Mr. Cline?"

 

She raised her eyebrows slightly, her meaning not entirely clear. 

Edited by Heritage

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Huh. Is she...in the business, I wonder? She didn't want to make any rash assumptions, so Starlight waved a hand enigmatically. "We have some common interests," she said, keeping her meaning also carefully unclear. "He was willing to put in a good word for me here." She twitched her shoulders in a frank sort of way. "And I doubt any of my previous employers would be. So."

She dumped a potentially dangerous amount of cream and sugar into her coffee and stirred it in, then took a sip. She closed her eyes briefly, allowing the flavor to flood her senses. She was starting to get used to tasting things again. She didn't so much as cough this time.

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Gretchen pursed her lips thoughtfully and nodded. "I see; wait here, please."

 

She abruptly got up and went over to Lynn's office, rapping sharply on the door before pushing it open; inside, she found her boss slumped over her desk on a cordless office phone, her face a dull mask of despair, repeatedly stabbing herself in the forehead with a collapsible prop dagger. Tinny hold music could be heard faintly playing on the phone's speaker.

 

"Kill me noooowwwwww."

 

Her assistant grinned and cleared her throat. "Uh, boss? We have a potential 'Special Order' situation?" She waved Sam's application in the air.

 

Lynn's brow furrowed slightly as she reached over to take the paper. "How d'ya mean?"

 

"Look at her reference."

 

The changeling's eyes slid down to the appropriate section, and her eyebrows went up. "That Richard Cline?"

 

"Seems to be."

 

Lynn drummed her fingers on her desk, the phone still pressed against her ear.

 

"You want to talk to her?"

 

"Yeah. Send her in."

 

Gretchen nodded and held out her hand. "I can finish up with the dairy."

 

Lynn rolled her eyes and let out a loud sigh. "Thank you so much!"

 

"...I'll probably need the dagger, too."

 

A few moments later, Gretchen returned to Sam's table, a cordless phone tucked under her shoulder, playfully stabbing herself in the hand with the prop; she offered no explanation for this activity.

 

"Lynn would like to speak to you; her office is straight back there."

 

The owner's office was decent sized, with a massive dark wooden desk dominating the center; bookcases lined the four walls, and there were two comfortable-looking leather chairs for guests. Odd bits of bric-a-brac dotted the shelves, and pair of old-fashioned guns, a rifle and a revolver, were mounted high up on the wall.

 

There was a flatscreen monitor, keyboard and green banker's lamp on the desk, behind which sat a lovely elfin woman with dark eyes and curly shoulder-length brown hair; she looked positively tiny behind that dark slab. She wore comfortable jeans, a black Edgar Allen Poe-themed t-shirt and no visible jewlery, though something hung from a leather thong under her t-shirt. When Sam entered, the woman sat up in her big swivel chair and offered a firm handshake.

 

"Hi, Samantha, I'm Lynn Epstein; please, have a seat!"

Edited by Heritage

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Sam was still glancing over her shoulder perplexedly as she entered the office. That was weird. Was that a fake dagger? When the woman behind the desk spoke, she wrenched her attention back and shook her hand. "Hey." She sank into one of the chairs, glanced around, and said, "Nice office. Nice store, too. Lot of..." she searched for an appropriate compliment, "...books."

Being brought back to talk to the boss after mentioning Richard Cline made her more and more sure of her gut feeling, but she decided to keep playing it safe. "So, your assistant was looking at my application a moment ago. Nothing wrong, I hope?" You're not chomping at the bit to hire a drug-addled ex-con?

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Lynn smiled at the awkward compliment. "Thanks! Yeah, I love coming to work every day." She resumed her seat and picked up Sam's application. "No, no red flags, but just a few things I need to ask you about." She reread a few sections, then set it aside once again. "Look, this is retail; it is what it is. It's not particularly hard or glamorous, but it's not for everyone. I don't doubt you can do this job, because it's easy; you work the register and you talk to people. If we didn't have child labor laws, a kid could do it; hell, some of them would be great it."

Then she leaned forward to put her palms on the table. "So here's the thing; I'm less concerned about your ability than I am how you'd fit in my team. My staff likes to make fun of the fact that I think of my employees as part of my family, but it's true, sad as that may seem to some. I am very protective of my family, but also very generous. So-"

She picked up the application again. "It says here you have a record; now some short-sighted employers would see that and just toss your application in the trash, but that's pure BS and shows no respect for our criminal justice system." She put the paper down and folded her hands in her lap. "So, can you tell me about that?" For a second, she sounded more like a therapist than a prospective employer.

Edited by Heritage

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Sam felt her muscles go tense, and she forced herself to relax. It wasn't as if she hadn't been expecting this. If anything, what was surprising was that she hadn't been rejected out of hand. Most employers weren't quite so open-minded when it came to ex-cons, she knew. Usually, you tick that particular box and you're out on your ass. She looked Lynn square in the eye and said, "Drugs. I was addicted to cocaine. Then heroin. I'm clean now." Very clean. "Attending Narc-Anon. It won't be a problem."

It was tempting, so tempting, to just leave it at that. Drug conviction, nothing else. Open and shut, nice and simple, nothing terrible. But that wasn't the way to do things, was it? Not if she really wanted to make a fresh start. Starlight could keep her mistakes secret. Samantha was going to have to learn to live with them.

She dropped her gaze, just for the briefest of moments, before snapping her eyes back up. "And child abuse, too."

There it was. The words seemed to her to hang in the air. It was almost a relief to say aloud. She knew she might as well start heading for the door now and save herself some time, but her limbs felt leaden, as though speaking those four words had drained the energy from her. So she tucked her chin into her hands and waited.

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There was a sharp intake of air, and Lynn closed her eyes for several seconds; finally her eyes opened, and she hit Sam with the full intensity of her deep, dark gaze. If there was any doubts as to the woman's metahuman status, they were now instantly dispelled; these were old, sad eyes than did not belong in the face of someone in their mid-twenties, eyes that had witnessed great joy and great cruelty. And then just like that, her eyes were merely pretty and brown again.

"You're ashamed; that's good. It means you want to change, which is...huge".

She was about to say something, then caught herself, then made a 'fuggit' shrug, leaned forward and lowered her voice.

"I...first shot up when I was seventeen; I was living on the streets of Freedom, panhandling, shoplifting, working petty cons. And it was the greatest high I ever felt, because it told my brain to shut the f### up...because back then, more than anything else, I did not want to exist; I wanted to be obliterated off the face of the god#### Earth."

Lynn turned and looked away, covering her mouth with her hand, as though she might have said too much; at long last, she sighed and shook her head. 

"So how...do you know Richard Cline?"

Edited by Heritage

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The brief change in Lynn's demeanor was not lost on Sam. Those were not the eyes of an ordinary bookstore owner. Huh. Lot more ex-junkie superheroes in this city than I thought. And she didn't seem like she was about to throw her out, oddly.

Doubt briefly nagged at the back of her mind. It was still possible that she was...no, she was obviously a meta. That wasn't something you could fake. And if she was a bad guy, she was damned good at hiding it. Sam had just been more honest with her than she had been with anyone in a long time, she might as well go all the way. In for a dime, in for a dollar.

She looked around quickly, furtively, making sure no one else could see, then leaned back in her seat. Her eyes flickered white for a moment, then ignited into two featureless, glowing orbs of radiance that cast faint shadows across her face. "We met 'on the job,'" she said flatly. "Somebody was putting a new drug on the streets. People were getting hurt. We wanted to stop it. We did."

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Lynn smiled and nodded enthusiastically.

"Good; that's really good. I met him on the job, too." 

She rolled her neck, like she was working a knot of tension out, but then her hair moved of its own accord, lifting up and twisting into a ponytail, which revealed the store owner had two graceful pointed ears. Opening her eyes, she smiled and shrugged.

"So yeah, you wouldn't be the only freak here if I hired you."

The strange 'young' woman sighed and drummed her fingers on the desk, randomly looking around the office as she hummed and thought things through; finally she slapped the desktop, knocking over a jar of pens, which she quickly righted.

"Okay! So, assuming your story checks out, here's the deal I'm willing to make you, because I think it's safe to say you need this job more than anyone else I've interviewed: you stay clean, you meet with your parole officer, and you work your ass off for ninety days, and I will make you a permanent hire."

She placed her splayed fingers on the application.

"I will not breathe a word of this to anyone, beyond Gretchen and my office manager Kiki knowing you have a record for administrative purposes; if you don't show up for work for a week, we will check in with your parole officer, but the details-" 

She placed a hand on her chest.

"Remain with me. Is that clear?"

Edited by Heritage

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Sam nodded Lynn spoke, a grateful feeling growing in her chest even as the energy faded from her eyes. "It's clear. I'll try not to let you down." Unless I get eaten by a dinosaur or sucked through an interdimensional rift in the next ninety days, that part should be fine...staying clean is, heh, very much not a problem...my parole officer is...hopefully the understanding type...

She couldn't think what could go wrong, which made her faintly nervous. It was her experience that not foreseeing a problem just meant it would catch you off guard. But, well, she couldn't foresee a problem.

"And..." she hesitated for a long moment, "...thank you. For this chance. And also for keeping the details...you know...under your hat." She realized her fingernails were trying to dig into her inner arm, but were being foiled by her long sleeves. Hah. "I'm trying to start over here, you know, and I don't want everyone here to be looking at me like..." she trailed off weakly.

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The store owner shook her head and waved her hand. 

"Look, I studied criminal justice and psych in college, plus I've been down a similar road to yours; I know how stacked the deck is against you. I would not have gotten as far as I have if people didn't have faith in me, so it's important for me to do the same for you."

She began to dig around in her desk, pulling out tax forms and such.

"Okay, a few things; I'm gonna need a copy of your ID and Social Security card to fill out your paperwork. If you don't have them on you now, bring 'em as soon as you can."

Lynn stopped and gave Sam a quick once over, chewing on her lower lip.

"Hmm; that's not your sweater, is it? You're gonna need clothes. And comfortable shoes!"

She pulled out a business checkbook and grabbed a pen.

"So minimum wage in New Jersey is eight thirty-eight an hour, which is insane; who can live on that? I start my people at twelve, which ain't great, but hey, it's something; you'll be getting twenty hours a week to start, so that's...what, four-sixty? No, four-eighty."

She wrote out a check for four hundred and eighty dollars and slid it across the desk to Sam.

"We're at the end of a pay cycle, so you'd never be able to catch up; otherwise the first few weeks of a job always suck."

Lynn shrugged, put away the checkbook and smiled.

"Oh, one last thing; I'm 'out' to my employees; they know I'm not human and a crimefighter. Now as far as you go, Gretchen has pretty much figured it out, but no one else has to know if you don't want them to."

She shrugged again.

"I'll leave that up to you, okay?"

Edited by Heritage

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Sam took the check and stared at it slightly disbelievingly, as though expecting it to vanish at any moment. This was almost as much money as she'd ever had all in one place in her entire life. Which probably wouldn't have been the case if I hadn't kept putting my paychecks up my nose. She hadn't even started working yet, and Lynn just handed her nearly five hundred bucks? What was to keep her from walking off with the money and never being heard from again? She could see that working here was going to be a slightly different experience than the string of seedy grocery stores and greasy spoons she had spent several consecutive years getting systematically fired from.

"Yeah. Okay," she said, tucking the check carefully into her pocket and passing the other woman her ID and Social Security card, which she normally didn't carry but had made a point of bringing today. "Here's my ID and stuff. And yeah, I think I'll keep the whole cape thing a secret for now." Or try, at least. "When do I start?"

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"We draw up the next week's schedule on Wednesday, so we can put you down starting Monday the Eleventh; mostly mornings, I think."

Lynn chuckled as she took Sam's IDs and handed her a W-4 to fill out. 

"Now I'm no psychic, thank God, but I have a pretty good idea what you're thinking right now."

She tapped a finger to her temple, then placed the IDs on the glass of a copier/scanner on her desk.

"One." 

She hit the big green Scan button.

"'This woman is insane for giving me a check for four hundred and eighty dollars; what's to keep me from taking the money and never coming back?'" 

She shrugged.

"Nothing; absolutely nothing. Hell, even if your story doesn't check out, and Mr Cline says you're a major loon, I still don't care. And you know why?" 

She spread her hands and shook her head.

 "It's just money, and it's not even that much. I can always make more; hell, I don't even need it that much!"

She leaned forward and placed her hands on the desk.

"Thanks to my transformation, I don't need to eat or drink, I don't get hot or cold, and I can conjure pretty much anything I want out of thin air; do you have any idea how much money that saves me? It's insane!"

She handed Sam's IDs back to her, then abruptly spun  around. There's was a swirl of strange vapor, and then Lynn was standing in a big puffy blue ballgown worthy of Cinderella; in fact, it actually was the same look from the Disney classic, updo hair and all. The changeling laughed like an idiot and gestured down at herself with gloved hands.

"See? In-sane!"

And just like that, there was a whoosh of vapor, and the gown melted away into nothingness as the bizarre little bookseller plunked back into her chair and sighed, leaving Lynn looking like she had when Sam first entered.

"To me, trust is the only currency that really matters, trust and love; everything else is just...smoke."

She counted off on her fingers.

"Now the second thing you're probably thinking, is 'When is the other shoe gonna drop? Anytime something good happens to me, I end up paying for it.' As for that-"

She shrugged again; the woman was a compulsive shrugger.

"I can't say; I'd like to say you've done your time and earned a break, but we both know how hard it is to let yourself off the hook when you know you've done wrong."

The petite brunette sighed and looked rather sad behind her giant desk, then she looked a bit more hopeful.

"So, do they let you see your kid, or...?"

Edited by Heritage

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Sam watched the whole display, starting slightly when Lynn conjured the dress. Nice trick. That's gotta come in handy. She smiled wryly. "You sure you're not a psychic? 'Cause I'm pretty sure you just read my mind. Yeah, you got me, I really have no idea what the hell you're thinking, trusting me with this kind of money. I sure as hell wouldn't."

Her smile vanished as quickly as it had come, and her voice became thin. "And no, they won't let me see him. Last I heard, at least. Might have a shot now, with gainful employment and a sponsor and Narc-Anon and all that, but..." her shoulders twitched upward. "They're right. It's not a good idea." If my mom showed up on my doorstep, I'd probably break her nose.

She rubbed at the bridge of her nose. "I think that with some things, you shouldn't get a second chance. If you f--- it up, it stays f----d up. Nothing you can do will change that, or make up for it. All you can do is try like hell not to make it worse. And sometimes, the best way to do that is to disappear."

She fell silent. Fatigue was making her eyes itch. She brushed a hand wearily across her face. God, she wanted a nap. Even more so than usual. "So thanks for asking, but I'm dealing with it the only real way I can."

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Lynn looked particularly pained as Sam discussed her situation; when she finished, the changeling sighed and nodded.

"Alright, well...for the record, I think everyone's entitled to a second chance, but it's your life and you need to make your own decisions; I just think-"

She paused, a peculiar ache etched in her face, but then she shook her head as her eyes brightened with tears.

"Nothing; nevermind."

Lynn got up, came around the desk and shook her new employee's hand.

"It's good to have you on board, Sam; just leave the paperwork on the desk when you're done."

Then she opened the door and headed over to the bar, and poured herself a cup of coffee with shaking hands.

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Sam sat alone in the office for a long, silent moment. Her chair creaked as she leaned over to pull the paperwork towards her. Then the only sound was the scratching of pen on paper, and the occasional muffled chatter from outside. Her hands moved robotically, filling in each field with dull, efficient repetitiveness, while she tried her best to keep her mind empty. Sometimes it was best not to think about what you were doing, or what you had done.

Then she was finished. She placed the papers down on Lynn's desk, and pushed through the door out into the store. A strange restlessness was coming over her. She wanted to fly, fight, anything to distract her. Focus, you idiot, she told herself irritably. Right now, she needed to finish up here. Running off the to the moon right now probably wouldn't help any first impressions.

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Gretchen awkwardly moved over to where her boss was spilling coffee and leaned her back against the bar; she wasn't great with people, but she figured she should try. Her eyes roamed all over the place as softly cleared her throat.

"You...okay?"

Lynn nodded as she mopped up her mess with some napkins.

"Yeah, yeah, I just...she's been through a lot, y'know?"

She turned to look over at the door of her office as she raised the cup to her lips.

"I see a lot of myself in her."

"And is that a good thing or a bad thing?"

Lynn shrugged. 

Gretchen pondered that for a few moments, then nodded.

"You're hiring her, aren't you?"

"Yep."

"You know...she's probably the least qualified person we've seen who's not a certified psycho."

Lynn shook her head as she held her coffee like it was precious. 

"Don't care; she really needs this job."

She gave Gretchen a sidelong glance and a wry grin.

"Besides, college students are notoriously flighty."

"Ha ha. Freak City?"

"All the way; we could use more firepower."

"Figured. What's she do?"

"No idea."

"Well, then."

When Sam stepped out of the office, Lynn set her coffee aside and stepped over to her.

"Everything filled out okay?"

Edited by Heritage

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Sam nodded. "Assuming anyone can make out my chicken scratching, yeah, no problems." She paused. She couldn't quite shake the feeling of apprehension, like the other shoe was about to drop. Good pay (by her standards, at least), quiet atmosphere, and a boss she didn't need to hide her identity from? This job seemed a little too good to be true. But Richard had been the one to send her here, and he didn't seem like a bulls----er. And neither did the staff at this place, for that matter.

She looked around at the store, at the shelves packed with books, and a peculiar sense of belonging came over her. She had never been much of a reader. The closest she had ever come to appreciating literature was skimming the Cliff's Notes of To Kill a Mockingbird to try (unsuccessfully) to avoid failing English. All the same, it wasn't as if she didn't have enough free time on her hands these days ever since she stopped sleeping. She made a mental note to ask about employee discounts...

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Lynn nodded as she fished out her smartphone and began to text Richard.

"Good, good; this should just take a sec."

Maddy, having completed her sale, wandered by and noticed the gathering of employees near the stranger; she raised an eyebrow in Gretchen's direction and mouthed 'new hire?', to which Lynn's assistant could only shrug. Lance meanwhile warmed up Sam's coffee and unobtrusively placed a plate with a delicious-smelling blueberry lemon muffin next to her. A few seconds later, the store owner nodded and put away her phone.

"Okay, your story checks out, so I am now making this official; guys, please welcome Samantha Lawrence to the firm."

Lance grinned, Maddy laughed and Gretchen sort of smiled as she folded her arms.

"Welcome to Team Freak, Sam I Am; there's always room for one more."

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