November slips into December. The routine of our friends on Pine Street stays much the same: early morning food deliveries, late evening shopping, lying low in between. Those who can work remotely do so. Others find that they need all their survival strategies. Relationships are tested, and friendships are built.
Allison’s job in the office supply store held, just barely, through the early roller coaster of the pandemic. As winter arrives, they all know they are in for something more like a marathon. The owner lets them know that reductions in staff are inevitable. He will do his best to give everyone who loses their job a soft landing.
The day after this staff meeting, Allison goes into the owner’s office and resigns. “I’m fine,” she says. “I’ve got my parents to help, and a bit of savings put by.” The owner offers her a severance of two weeks’ pay, and promises to hire her back just as soon as things turn around.
“Whenever that is,” the owner says, with a rueful smile.
The rest of the staff throw a modest party for Allison, distanced and masked, on her last day. She leaves the store and makes it all the way home before collapsing into sobs.
Leo hears her, walks upstairs, taps on her door, asks if she needs anything. She explains.
“I’m okay,” she says. “It’s just… damn it, I loved that job.”
“I know,” Leo says.
“I mean, I earned this fancy master’s degree and all. I should be in a Ph.D. program, I suppose. You know, pursuing my fancy research agenda. But this house, that job, you all…” Her voice trails into silence.
“I know,” Leo says. “It’s all different now. And you did the right thing. Allison, you’re a good person.”
She knows he’s right – that she made the right decision. Does that make her a good person, though, or a selfish one? She knows she would not have slept a single night in a job that took food out of one of her coworker’s mouths. She feels entirely self-centered in this.
And oh, how she dreads the call she needs to make to her parents.
“They’ll understand,” Leo says when she describes all this to him. “Allison, they’re different now, too. We all are.”