The Exit Interview

Submitted into Contest #211 in response to: End your story with two characters reconciling.... view prompt

1 comment

Contemporary Fiction

   Andrew could see Cheryl already sitting at a table when he came in. He checked his cell. Six-fifty-two. Cheryl appeared to have two glasses of wine on her table, and one was already empty. She was wearing a black and white long sleeved striped shirt and a beret. Andrew got his coat check stub and the Maître d’ escorted him to the table.

   “I really appreciate you coming Cheryl. I appreciate this opportunity.” Andrew said, seating himself.

   “Don’t.” Cheryl waved him quiet. “I just want to get this over with before you turn into a stalker.”

   “No. No, that won’t happen. I understand everything you wrote to me in the letter you left on my night table. There were things you wrote that I cannot argue with, and things that were unfair. No, that’s unfair to say unfair. You feel what it is that you feel.”

   The waiter came and gave each a menu. Cheryl shoved hers back to the waiter. “Surf and Turf.” She said.

   “The Filet Mignon and the Lobster Bisque for the lady.” Andrew explained. “I’ll just have the Apple Pecan Arugula Salad.”

   The waiter smiled. “Very clever. The lady is shining tonight.” He left.

   Cheryl rolled her eyes and watched him go. “He likes my pirate outfit.”

   “When I said that, I was not saying I do not like the way you dress.”

   “Do I look like I fit in here? Do you think I fit anywhere in your life? I mean, except as a trophy. A little dented street trophy?”

   “I like that you’re different. I need something different.”

   “You’re like one of those tight balls of elastics. All twisted up and pressed in, waiting for some kitten to come along and play with you until you burst apart. I think you have hidden anger issues and you’re going to blow up one day.”

   A drinks waiter came by and Andrew waved away any drink and pointed to have his water glass filled.

   “I am not going to blow up. And balls of elastic do not burst, they fall part and spill over a desk. It’s not very dramatic.”

   “You know, when I agree to meet you, I said a public place, because I’ve had some bad break ups with in private places. I was thinking we could do this in a mall or a park, not in a rich little place like this with bad lighting. Are you sure you want to do this here?”

   “Oh, yes, I’ve had a lot of meetings here. They’re excellent and discreet.”

   “I thought you rarely dated?”

   “Business meetings.” Andrew smiled, explaining the distinction.

   Cheryl rose up pushing herself away from the table. Andrew rose to reach to stop her but shied from actually touching her. “Please, Cheryl, please, hear me out. Please.”

   Cheryl sat again and took an angry gulp of wine. “What’s your pitch?”

   Andrew looked around, for the first time realizing that they may be drawing attention to themselves in this, his favourite restaurant. He leaned forward to lower his voice, confidentially. “In my company… in my business… when an employee… no, not an employee. That’s not what I’m saying. When a person. An individual… when someone quits. When they quit. When they submit a letter of resignation…”

   “Oh, is that what I did? Did I resign from you Andrew?”

   Andrew was silenced by the waiter escorting an elderly woman past them to a nearby table. The elderly woman wore too many pearl necklaces for Cheryl’s taste. The pearl woman smiled and waved to Andrew who nodded and smiled in return.

   “Business?” Cheryl asked about the woman looking at Andrew.

   “Anita Thompson. Thompson Estates. She’s been here forever, she’s a very nice lady. Nothing to do with business. I like her.”

   “So, I submitted my resignation…” Cheryl pushed Andrew back on track.

   “No, no. I didn’t mean for it to sound like that. Alright, when a person leaves my company…”

   “Your personal company, or your business company?”

   “Cheryl, please. In business when a person leaves, we do what we call an Exit Interview. It’s to help us…”

   “It’s to get rid of the person in a nice way and say there’s no hard feelings, and please don’t sue us.” Cheryl interrupted.

   “Yes, alright, fine. That is part of it. Very well. Happy?” Andrew crossed his arms and looked about the restaurant, pouting.

   “Alright, what’s the other part of it?”

  Andrew looked at her, then looked at the table cloth still pouting. Cheryl reached over and tapped the table in front of Andrew. He turned sideways in his chair away from her.

   “Oh, for panties’ sake. I’m not your mother, Andrew.”

   “I know that. My mother loves me.”

   “What is the other part? Tell me? Tell me so I can get out of here.”

   The waiter interrupted, putting down the Filet Mignon and the Lobster Bisque. “For the lady.” He placed an overflowing salad in front of Andrew, who shifted himself right in his seat again. “Bon Appetit.” The waiter left them.

   Andrew picked up a fork and stabbed far too much arugula lettuce onto it. He regarding the portion he was holding and put it back down on the bowl. He tried to explain himself again. “The other part of the Exit Interview. The other purpose, is to see where improvements can be made on the side of management. To review for deficiencies. Or improvements the individual might make within the management structure should they… review and consider. The person who might be the reason the other person left.” Andrew stopped and thought about what he was saying. His eyes went watery. “I’m sorry, I have to excuse myself.”

   Andrew rushed to the restroom. Cheryl sat alone watching the waiter approach the pearled elderly woman. The waiter outstretched his arms, “Misses Thompson, you are shining tonight. We have a wonderful selection of breads, and chef has made a very special pate for you this evening. Let me get it for you, and your tea, of course.” The waiter went off.

  Cheryl called over to Misses Thompson. “He’s full of beans, isn’t he? The waiter? He said I was shining.”

   Misses Thompson smiled. “Yes, he says it to all of us. But I appreciate he makes the effort. Most men don’t even try.”

   Cheryl looked down at her plate. She sipped her wine waiting for Andrew’s return. She looked around the restaurant. She didn’t fit in, but she decided none of the other customers fit in, either.

   Andrew returned to his seat. His eyes were red and he had nothing to say. He stared at the tablecloth. After a moment Cheryl lifted her lobster bisque bowl and slurped from it directly. Andrew looked up. Cheryl dipped her fingers in a small bowl of melted butter. There were various heavily grained breads in a basket on the table now. Cheryl smeared her fingers on them and plucked up one and bit into it. She reached across the table with her unwiped buttery fingers and put them on the back of Andrew’s hand.

  Andrew looked up, and then held her hand. He smiled. He picked up his fork with all the multicolored lettuce on it, and tried to fit his mouth around the mess. He giggled at his own attempts. He gave up and nibbled on it edges.

   Cheryl leaned towards Andrew. “This interview thing. When I finish eating, I’m going to tell you all your deficiencies. And if you listen, and I mean just listen, I may also tell you one or two efficiencies about you, that I like.”        

August 15, 2023 00:02

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1 comment

Mary Bendickson
19:09 Aug 15, 2023

Then there is hope.


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