Audrey hadn't meant to make Mae squirm, but she'd been wanting to have this talk with Mae, for some time now. Audrey wasn't sure where to do it, and when.
At first, Audrey thought, it could be all casual. Maybe a lite lunch at the diner across the street, but she thought it best to have this talk a bit more professional.
"Are... you... firing me?" Mae looked as if she might fall out of her seat.
"No." Audrey winced. "I'm not firing, you." Audrey's smile was easy. Audrey didn't think she was that hard to work for. OK, maybe in the beginning she got a little worked up when Mae had so much trouble with printing labels and the fact that.. didn't Mae know just how expensive labels were? "You're, doing a great job." True, they were understaffed, and a lot of cutbacks were in place.
"I'm..I'm just worried-" Audrey started.
"Look, I was thinking we..we could put in for a grant. Maybe..maybe we could hire Ben, that way. You know, since..since he has..such a special circumstance." Mae was suddenly turning the tables and wasn't even close to what Audrey really wanted to talk about.
"Special circumstance?" Audrey winced.
"Well, you know, he's..he's recovering, and all..and well..he really needs a job, and I..I count on him, now." Mae looked at her as if she did have a purpose here, or maybe it was Ben with a purpose.
"What?" Audrey thought he was another special needs kid. Probably ...well, she didn't even want to label him.
"He was in a coma, his last year of high school." Mae told Audrey, it was a few years ago."OK. And well, he..he probably won't ever be the same...but he's really trying."
"I see..well, I didn't know that." Audrey wanted to get back to what she needed to talk about. "But thanks for letting me know." Lord knows, how long it would take for a grant, to help someone like Ben, "But..but I want to talk about..You..and Jude..is there anything you need to tell me?"
Audrey was serious. She watched Mae's face swell with anguish, ever so slightly.
"Has..he..you know..done anything to you..that..might be..I dunno...just tell me whats going on with him?" Audrey didn't like the way he talked down to her. How he'd snap at her about, how his list of things always needed to be done first. And the lists were never ending.
"No." Mae shook her head. "There's nothing to talk about." She was like a stone, already at the bottom of the river.
Audrey, scratched the back of her neck and sighed. "All right." She guessed she'd have to talk to Jude, but she didn't want to do it alone.