You Must Be Joking! by Begin Again
Shelly Cranston and Kate Anderson worked together in Halverson & Smith's Accounting Department, but they were more than co-workers, they were best friends. They car pooled together, ate lunch at the Corner Cafe together, shopped together, and lately, spent hours planning the details of Shelly's upcoming wedding to Rob Smith, who coincidentally, worked for the same company.
Today, Shelly was having lunch alone, a rare event. Neither Kate or Rob could join her. Looking a bit frazzled, Kate begged off , saying she had a rush job to finish and Rob was involved in a production meeting. A creature of habit, she'd walked to the cafe by herself, slid into their usual booth, and ordered a Crab Salad, her favorite.
"Sorry, Shelly, it's not on the menu anymore." Margie, her friend and waitress offered an apologetic smile.
"You have to be kidding me. I love it." Skeptical, she questioned the waitress. "Why would they take a best seller off the menu?"
Glancing around, Margie leaned toward Shelly, "Someone got sick. Almost died."
"What?" Shelly's voice raised a few octaves. "How awful."
"Shhh! Hank'll fire me if he finds out I'm gossiping with the customers, even if we are friends."
"Oooh, my bad."
"Looks like he's watching me 'cause he knows you order the Crab." Margie pulled her order book out of her pocket, "Aren't Kate and Rob joining you?"
"Not today. They both are tied up at work." Giving the menu a quick scan, she added, "Just bring me a tuna on whole wheat and a Coke, I guess."
"Sure thing. Be right back."
Shelly pressed the back of her head against the booth. A huge sigh escaped her lips.
What a day! Eating alone is bad enough, but not being able to enjoy my lunch stinks. What else can go wrong?
"Tuna on wheat, ma'am?" The waitress placed the plate on the table.
Recognizing the voice, Shelly sat up straight. "Pam?" Her eyes darted around the room. "Where's Margie?"
Pam shrugged. "Hank had her in his office. Next thing I know she was going home."
Another waitress tapped Pam's shoulder. "Better keep moving. Hank's on the warpath. I think Margie just got fired."
Shelly's mouth dropped open, but before she could say anything, the two girls moved away from the booth.
Margie fired? Oh, I hope it wasn't because of me.
Having lost her appetite, she closed her eyes, rubbing her temples.
So much for what else could go wrong? Poor Margie.
Shelly could hear the people in the next booth talking. Their low chatter was getting louder which irritated her. Pushing her sandwich away, she decided to leave. She wasn't hungry, maybe she'd feel better if she took a walk.
"I can't believe it. When are they going to tell everyone?"
"You know Halverson & Smith. It's a need to know situation for now."
At the mention of her firm, Shelly froze. She leaned back against the booth again, her curiosity peaked.
"Need to know? There's twenty people working in the accounting department. What brilliant person upstairs doesn't think they need to know?"
Bells and whistles blared inside Shelly's head. She waited, nervously waiting for their conversation to continue.
"Well, I heard they might offer a few of them positions in Seattle."
"Seattle? That's a good one. How many people do you know who'd just pick up and move cross country?"
Oh my, God ... their talking about my job, Kate's job. Seattle ... even if they offered me a job, what about Rob? I can't move to Seattle. We're getting married in six months.
Pam stopped at her booth. "You haven't touched your sandwich, can I get you anything else?"
Still stunned by what she'd overheard, it took Shelly a moment to realize Pam was speaking to her.
"Anything else?" The waitress waited for an answer.
"No, no, I'm fine. Thank you." At the moment, she was anything but fine.
Slipping a folded newspaper from under her arm, Pam whispered, "You might want to take a look at the classifieds."
"Classifieds?" Pure panic replaced her last shred of common sense.
"Just trying to help." The waitress shrugged and moved away.
Grabbing her cell phone, Shelly punched in Kate's number. If there was any truth to what she'd just heard, Kate needed to know, too. The phone at the other end rang once, twice, three times.
"Shelly, what are you doing?" Kate sounded irritated. "I told you I had a rush job to finish."
"I know, I know, but this is important." She lowered her voice. "I just heard some girls talking about the Accounting Department moving to Seattle. Isn't that crazy?"
The other end of the line was silent.
"Kate, did you hear me? We're probably going to lose our jobs." She couldn't understand her best friend's reaction. This was big, real big.
"Listen, Shelly, I'm really busy. Can we talk about this later?"
Shelly could hear a muffled voice talking in the back ground.
"Sure, sure, I just thought-"
"Give me the phone, Kate?"
Shelly recognized the voice. Her heart slammed against her chest. A migraine was taking up residence in her head.
"Shhh ..." The phone was muffled for a second before Kate spoke again, "I gotta go."
"Was that Rob? What's going on?" Her voice cracked.
"Nothing ... I'm just really busy."
"Yeah, she's really busy," Rob's laughter assaulted Shelly's ears.
"Excuse me, are you two ready to order?" The sound of a waitress pushed Shelly over the edge.
"My God, you two are having lunch together."
"Shelly ... I can explain."
"Don't bother ... it's evident you preferred to eat alone." Her stomach heaved. She clapped her hand across her mouth, tossed the phone in her purse, and moved to the edge of the seat.
Oh, no, I'm not going to throw up in front of all these people. I'm not!
Bracing her shaking knees against the seat, she stood, focusing on the floor. She needed fresh air. She took two steps,
"April Fools!" sounded in unison.
Kate, Rob, and two other girls from the office were convulsing in the booth behind her. Margie, Pam and Hank stood in the kitchen door laughing.
Shelly stared at the ridiculous scene before bursting into laughter. "You'll get yours, just wait!"
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