Suze was having issues at work. She was having issues in general, but the ones at work had gotten worse. She was fairly certain she had found a genuine enemy in Piper, her co-worker, the one who had wanted Suze’s job. Honestly, if Suze had known taking the job was going to wreak so much havoc, she might not have done it. She was struggling with that decision a lot as of late and Piper wasn’t helping. She didn’t want to say she regretted it, because admitting that out loud would only lead to more anxiety and heartache than she was currently experiencing, but she definitely wasn’t having the time of her life. It was unfortunate because she genuinely enjoyed her job. Actually being on air and running a successful radio show was something she sincerely loved doing. It was all the political bullshit happening behind the scenes that she despised.
It got to the point that Piper was so detrimental to the show that Suze’s producer left on stress leave for two weeks. Piper had been shutting down all of their ideas steadily for weeks. While Piper hadn’t gotten the job she’d wanted, she had been promoted. Now she was the liaison between Suze’s show and their boss, Angela Develnik. Suze and her producer Tim had to run all of their content and ideas through Piper to get to Angela and Piper wasn’t letting barely anything past. Their show had been lacking for a long time and Angela was starting to breathe down their necks. Tim couldn’t cut it. He called in sick one day and then his wife called Angela the following day to inform her that he wouldn’t be coming back for at least the next two weeks.
Angela called Suze into her office for a meeting, brusquely informing her that Tim would be replaced with someone who normally hosted the midnight show, at least until Tim was well enough to return. Suze wondered how many producers she would have to go through before Angela realized that the problem actually laid with Piper. She said as much to Sybil and Chris later that night when she returned home from work.
“Right now I’m being fuelled by coffee and rage,” she said, forcefully shutting the cutlery drawer, having grabbed the spoon she’d been furiously searching for. She had been up quite late the previous night, waiting for Karl to be available to call her. It was seeming increasingly like they’d never actually speak again. Before she’d left Vancouver, they had made a pact not to resort to texting only, but it seemed that couldn’t hold up and now she was knee-deep in a text-based relationship with the love of her life. He could’ve dyed his entire head olive green and she’d have no idea.
“I feel bad for Tim,” Chris said. “Poor bastard hardly stood a chance.”
Suze had bigger problems than Tim. She was going to be working with someone she’d never met rather intensively soon, she’d had very little sleep, she hadn’t spoken to her boyfriend in over a week, she had a real life enemy like a dictator or a middle school girl, and she still hadn’t found a place to live. Did she feel bad for Tim? Ultimately yes. Did she feel much worse for herself? Undoubtedly.
“As if my life wasn’t shit enough, lo, Satan cougheth up his wretched mistress,” she grumbled bitterly.
“Maybe this new guy will be even better than Tim,” Sybil offered with a weak smile, obviously aiming for something resembling optimism, but falling short. She wasn’t a very optimistic woman by nature.
“Maybe he’ll be less easily frightened,” Chris added.
The following morning, Suze met her new producer. He was a tall, bearded, twenty-something man named Frank and she’d actually met him a weekend earlier at a Halloween party that had been held in his apartment.
“I’m a friend of Sybil’s,” Suze said when she introduced herself.
“Sure,” he replied easily, clearly not having any idea who Sybil was.
“Who’s a friend of Priscilla’s,” Suze explained further.
“Sure,” Frank repeated.
“Who is friends with Oscar,” she tacked on.
“Oh yeah, alright,” Frank nodded, recognition dawning on his face. “Him I know. He’s my roommate.”
Piper came to meet with Suze and Frank early before their show started so that they could start talking about ideas for the following week. Suze felt the need to warn Frank, lest they end up with another Tim situation on their hands.
“Fair warning, she’s a real bitch,” Suze said to him in a low voice just before Piper walked into the room. Frank half-smiled at her and took a seat.
Amazingly, the meeting went really well. Piper wasn’t nearly as scathing or snippy as usual and she didn’t shoot down every single one of Suze’s ideas. In fact, she even agreed with a few of them. Suze was slightly concerned this meant she was going to do something even more nefarious later to undermine her, something that needed to be secret. And she began to notice that all of the ideas she were remarkably alright with were ones that Frank had either contributed to or also agreed with. At first, she wasn’t sure that was what was happening, but then Frank excused himself to go to the washroom at one point and Piper turned her murderous sights on Suze once more.
“Don’t fuck this up,” was what she said to Suze, words that were both charming and encouraging. Suze fought the urge to grab Piper’s hair and pull as hard as possible with two hands.
“I think she’s into my new producer,” Suze said to Sybil at lunch. She had called her by accident. She had meant to text her, but she’d pressed the wrong button out of fuzzy confusion. She was very tired again after waiting up to not be able to speak to Karl. He had called her just after she had accidentally fallen asleep on the couch.
“I feel like someone should maybe warn him,” Sybil said on the other end of the line.
“Are you kidding? Absolutely not,” Suze returned immediately. “This has been blessed relief.”
“Do you think it’ll be better or worse if they don’t get together?” Sybil asked thoughtfully. Suze hadn’t even considered that yet. Undoubtedly, it would be awful either way. She’d just have to make the most of the brief reprieve she had now and then continue to pray that Piper died suddenly in the night as she’d already been doing for weeks.
She missed Karl again later that night. She had now come to the conclusion that she’d literally never hear from him or see him again. It was a terrible limbo place they’d carved out for themselves, unable to move forward or backward. They were just stuck together, tethered by history and emotion that had mostly been reduced to overwhelming sadness by this point. She went to work feeling very downtrodden. And that was even before she found out that Frank and Piper were already dating. According to Marg, the gossipy receptionist, they’d been dating before he left on sabbatical last year. Marg seemed to think he’d been in prison, but that seemed unlikely to Suze. In any case, before he’d left, they’d been in a relationship and it seemed they had picked up where they’d left off now that he was back. It definitely explained why she’d been so kind to him.
“I’ve since learned that that bitch I warned him about is his girlfriend,” Suze said to Sybil over dinner later that night. Sybil didn’t say anything for a long moment, but she looked almost as uneasy and concerned as Suze felt.
“That could definitely be better,” she admitted after a while.
“I would say so, yeah,” Suze agreed woefully. She could feel her imminent termination coming on even as she spoke. On the plus side, if she did in fact getting fired, she would be able to return to Vancouver and finally she would be able to speak to her boyfriend again.
The following morning at work, Suze bit the bullet and apologized to Frank. She figured she might as well get her one last-ditch attempt at salvation out of the way.
“I’m really sorry I called your girlfriend a…mean word…yesterday,” she said, thinking she clearly should’ve planned out what she was going to say to him. “I didn’t realize she was your girlfriend. I mean, obviously I shouldn’t have said it at all. Sometimes she’s a bit difficult, but…”
She wasn’t sure what else to say really. Should she have called Piper a bitch? Probably not. Did Suze think she was one? Absolutely. Suze was fairly convinced Piper was the worst person in the whole world.
“It’s alright,” Frank said with a shrug. “I looked over some of the stuff you submitted to her before and it’s all good. She shouldn’t have been rejecting any of it. To be honest, she wanted your job and I think she’s taking it out on you.”
Suze thought that was the biggest understatement of the year, though she was immeasurably relieved to find he wasn’t upset with her.
“Also, yeah, she’s a real dick,” he added, which left Suze wondering how well Frank and Piper’s relationship could possibly be going.
That night, Suze finally got Karl on the phone. They even successfully connected a video call.
“Praise God, hallelujah!” She yelled, looking at his tiny, grainy face bob about on her phone screen. He grinned back at her, thrusting his arms in the air as he cheered as well.
“Boozy Suzie!” He yelled back, using a nickname she absolutely abhorred, but allowed in that particular instance out of sheer joy. “I have amazing news! I’m coming to visit you in two weeks!”
Suze was ecstatic. She was also a little bit panicked because she needed to find her own apartment in two weeks, lest the pair of them end up sharing Sybil’s couch. It was a lovely couch, but an unrealistic goal. She’d at least need to rent a hotel room.