Home > Make-up work, The Serial Box > Day Eighty-six: Poolside [MAKE-UP]

Day Eighty-six: Poolside [MAKE-UP]

The BlueSky Resort and Entertainment Complex promised clear skies, crystal blue water, and the most relaxing vacation a person could possibly have. Clean, modern vacation villas dotted the miles-long beach, each one furnished with all the vacation luxury anyone could want. The beaches themselves were white and smooth, and sunlight was practically guaranteed in the brochure. Beautiful people with beautiful bodies lay on the sand, enjoying the brilliant sunlight and splashing in the pristine waters.

If the beach wasn’t for you, the interior of the resort promised shopping and restaurants, cuisine from all over the world, entertainers of every stripe, and countless swimming pools for guests to lounge by. Families played in the water, splashing and dunking each other. Young women chatted over brightly colored drinks, young men tried to out-dive each other, and everyone did their best to make every minute of their vacation count.

Ross Toomey sat on a lawn chair and tried to balance his laptop on one knee and an iPad on the other. His phone was in the pocket of his pastel Hawaiian shirt, and he cursed quietly to himself as he answered emails that came in from the office. Every now and then he would reach to the table next to him, pop an antacid tablet out of its paper wrapper and crunch it between teeth that were already starting to show signs of wear.

After a mandatory company health check-up, the doctor told Ross in no uncertain terms that if he continued to work the way he was working, then we was looking at an early grave.

“Look, mister Toomey,” the young doctor had said. Ross sat in the man’s office with his arms crossed, utterly unconvinced that this kid had actually graduated from medical school. No one that young should be telling me what to do, he thought. “You’re living an unsustainable lifestyle here.” The doctor flipped through the notes he’d made during the preliminary interview. “You work 90 hours a week, you sleep most nights in your office, and you don’t have any actual social life outside work.”

“Don’t see what the problem is with that,” Ross grumbled. “Life isn’t supposed to be about parties and fun. I have responsibilities to the company.”

“Yes, you do,” the doctor said. “But you also have a responsibility to yourself to stay alive and healthy, and right now you’re blowing it.” He let out a deep breath and glanced at the file again. “Mister Toomey, your blood pressure is ridiculous. You’ve got ulcers on top of ulcers, and your bloodwork seems to show that your immune system is having a hard time keeping up with you.” He dropped the file on his desk. “If you don’t learn to relax, mister Toomey, you are going to die.”

Ross crossed his arms a little more tightly. “Everyone dies,” he said, not looking at the young doctor. “Are we finished? I have work to do.”

The doctor sighed, reached over to his phone and hit two buttons. The speaker popped to life, and they both listened to the phone ring. In a few moments, a woman answered. “Albeth and Halding, how may I direct your call?”

“Andre Kubik, please,” the doctor said. “This is doctor Valant.” Ross’ eyes went wide and he sat up.

“You’re not –” He stopped short when the doctor held up a finger just as Andre spoke up on the phone.

“Kubik here. How’s it going, Taylor?”

“I’m doing well, mister Kubik,” the doctor said. “But I’d like to talk about mister Toomey. I have him here with me.”

Ross stood up and leaned towards the phone. “Andre, I don’t know what this quack is telling you, but I’m fine! Okay? Fine! Now can you let me get back to work, please!”

“No can do, Ross,” Andre said from the speaker. “Look – we need you healthy. You’re one of our best brokers, but if your heart explodes and you keel over, then what’re we going to do?” He put on that affected chumminess that he was so good at, and Ross tasted bile. “A&H cares about its people, Ross, you know that.”

And that was true. Albeth and Halding had an employee health and wellness plan that was the envy of all the other Wall Street banks, and they seemed to be one of the few in their sector who actually spent money on their employees rather than preposterous bonuses for executives. Everyone was given two weeks’ vacation, and they were pressured to use it. There was a counselor on staff, and “Zen Rooms” where people could go to relax during the day.

“Sure,” Ross said. “I get that. But Andre, I’m fine, really! I just…” He waved his hands a bit, searching for words. “I just don’t want to let everyone down. Not again.”

“Ross, that wasn’t your fault,” Andre said. “A divorce takes its toll on everyone, and nobody expected that you’d pretend like nothing was happening, okay?”

“Okay,” Ross said, and he was ashamed at how small his voice sounded.

“We’re sending you on a trip, Ross,” Andre said, and Ross’ head snapped up to stare at the phone. “A&H has a place down in Florida – a nice little resort where you can relax and maybe work on your life balance skills, okay?”

And that was how Ross ended up in the BlueSky Resort and Entertainment Complex. The memo he’d gotten from Andre about the trip had expressly told him not to bring any electronics with him – no laptop, no cell phone, no mp3 players, no tablets, no nothing. But when Ross tried to leave his house, he found that he couldn’t even get out the. Panic had taken him over, and before he knew what he was doing, his suitcase was filled with all the electronics he would need to work from poolside.

He tabbed between a spreadsheet and a memo that he was drafting when his computer chimed, telling him that he had a new email. He flipped over to it and cursed again.

Ross,

Your express instructions were to NOT bring your laptop. I’m having IT redirect all your work email to support staff until you get back. Count yourself lucky they don’t shut down your computer from here. For now. ;)

Now go swim or suntan or learn to dance or something. Just stop working.

– Andre

Ross typed out a quick response to Andre and hit SEND. A moment later, the mail bounced back with a form response that simply said, See you in two weeks, Ross.

He stared at the screen for a minute and then slammed the laptop cover down. The iPad on his knee teetered, and he grabbed it before it could drop to the concrete poolside. He put them both on the table, careful to keep them in the shade, and gripped the arms of his chair.

Everyone else was having fun. There was a family in the shallow end, teaching their littlest how to swim and laughing as she splashed around. There were a young couple sitting across the pool from him, and they were holding hands as they sunbathed. A group of elderly ladies were doing slow and graceful exercises in the water while their husbands sat off to the sides and played cards.

Ross had his To Do list running through his head like a litany. It was everything that he knew he was missing right now, that he knew he would never get a chance to catch up on. Meeting planning, PowerPoint slides, financial spreadsheets and a database of client information that he’d wanted to finish for ages. He needed to reorganize his accounts by activity level, add pictures to the investment-acquisitions flowchart that he needed during the next department meeting, and go over the accounts for a subsidiary of a subsidiary of one of the companies that A&H was thinking of snapping up in the near-to-mid future.

There were a thousand things, and they all needed to be done. By him. Now.

“Well, don’t you look like ten pounds of misery in a five point bag?” A shadow fell over Ross and he looked up. The woman who was standing above him looked to be about his age, with the soft, formless figure of someone who’d worked behind a desk all her life. But she was in a simple, floral bathing suit, with a sarong around her waist and a broad straw hat perched on the back of her head.

“You shouldn’t be looking so miserable out here,” she said. “You’ll ruin the mood for the rest of us.” He couldn’t tell if she was smiling, with the sun in his eyes, but her voice sounded like she was.

“I’m fine,” he said. “Just a little stressed out, is all.”

The woman put a hand to her chest in mock alarm. “Stressed out? Here?” He clucked her tongue and pulled over another chair to sit next to him. Now the he was able to see her more clearly, she was really rather pretty. She had curly hair, going gray, and bright blue eyes that were shining even in the shadow of her hat. She smiled, and Ross had the urge to smile back.

She sat down, arranging her sarong as she did, and then reached out a hand. “I’m Elaine,” she said.

Ross looked at her hand for a moment before taking it. “I’m Ross,” he said. “Look, Elaine, I’m really very busy right now, and –”

“No you’re not,” she said. She glanced down at the stack of electronics by his side.

“Yes, well, when I figure out how to get my email working again, I assure you that I’ll be very busy.”

She shook her head. “No, you won’t,” she said. They looked at each other for a long moment before she stood up and lifted the hem of her sarong up to expose her ankle. “Take a look,” she said.

There was a tattoo there, small and delicate in deep black ink, and Ross’ heart sank. It was like the one he had, only his was on his shoulder. And in a different design. But the tiny, calligraphic “A&H” in her tattoo was all he needed to see to know what it was.

Every employee at Albeth and Halding, from the CEO to the new guy in the mailroom, had one of these tattoos. The location didn’t matter, the design didn’t matter, but what did matter were the tiny nanoparticles embedded in the ink. Properly encoded, they were your ID badge on A&H property. They let you into the rooms you were authorized to get into, they proved where you were at any given moment, and were the most secure method they had for proving that you were who you said you were. Some labor groups decried the tattoos as part of a Big Brother system, but the benefits of working there far outweighed any privacy concerns that anyone had.

“Who are you?” he asked.

She sat down again. “I’m Elaine,” she said again. “And I’m your counselor while you’re here.”

Ross stared at her for a long while, and then fell back into his chair, groaned, and shut his eyes.

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  1. November 3, 2011 at 12:55 PM

    GRRRRR…. cliffhanger after cliffhanger after cliffhanger.. gimme an ending, man!! gimme an ending!!!!

    • November 3, 2011 at 12:56 PM

      *grin* Yup. But I have to make room for my actual NaNo writing. Don’t worry, though. It’s filed in the Serial Box, so I should get back to it eventually….

  2. November 3, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    I still have to finish Made to Order… i am debating starting another serial, but the kids don’t like them as much as one shots… WordPress isn’t conducive to them.

    • November 3, 2011 at 1:03 PM

      Yeah, it would be nice if there were a way to thread sections together without either putting in a direct link or just doing them all one after another. Something to put in the suggestion box, I suppose.

      • November 3, 2011 at 1:06 PM

        The Mall i posted all at once… and everyone read it backwards…. I finished this story for you btw… had to after being left with a chasm… The counselor teaches him how to relax and they fall madly in love…. His passion, which has been dormant since his divorce, is rekindled… they make sweet passionate love until dawn, heartbreaking love… literally… his ticker gives out and he dies… but it’s okay, because he died after finally learning how to live

        • November 3, 2011 at 1:11 PM

          Hmmm… More or less where I saw it going, but without the passionate romance bit. But in terms of the character arc? More or less…

          • November 3, 2011 at 1:11 PM

            had to tie the divorce back in ;)

            • November 3, 2011 at 1:19 PM

              I think the divorce is a symptom of a larger problem, in that he’s rejected any identity other than Company Man. If Elaine is going to help him, she has to get him to agree to give other self-identifications as much weight as that of Employee at A&H.

            • November 3, 2011 at 1:24 PM

              well, you know if it was my story that revelation would be him getting in touch with the dormant side of him that loves dressing up as ladies of the plantation… dangerously large hoop skirts… but we are running different kinds of sites :-P

  3. November 3, 2011 at 1:27 PM

    Graydon Blye :

    well, you know if it was my story that revelation would be him getting in touch with the dormant side of him that loves dressing up as ladies of the plantation… dangerously large hoop skirts… but we are running different kinds of sites :-P

    (ponders that image for a moment) Yes. Yes we are… *grin*

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