The Ties That Bind – Episode 15

Characters from the serial, Evelyn and Simon walking in front of a castle.

Dan was quite enjoying the day, despite being at work.

He’d spent a lot of time working on his personal statement for his job application, postponing sending it off until he was completely happy with it.

His efforts had paid off because he’d just heard that his referees had been contacted. That was a good sign.

It was just the boost he needed after the sour atmosphere of the past two weeks since the upset with Janie and Mum.

At least Mum and Dad had managed to sort things out. Mum told him they’d “had a chat”.

Dad wasn’t too happy about it, but Mum was more settled these days.

Apparently she’d found a sense of determination to rectify the situation after a meeting with her boss that went badly wrong.

Mum almost jacked in nursing entirely, but by the end of her shift she’d rediscovered her drive.

Contrary to what Janie seemed to think, their parents had their own lives to lead – and now he was hopeful about making a fresh start of his own.

He continued folding sweaters and picking up the endless garments strewn across the floor.

Somehow the mindless repetition didn’t irritate him as much as usual.

A sudden downpour in the middle of the afternoon brought in a surge of customers and the store became twice as busy in a short space of time.

Staff numbers were lower than ideal, so those who were there were plunged into frantic activity, dealing with the extra demand.

“Can I return this without a receipt?”

“Do you have any more of these in stock?”

“I ordered a size eighteen but I was sent a fourteen.”

The questions came thick and fast. Dan dealt with them all with smoothness and efficiency.

Pity his boss wasn’t around to see.

He was trying to locate a misplaced item when he discovered a number of the younger members of staff – all teenagers – skulking around in the stockroom.

It was their exchanging of furtive, guilty looks which caught his attention.

“Is there a problem?” he asked. “You know it’s busy downstairs, don’t you?”

There was a murmur of assent.

“We could do with some help,” he said pointedly.

No-one moved.

“Shouldn’t there be only two of you up here? Who’s on the rota for today?”

“Paul and Graham,” someone replied. “Again.”

“As usual.”

They were only muttering but Dan heard.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Well, they’re always up here.”

“They always wangle it so they never have to do any real work.”

“It’s not fair.”

Ah. The age-old complaint of the young. Dan thought quickly.

It wasn’t that long ago that he’d been a sulky teenager himself, so he knew this situation required some careful handling.

“As I recall, I used to do a lot of real work when I was up here,” he said, “but I know what you mean.

“It seems like an easy option to be away from all the customers.”

There was a collective nod, the sullen group seeming surprised at his understanding. Dan seized his opportunity.

“OK, here’s what we’re going to do,” he said, glancing at his watch.

“There are three hours left before we close and the place is teeming.

“We all need to take our turns – in every department.”

“But the rota –”

“. . . was my mistake.” On impulse, Dan snatched the offending paper and stuffed it into his pocket.

“OK, listen – half the staff are off sick and the manager’s on a conference call, so it looks like I’m in charge this afternoon.”

The five young faces were all looking to him for guidance and he suddenly felt extremely old.

“I’ll make out a new rota – right now – for the rest of the day. And I’ll try to make it fair. But it’ll only be fair if you all stick to it, OK?”

Silence greeted him.

“OK?” he repeated. “Come on, guys, I need this. We’re all in this together.”

Dan scribbled out a rota for the remainder of the afternoon.

“OK, I’ve tried to make sure everyone has a short turn in every department,” he said. “No-one’ll get bored or be overworked for too long. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best I can do.”

There were still a few mutters as they looked at his makeshift rota.

“Listen, you know the procedure to go through if you’re not happy about things,” he said firmly, “but in the meantime, we’ve got work to do. All of us.

“So let’s get back to it.”

Dan exhaled in relief as they scuttled away.

Once he’d found what he’d been looking for, he headed back downstairs – and found himself face to face with the manager.

“Dan,” he said stiffly, “I suppose you know there’s CCTV in the stockroom?”

Dan’s blood ran cold.

To be continued…

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