Because #amwriting. ❤️
(This is one of the sections that doesn’t directly involve any amateur detectiving, so there won’t be any spoilers for the murder mystery plot.)
(Also, you’ll have to read the book to find out what Larkin and her mother fought over. It was a pretty big deal.)
Larkin knew that her mother had signed her up for an 8:30 a.m. job interview before the two of them had fallen into their largely un-commented-upon conflict, in the sense that neither of them were really talking to each other except to say the kind of bland, polite courtesies that were intended to assure the other that they were still loved, deep down, underneath all of the anger. They avoided each other in the kitchen and the bathroom, except to say “excuse me” and “thank you for making the coffee” and, as Larkin’s mother had said before Larkin left that morning, “I hope you have a good interview.”
Nothing could be good about an interview that Larkin didn’t want, for a job she didn’t want, at a time of day in which nobody should actually be working, while wearing an armpit-scented suit that fit so badly that she’d had to loop a hair tie through the buttonhole on her pants. Although her mother had not set any of this up as a result of their fight—if anything, it was one of its instigators—it still felt like a punishment. Larkin was being anti-grounded; told to leave the nest and report to duty and strike out on her own (she couldn’t come up with anything but cliches this early).
The administrative assistant whom Larkin might be replacing did not offer Larkin any coffee. Instead, she let Larkin sit in a black plastic chair while she fielded phone calls, typed rapidly at her computer, and kept the copy machine continuously running. Larkin wondered if she was even qualified to take over this woman’s position, even for two months. She could type fast enough, but she hadn’t touched a phone that wasn’t attached to a pocket-sized supercomputer in years.
And then she was called into another office, and introduced to a couple of people who said nice things about her mother, and asked why she was interested in the job.
Larkin wasn’t expecting this question. Well, she was expecting it at some point, but not right out the gate (cliches, again). She was supposed to tell them a little bit about herself first; set the room at ease with stories of her ambition and competencies. Instead, she said “Because my mom said I needed to get a job.”
“You know this is just a short-term position,” one of her interviewers told her. “To cover a twelve-week maternity leave.”
“Yes,” Larkin said. “That’s why I’m interested in it.” Good. “Because I don’t want to do this kind of thing forever.” Bad, bad, bad. “I mean, I’m currently working on my dissertation.” Better? Larkin tried to recall how her interviewers had been introduced. She realized that none of the people at the table were faculty; that they were all administrative assistants and HR associates who might very well want to do this kind of thing forever.
“Larkin, can you talk us through your resume? Have you done administrative work before?”
Larkin had been ready, when she came in, to say something ease-setting about how anyone could make photocopies, and how she’d made plenty of them when she was working for various theater directors in New York. Now she was pretty sure her name-dropping wouldn’t impress and her joke wouldn’t land. “I haven’t worked the kind of admin job that’s behind a desk,” she said. “I’ve been an assistant director and an assistant stage manager, both of which require a substantive amount of support work including taking notes, typing and distributing those notes, making copies, running errands, and so on. But no, I have not had a job like this before.” She added, as convincingly as she could, “I am eager to learn.”
“Well, we were hoping to get someone with a little more experience,” another interviewer told her, “but your mother said you were as sharp as a tack.” (Apparently everybody thought in cliches at this time of day.) “Of course we’re interviewing a few other people”—and Larkin knew she hadn’t gotten the job—“but we’ll let you know.”
They stood, Larkin stood, hands were shook, smiles went all around. Then Larkin was escorted outside, into a brilliantly warm October day, the air like a thousand Post-It notes clinging to her skin. It was 8:52 and she had no idea what she was going to do with herself—for the next ten minutes or, if she was honest with herself, the next ten years.
Then she heard a familiar voice call her name.