Angela drummed her fingers on her desk as she listened to the arguments going on among the faces on her screen. It was the same argument that has plagued her meetings for months: the DBA viewed his databases as vassals in a dictatorship and the application manager was an asshole who didn't give a shit about anything other than making his bonus.

The problem was that they were twenty minutes past the scheduled end of meeting and she had a dialog box telling her she had already missed one meeting and was ten minutes away from missing her lunch.

She sighed and looked down at her notes. Either she had to destroy her schedule to get a word in or try to wedge her own emergencies into the meeting. Not that they would listen, neither of the other teams thought the operations team had anything useful to add to a production release. With her other hand, she pushed her hair away from her face and behind her ear; she didn't know where her hair tie that morning and she was regretting it already.

The door to her office creaked open and her best friend, Jolene, slipped in. The slender woman with a bright smile and red, curly hair gave Angela a little wave before she crept over and sank into the nearest guest chair.

Knowing she was on camera, Angela could only gave a little finger wave back.

Gary, the project manager finally managed to get a word in between the raised voices. “I think we've hit a good stopping point—”

Angela resisted the urge to scoff.

“—so why don't we cut it off here and resume after lunch. Say one central?”

Inwardly, Angela screamed as the muscles in her chest and back tightened. That would cut her lunch short also. She reached over and tapped the “hands up” reaction.

He glanced up. “Angela?”

“We still haven't gotten to Infrastructure's—”

“Yes, yes. We'll get to yours. We just have the resolve this issue first. I promise you, you are next on the agenda.” He waved to everyone. “See you in an hour!”

Before she could say another word, the meeting ended. Angela stared at the black screen for a moment and then let out a groan of frustration and annoyance.

Jolene chuckled. “Gary?”

“I just wish he'd do his damned job!” snapped Angela. “Day after day, he lets those two just scream and yell at each other and we still haven't resolved a single thing about the lawyers allowing customer data on our servers in the first place!”

Her best friend nodded. She had heard it more than a few times, with increasing frequency as they moved into the final weeks of December and toward the promised January 1st deployment.

Angela buried her face in her hands. She let out a ragged breath adn then another, but the tension in her chest and back refused to ease.

“No lunch?”

She parted two fingers and looked across the desk. “Sorry.”

“How about a late lunch?”

“DevOps wants to sit down about a new process. Then we have the customer issues call, and then an all-hands meeting about the holiday schedules.”

Angle leaned back. “All I want is for everything to go smoothly and not to have worry about anything for a long time.”

Jolene sighed and shook her head. “Got something at four?”

Angela had to check, it was open for once. “No, I'm good—”

“Book it. You and I are going to have a very late lunch and have plenty of frilly drinks with ice and fruit.”

“Jolene. When do you think I have time to do my job?”

Her friend stared at her, then shrugged. A coil of her hair tumbled off her shoulder. “Let it go. Just book it.”

Reluctantly, Angela marked herself down in the calendar already knowing someone would schedule a meeting to interrupt it. She decided not to mark herself out of office but to tag it as a customer followup with The Vanguard Hospitality Chain. That was Jolene's parent's line of management and investments. They owned about half of the hotels and motels in the area and brought a couple million in contracts every year.


“Yes, Mother,” Angela said with a smile. “But I hope you have your business cards with you.”

Jolene dug into a small purse and pulled out her gold-trimmed cards and a bright blue phone. “Never leave home without them. Calling an old customer for repeat business in the new year?”


“Just like the old days.” They had met during a meeting with Jolene's father many years before. Even though it was a small project, the fresh-face Angela had been assigned to assist Jolene while Angela's company wooed Jolene's father's.

Jolene set a card down on the desk before holding up her phone for a moment. Then she tapped a few times and settled back.

“What are you doing?” asked Angela.

“Ordering some decent sushi and then I'm going to watch videos until you can run away.”

“It's going to be hours. Are you sure?”

Jolene smiled and crossed her slender legs. She wore a long black skirt that stretched with her scissored legs. “I have nothing else to do.”

Angle smiled.

Her team chat beeped. It was the application team with an emergency firewall request.

Her smile dropped.

“Answer it,” Jolene said. “I'll wait.”

“It's going to be a while.”

“I don't care, I have sushi coming and we're going out for Mai Tais after this. Now, answer your phone. Computer. Whatever that thing that beeped.”