Tom’s palms are damp and hot. He tries rubbing his hands on his scratchy slacks in effort to dry them off, though each stroke does little. Being unemployed now for four months, he was losing hope that anyone would answer his resume; this was his first interview. Desperation set in about two months ago, but here he is, sitting like a statue in the lobby, waiting to be seen. A man and a woman approach him, each one with a smile on their face and the man’s hand stretches out before him. Standing quickly, Tom reaches forward gripping the man’s hand. His hand is warm and matches his firm grip. Tom forces a smile despite his nerves and starts the automatic sound of introductions. Mike and Linda are their names, he repeats them over and over again in his head. Linda, a rather small woman, awaits her turn to shake his hand, poised with a smile. Their grips meet and her slender hand is soft, almost too soft. As Tom gives his usual squeeze he feels her fragile bones roll in his hand. He quickly withdraws, trying not to look concerned and hoping he hadn’t ruined his chances. Another bead of sweat forms on his brow.
The empty feeling in her stomach grew. She checks the clock and reaches for a granola bar, only to be interrupted by the receptionist buzzing her office. Tom has arrived. She remembers his name because it was also the name of her cat. Sighing, she stands and starts to silently pray that this would be the right person. Ever since Jerald left her work load had been unbearable and she had begrudgingly been forced to work with Mike. Rolling her neck, it cracks in odd places to her satisfaction. She runs her hands down her skirt to straighten it and then gives her jacket a little tug at the hem. “Showtime,” she murmurs and walks out the door. Mike is already ahead of her, so she picks up her pace. Tom is standing when she walks up, and she notices he is younger than she expected. He reaches for Mike’s hand and makes polite introductions. Tom reaches for her next, his grip is like a vice; a wet, warm, soggy, vice. Linda smiles through her disgust and pain. Then, with a throbbing hand, she purposefully turns herself off for the rest of the interview.
The receptionist buzzes Mike and tells him Tom has arrived. Mike responds, “I don’t care if this guy is a leprechaun, he’s hired!” The interview process has been going on for months, and it was getting ridiculous. Recounting the last three people they interviewed, he figured any one of them would have been fine. He was not looking forward to meeting this guy or being in the same room with Linda again either. Mike springs out of his seat, adjusts his tie, and quickly palms his hair to ensure the gel was still holding. When he walks out of his office he is not surprised that he is ahead of Linda. He appreciates that he will look like the lead on the interview. Tom stands as Mike approaches, and Mike reaches out his hand. The two men grip each other in a healthy shake, and eyes meet with grinning faces. Mike likes Tom already, and plans to help him woo Linda. Still smiling, Tom reaches for Linda. Mike sees Tom’s firm handshake take hold, crushing Linda’s childlike hand. His smile vanishes and he realizes instant defeat.
My response to the Daily Prompt: Parallel