Ivy sat at the counter of the HovVac section, aimlessly flipping through a catalog. What she was looking for, she didn't know. No one had been in to this particular section in three solid days. She had dutifully swept the floor, dusted every machine, and wiped down the counter until even Dustin couldn't pretend there was more for her to do.
As if in answer to her challenge Dustin appeared, holding a mop and looking strangely pensive. "Hey," Ivy said, putting down the catalog. "You want me to mop?"
"No- well, yes," Dustin said, not looking at her. "If you think it needs it, I mean."
"I don't know. I just swept and things look pretty clean."
"Yeah," he sighed. "Listen Ivy, I need to talk to you."
"I've taken out your pay for the rest of the week. You work Friday from eight to five, right?"
"Yeah," Ivy confirmed. She could already see where this was going but didn't know how to help him get there. To be honest, she'd seen it coming for a long time.
"Alright, then. So. What I'm trying to say is after Friday-," he sighed, looked down at the mop, and mumbled, "Friday's going to be your last day."
Ivy considered that for a moment in silence. An uncharacteristic urge to yell or punch something or do something violent swept over her but she let it pass. What would be the point? This wasn't Dustin's fault; from the way he was shuffling his feet in guilty agony, he probably felt worse for her than she did. Besides, Roth's Better Homes had been shedding employees regularly for the past two months. Everyone was expecting to be on the chopping block sooner or later, and now it was just her turn. If she'd thought she had a chance of turning things around or convincing them to keep her on she might've tried, but everything was decided. There was nothing to be done.
"It's alright, Dustin," she said finally. "I kind of thought it was coming."
"I'm really sorry, Ivy," he protested, looking her in the eyes now that he was sure of her reaction. "Mercer just told me this morning. I said we should keep you but he said we had to let someone go and the HovVac section isn't doing so well, so…"
"No, I know," Ivy sighed, looking around at the merchandise she had arranged on the floor. No one was buying HovVac's anymore, that was the problem. They were too finicky, too apt to get caught up in the curtains or to try and vacuum up socks. Everyone with any sense had an AutoVac, the kind loaded with anti-curtain sensors. The latest model from Hoover was whisper silent, too. She could see the appeal- turn it on, set it loose, and let it float around soundlessly, cleaning carpets and stairs and tile like an invisible vacuum fairy. "It's been fun though," she said, trying to stay positive. "And I'll still see you guys around. Maybe we'll get together for a barbecue or something."
"Yeah, maybe," Dustin said. He stood there for a couple more minutes, but when neither of them said anything and the silence became awkward he shuffled off, hanging his head like a kicked dog. Ivy watched him go, feeling bad that she hadn't said anything more helpful but slightly vindictive at the same time. She wasn't going to start drowning in self-pity so why should he get to do it for her? He still had a job, didn't he? And now she had to go try to find something new in the middle of summer.
Corinne was waiting for her when she got off, looking bored as she lounged in her brand-new Lincoln hover car, flipping stations. Unlike Ivy Corinne never had a problem spending Family Money, even if it was on non-necessities like cars or jewelry or clothes. She insisted the money was there to spend, not to sit around in some bank account. Ivy insisted that if you wanted something bad enough, you wouldn't mind earning it properly. It was an argument they'd been having since Corinne got her own Family Money bank account when she turned sixteen, and it had only escalated when Ivy turned sixteen and refused to use her account to buy anything bigger than school supplies.
Corrine glanced up as Ivy climbed in, clicking her OmniScreen off and starting the car. "So, how was work?" she asked perfunctorily, checking over her shoulder before merging into traffic with a sudden swerve and a very loud horn-honk. The car tilted alarmingly, levelers working overtime to fix it even with the road again as Ivy hung on for dear life. Corrine didn't seem to notice, adjusting her rearview mirror and flipping the bird at the driver behind them.
"Work was- well, not good," Ivy said. Corrine glanced up and Ivy admitted "I got fired today."
"Finally!" Corrine exclaimed, throwing both hands up in the air to express her enthusiasm as the car swerved yet again, nearly taking out a hover cycle that was trying to pass them on their left. "We should go out to dinner tonight to celebrate! What do you want to eat? Pizza? Mexican? That weird African stuff you and Mom love, whazzitcalled-."
"I don't want to go out to dinner! Corinne, this is a bad thing. I. Got. Fired. From my job."
"You got set free from that hellish place you've been spending all your time at in lieu of enjoying the best years of your life," Corinne corrected. "It's almost your senior year of high school, Ivy! And what are you doing? Wasting away behind a counter, trying to sell HovVacs to people. Seriously. HovVacs."
"I was making money!"
"But you don't need money, is my point. There is absolutely no reason a member of the Hewitt family should have to enter the service industry. If you want to make money go to college, become a scientist that studies molecular chemistry or whatever it is you're in to. Design clothes or paint people purple for all I care. But HovVac's?"
"It was a job," Ivy said quietly.
"It was a way to waste time. I thought you were all about helping people and changing the world and stuff." Ivy didn't answer, gazing out the window as New York went by above and below them. The road was slightly translucent from above and if she squinted she could make out the shapes of trees and statues and fountains through the blue haze. If Roth's had been a bit closer to home she could have walked to work on the street level instead of being caught up in the insanity of the hover road and her sister's driving and her sister's insanity.
"Look, Ivy, I know you see this as a bad thing, okay?" Corinne said in a slightly gentler tone, pulling up in front of their brownstone and turning the car off. "But think of it as a fresh start. Now you can hold out for a good job, something worthwhile. You don't have to work in vacuums anymore!"
Ivy smiled reluctantly. It had been no secret that she hated the HovVac section from the moment Dustin had hired her eighteen months ago and set her up behind the counter. Those machines were the noisiest, testiest, most demanding things she'd ever seen, and now she'd never have to rescue one from on top of a too-steep drop or untangle twine from the rotors when one wandered off into Packing and Shipping. Corinne, encouraged, smiled back and said "See? You're halfway to feeling better already! All you need is a trip to Cherie's, a new outfit, and some ice cream and you'll be good as new."
"And a new job," Ivy reminded her.
Corinne shrugged. "If you insist."