A few hours later, Olivia walked in the front door of Keegan’s Pub. It was freezing outside, and the dining room didn’t feel much warmer as she walked in. Hugh and Charlie were sitting in a booth in the empty room and as they turned to her, her stomach sank at their expressions.
“What now?” she asked, not bothering to go out back and take off her coat first.
“Bret is coming in later to talk to you,” Hugh said. “He called this morning and apparently there was a complaint last night that Keegan’s was closed early?”
“I wasn’t on last night,” she said. “That was his floating manager.”
“Of course it was,” Hugh said, a little too quickly. “But apparently he closed the bar an hour early and someone tried to get in for a drink. The guy found Bret’s email and complained about it.”
“What does he want me to do about it?” Olivia asked, not caring that she couldn’t force the bite out of her voice as she spoke.
“I’m not sure,” Hugh said, still with that maddening patience, like he thought she was going to shatter under any more pressure. “He said he’s coming by around one.”
That was in an hour, so she had plenty of time to stew on it. “He sounded mad,” Charlie said. “Hugh took the call, but I could hear him shouting.”
Great. So Bret was on a power trip about it. “He should be calling the assistant manager, Dave or whatever,” Olivia said. “Fine. I’m going to go do my paperwork before he gets here. Let me know if anyone comes in.”
She walked out back and went for the tiny corner of the old kitchen that she’d converted into her office space. It was a cramped space with a low ceiling that Noah had slammed his head enough times to keep him out of there forever. Her paperwork was neatly stacked on the desk and she smiled at the already outdated photo of Mia that she’d taped up over a year ago.
She didn’t know exactly why Bret was so angry. He was the one who hired these people. Hell, he’d sent that assistant manager to handle the bar when she wasn’t there. She’d submitted the schedule with one night off for herself last night and he approved it. Every other night this week she’d been working until close, driving home alone around midnight and terrified of what was going to greet her from the shadows along the way.
She tried to put what was sure to be an ugly meeting out of her mind as she went through the sales reports from the week. They were doing decent, all things considered. Profits were up from this week last year. Labor costs were down, obviously. It was amazing what you could save by having your manager work sixty hours a week on salary.
Bret’s voice behind her made her jump. She spun around to see him standing in the doorway to the back room, arms crossed as he glared at her. “Hi Bret,” she said, hoping she sounded professional.
“Take a break and let’s talk about last night.”
He started walking back out toward the bar and dining room, and Olivia got up to follow him. If they were going out front to talk, then maybe this wasn’t going to be as bad as she thought.
“Last night was unacceptable,” Bret said as he led her to a booth near the bar.
“I agree,” Olivia said, sliding into the seat across from him. “Obviously, I didn’t authorize an early close. I wasn’t here.”
“But that doesn’t mean it isn’t your responsibility.”
Olivia froze, her next statement about how the assistant manager clearly needed some more training dying on her tongue. “Olivia, you’re in charge of this bar,” Bret continued, his voice low but clearly about to bubble over with anger. “You’re responsible for anything that happens in it. The buck stops with you, Miss Manager.”
A wave of cold washed over her and she tried to keep her breathing steady as her heart began racing in her tight chest. “I was off last night,” she said again, voice mostly still. “The assistant manager that you sent to cover decided to close early. He didn’t contact me and he didn’t give me a reason.”
“That doesn’t let you off the hook,” Bret continued. “As the general manager, this bar is your responsibility. And you failed that responsibility last night by letting this happen.”
“I wasn’t here,” she started again, but he held up a hand to silence her.
“That doesn’t matter,” he said. “I don’t care that you weren’t on the clock. This isn’t about whether you’re on the job. You still need to care what happens here.”
What the hell was going on? Was this some fucked up prank? Or had she overslept and this was a weird stress dream? “Bret, I-”
“I don’t want to hear excuses,” Bret said. “Businesses don’t succeed on excuses. You think I’m allowed to make excuses?”
She was pretty sure Bret also took multiple vacations every year and wasn’t on WIC like she was. But she didn’t want this to get any uglier than it already was, so she kept that thought to herself.
“Listen,” Bret said, folding his hands on the tabletop. “I have no choice but to write you up for this. I’m also docking your pay for last night for the hours we were closed.”
Olivia’s stomach churned, and she took a shaky breath. “I wasn’t on last night,” she repeated slowly. “I had no way of knowing what he would do, short of calling every ten minutes to check.”
“Well, maybe if you can’t keep this place under control, that’s what you need to do!”
Bret’s voice rose as he spoke, so that he was shouting by the end. Olivia saw a man in the last booth and her face burned as she realized this was happening in front of not only Hugh and Charlie, who were pretending not to listen as they stood by the bar, but in front of customers too.
“I worked six nights this week,” Olivia said. “Are you saying I shouldn’t take a night off?”
“Not if this is what happens. God dammit, Olivia! I thought you were better than this.”
Bret pounded a fist on the checkered table as he said it, and as the table rocked under the blow, Olivia was calm. Her heart was pounding in her ears, but her mind was completely placid in that way she hadn’t been able to achieve that morning.
She licked her lips, then slid out of the booth, standing up and facing Bret. “You know what?” she said, aware of everyone’s eyes on her. “I’m done.”
Bret blinked at her, then narrowed his eyes. “Excuse me?”
Somewhere, her more reasonable mind was screaming at her about utilities and her half of the mortgage. But that part shut the hell up in the face of the reality of what Bret was demanding from her.
A burst of inspiration hit her and she smiled. “Bret,” she said, “Go fuck yourself.”
Olivia deserved to say it too. And it felt good.
Bret was purple now, pushing his way out of his seat. But Olivia’s car keys were in her pocket and her spite was keeping her warm. She turned her back on him, threw up two middle fingers, and strode out of Keegan’s, letting the door slam behind her with a satisfying thud.