DISCLAIMER: All characters belong to Shed, I will return them after I have borrowed them.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Nikki sighed as she walked through the automatic doors, and the air conditioning hit her. Her holiday seemed like a lifetime ago and she'd only got back two days ago. Why do holiday memories pale into the distance when you return to work? It was like she'd never been away. As the second set of automatic doors opened the noise hit her, the hubbub of a hundred conversations, and the beeping. Till after till and they all made the same noise. Nikki made her way over to the customer service desk, she was looking forward to catching up with her staff. As she reached the desk she saw Monica was deep in conversation, clearly trying to placate an irate customer on the other end of the phone. Monica was one of Nikki's most experienced customer service assistants, though she was easily the most forgetful as well!
"Yes, I see, oh dear that is unfortunate. I'm sorry that I can't do anything about that, head office number? Yes certainly, please hold." Monica rummaged around on the desk looking for the address book.
"Second drawer down."
"Nikki! Oh I'm so pleased you're back, ah there it is, don't go anywhere there's something you need to know. Hello? Ah Madam that number for you." Nikki was sure that whatever Monica wanted to tell her could wait, she walked off towards the tills. The store was busy Nikki was pleased to see, and her cashiers seemed to be making easy work of the numerous customers descending upon them.
"Nikki!" Nikki's second in command, Selena waved at her from the supervisors desk that faced the tills. Selena was young and ambitious, as the front end manager Nikki always had boring administrative duties to attend to, she never worried about leaving the front end in Selena's control, she was very capable.
"Hi Selena, busy isn't it?' Nikki hugged Selena briefly and turned to scan the rest of the store.
"Busiest it's been for a few days actually." Selena pushed her striking red hair out of her eyes and leant on the desk, placing her chin in her hands, "fab tan Nikki." Nikki grinned.
"It was bloody hot."
"Well I've heard that about Mexico, you lucky so and so."
"Who's the manager today?"
"Well at the moment it's Yvonne, but I think Jim's on the close down. I take it you're on the close arriving at this time?"
"Mmm, my own bloody fault, I do the rotas. What possessed me to do the close down on a Friday as my first shift I don't know. My girlfriend was not impressed I can tell you. " Selena was about to question Nikki more but she could see Monica rushing over from the customer service desk. Nikki had never made any secret of her sexuality or the fact that she was seeing someone, but Selena could never recall any details. In fact she was sure that she didn't even know the name of Nikki's girlfriend. They all got on so well on the front end, and spent most of their shifts chatting, Nikki however was always very careful about what she said. She maintained a slight distance between herself and her staff, she was very professional. "Monica love you're going to burst a blood vessel running around like that." Nikki laughed.
"You've only been back two minutes and you've started on me already."
"Only meant with the greatest of affection, what's the matter." Monica looked to Selena.
"Have you told her?" Selena shook her head vigorously.
"Told me what? Come on you know I hate gossip." Monica swallowed nervously, she knew that Nikki was going to be supremely annoyed when she found out.
"While you were away." Nikki nodded and folded her arms, "Jim took on a new person on the customer service desk."
"Well we were a bit short ." Nikki put up her hand to stop Monica.
"Let me get this straight, I walk out of the door and Jim bloody Fenner employs a new person on my department?"
"That's about the long and short of it." Selena remarked.
"Oh found your voice have you?" Nikki didn't mean to be so short with Selena but she very annoyed.
"Oi, don't take it out on me." Selena straightened herself, "Barbara looks like she needs someone with some keys, I'll deal with it shall I?" Selena stalked off to help Barbara, leaving a fuming Nikki and a decidedly uncomfortable looking Monica.
"Don't say anything Mon, I know I shouldn't have snapped but I'm so pissed off, he's got no rights."
"Hasn't he? He is the store manager."
"That's a joke and you know it, he's got no idea what happens in this place. He's a bloody dinosaur who has no idea about retail in the 21st Century. I'm going to speak to Yvonne, he must have had to run it past her, she's HR."
"I don't think he did to be honest." Nikki weaved her way through the increasingly lengthy queues and headed towards the back of the store and the offices. She swiped her attendance card through the machine viciously, this was the last place she wanted to be at the moment but she would bloody well get paid for it. She marched into the manager's office, ignoring the 'meeting in progress' sign on the door. Yvonne Atkins, Human Resources manager was in there on the phone. On seeing Nikki she smiled, however the smile soon disappeared when she realised that Nikki was in a black mood.
"I'll have to call you back Diane bit of a crisis here, alright darlin' speak to you later." She replaced the receiver and swivelled her chair around so that she was facing Nikki, "welcome back, Nik."
"Cut the crap Yvonne, what the hell has Jim been up to, I only went away for a fortnight."
"Calm down, it's not that much of a big deal. Look you knew the customer service desk was running short."
"Yes and I told you that I would deal with it when I got back."
"Yes you did and that was acceptable to me, unfortunately neither you nor me are the store manager. Jim decided the situation needed to be resolved and took it upon himself to take someone new on."
"What about Mark?"
"Because Jim decided he wanted to be involved in the interview process he sent Mark to the Area Management meetings. Mark wasn't in the store very much." Mark Waddle was the assistant manager, far more popular than Jim and more efficient in his job. However he was so nice that he would never put himself forward to replace Jim, even though Yvonne and Nikki always tried to convince him it would benefit the store if he did.
"Did you sit in on the interviews?"
"Some of them."
"And who did he take on?" Yvonne rummaged around the paperwork in front of her, finally laying her hands on the right piece of paper, she held it in front of her.
"Helen Stewart her name is, 31, not much else here actually."
"Nothing else? Well we know what that means, he's taken her on because she's attractive and probably flashed him a bit of leg. Remember Shell, she's about as much use as a chocolate teapot and I'm still lumbered with her after Jim took her on. Just so he's got a blonde bimbo to look at when he bothers to come on to the shop floor!" Nikki's passion for her job always surprised Yvonne, as a human resources manager it was refreshing to work with someone who cared about their job and their staff. Nikki however sometimes did get on her soapbox, forgetting who was on her side.
"Well it's not all bad, if she's attractive eh Nik?"
"Look, I know it's annoying but it's not a big deal. You have how many staff under you? 40, 50? This is one woman."
"I know but I've worked hard to make sure that I know all my staff and I took them all on individually. The supervisors and the customer service people are the most important part of the department. If we all don't get on then the department will suffer."
"Nikki, look, you're a very talented manager you can make any combination work as a team. Anyway Helen Stewart is due in at, 9am tomorrow for her first shift, you'll meet her then."
"Fanbloodytastic." Nikki turned around to walk out of the office.
"This uniform is horrible." Helen spoke out loud as she looked at herself in the mirror she tugged at the green shirt and fiddled with her name badge, 'HELEN, Happy to help'.
"What do you think Livvy?" Olivia gurgled good naturedly and put her arms out to be picked up. Helen lifted her high in the air and planted a kiss on her chubby cheeks, "you don't care what I look like do you my darling!"
"Helen! Come on we're going to be late."
"I'm coming Duncan." Helen quickly pulled off her uniform she had collected earlier in the day, ready to start her new job the following day.
"Were you talking to yourself up there?"
"Nope, to your darling daughter!"
"And did she answer back?"
"In her own way. How ridiculous is that uniform?"
"It's a green shirt and a pair of black trousers, I've seen worse." Duncan picked Olivia out of Helen's arms.
"Green doesn't suit me."
"Yeah it does, matches your eyes. Now come on we'll be late for the doctors."
"I'm sure Livvy wouldn't mind, I'm not sure I can watch them stick a needle in her." Duncan smiled and put his arm around Helen pulling her into a close hug.
"She'll be fine, and she'll be much calmer if we're both there, lets go team Stewart."
The rest of the day had passed without incident for Nikki, her staff had been pleased to see her back, no one had called in sick and the dreaded queues had been kept at bay. Monica had gone home to be replaced by Cassie Tyler, another customer service assistant. Nikki had high hopes for Cassie and hoped that eventually she would make a good supervisor, maybe even take over from Nikki herself. Selena would be the natural successor but Nikki knew that she would probably move to another store for a promotion.
"Any problems then?"
"Nope," Nikki leant back against the supervisor's desk, "all quiet on the western front."
"Who have we got as manager?" Nikki turned around and grimaced, "oh Jim then."
"Apparently but he hasn't arrived yet, poor Yvonne's been here since 7am. It's nearly 5 now and no sign of our great leader."
"Are we going to get any work done today ladies?"
"Alright Yvonne, why don't you get off. It's quiet down here and Cassie can handle it. I'll take over out the back."
"You're alright Nik, Jim just rang he's on his way. Car trouble apparently. Frances Myers is back from holiday today, I've just spoken to her on the phone." Nikki looked up, seemingly disinterested, "you know Frances Myers, Area Manager?"
"Yeah I know who you're talking about Yvonne, and?"
"We're due an inspection, she's coming in next week to brief us. We're going to have Area breathing down our necks for a few weeks. Can't say I'm sure about Myers but there you go."
"She's alright Yvonne, as far as Area Management goes. I'll make sure everything down here is by the book."
"Cheers mate, see you tomorrow. Later Cass." Yvonne made her way back through the store greeting every member of staff she came to by their name. Name badges help, but she really did know everyone in the store. Something Nikki and Yvonne shared was a belief you should know your staff, for this reason they were both popular.
"So how was your holiday Nikki?"
"Great Cass, thanks. The weather was lovely and we got a chance to relax."
"Just you and your girlfriend yeah?"
"Mmm, oh look Roisin seems to have got herself in a bit of a muddle. I'll just go and give her a hand." Nikki rushed off towards one of the end tills, where Roisin Connor one of the cashiers was waving frantically. Cass stayed at the customer service desk, Nikki was so secretive when it came to her private life. She was a great laugh and was really easy to talk to, but when the conversation came round to partners she would either change the subject or rush off. You could never pin her down, Cassie knew that part of it was Nikki's desire to remain professional and slightly distanced from her staff. When Cass had first arrived at the Harbourne Supersavers store she had had a brief ill-conceived fling with Nikki. It had not lasted long, both women decided they were better as friends and Nikki was very uncomfortable having a relationship with a member of her staff. They had called it a day very quickly but had remained good friends and they worked well as a team. Cass couldn't understand why over the last year or so Nikki had closed herself to everyone. She was still fun, witty and charming with staff and customers alike, but on her own she now seemed like a closed book.
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