DISCLAIMER: All characters belong to Shed, I will return them after I have borrowed them.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
"Well I 'aint in the mood!"
"Come on Shell, you're always in the mood," Jim wheedled, his hands wandering all over Shell.
"You told me I'd be off them tills by now, Customer Service you said, maybe even supervisor."
"Well Shell, what can I do? You wind Wade up on that Front End and you're finished. Not one of her golden girls are you?"
"I aint her type, anyway you're the boss. You've just taken someone new on for the desk, why didn't you just promote me?"
"Softly, softly Shell."
"Softly, softly my arse, you 'aint got the clout you reckon." Shell hopped down from Jim's desk and made her way to the door, "besides it's a bit early for me." Jim watched Shell's shapely behind leave and groaned with frustration. She'd been a welcome distraction at first but she was beginning to make demands. Of course he'd promised her all sorts in order to get her to sleep with him but he never intended to make good on any of the promises. She wasn't far wrong with her comment about clout, he might have been store manager in name but in reality he had little idea or grasp of what was going on in his own store. Mark Waddle was the one with all the answers, the one who could solve any problems. Nikki ran the front end like a well oiled machine and Jim knew she was just as adept at general store management too. Her pal Yvonne was miss bloody popular and an extremely efficient manager and what Karen Betts didn't know about the stock in the store wasn't worth knowing. Jim slumped in his chair and played his favourite game, following attractive women around the store on the cctv cameras. He was going to have to think of something quick. Frances Myers was no fool. He'd met her twice before and they had taken an instant dislike to each other. She was immune to his flattery and was very efficient and professional. She'd know straight away that Jim was not pulling his weight and wouldn't hesitate to recommend he be relieved of his position, no, he'd have to think of something.
Nikki glanced at the clock on the wall and then at her own wrist watch, 8.45am. She was waiting for Helen Stewart to arrive. She didn't want to start feeling prejudiced towards her new member of staff but the fact that Jim had taken her on and the last person he had taken on was Shell meant that Nikki felt the need to prepare for the worst. Shell arrived at that moment on the front end,
"Shell, a word."
"Number one your shift started at 8.30, number two you're chewing, get rid."
"I was talking to Mr Fenner."
"I don't give a toss, you could have been talking to the queen for all I care. Consider this a verbal warning, express till 2 please."
"I hate the express."
"And I hate staff who try and take advantage but it can't be hearts and roses all the time can it." Shell sloped off towards the till, as Selena approached the customer service desk, a pile of paperwork under her arm.
"Scanning errors Nik, you alright? You were hard on Shell, well more so than usual anyway." Nikki relieved Selena of the huge pile of paper and cast her eye over it all rapidly.
"I know, it's just I hate Saturdays and I'm getting used to being back at work."
"Mmm, and Jim's new customer service girl starts today." Selena looked at Nikki and raised an eyebrow. Nikki smiled, Selena knew her far too well,
"Yes, that too. Now training "
"Can't do it."
"What do you mean?"
"I can't train Helen Stewart, I've got a meeting with Yvonne."
"Since sometime last month when I told you and wrote it in the diary." Selena used one of her long, manicured fingers to flick the diary open. Sure enough pencilled in for that morning was Selena's meeting with Yvonne. "Guess you'll have to train her mate."
"I've got rotas to catch up on."
"You're the only option. Monica's in at 9.30 but that's a bit late to start training, plus really she's not qualified to do it."
"Must be her now." Selena nodded towards the back of the store. Jim Fenner was making his way down aisle 3 alongside someone new. The woman at his side, seemingly listening to everything he was saying was quite petite, Nikki noticed she had very glossy hair. It pleased her to see that she didn't seem to be a stereotypical blonde bimbo, but she remained on her guard. They eventually reached the desk.
"Nikki, good morning!" Nikki forced her mouth into something that could have passed as a smile. It was truly sickening to view Jim switch the charm on and off.
"Helen this is Nikki Wade, our front end manager and your supervisor, this is Selena Geeson one of our front end supervisors."
"Pleased to meet you both." Helen smiled warmly and shook hands with both Nikki and Selena. Helen had a very soft Scottish accent, Nikki approved, accents always went down well with the public. She was well turned out and her green eyes betrayed a certain spark and intelligence. Maybe Jim hadn't got it completely wrong this time.
"Well I'll leave you ladies to get acquainted. Any problems Helen love, you come to me. My office is always open. Nikki I take it training procedures are in place for Helen."
"Good, well I'd better be doing my rounds." Of golf, Nikki thought to herself.
Helen hated first days in a new job. You never knew who you should steer clear of, who was safe to befriend. If you weren't careful you could end up having lunch with the resident nutter. She'd known as soon as she'd walked into his office that Jim Fenner was not the person to be friendly with, store manager or not. He was so sleazy, all those oily smiles and knowing winks. She also hated men who used the term love in the way he did, it made her skin crawl. No way would she be going to him for anything. Her thoughts turned to the two women in front of her. The red head, Selena, seemed very friendly. She kept making eye contact with Helen and smiling knowingly as though to say I know how you feel. The other woman, the manager, she was a whole different story. There was something rather enigmatic about her. Even though she was wearing the same uniform as everyone else she carried it off infinitely better than the others around her. She was tall and slender, her skin was golden brown, from a recent holiday Helen thought. Nikki turned to look at Helen, her eyes were the darkest brown Helen had ever seen, they were almost black. Hidden depths this one, thought Helen.
"Right Helen, you're ok if I call you that aren't you?"
"Fine, that's what it says on my name badge."
"As I didn't interview you and your details seem a bit sketchy I'll just ask you a few questions as we go, ok." Helen was about to answer before realising that Nikki's ok had not been a question simply an efficient way to finish a sentence. "Any customer service experience?"
"Some, I've worked in supermarkets before, quite a few years ago though."
"Ok, that's a start, any recent work experience with the public?"
"No." Helen felt answers which were straight to the point were the way forward with Nikki.
"Ok, I'll be taking you through your training this morning as Selena has a meeting. Follow me and we'll get started on your till training." Nikki walked rapidly along the line of tills, to the end where there was a free one. Helen noticed how all the cashiers smiled genuinely as Nikki passed by. She seemed to be very popular, clearly when you got to know her she thawed out. "Any till experience?" Helen nodded,
"Some, a few years ago though."
"Don't worry just like riding a bike." Nikki smiled, showing a line of perfect white teeth, "let's see how you get on." Nikki placed a sign on the end of the till which said 'Cashier in Training' Helen felt rather silly, like a 16 year old starting their first job. "I know you probably feel like a bit of an idiot with that sign up but it's policy I'm afraid." Once again Nikki smiled briefly and then turned her attention to the training manual. Strange Helen thought, she practically read my mind. The next hour passed quickly, there really wasn't much to using the till. Helen found Nikki, though abrupt at times and painfully professional, a patient teacher who was excellent at explaining. For Nikki working with Helen was like a breath of fresh air. She found her extremely pleasant and calm, maybe the combination of green eyes and the accent did it, but Nikki felt very much at ease around her. "Ok Helen, you're clearly a quick learner, I'm going to open your till now and give you some time on the till with real customers, see how you get on."
"And if I get stuck?"
"Well I doubt it but I'll hover." Nikki stepped away and beckoned some customers over. Part of her didn't want to let Helen out of her sight, which was ridiculous, she didn't know why she felt like that. Nikki was renowned for being protective over her staff, but she couldn't work out what it was about this new woman. Part of her had desperately wanted to hate Helen, had wanted her to be terrible at the job just so she could have it out with Jim. She had to admit though, Helen was so far, very good. She had listened to everything Nikki had said and had picked up everything very quickly. Nikki watched from a discrete distance as Helen served customers. She had an easy manner about her and a ready smile, Nikki was sure she would be a hit with the older customers, they always liked staff who were willing to have a bit of a chat.
"So far so good then?" Monica approached,
"Hi Monica, you ok?"
"Good thanks Nikki, not even a peroxide tint I see!"
"No." Nikki chuckled, "she's actually very good, but don't tell anyone I said that just yet!"
"Understood, I'll take over shall I? Finish off her customer service training?" Part of Nikki wanted to say no but she knew that she had plenty of things to be getting on with,
"That would be good Mon thanks, I'll start getting some of these breaks sorted." Nikki left Monica watching Helen and went over to the supervisors desk where she could look at the break planner and sort out the breaks. As Nikki quickly organised the breaks for the morning, her red pen quickly making marks on the page she noticed Monica closing Helen's till down and taking her over to the customer service desk. She looked up and nodded as they passed by, Monica was animatedly chatting to Helen, no doubt filling her in on the do and don'ts of working at the Harbourne store. What Monica didn't know about the store wasn't worth knowing, she had been there since the store had opened, Nikki was very grateful she was part of her team.
"Alright Nikki?" Nikki looked up,
"Hi Denny, that time already is it? Can you take Shell off for her half hour please."
"No problem mate." Nikki shook her head, Denny was a good kid, but she worried about her. She was easily led.
"So that's refunds and replacements in a nutshell."
"Gosh Monica I don't think I'll remember all of this, there is so much to do."
"Oh don't you worry Helen dear, after a few shifts it will be like second nature to you, anyway there's always someone here to help should you get stuck. Let's move on to the phone, it's pretty standard but you should make sure you know all about it, don't want to transfer the wrong lines to the wrong people do you!" Helen shook her head and tried to concentrate on what Monica was saying, she couldn't help glancing up now and again to see where Nikki was. She seemed engrossed in the work she was doing, pausing briefly to speak to staff and answer the mobile phone which was constantly ringing. Helen was keen to impress her. Nikki seemed like a challenge to Helen, and Helen loved challenges. Appreciation and respect always meant more when it was gained with a struggle. She could see that you had to work hard to gain Nikki's approval.
"How long have you worked here Monica?"
"Oh too long! Let me think, it's about 10 years now, since the store opened."
"Nikki's been here for 3 years now, she probably won't be here for much longer."
"Well she's very good at her job, as you can probably see. I think she'll be looking for promotion soon. She's a very good boss to have I for one will miss her when she goes."
"She seems a bit scary!"
"Nikki? All bark really, it's best not to get on the wrong side of her but she's very fair, and she'll back her staff up to the hilt. Whatever decision you make on this desk you can be sure that Nikki will back you up, she'll never undermine you."
"Well that's good to know."
"How's it going?" Selena arrived fresh from her meeting with Yvonne, she smiled broadly at Helen, "you haven't run off yet then?"
"No not yet!"
"Well you can't ask for a better person than Monica to train you, she trained me!" Helen was rapidly warming to these people, it was a long time since she'd been in a traditional work environment, but she thought she might actually enjoy it here. She was enjoying chatting to Selena and Monica when Nikki coughed politely behind them,
"I am sorry to break this delightful coffee morning scenario up but have you noticed the queues?" The three women looked up, Selena's cheeks suddenly matched her hair,
"God Nikki sorry, I'll jump on a till shall I?"
"I think that's a good idea, Monica can you jump on too please, Helen you stay here on the desk with me. You need to practise being on here when it gets busy." The two women scuttled off and rapidly opened two tills,
"Probably my fault, they were getting all the info on the new girl." Helen smiled apologetically,
"Lots to find out is there?" Nikki smirked, "dark secrets Miss Stewart? Sorry is it Mrs?" They were interrupted by a customer who wanted to complain about the price of the supermarket's own brand tuna, and then the phone rang. Helen took to working on the customer service desk like a duck to water. She could do many things at the same time, which was essential. Her calm manner worked well on the desk where often irate customers took out their frustrations on whoever was there. She had the ability to diffuse situations before they became difficult. All in all Nikki couldn't really fault her. The flood of customers suddenly disappeared and calm once again descended.
"That was crazy!" Helen seemed completely bemused by it, Nikki laughed,
"Saturday for you, and Sunday, both days are completely mad! One minute the place is empty the next it's like that, you get used to it. Look I'm due a break now and so are you. I can leave Selena and Monica down here and show you the delights of the canteen, give you a chance to ask me any questions you want to as well. Sound ok?" This time the ok actually was a question Helen realised,
"Yes, that would be good." Selena had closed her till and Nikki handed her a bunch of keys,
"I'm off for a break and I'll take Helen with me. I'll take the mobile, if it gets crazy again call me."
"I'm sure we'll be fine." Helen followed Nikki as she walked rapidly through the store, her long legs making easy work of the lengthy aisles.
"Right." Nikki walked into the staff canteen with Helen following close behind,
"Alright Nik!" Two women chorused as she walked up to the servery,
"Hi Julies, how are you both?"
"Good, well, not bad eh Jue?"
"Have you met Helen?"
"No don't think we have, have we Jue?"
"No Jue, haven't met Helen yet."
"Helen Stewart, Julie J." Nikki motioned towards the taller of the two, "and Julie S," the smaller woman grinned broadly,
"Right Helen love, what can we get for you then?" Nikki grinned and leant towards Helen whispering conspiratorially,
"Don't let them bully you, I'm just going for a quick fag. Grab yourself something to eat and I'll come and join you." Helen was spoilt for choice, for a staff canteen at a supermarket it was very well stocked. She settled for a bacon sandwich on brown bread and a cup of strong tea, finding herself an empty table Helen settled herself down. It had been an interesting day. The job itself seemed good, lots to remember but it would definitely keep her busy. The other people on the customer service desk seemed nice. Even Nikki, she was very stand-offish but Helen could see she was very amiable when you got to know her. Helen surreptitiously watched Nikki over her mug of tea. She was in a small area, which was clearly the smokers area. She seemed so laid back, the way she stood leaning against the wall, looking completely chilled out. Helen suspected however, that Nikki's mind was probably always sharp and on the ball. Nikki finished the last of her cigarette and noting where Helen was sitting came over to join her,
"Bloody hell, you could stand your spoon up in that tea!"
"I know I'd rather have tea black than have too much milk! You not eating?"
"Yeah the Julies know me very well, they'll bring mine over in a minute."
"They seem nice."
"They are, very genuine and you'll never go hungry in this place. So how are you feeling so far?"
"Elaborate Helen, you're clearly extremely eloquent and communicative please share what you think."
"Ok. Job seems good, I think it will take me a few weeks to get my head around everything but I'm not worried. The front end staff seem very nice, particularly Monica. I think I'll be fine, though, I'm not sure about Mr Fenner."
"Here you go Nik, usual."
"Cheers Julie." Julie had set down in front of Nikki a large plate, on the plate was a full english breakfast. Nikki hungrily set about devouring it,
"go on," she said between mouthfuls, "you were saying about Mr Fenner."
"It's just, he makes me feel slightly uncomfortable."
"Listen Helen, Fenner should have left years ago, he's a store manager from the arc. There are plenty of others in the staff who know what they are doing and who are far more approachable. If I were you I'd avoid Jim Fenner like the plague." Nikki paused to take a gulp of milky tea, she picked her fork back up and continued, "now usually I would say talking about another member of staff, infact a superior member of staff was unprofessional but for him I'll make an exception, besides " Nikki picked up her mug and swallowed the rest of her now luke warm tea, "I trust you." Helen was flattered by Nikki's comment, something told her that Nikki was careful with her compliments.
"Helen isn't it?" Yvonne smiled broadly,
"Oh Yvonne I didn't see you sneak up."
"Well you wouldn't Nik would you? Face full of fried egg probably! If you don't mind I need to borrow Helen, just some paperwork to fill in. That alright? Promise I'll return her to the front end when we're finished!" Still ploughing through the mountain of bacon on her plate Nikki merely nodded and waved her fork in the direction of the door. "I'll take that as a yes, follow me Helen." Helen smiled weakly towards Nikki who seemed have to forgotten her existence entirely and followed Yvonne, who mumbled to herself, "beats me how she stays so thin eating that crap everyday." Nikki munched thoughtfully and watched Yvonne lead Helen away. She was disappointed, she'd got lots of questions she wanted to ask Helen Stewart, but they could wait.
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