I've been waiting for the call for months. The only surprise has been that it has taken this long.
So when the Outlook invitation pops into my inbox, I hardly flinch. The subject line is vague. A "chat". We don't really do "chats". It can only mean one thing.
I dial in at the appropriate time. He's late, apologetic, flustered. I'm calm, collected. I know what's coming before he even has time to clear his throat. He launches into the usual platitudes. "Difficult business conditions...ongoing restructuring". I hear the words and inwardly I laugh. It feels funny being on the receiving end. I've uttered those words myself too many times. I recognise the awkward tone...it's apologetic, polite, but definitely wanting to have the conversation over with. Must follow due process. Must follow the script.
He quotes numbers. I'm still grinning like a Cheshire Cat. "Don't worry", I say, "I totally understand". I do, you see. I'd be doing exactly the same in his position. There hasn't been enough work to go around for a while. I'm still smiling. If I keep smiling I can keep my tone upbeat. So funny.
"Call me if you want to chat about anything", he says, and we say goodbye.
It's only then that I burst into tears.