"Weeks Later"


The office was one big open space, with a pair of glass-windowed rooms carved out of the floor plan. In the remaining area stood two rows of desks at right angles, large black monitors and chunky laptop docks set up for every employee. Their little startup wasn’t stable yet, but it was real and it was growing.

At the second desk from the end, just out of the hazy sunlight streaming in through the window, Lianna Kim took her head from her hands and resumed scanning the morning’s email.

“Lianna, you’re on résumés while Ruthy’s away, right?” Leland called from the other row of desks.

Lianna squeezed her eyes shut for a second. “Right,” she replied, “thanks for the reminder.”

Leland shot her a grin that made it clear her frustration had leaked through. “Any time,” he said, before putting his earbuds back in.

It was still early in the day, at least as far as software startups were concerned, and so there were only a handful of people in the office at this point. Nobody batted an eye at the across-the-room conversation, but apart from that there was only the sound of typing and clicking and the occasional slurp from a coffee cup.

For whatever reason Lianna felt unproductive this morning, though no immediate cause sprang to mind. Maybe it’s just the rain, she thought as she clicked over to the job applications mailbox. She didn’t normally think of herself as being particularly “seasonally affected”, but there was still something about a nice clear day that was definitely lacking at the moment.

There was only one new application, which made things both easier and harder. They’d had multiple open positions for weeks, if not months, and while Jamie had been a great find they could still use a few more—

Lianna’s train of thought came to a halt as she saw the sender. No. He wouldn’t. She felt her heart jump once, anxiously.

To whom it may concern: I’m applying for the position of backend engineer. Please find my resume and contact information attached. I look forward to being able to speak with you in person.

Justin Hill

“He wouldn’t,” she said aloud. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Leland glance her way, even with his earbuds in. Lianna noticed she was gritting her teeth and consciously relaxed her jaw.

My college boyfriend. Seriously?

“Goddammit, he said he wouldn’t.” The words slipped out, and she blushed.

“Wouldn’t what?” asked Kyler, leaning over from her spot two desks away.

Lianna sighed. Next time I keep my mouth shut. “Nothing,” she answered, “I just—the application that came in today? I went to school with this guy.”

Kyler began to laugh. “And he sucks?” she guessed.

“No, just—” Lianna cut herself off. He isn’t bad, or at least I have no reason to think he is. And we really do need people. It’s just…

…it’d be awkward seeing him. Every day. And I’d basically be his tech lead, if he’s really a backend person.

Is that wrong?

Kyler’s laughter had trailed off, but the other woman seemed to have realized something was up. She exchanged a grin with Leland, who had taken out an earbud again, and then the two of them left Lianna alone.

It was really nice to be in a place where people would do that. Plenty of people Lianna knew, some of her friends included, would have pressed her for the story. Or teased her a bit before they went back to their own business. Here, pretty much everyone Lianna had interacted with knew when to be friendly and when to give each other some space.

Would Justin be able to do that? she thought, then immediately felt guilty. Justin had been a good guy back in college, even if he had been a little forward at times. This reaction was just leftover scar tissue.

And they really did need people.

I’ll talk to Chris, Lianna decided. Over the last several months she had grown to think of company founder as a mentor figure, starting from Lianna’s early days as a contractor. The older woman would know whether this conflict of interest would be a problem for the company.

Lianna looked back at the screen, took a moment to bury her head in her hands once more, then closed the message and moved on to her own tasks for the day.

This is a questionably-canonical sequel to a piece I wrote in 2015 called “Years Later”, itself revisiting two characters from a story I wrote in college called “The Glade”. The “questionably-canonical” bit comes from the fact that “Years Later” ends with Justin and Lianna agreeing that it would be best for Justin to apply to some other company instead. I really thought that was the end of it…

…but the writing group I joined recently disagreed! Several people thought that “Years Later” itself read like the start of a longer story, and that they wanted to hear what happened when Justin and Lianna did end up working together, with whatever-it-was that happened in their past being revealed over the rest of the book. They also made a very interesting observation that had never occurred to me: in “Years Later”, Lianna seems much more flustered than Justin does.

While I don’t plan to write a whole story, that feedback piqued my interest enough to write this next scene, the “what would happen if Justin did apply to Lianna’s company?” scene. And yes, it does seem to be bothering her more than it would him.

I still don’t think Justin would actually do it unless he had no other options, but maybe he had no other options. We’ll see if Lianna Kim and Justin Hill make another appearance in the future (though probably not this month).

Part of NaCreSoMo 2017.