True Credit

Steven Harkness is a fraud. Everyone loves him but they don't know the truth. He loves the attention but his conscience is hammered by guilt. How does he come to terms with the truth, and with himself?

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3. The Night Before

Steven worked for a local TV, PC and printer shop- the idea was to sell as much as possible and persuade the customer they needed all sorts of extras, regardless of whether they needed the stuff or not. Being commission-based, there was an extra incentive for the staff to get the sales in, although that could easily lead to the store have a reputation for pushy salesmen- something Steven personally hated.

The owners were two brothers, Liam and Howard Styles, who both resembled pot-bellied pigs to Steven- they were both on the podgy side, and they both had their snouts in the trough. Expectations were that you should really push the warranties and extras- and in some cases, if the customer wasn't going to take anything, tell them the product was out of stock.

Liam was the older of the two, about forty-five, with bushy semi-grey hair and really big eyebrows. He also looked permanently unshaven, yet never quite developed a beard.

Howard was in his late thirties and in slightly better shape. He had a smaller nose and kept his black hair shorter- like Liam, he had suspicious green eyes. Both of them watched staff like hawks, pestering them all the time with tasks they should have been capable of doing themselves- and when they weren't moaning they'd sit in the office, drinking fizzy drinks and arguing about prices.

Steven was a supervisor, hired to deal with all the crap the Styles brothers didn't care for. He had a team of four salesmen (and one saleswoman) under him, and he'd wound up being responsible for their training, workloads, targets, and just about everything else. Most of the staff were perfectly fine, but Brian Phelps and Rashid Rangaraj were nightmares.

They were both young, eighteen and funding their way through university. As such they did some evenings and weekends. Rashid fancied himself as a ladies' man and had already been warned about the advances he'd made toward female customers. He had the gift of the gab though, and could get sales. It didn't matter that he was arrogant and condescending (even toward Steven).

Brian was slow and dim. Pleasant enough, but he could not get even the basics right. Even processing transactions through the till was a struggle for him. How he would cope with a computer programming course was a mystery to Steven. Yet, being the nephew of the owners had its benefits, so he was untouchable. Since Liam and Howard were usually arguing with each each it fell to Steven to manage the pair (and the rest).

It was a slow Friday. Only a few customers were in the store, milling about and taking a look at the laptops. Liam was out the back, as per the norm, whilst Howard was, for a change, actually on the shopfloor, shooting daggers at Steven and Jamila Morgan, at twenty-six a young woman actually older than Steven, yet passed up for the supervisor role because she happened- despite being a hard worker and good saleswoman- to be black. Oh, Liam and Howard would never be openly racist, but it was pretty clear to Steven- and Jamila- that her skin colour was the problem.

Luckily, Jamila didn't bear any grudges toward Steven. They worked pretty well together, and Steven appreciated her hard work and knowledge. The fact that he didn't talk down to her or treat any differently to anyone else seemed to annoy the Styles brothers, but Steven himself had done a pretty good job of training and leading the team and he spared them all the work they didn't want to do, so they left him alone.

Steven sometimes got the impression that Jamila liked him. She kept her hair braided and long and she wore the mauve work shirts a size too small when Steven was in, as if to enhance her attributes, and she flirted a little with him. Steven though, always remembered what his dad said- 'never mix business with pleasure'.

Since the events of the other day, Steven hadn't felt like working but knew the brothers wouldn't accept any sort of excuse that didn't involve broken limbs or deadly diseases. He'd muddled through, filling up on caffiene at any and every opportunity, and by lunch time felt vaguely like himself. He was due to go for lunch at twelve- always awkward because Liam (the only one of the two in work today) hated letting him go for lunch full stop. As it happened, Steven had to speak with him, so as he clocked out for lunch he headed out into the office, where Liam sitting at his desk, busy texting away on his phone.

"Er, could I have a word boss?" Steven asked. Liam errphed in response and didn't take his eyes off his phone.

"I noticed the rota got changed and that I'm down to work tomorrow. I can't do Saturday, sorry."

Liam stopped fiddling with his phone, and slowly looked up. His piggish face and green eyes fixed upon Steven.

"And, why is that my problem?" His voice always sounded like his throat had been through a cheese grater.

"Well, I was wondering if you could text Howard and let him kno..."

"Look, Howard's got some stuff he needs to do tomorrow and he needs you to fill in for him. End of."

Steven bit his tongue. The only 'things' Howard did were fidding with his phone (like his brother) and faffing around on his computer.

"Well, it's just that I have a date tomorrow..."

"I don't care if you're meeting the Queen for lunch, you need to work tomorrow. End of."

The anger was boiling up instead Steven. Between the ongoing aggrevation he got from the Styles brothers, the slow-witted Brian and the arrogant Rashid, he felt he was enduring far too much grief. It didn't help that he hadn't slept very well and had guilt issues around his 'rescue' of Linda. It was all bubbling away, but he couldn't blow up, he needed the work.

"You don't appreciate that other people can have plans too- what is it with youngsters like you, always thinking only of yourself?" Liam struggled to his feet. "The world doesn't revolve around you."

Oooh, that just made Steven angrier. He could feel himself go hot, and the adrenaline made him shake a little.

"I suppose you think your plans are important than my brother's, or mine?"

"No, of course not." In fact I do think that, since they probably are.

"Hmmph. You need to start working harder. Stop flirting with that... Jamila, and pay more attention to customers. Take on board what I tell you."

Seriously?! Steven was virtually a self-taught salesmen and supervisor!

"You can learn from Rashid too- he knows what he's doing."

That did it. Steven didn't know whether Liam was deliberately pushing his buttons but so far he'd pushed all the wrong ones. His temper reached volcanic preportions.

"You have got to be bloody joking! Rashid treats his colleagues like dirt, talks down to any women customers, and then leaves me to pick up the pieces! The whole time you and Howard just sit around in the office doing nothing! I'm practically running this place, working three out of four weekends because neither one of you can be arsed to! This the fifth time in six months you've dropped me into a Saturday shift because you want to play Star Trek or Star Wars or whatever against each other! You treat Jamila like dirt because of her skin colour, even though she's probably smarter than all of us!" Steven lowered his voice and fixed Liam with a coldly furious stare. "You know what, I've had enough of this bullshit. I'm out of here."

Liam just stood there, mouth agape, completely stunned. Steven suspected his explosion had been heard out on the shop floor but he didn't care. He stomped off, unpinning his name badge and dropping it to the floor as he did. It was reckless, it was stupid, but it felt fantastic. He was free of that dreadful place.

"I'll text you!" He shouted to Jamila as he walked out the door. He owed her an explanation.

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