The rest of our shift went by at about the same pace as it began, so the replacement shift entered the room before we knew it.
The person who came to replace us was a stout old black woman who identified herself as ‘Mora’, she was nice. A bit deaf in her left ear. She told me it was due to one of her headsets -for lack of a better word- exploding while she was wearing it twelve years ago. She had been with the center since it was founded thirty-one years ago. According to Stella, Mira was fifty-three, but was still sharper and quicker than half the recruits the director had attempted to bring on as her future replacement.
They wanted her to retire and enjoy a quiet retirement in peace. She said to hell with that. Mora explained to me that she hated the quiet and staying stagnant for too long. Said memories would start coming back and that was something she was going avoid until it couldn’t be avoided anymore. Being at the center made her feel useful, which was a feeling she never had anywhere else.
I’m not sure how long we stood there talking with Mora, but the sun had begun to set by the time we started walking away from the console. The fading sunlight washed the entire room in a burnt orange that made it feel alive.
As we left the room, multiple warning/notification sounds were set off. I look to Stella expectantly. She doesn’t even glance over her shoulder.
Before I can ask what happened she shakes her head, “Doesn’t matter. Not our monkey, not our circus.” She keeps walking towards the elevator. She stops when she notices I’m not walking with her anymore, “Look, it probably sounds heartless but you can’t bring the center with once you walk out those doors. If you do, you’re setting yourself up to die from stress at young age. We can’t be in there twenty-four/seven/ three-hundred-sixty-five days a year. If you start staying later every time that room goes to shit at the end of your shift, you will never leave. There’s nothing wrong with helping people in need -I mean, obviously, that’s why most of us are here- but you can’t help the community unless you take care of yourself first.”
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this speech before. That doesn’t make it any less true. It doesn’t make me feel any less guilty about leaving.
“Yeah. I know,” I let go of the door I didn’t realize I was still holding, “Sorry, yeah I’m too nosy for my own good. Let’s head down.”
“It’s fine, I get like that from time to time too. It helps me to think that if it’s really important for people to know, it’ll pop up in the news soon enough.” Stella offers as we step into the elevator. I nod in agreement, “Yeah, I guess that makes sense.”
We both know it’s not true.
The media -to the best of my knowledge- doesn’t know this center’s set of ten-codes so they would have no way to know what happened unless someone there thought to notify the media.
But no. If an incident is important enough, we’ll hear about it eventually from the media. (Or look up the incident disposition ourselves when we have a small pause between calls because not knowing was driving us crazy)
We exit the elevator at the ground floor and wave goodbye to the guard at the front desk on our way out. The captioning on the TV behind him stops us in our tracks.
LIVE: Hostage Situation at Marion Federal Bank-Confirmed TinCap involvement
“Those bastards!” Stella shouts catching me off guard. Instinctively, I take a step back, “Yes they’re horrible human beings, but what’s with the shouting at the TV?”
Stella run a hand through her hair trying to calm herself down, “I shouted because that’s the freaking bank that my aunt is working at right now.”
Oh hell. What the hell am I supposed to do?
“I don’t know what to do T! I have to help her!” Stella started crying. Understandably, the gang was known for their cruelty during heists.
Deep breath, I got this.
“Don’t worry Stella, you know everybody upstairs is going to be on their A-game with this kind of situation. They’re gonna make sure your aunt will be just fine.”
I shouldn’t have said that, I can’t ensure that.
But I can make sure Stella is okay until this situation is resolved. The fact that Stella was noticeably younger than me (probably not by much though) was one that I couldn’t ignore. She may be my trainer, but I’m not about to leave a kid alone after finding out something like this.
I fish my keys out of my purse and hold them out to her, “It’s the older model black truck parked towards the back. Crank it up, I’ll be out in a second.”
Her crying lessens just a fraction as her face scrunches up in confusion, “What are you doing?”
That is a good question. No idea.
“I’m not going to just leave you like this, so you’re going to come hang out with me and my roommate until the situation is resolved.” I say gesturing towards the door with my keys.
“You don’t have to watch me like some kid. Besides, don’t you and your roomie have dinner plans? I don’t want to impose.” Stella says wiping her face with the back of her arm. She smudged her mascara but I wasn’t about to mention it now.
“You and I both know I didn’t really have dinner plans. My procrastinating self pressed snooze one two many times and I ran out of time to pack a lunch this morning. So if it helps, look at it as we’ll be even now. Plus you don’t really have a choice in the matter. You’re in no shape to be driving right now.” I put the keys in her hand with a nod to indicate that this was the end of the discussion on the matter, “Go on now, I’ll only be a second.”
Stella stares at me for a moment without saying anything, it’s almost unnerving, but eventually she nods and goes outside.
As soon as the door closes behind her, I hoof it up the stairs taking them two at a time. I’m at the Supervisor Station in what I assume is record time. More winded than I’m proud of.
The new shift supervisor that I don’t recognize takes in the sight of me, obviously concerned, “What’s wrong?”
“I’m taking Stella home-she’s one of the calltakers from the last shift, her—”
“Yeah I know her, good kid.” The supervisor nods her brows furrowed together.
“Yeah okay so the situation at Marion Bank- her aunt is there right now. I’m not asking you to do anything expect just keep me posted please. I don’t want her to find out anything from the news that she shouldn’t have to. Here’s my number.” I swipe a pen off the desk and write my number down on an open notebook on her desk, “I don’t expect anyone to do anything for me because I’m new, but I can tell that everybody here cares about that kid.”
The supervisor rolls her eyes but then says, “Don’t worry, we’ll update you when we know more. Thanks for staying with her.”