HUMAN/SUPER First Contact 43

When the time came to open, she took her place behind the counter and stood up as straight as she could. Andrew stuck close to her for the first little while as they waited for customers to arrive.

The first customer was a Korean woman in her forties. Angela forced a smile as she absorbed the woman’s busy schedule; a doctor’s appointment, a five-hour shift at the courthouse, an important meeting with her boss, and finally her daughter’s tenth birthday party.

The stress hit Angela like a runaway minivan. She could actually feel her blood pressure rising. But she pushed through it and sold the woman a copy of a puzzle game based on a children’s cartoon.

“Have a nice day,” Angela said.

Each subsequent customer left his or her own mark on Angela’s psyche. Anger, excitement, sadness, her emotions jerked this way and that, a rollercoaster ride of other people’s baggage.

By noon she’d developed a splitting headache. She retreated to the break room and just sat there for a while, elbows propped on the table, fingertips rubbing circles on her temples.

She felt like her brain was going to explode. Her thoughts were white noise. The murmur of a crowd too muddled to understand but too loud to ignore.

After half an hour like this, her condition hadn’t significantly improved. But still, she refused to give up on her first day. This was her last chance. She needed to see it through.

She stood from the table, put on a brave face, and plunged back into the fray.


The last customer of the day left and the gate slid shut across the storefront. Angela against the counter and sighed.

“How’re you holding up?” Andrew asked.

Angela shrugged.

“Bit of a headache,” she said.

“That’s perfectly natural,” he said. “Today was pretty intense. It’s quieter on weekdays, usually.”

“I sure hope so,” she said.