Yggdrasil

Calypso spent the evening reading up on Yggdrasil Ventures and its outspoken founder. There was plenty to be found, Hel was an interesting interview subject and journalists clearly enjoyed speaking with her. What she couldn’t find was a photo. There wasn’t a single image of her online, no matter what searches Calypso typed in.

Thankfully, it was another morning interview. She’d be able to get it out of the way, then get on with the work she was meant to be doing without nerves, or distracted what-ifs.

This one was early enough that Ryan had been entrusted with starting the day at Lir; Calypso went straight to the grimy, funky, we’re-not-city-types area Yggdrasil called home.

The building was easy enough to find, standing several stories above its neighbours, yet somehow not looming. Calypso thought it might have something to do with the cascade of plants adorning the outer walls.

She walked through the glass doors – pushing aside a couple of friendly tendrils of a hanging vine – and into a garden.

The tiles on the floor were light grey and wound between areas carpeted either in soft green or a profusion of Impressionist florals. Each carpet ‘island’ was furnished as either a comfortably cosy sitting area or a group work zone and they all boasted more plants. Big, heavy pots with bushes or small trees, hanging baskets winding up wood-covered support columns and a living wall to reflect the outside serving as a backdrop to the reception desk.

The person behind the desk didn’t look up as Calypso walked towards them. It took her leaning halfway across the counter, so her shadow fell on the half-hidden phone screen, and clearing her throat loudly to make them look up.

It was a woman, more girl really, barely out of high school from the look of her. Her hair was purple, with mousy-brown roots and she looked out at the world through eyes heavily rimmed with black and accentuated with purple glitter. Her lipstick was already mostly gone, putting a purple-black rim onto downturned lips.

She stared at Calypso for a moment, then sneered, sighed and looked back down at her phone screen. “Yeah, gotta go for a bit, someone’s come in for something.”

Calypso somehow held on to her neutral expression and wondered if she was meeting the reason for the six month ‘safety valve’.

She waited, silently, for the receptionist to do her job. It took some time, Calypso holding her politely neutral expression and the girl looking sulkier by the second.

Eventually, she caved. “You mute or something? Whaddaya want?”

Calypso allowed her lips to curve into a small, not-quite condescending smile (she’d learnt it from Aphrodite, it was a favourite expression of hers while in reception). “I’m here for an interview.”

The girl rolled her eyes. “You can’t just wander in off the street and expect to talk to someone, you know.”

The smile moved a fraction closer to condescending. “I am aware of that, which is why I have an appointment. With Hel. In two minutes.”

Purple-hair paled, then sneered again. “Well you screwed that up, didn’t you? Hel’s in Stockholm.”

A voice came from the lift lobby behind her. “Indeed she is, except when she’s in London for interviews.”

The speaker prowled into view and Calypso gulped on a gasp.

The woman was tall and moved like a predator. One side of her hair shone golden blonde, the other was coal black and seemed to absorb the light. Both sides were pulled back into a complex, braided style that highlighted her features.

Her face, like her hair, was a study in contrasts. The blonde side was flawless. Cold but perfect, dominated by an icicle-blue eye, now focused on the errant receptionist.

The other side had Calypso pinching her lips in imagined pain. The skin was ravaged and scarred, barely clinging to the bone beneath and in place of an eye, there was a dark orb. It also seemed to be fixed on the purple-haired girl.

The object of that icy-black gaze squirmed, then tried a weak smile. “Wow, you must have come in early.”

The gaze, and forbidding expression, didn’t shift. “I walked past you fifteen minutes ago. You will be leaving this job as soon as this one can start.”

Calypso and the girl both did a double-take, then chorused. “What?”

Hel, it had to be her, switched her gaze to Calypso. “Do you not want the job?”

Calypso spluttered, then said. “I believe I do from the ad and the phone discussion, but don’t you want to assess me for cultural fit or something?”

The full lips on one side of Hel’s face quirked into a smile, it was more of a grimace on the other side. “This location is too new to have a culture, and from your CV and a couple of chats I’ve had with people, I think you’ll help my other staff set up a good one.”

She glanced at the now fuming girl behind the desk. “You, on the other hand, would not.”

Without waiting for a reply, she returned to Calypso. “So, Monday?”

“I’m afraid I’m committed to Lir Shipping through to the end of next week.”

“But this gives you the chance to become permanent.”

Calypso stood her ground, she had a feeling it would be important. “And I would rather not start a potentially permanent role on the back of a broken promise.”

The disconcerting gaze stayed on her as Hel’s expression turned thoughtful. Then broke into a full smile. “Bridgid said you came across as the honourable type, and the couriers Patricia has been ignoring tell me you get things done. Very well, a week on Monday then. I’ll have my Head of Admin email you the details.”

Calypso nodded, then said. “Maybe I should speak with them now.”

Hel replied. “Ganglot is in Stockholm, email is fine.”

Patricia pulled Hel’s attention back to her. “My name is Tish and she can’t have my job, it’s mine.”

Hel replied. “It was yours until you proved uninterested in doing it. You have one week to show an improvement in performance and attitude. If it’s sufficient, and Calypso here agrees, I will consider keeping you on as an office junior.”

Tish glared. “That’s not fair.”

Calypso choked. It sounded more than fair to her, in fact it sounded worryingly generous.

Tish’s glare moved to her. “And why does she have to agree?”

Hel blinked, slowly. “Because you’d be reporting to her.”

The glare heated. “No.”

“Your choice.” Hel tilted her chin in clear dismissal of the subject and offered a hand to Calypso. “I’m here for the next few weeks as we find the start-ups for our first cohort. I’ll see you soon.”

Calypso returned the handshake and smiled. “I’m looking forward to it.”

She then turned and left before anything else strange could happen. She checked the time, then found a café.

Taking her cup of tea to a convenient table, she sank into the chair, legs shaky. What on earth had just happened? That was easily the strangest interview she’d ever had, or even heard of.

What was even stranger though, she’d found herself liking Hel, and curious about how this role would turn out.

She made a mental note to talk with Bridgid about Hel and Yggdrasil when she got back to the office, but for now, she was going to take ten minutes to process.

She finished her tea and sent a message to Circe.

I think I just got the job at Yggdrasil. I think. There wasn’t exactly an interview. It was very surreal and the current receptionist now wants to murder me. Death threats aside, I have a strange feeling it’s going to be good.

Circe rang as Calypso left the café. “I need to hear this.”

She regaled her friend with the morning’s events as she walked back to the Lir offices, finishing as she drew near another cafe. Leaving Circe howling with laughter and demanding hourly updates once she started, she darted into this one to pick up more bribe cake for Ryan, and maybe something to butter up Bridgid as well this time.

Hermes was standing at the counter.

She thought about walking out again, but he’d see that as some sort of win and she refused to give him the satisfaction.

Standing next to him, she placed her order, then moved to one side. He followed her. Of course.

With a stifled sigh and a not-so-stifled eye roll, she tilted her head in question and waited for him to say something.

He gave her a wide innocent smile, all but fluttering his eyelashes at her.

Her eyes narrowed. She was on the verge of asking if he’d hit his head when he spoke.

“Fuelling up for your meeting with the big guy?”

Calypso frowned. “No? What meeting?”

Now Hermes’ eyes narrowed. “The one with Zeus. You accepted the invitation this morning.”

They called his order and the pause while he fetched it and returned gave her time to think.

“An email invitation?” She asked.

He nodded.

“Sent to where? The Lir Shipping Reception address?”

Hermes nodded again, his brows starting to pinch together.

Her sigh wasn’t stifled this time. “I haven’t been into the office yet. I haven’t been on email. The acceptance is from Ryan.”

“The underage scarecrow?” Hermes’ look of horror sent her in to peals of laughter.

She did defend Ryan though. “He’s a nice boy and will probably be quite good looking once he fills out a bit.”

They called her order and, still chortling, she collected it and left the café.

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