“Disastrous doesn’t even begin to cover it, Hodge.” Mandy Bretzel sighed and closed her eyes, lightly tapping her temples with two fingers at each side, trying to mimic the thing that the one stocky masseuse with a Klingon mustache did to ease all the stress and problems right out of her skull. Mandy really needed to call that woman; she was amazing. But for now, Mandy had to do something she really didn’t enjoy. It wasn’t her forte, it really wasn’t. She had to call a client and tell him something unpleasant. 

Mandy groaned and reopened her bright green eyes, letting her arms fall heavily to the desk. “I need you here,” she said. Her short cropped pixie cut could not be any shorter, but the bangs were sticking straight up from all her fidgeting. If it were any color other than jet black, Mandy would look like she’d just rolled out of bed. As it was, she somehow managed to come off as citified and artistic. The thick frames of her glasses were bright purple and her lipstick, as ever, was a deep race car red. On someone else it would look brash but Mandy always carried herself in a manner that was classy and elegant. Even frazzled, dressed in a simple black top with jeans, she seemed professional, someone to follow.

Hodge stood on the opposite side of the desk and nodded, simply. She didn’t bother to ask Mandy why she wanted her to stay because she already knew. Whenever Mandy was upset or stressed about something, she’d call in Hodge to witness the call she was about to place and rein Mandy in should her anxiety get the better of her.

“Just breathe, Mand,” Hodge tucked her curly golden hair behind her ears, both of them. 

“Right.” Determined, Mandy grabbed the phone, dialed, and stretched her neck. She looked at Melania Hodginsens, her crazy, sun colored curls that framed her round face like a halo. Mandy’s dark features creased, annoyed she should think of stupid halos for whatever reason, how quaint, and then tried on a relaxed expression, just a little. Again. The strain of relaxing was getting to her.

“Smile a little,” Hodge whispered, lifting her eyebrows up. 

Mandy did her best with that. It wasn’t very convincing.

She punctured the quiet of the room with overly happy sounds, “Mr. Trand, so glad to catch you on the phone. This is Mandy Bretzel.” Pause. Mandy froze in her seat, in suspension. “Well, I wanted to call and let you know that most of the properties we’re managing for you are doing very well.” Pause. “Indeed, Mr. Trand. But there’s the one property, in the Castro, and-.” Pause. 

He must have said something sarcastic and potentially unkind because Mandy forced out a laugh. It was a low and wheezy bark, three times, and then a whirring down sort of exhalation. It wasn’t attractive, but socially acceptable. 

Hodge could feel Mandy’s anxiety level rise. It was tangible in the small office space. She placed her left hand on the desk, quiet. Mandy saw it there, and placed a hand over the receiver so she could breathe. Then her eyes shot open.