Brand Values (excerpt)

Emily Buckler

“He said anything less than fifteen thousand,” the redhead said.
     “Isn’t that sixteen-fifty?” said the woman in heels.
     “It’s fine,” said the redhead. “He won’t notice.”
     The two women did not look at the security guard as they left the shop, handbags dangling from their wrists. He cleared his throat and rolled his head from side to side. Seven more hours, he thought.
     Leonard could describe at length almost any of the handbags in front of him, each worth more than four months of his salary. Day after day he watched people survey them, touch them, and give speaking looks to their companions, either of pleading or of promises. A few times he’d had to remind people not to wander off with them. Mostly, though, he preferred to say nothing.
     “We’re a lifestyle brand,” as Leonard’s manager had told him on that first day, five years earlier. “Every person who walks through these doors is a client, not a customer. You know what I’m saying?”
     Leonard understood. He was happy to have a job that required he wear a suit and a tie without having to say much. Leonard wasn’t boastful or particularly ambitious, and he tended to daydream. This suited the work of an asset protection specialist just fine. The last five years had passed in a blur of routines, each day’s opening, its closing, each holiday promotion building on the next, until Leonard wasn’t sure exactly what he’d done with his time, besides serve and protect Italian leather.

Emily Gilbert