Thou hast forgotten, O summer swallow,
But the world shall end when I forget.

Algernon Swinburne Itylus 1866

Allie Covino shed her full black coat, drew the shades on a rainy evening, and sat down to review her day. This was her routine, and she approached her assessment methodically. Yesterday's late night had turned into an early morning, but her work was always worth the effort of extra hours. Allie saw to it she was exceptionally well paid for everything she did. Well paid, but not always well treated, she thought. Allie frowned as she remembered the day's annoyances, her sharp features and dark eyes taking on a crystalline glint.

Allie believed in her inherent value - and in her obligation to assert it in any circumstance where it might be overlooked. Today in particular she had been forced to be quite blunt pointing out how several of her staff members had failed to serve her well. No matter how carefully she chose her colleagues, she thought, they always disappointed.

And then there was May. May did not report to Allie, and thus should have been beyond reach of her disapproval. But May was always late to sense trouble when it came her way and unable to conceal emotions that were powerful. She easily attracted cruelty and had corresponding difficulty deflecting its blows.

had taken her complaint to May's supervisor on a day May was actually feeling a reprieve from opprobrium. So much the better to pin those wings down again firmly and sit back to watch the struggle. The frown relaxed into the satisfied calm Allie usually displayed: black and white was such a lovely combination. It left no room for interpretation - or escape.