“Aw!” She groaned derisively, but she took it in stride. “One of these days, girl, something big’s gonna happen and you’ll have to take me up on this!”
“Big? Don’t worry me,” I chuckled.
“Good big! You work way too hard to live like you do. You deserve more! You need a pretty house and a man and… You’ve gotta…wait, that sounded bad. I’m sorry, Key, I didn’t mean it like–”
“That’s okay,” I reassured her. “You’re right. I do work too hard…but only for a little bit longer. I just have to wait this out and save up a little more.”
“Yeah, yeah, that’s what you said when you were doing the gym management thing,” Aiswarya reminded me. “What was it? ‘Just six months of this and I’m good?’ How long ago was that?”
“A long time ago,” I muttered. She was right, of course. Every opportunity was another step in the right direction, but I had to make significant compromises – Buy a better home computer that I need, or stop living in a total dump? Pay the exorbitant energy bill from a ballistic air conditioner while on a work trip, or buy clothes for an interview and hope I can make it to the next paycheck?
Compromises constantly made my progress artificial at best, but I did what I had to do. Luckily, not owning a car made my expenses more manageable, but the public transit came with its own problems – it was constantly late, filled with obnoxious people playing grab ass with me, and taking way too much time to get around.
Aiswarya and I made some small talk before I got off the line, descending into wallowing self-pity for a minute. She’s had the same resources I have, and she’s so much happier.
I stood up, glancing out my third-story window. From here, I had a picturesque view of the surrounding ramshackle buildings, an abandoned warehouse, and the distant refinery that gave the air here the sweet, constant aroma of disgustingly burnt coffee.
Something big is going to happen, I repeated to myself. Good big.
Two Days Later
There was absolutely nothing about the way my workweek started that implied it would be anything but your typical boring, unsatisfying Monday…so you’ll sympathize with me being totally unprepared for what was coming.
It started like the usual. Since Internet retailers don’t magically shut down on the weekends, naturally we had some last-second changes come through for a big client. I was working hard at my desk, producing a few sudden, emergency banners for Timothy in Graphic Design, when the little red-haired minx of an executive assistant popped up again.
Clutching a clipboard to her chest, she flashed me a disarming, wide-eyed smile. “Kiona, do you have a moment?”
“Of course,” I answered, glancing around. Half the staff had earphones in, listening to various Pandora stations while they worked and stifled their yawns. Nobody seemed to notice that the freaking executive assistant had just approached me out of the blue for a private conversation.
Cautiously, I turned off my screen and followed Kylie across the lake of cubicles and straight towards Larry’s office. With every step, I grew a little more apprehensive – it was obvious that this had something to do with the conference room meeting. I only wondered why it took so long, and what punishment I was to be given.
To my surprise, we simply walked around his office and towards the corridor on the other side. We moved quietly down the hall and waited for a pair of strolling, laughing web development programmers to saunter past.
When the coast was clear and we were out of earshot from the rest of the employees, Kylie finally turned to me. “Mr. Andrews has requested your company for lunch,” she stated calmly but firmly. “Do you accept?”
And there it was. My ass was about to be fired. There wasn’t a person in this company from the ground up who didn’t know what happened when Mr. Andrews invited you to lunch. It was like death row. They always give you one last meal.
If it wasn’t my insubordination in front of him, it was because the jig was finally up. Well, you got a few good months out of it, I thought to myself quietly.