“Those are weird,” a little boy told her on the bus, kicking the back of her seat.
“No they’re not,” Ruby frowned, and turned to the front. “Stop doing that.”
The little boy gave it one last kick, just to show her who’s boss.
Ruby grunted but was in no mood to pick a fight, not with a six-year old anyhow. She pulled her red glasses off of her face and slid them on the neckhole of her t-shirt. She never carried a case with her, she always forgot to get one.
The glasses were indeed unusual. She got them from a thrift store at Monastiraki on a whim. She had just been dumped by that moron Alex who never respected her, so she wanted to change something about her. Mean, blood red sunglasses looked like a good deal at the time. She paid seventy euro for them, and they were of a fine make, but the little she wore them did not justify the price tag.
Ruby herself didn’t have vision problems so she wore neither contacts nor glasses. Just sunglasses, and just her old pair. Which was a disgrace to be seen wearing, truthfully.
So, she found them again in her drawers and decided to give it another go.
She liked how it made everyone seem. Somehow, they made everyone look pale.
There was a man shouting with the bus driver about some electronic ticket dispute and Ruby put them back on. She could see the veins on the man’s throat and forehead bulging and pulsing with his elevated heartbeat. Was that normal?
Ruby didn’t know.
But she liked looking at the world through the red sunglasses. What did that little boy know about fashion anyway? He probably still picked his nose.

She got off the bus on her stop and walked the last couple of blocks. Her workplace was in a residential area, just an apartment turned into an office space. Her boss was generally fine, but he was blind to how useless the other assistant was, Smaragda. Ruby had to pick up the slack all day every day, and frankly it was starting to get tiresome.
She hurried up the stairs and got into the office, panting. She was first there, naturally, but she was still a few minutes late.
“Mr. Zircon, you have your appointment at 8:15,” Ruby said, catching her breath. “It’s in your calendar.”
“Oh, right,” her boss said, checking his computer. “Thanks, Ruby. Where’s my-“
“It’s all in the shared folder, under Subsidies.”
“Excellent,” Mr. Zircon said and got to getting ready for the meeting.
Their job was a bit boring but there was lots of paperwork involved and he really did need two assistants to handle the work load. But Ruby ended up doing the work of the second one every day. Basically they handled small to medium businesses and helped them qualify and fill out applications for government subsidies. They kept track of what was announced, what the deadlines were, the legal stuff, the fine print. It was very time consuming and most businessmen did not want to bother, but they were happy to let Mr. Zicon handle it and get them nice chunks of cash sometime down the road. These things took months, even a couple of years to see through. There was plenty of work, that was the point. She sat down, checked the emails for any emergencies, took a breath because the sky wasn’t falling, at least not for now, and she made a frappe to wake up better.
Then she took a sip, filed some papers, pulled out the ones for the meeting after his eight o’clock, printed out an excel sheet, it was a mess, of course, because excel sheets never printed right without some cutting and pasting, tried it again, the printer jammed, she kicked it in anger, pulled out the back, ripped out the print cartridges, put them back in, closed it up, tried it again, the printer worked, she took a sip, she noticed she had red ink on her fingers and was making a mess of the printouts, and she went to the bathroom to clean up.
As soon as she got out she came face to face with Smaragda, who was just now coming in.
She was in a miniskirt, definitely not work appropriate, with tons of makeup, push-up bra, her tits were not normally this perky ’cause Ruby had seen them in worse days, expensive shoes, expensive handbag.
That kariola was just the eye candy of the office. Ruby did all the work, Smaragda was just around to greet the clients.
Smaragda scoffed, looking at Ruby. “That’s a bold choice, I didn’t know you liked to be fashionable. Not the way you usually dress.”
Ruby opened her mouth to angrywhisper a ‘what the fuck are you talking about,’ but then realised she was seeing her pale skin and her veins on her face and décolletage.
“Oh, right,” Ruby said, adjusting her red glasses on her face. “Forgot I still had those on.”
“Well, I’m not sure if they work on the shape of your face,” Smaragda said, touching her lips. “I’ll decide on that later and let you know.”
“Can’t wait,” Ruby forced a smile.
“If you’ll excuse me, I need to freshen up.”
Ruby stepped aside to let the kariola enter the bathroom. “The shape of my face. What’s wrong with my face?” she muttered in anger as she went on to do actual work.

Ruby worked on the next applications. The problem was that even if she sent detailed lists of what she needed from each business, they never paid attention and there always was something missing. She picked up the phone. “Yes, Mr. Papadopoulos, we need the employee registers. Of course, the subsidy we’re asking for is about hiring people. So, it makes perfect sense that they need all those books. Uh-huh. Okay, thank you, as soon as you can. Thank you. Good day to you too.”
The client was in there with Mr. Zircon. Smaragda greeted him, wooing him all the way inside with idle chitchat and touching of his arm. She laughed at everything he said, showing her exposed neck with freshly-applied fragrance.
Gods, Ruby really wanted to be able to do that too.
But she was more of the get-down-to-work kind of girl, dressed in jeans and t-shirts. She could never rock a miniskirt and heels like Smaragda.
She sighed and took off the red glasses to rub her eyes.
There was so much work to do, the paperwork was endless. It would have been tons of work even if she did have every paper she needed available to her. But she needed to hunt down things one-by-one, with businessmen who didn’t have a proper filing system and didn’t even know how to scan a document and send it to their office’s email.
Half the time she spent explaining how to take a steady picture with their phone or just send a courier to pick it up. That last option was the best one, but it cost a bit much and Mr. Zircon didn’t like it.
She heard them talking in the other room. She could see them through the open door. It’s not like the office was big. Smaragda let out a hearty laugh. The client looked well taken care of, he was definitely gonna give them the account.
Ruby puffed her cheeks and put on her red glasses again. She readied a new folder with the client’s name. They were gonna need a few forms filled out, so she printed them and let them at the corner of her desk.
Smaragda walked towards her, brushing her hand on the client’s shoulder as she left. “Oh, Taso, you’re absolutely correct! I bet you always come out on top. Let me bring those forms for you so we can get this started, okay?”
She walked close to Ruby and picked up the forms with not even a thank you. Just a blank glance at Ruby.
Then she sauntered back into the main office, leaning over the client’s shoulder, letting her hair fall onto him. “These are the basic ones, we’re going to need you to sign this one, and fill out this one…”

“Okay, I’m off,” Smaradga said, checking the shared calendar.
Ruby turned to her slowly. “What the fuck are you talking about? It’s still midday.”
“Yeah,” Smaragda said flatly. “There are no more appointments with clients.”
“That’s not all the work we’ve got around here!” Ruby squeaked.
“You can handle the boring stuff,” Smaragda said and stood up. She wiggled her fingers to Ruby in the world’s most annoying waving goodbye ever, and left the office, having worked a full three hours. And that was mostly flirting with clients and bringing them coffee and a pen.
Ruby wanted to smash everything to bits. She had a pile of paperwork to fill out and if they missed the deadline the client wouldn’t care. But Mr. Zircon would, since they wouldn’t get paid. And guess what? She wouldn’t get paid. She couldn’t afford that right now.

Mr. Zircon came up to her, dropped off a pile of papers on her desk, and tapped the top with his finger. “I want these done by tomorrow, Ruby. Or else, we’re gonna miss the deadline.”
Ruby looked up from the computer screen. She was digitizing files that should have been digitized but of course no one had bothered. She felt dizzy from all the work on the screen and the concentration. “What? Oh, yeah, of course. But it will take me all night. Perhaps if Smaragda could help me out we’d be done with it faster.”
“I don’t care,” her boss said, completely ignoring the fact that the other assistant who was supposed to be assisting was absent. “Just get it done, or we don’t get paid,” he shrugged. “And then you don’t get paid.”
Ruby opened her mouth but said nothing. She could see the paleness of his skin, the contrast of his dark hair, the vein on his fit neck pulsing.
This was all… unfair.
It wasn’t abuse, Ruby was tougher than that. But working hard all day and getting treated like that? All the while the second assistant was going off getting her nails done? Oh, Ruby was certain, the kariola checked in online on Agora at the beauty parlour!
That was a blow, but she ignored it. And she didn’t mind working all night, as long as everybody else did.
“I… was hoping to get some cleaning done tonight, Mr. Zircon. I had a pipe problem and it was leaking into the wall and I need to clean it all up.”
“The quicker you get the files done, the sooner you get home to do whatever it is you wanna do. If that is even the truth.”
“Sir, I’d never-“
“I don’t care about women’s issues, Ruby. Just get it done.”
Ruby nodded in silence.
Mr. Zircon stepped out, he too had plenty of out-of-office work every day.
Ruby sighed, alone in the office. She looked over the pile of papers to the trees outside. It was a green area, she liked that about her workplace. Residential, plenty of green, plenty of parks and families around. She’d want to live around here if she ever got around to starting a family of her own.
But first, she’d need to get a social life.
Ruby sighed so long it came out as a whine. Then she pulled the stack of papers from the pile and got to work on them.

See also  Afterburner Sunsets Part 14

Her boss came and went, but Ruby kept on working the client’s application. She made steady progress. Mr. Zircon left her the keys to lock up after herself and went home. The sun went down, the pile did not seem to follow.
She digitized files, filled out forms, tried to read some scribbles that were supposed to be invoices. She powered through. She needed to be done before twelve o’clock so she could catch the last bus, then go home and clean up the dripping pipe’s mess. Hopefully before it was too much. She felt exhausted, but she was going to see it through.
She made more frappe and kept on working.

Ruby ran like hell in a futile attempt to catch the last bus. “No, no, dammit!” she cried out as it left to the right a block away.
She checked her phone, it was twelve o’clock. She didn’t have money for a taxi. It would be a double fare and her paycard definitely did not have the balance.
She looked around in despair, then held her phone to her face. She found the contact that was still named ‘Alex’ followed by three hearts and pressed it. She needed to change that contact name.
“Yeah? Look, Alex, I need a really big favour. I’m stuck at Erythros Stayros area, yeah at work. I had to work late, missed the last bus. I can’t afford a taxi. Can you please come pick me up?”
She heard nothing. “Hello?” She checked the phone. “Did you hung up?” she said to it. She called him again. No reply.
She felt dripping pipes on the sides of her face, dripping down.
Gritting her teeth she started walking back home.

Everything was red. The night was red. She liked that hue. She hadn’t realised it before that moment but she always liked red-coloured stuff. Her ex-boyfriend, the one who didn’t bother to give her a ride, had a red car. Her sneakers were red. Her toenails were painted red, though it was a chipped mess and she felt bad when she noticed them. Whenever she wore lipstick, which wasn’t often, it was red.
She walked the Athens night. Yes, technically she was wearing sunglasses at night and she should feel like an idiot, but she didn’t care any more. She liked the red hues.
And the glasses weren’t that much tinted anyway.
She gripped her jacket tight, it was chilly and she definitely wasn’t dressed for it, seeing as she expected to be back hours ago. But a hasty pace fixed all that and she even formed a nice sweat as she walked quickly towards her home. It wasn’t really that far away, but it took her forty minutes. She stopped checking her phone because every time it reminded her of that kariolis Alex and she got angrier.

Panting, she arrived at her doorstep. She put the key in the lock and opened the front door.
There was a wet, thick smell. She stepped foot in three centimetres of water. She looked down at her shoes, then followed the water along the wall with her gaze.
Yup, water damage.
Ruby just turned around and slammed the door behind her, taking off into the night.

She opened the office with the key Mr. Zircon had entrusted her with. Surely, a good girl like her would never do something crazy, right?
Of course not.
She walked in, turned on the lights and sat at her chair. Then she touched her chin, stood up, and went and plopped her butt down at her boss’ chair. It wasn’t all that luxurious but it sure made her feel better.
She opened up the computer and went through the client files. She copied everything into a flash drive, it was red, and then went ahead and put the printouts into neat little folders, just like she always did.
She went back to her desk and picked up the one-hundred-percent ready folder of the client she had been working on all day.
She hugged that one, it was quite heavy, all in stamped triplicate.
She looked around one last time. It wasn’t all that bad, she admitted to herself. She had just had enough.
Ruby had a passing thought of doing some damage, but no. That was juvenile, and really, she was over that already. She just wanted her work to be recognised, and not some kariola getting all the credit because she could coo at clients and show her cleavage.
She popped her lips a few times, looking around. No, it wasn’t worth it being petty.
She hugged the rest of the folders on her chest and walked out of the office, locking up behind her.

“We just need to file this?” Mr. Onyx said, glancing from the papers to her and back down again. He rifled through them.
“It’s all prepped and ready, yes. Deadline is at twelve o’clock, midday. If you can sign it I can send it myself, get the client for you.”
“Hm. He won’t like this stunt you’ve pulled.”
Ruby fixed her red glasses on her face and looked at the man straight ahead. “One hundred and twenty thousand euros is enough to persuade him.”
Mr. Onyx sat back down on his chair. His assistant brought him what he asked for, and he cross-referenced the papers. He grunted, seeming satisfied as he checked each line, going through it with a ruler as a guide.
Ruby bounced on the balls of her feet from anticipation, and she knew they didn’t have time to be triple-checking the submission folder, but she knew that she’d dropped this on the man all too sudden.
So, she waited. This office view was nice too.
Red-tinted trees. Nice neighbourhood. But Mr. Onyx’s Subsidies were in an actual office space. Some might say, it was a step up.
He finally took of his reading glasses and looked up at her. Only then did he offer her to sit with a gesture.
Ruby thought it was best to just plop her butt down when her wannabe employer asked her to.
“Ruby. I’ll admit, this all checks out. And the commission is significant. What is it that you want?”
“Simple. I want to be a partner. I want commissions. I know everything about the procedures, and the clients pretty much only talk to me after Mr. Zircon got them wooed the first time. For months after that he won’t even bother calling them on the phone. I have that entire client list right here. And even if none of them come with, I can get others. I know the tricks now.” She shrugged and tried not to look as smug as she felt.
The man eyed her, squeezing his gaze at her for a long while. Then he clapped his hands together. “Okay! Let’s do this. You run off to the Ministry and get this folder submitted, and I’ll take care of the client. Don’t worry, I’m very persuasive. And so are you, young lady, from what I’ve seen.” He offered his hand.
Ruby leaned forward and shook it vigorously. “Thank you. It’s a recent development.”
“It’s okay. That’s business. Welcome to the club.”

The End.

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