Kya’s phone started buzzing early in the morning. Thanks to her curtains being pulled back, the sunlight was streaming in through her window, and floating dust was illuminated by the light. Slamming her fist onto her phone, she realized what her plan for the day was going to be. Instantly, a rush of anxiety filled her mind, coursed through her veins, and caused her body to tense up. She had contemplated what was going to happen, spending all night tossing and turning in her bed before finally passing out. But before it had all just been imaginary, and now she was going to make it real.
She checked the weather app on her phone and decided to layer because it was unseasonally cold outside. She threw on a thin, long sleeved shirt and over top a t-shirt that said geek across the front in large capital letters. She brushed her hair, and pulled the top half into a ponytail, boldly showing her purple streaks. She was going to go into Starlife Technologies proudly looking like herself. Checking how she looked in her mirror, Kya saw the scared face of a much younger version of herself. The black tendrils of invisibility started in her peripheral vision before completely blocking it out. She breathed deeply, her eyes open, waiting to see her reflection again. Kya exhaled sharply and both her vision and her reflection faded back into existence.
Once in the common area of the apartment, she realized Sam had already left for work. A paper was on the counter nearest her room. It was a quick note from him.
Hey Kya, we should hang out tonight. I’ll be back around seven, and we can eat dinner together if you are up for it. I feel like we haven’t really hung out lately.
It was as though his words struck a nerve. Kya felt like she was going to cry. Tears welled up in her eyes, but she forced her emotions back down, and re-focused on the task at hand. She knew that today, she was going to change her life, and finally be rid of Don Georgetown.
The bus ride to Starlife Technologies seemed so familiar, yet so wrong. Tides of calm routine and panicked uncertainty washed over her. As the bus arrived at her old workplace, she found it difficult to leave her seat. There was a small part of her mind that wanted her to run away, rather than prepare for a fight.
She pushed through the large glass doors of the building and walked inside. She was greeted by a young security guard standing firm at the front desk. Dozens of people were walking in and out, a few people that worked the night shift were still leaving, and others who started early were already heading out for their first break.
“May I help you?” He asked.
“I’m here to see Don Georgetown.” She said with a smile. “I used to work here. I just need to tie up a few loose ends.” Kya stood in silence as the security guard looked at his tablet computer, scrolling through a list of names. A bead of sweat formed on Kya’s brow, and she wiped it away quickly. The thought of her plans coming to an end because of a security guard was not something she had planned for.
“Kya?” A familiar voice came from behind her and sent a chill up her spine.
“Leonard.” She said in as friendly a voice as she could muster. She forced her lips to turn to a tight smile.
“Wow! Look at you! Really rocking your unique style.” He grinned at her. He was dressed in a blue dress shirt, with a gray pin striped vest over top and a matching pair of slacks.
Kya nodded. “I’m dressing for the job I want.” She said in what she hoped would be perceived as a friendly tone, even though there was no warmth in her words. She looked down at her jeans, sneakers, and layered shirts. She felt even more out of place now surrounded by all of the suits and dress clothing rushing around her. The shirt she had chosen, the wording on it marking her as a geek, now felt like a sign announcing that she was an outsider and didn’t belong.
“So, what brings you here then?”
“Don-” She trailed off, unsure how to proceed.
“Hey, Walt,” Leonard said, turning his attention to the security guard, “she’s cool. She’s with me.”
Leonard swiped his key card and led Kya through the door. “Hoping for a reference from Mr. Georgetown?” He asked, leading Kya through a corridor she had never been down before.
“Something like that.” She mumbled, taking in her surroundings.
“Things haven’t changed much since you left, but I’m sure you already knew that. You still have friends that work here, right?”
Kya felt Leonard’s words pierce her deeply. She knew he didn’t mean it in a derogatory way, but she almost felt physical pain as he said them. “No, I don’t have any connection to this place anymore.”
The information technology area was a bustling hub of activity. The department hadn’t grown or shrunk since Kya had left, but the newly remodeled area felt like it was lacking something. As she arrived, she could hear Don Georgetown in his office.
“I’ll check to see if he’s busy if you want.” Leonard said gesturing towards the opaque glass door.
“I can handle it from here. Thanks.”
Kya knocked on the door, and she heard Don’s chair thump as he got up. She could hear each of his steps, the footfalls almost shaking the walls. Kya turned and looked around, but Leonard had already left, and was talking to someone a few cubicles over.
As the handle twisted, Kya’s heart pounded rapidly, her palms became clammy. She felt as though she wanted to go invisible, and it took all of her willpower to stand her ground, and not run away.
The door creaked open and Don’s imposing figure filled the entire door frame. “Well, look who we have here. Everyone!” Don raised his voice to draw attention. “This is one of the only people I’ve ever met that went obsolete.”
Kya swallowed hard, her mouth completely dry, she had a difficult time with it. “Can we speak in your office?”
“You have ninety seconds, Kendra. My time is too valuable to waste on you.”
His words hit Kya hard and roused her out of her reluctance. She threw her shoulders back and raised her head high. “This won’t take long.” She said in a strong and authoritative voice.
Kya noticed Leonard’s head pop up from the cubicle and give her one last glance and nod as she entered the office. The look on his face seemed to be one of both shock and support.
Don walked across his office and sat in his chair, leaving Kya to close the door.
“Take a seat.” Don demanded.
“No. I’m fine.” Kya stood behind the two office chairs set-up for guests in his office. She felt taller than Don and, for some unknown reason, it added to her courage.
“So, what’s this about?”
“I want you to stop saying bad things about me. What gives you the right to try and ruin my life? You already took this job from me, now you’re stopping me from finding a new job. You need to stop.”
“Why should I stop? I’m just telling the truth. You were a horrible employee, and you don’t deserve a job that requires any sort of responsibility.”
Kya began to grind her teeth as each word fueled her rage more and more.
“There is nothing you can do about it.” Don said. A smug look spread across his face, and Kya could tell that he felt victorious over her.