Something She's Got Plans For Later

(a response to this prompt. cw: drugs, coercion, capitalism.)

It's not quite your first day, but she makes it feel like it is.

Everywhere you go in the tiny, crowded kitchen you can feel her eyes on you, the heat radiating from her bulk as she slides in next to you (or behind you, with the weight of her arms reaching around your too-slender body) to correct some perceived flaw in what you know is exactly what you were told to do just a few days before.

It's so fucking frustrating!

She doesn't give you the chance to get into a rhythm, doesn't let you slip into the dissociative routine of just-being-a-thing that you've always used to survive work like this (and so many other parts of your life). Some of the other workers shoot you apologetic glances, but none of them even talk to you; the thrum of conversation you expected is totally absent.

Maybe it's just that they're getting used to having you around still?

Or maybe she's just too intimidating, as she hovers over you.

It's a pity. Some of them are cute.

The shift is a bit like hell, and then it's closing and she just keeps on making you clean Again and Again and Again, refusing to accept that anything is clean enough even as she waves the other workers away. Some of them shoot you worried glances as they leave, some of them share mean chuckles as they leave, but ...

You'd have stormed out hours ago if you didn't Need this job.

In the end it's just you and her.

And it's raining.

Of course it's raining.

Nothing in the forecast about it, but ... gods, riding home on your bicycle is going to suck, isn't it? You don't have a coat, don't have a light, and you've never been good at riding in the dark and the rain—you can tell there's at least one embarrassing fall in your future, if not a panoply of bruises ruining your next few shifts ...

Gods, you have to be awake again too soon.

It sucks. It really, truly sucks.

You're doing your best to brace yourself for the ride and the pain and just everything about the path your life has taken when she wanders around the building, smoke curling out of a wide, self-satisfied smile.

“Hey, newbie. You need a lift?”

You stammer out something about your bicycle, but—

“That's all right, I've got a bike rack. Come on, no one wants you to break your neck in the dark.”

You agree reluctantly, regretfully; it's a bad choice, must be, but ...

Maybe she's nicer outside of work?

Maybe this is the chance to build a rapport, to get her to stop being so hard on you. It's worth a try, right? And if not ...

Well, if not then at least you'll be at home.

Her car stinks of sweat and smoke and weed and old fast food.

You didn't have her pegged as the stoner type. Seems too serious, and none of the smell clings to her clothes. But hey, it takes all sorts, right?

She's clearly not interested in talking as she carefully guides the car through the rain's thick curtains. Your halting attempts are met with, at best, grunts and shrugs; frustrating, disheartening.

At least you're not getting soaked, right?

You glance up from your phone when the car finally pulls over, but ... this isn't your home. It's nowhere, just a little gravelled alcove on the side of the road, hemmed in by trees.

“Hey, uh, where are we?”

“Mmm, just need to take the edge off.” She waves a vape in your general direction as she rolls the window down. “You want some, kid?”

“Uh. Should you be driving if you're high ...?”

“Slight buzz never killed anyone,” she says just before taking a long drag on the vape. “Here.”

“O-okay, sure ...”

The metal cylinder is warm in your hands, faintly greasy; it doesn't feel nice to hold, but ... well, you want to be polite, right? Maybe get into her good graces. And it can't hurt to have a sip, not after how much she inhaled.

It hits hard.

Far, far harder than you expected.

Did she change its setting, or are you just that much of a weakling?

You're still coughing and choking when she starts talking, the world thrumming in your ears and buzzing through your body and her voice the strongest part of all of it, the most real thing you can sense—

“So, look, kid,” (w-why is she calling you that? You're not that young ...) “I'm really not impressed with how you were today. I had to waste so much fucking time correcting you, and you just don't vibe with the others.”

You cough again, try to speak; it comes out like a kaleidoscopic shattering, and the moment after you're not sure if you said anything at all.

“Normally I'd just fire you, y'know? Sucks, but I've got to keep my eye on the good of the store.”

You stammer a protest, confused, baffled—surely this isn't how she's supposed to fire people? Surely she's not going to kick you out of the car in the middle of nowhere, leave you to figure out how to bicycle home ...?

“But, y'know, I was thinking,” her voice shifts, a hint of honey slipping into her rough drawl, “you seem diligent enough. And you are a cute little thing. So I could be persuaded,” she leers suggestively, “to keep you around. As long as you make yourself useful.”