It wasn’t the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last. A new folder hit the desk, twenty clear plastic envelopes sealed inside. On the spine, #37 was printed, blocky numerals clashing with the semi-curly writing, and she sighed. Another set of annual reports coming up, her thirty-fifth (the first two had been haphazardly done by someone with no concept of efficiency), all for a group of people who didn’t appreciate the time she put into appraising and apprising them. It’d been a migraine sort of week; her hands shook as she popped a paracetamol out of the pack and absently washed it down with stale water.
Opening her emails, she copy-pasted the text from the word document, sending it to her first five staffers, restrained a sigh as the first on the list stalked in – not pleased about leaving his desk.
She was getting too old for this sort of shit.
It wasn’t the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last. Her hands were clammy, hundreds of eyes on her as she crossed the stage, and it occurred to her that this was being live-broadcast. The heavy gown hung off her shoulders, carefully-adjusted at the last minute by a helpful usher before she took the steps. For a moment she was tempted to wipe her palms, but thoughts of it being seen and captured for posterity stopped her action before it could start. Instead she straightened her shoulders, flashed her best smile at the dean as he extended his hand for a shake.
At the other end of the stage she skimmed her free hand over the railing as she tapped down the steps, degree in its protective packet in hand, and hoped not to fall.
Well. She’d be back in another two years.
The water was clear, almost white with moonlight. She wasn’t usually one for swimming at night, but something about the saltwater pool in the isolated backyard was too good to pass up. Crickets chirped as she trod water, debating how deep it was – she couldn’t touch the bottom even if she ducked below water, and she didn’t like to take the risk. This was something she’d been meaning to do since she rented the bungalow, taking a celebratory holiday. It was the most peace she’d had since finishing her last major contract, and she drifted lazily on her back, lethargically kicking her heels.
For an hour, she considered missing her train when it came time to go back – back to contracts and winning over new clients. Only, she’d worked too hard to lose her job. The bungalow and pool would still be here.
It wasn’t the first time and it wouldn’t be the last.