Speed prompt, written in 41 minutes.
They’re going to get away with not paying me.
I only realised that in the middle of a warm October night, while I was lying half-awake in bed and trying to sleepily figure out the best suburb in Sydney for me and Bree to live. That all depended on my payout—whether I finally got my entitlements or not—and while I was trying to calculate how long it would last and how much I’d get, I realised it had been a full six months and this so-called ‘investigation’ hadn’t achieved anything.
It hit me like a freight train: it was never meant to find anything. They were never going to pay me. Sean fucking Frost was going to keep his eight grand, or twelve grand, or whatever it was they owed me, not because they needed it, but to spite me. And there wasn’t anything I could do about it.
I was suddenly wide awake, my chest burning with the injustice of it. Rich people could do terrible things and get away with it: I could be lied to, and manipulated, and yelled at and nearly driven to top myself and they could get away with it. They could get away with not paying me money I’d earnt with my own sweat and blood. Hell, I’d single-fucking-handed sold that contract to Burov, nearly fucking killing myself in the process, and I wasn’t getting a single cent from it. Front and centre of my mind, I could see Sean’s smiling face. He loved this. He loved winning—even though I’d sold the contact, he’d got his revenge. I didn’t even want to think of all the nasty fucking shit he said to Henry about it behind my back, but he was relentless. Henry never told me any of it, but I knew. I knew what Sean was like. And he’d won.
Fuck, I couldn’t sleep like this.
I very carefully disentangled Bree from me so I didn’t wake her, and crept out of bed. Sarah’s porch was cool on my hot cheeks, and there was a gentle night breeze rustling the trees.
You’re getting back at them with your consulting work, I tried to tell myself. I’d already gotten an instalment of $4.5k out of it, with the rest in three weeks’ time, but boy was I working for it. It wasn’t easy money, and it wasn’t the money I should be getting.
I could sue them, I thought, and then almost laughed at myself. No one sued Frost; Frost had all the best law firms in Sydney practically on payroll. I’d end up paying their legal fees and bankrupting myself.
So that was it. That was the end of my complaint to Frost. At least Jason wasn’t Sarah’s boss anymore—and from all reports he’d been lying very low recently—but that was it. Frost had shafted me, and they’d gotten away with it. And they’d probably do it again, and again, to other people. Sean probably did it constantly. And he was still on Sydney’s rich list. Men wanted to be him and women wanted to be with him. He had a beautiful wife and family, magazines profiled him to adoring readers, everybody loved him.
Meanwhile, I was living in my friend’s spare room and struggling to find the money to move out and support my girlfriend.
It was so unfair. So unfair. I felt—ugh! So fuck helpless with this dead end of a situation. Why was the world like this? I put a hand to pounding heart, feeling like I could just tear it from my chest. Fuck everything!
In the middle of grabbing the railing and seething with the injustice of it all and how there was nothing I could do when I had one stray, horrible thought: You should have jumped. The press Frost would have got from your death would have at least scratched Frost’s reputation.
Looking over the edge of Sarah’s raised porch, I remembered looking down from my balcony to the city street far below and wondering if the fall would kill me.
I wondered what would have happened if I had jumped.
“Min?” I twisted around; Bree was standing in the doorway in her shortie pyjamas, bleary-eyed and messy-haired. She immediately saw my expression. “Are you okay?”
I thought about lying to her—she didn’t need to know every time I was morose. I’d lied to her enough, though, so I shook my head.
She wandered out and put her arms around my waist. It only lasted a second before she pulled back. “Your heart’s going nuts!”
It took me a moment to articulate how I felt. “Sean won.”
Recognition dawned on her face. “Oh…” She lay her head back on my chest. “He didn’t. You’re making money off them now.”
“He did. The complaint’s bullshit. They’re not looking for anything, they’d just using it to torture Henry. It’s over, it never existed in the first place, and I stupidly thought something would come of it, but of course it wouldn’t. It’s over, over, and there’s nothing I can do, I wish I’d just fucking—” Those harsh words caught in my throat.
She just hugged me while I swallowed back hot tears. I wasn’t going to cry over this, I wasn’t.
After a minute or so, she pulled away, looking thoughtful. “Be right back,” she told me, and darted inside.
She was right back—with a little plastic shopping back that had a logo I didn’t recognise on it. My curiosity about it made the aching in my chest fade a little.
She gave it to me, looking a bit guilty. “I bought it for you like a month ago, and then I felt really guilty about buying it because I should have given the money to you for credit card repayments, so I didn’t give it to you. But when I saw it, I was just desperate for you to have it.” She pushed my hands holding it towards me. “Don’t worry, it wasn’t very expensive.”
I watched her for a moment, and then took a little square box out of the bag. It looked like a jewellery box, and when I opened it, there was a simple bangle inside.
A little tag with a semi-colon dangled from it, glinting, and there was a plate with an engraved inscription. ‘My story isn’t over yet’.
Beyond it, Bree’s eyes filled with tears. “Nobody’s won,” she told me. “Nobody has. Because your story isn’t over yet, and you’re still here to live it.”
Unexpectedly, I lost the battle against my tears, and hugged her firmly against me, the bangle between us. How did she always know exactly what to say to me?
She’s right, I realised. She’s right. Despite all odds I’m still here. I’m not going to let that fucking bastard win. My story isn’t over yet.