Day 11: The Assistant

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I spent most of that night tossing and turning, only to spend the last couple of hours scrolling through my phone, ignoring the people already dragging me for my imposter's post. The thief at least had the decency to keep my privacy settings to friends only, but apparently one of my friends wasn't a particularly good one. They sold my post to some blogger who took it upon themselves to call me out for my underhanded marketing tactic. Heidi still hadn't responded, but I was sure the blow would come soon and it would be a painful one.

That looming dread was enough to make me consider calling in sick, but when I got a text indicating that my own assistant was, in fact sick, and would thus not be able to come into the office or assist me from her home, I knew the day was over before it even started. With a groan, I got out of bed and rubbed my neck wondering if I might have a case of whiplash after such a significant shift in momentum. How did I go from living on top of the social media hill to tumbling down into the pits of the internet's ire in only a day?

The calendar, that's how.

Every time I thought to get the better of it, it put me back in my place. At least when I opened it that morning, I wasn't surprised to find a little figurine with long brown hair and a posture reminiscent of a soldier. I now had my very own Ashley action figure.

My only comfort was knowing that I had already endured the calendar's devious intent for the day. It deemed fit to take Ashley from me, but I already knew she wasn't going to be around. For how long she'd be gone, I didn't know, but at least that surprise for the day had come and gone.

With a sigh, I got dressed and drank an extra strong cup of coffee. Though I wanted to, I knew I couldn't put off what the day had in store. It was better to get it over with now and hope that tomorrow would be better.

"You've been all over the internet recently," said Mark, his words tentative as he joined up beside me at our department's kitchenette. In my hands I had my fifth cup of coffee for the day, however it was doing little to motivate me towards anything other than staring into the wood grain of the cabinet doors.

"Yes," I answered before taking a sip. Mark wasn't the first to approach me about the topic. In fact, upon my arrival, I had only got so far as a step out of the elevator before someone notified me that Shelby wanted me in her office.

"Uh, how are you holding up?" he asked, his eyes glancing up at the cupboard I was staring into, only to shake his head and then turn his gaze to me.

"Someone stole my phone and misrepresented me," I answered, my voice flat and distant, "how do you think I feel?"

"I imagine you're probably feeling about as good as I was yesterday," he replied with a sigh.

I looked over at him from the corner of my eye before sipping some more of my coffee. When I didn't respond with a further inquiry, he decided to fill the silence himself.

"Losing Shelby's support for the Penguin Down Jackets left me winded." He shook his head and then turned to rest his hips against the kitchenette counter so that he faced the busy office floor. "I guess we're both back to square one now. How bad did she take the whole, uh, post thing that you had last night?"

"Not bad at all actually," I answered, my gaze still steady on the cupboard while I savored my coffee.

"What?" he asked, snapping around, trying to face me in full even though I refused to avert my gaze. "Really?"

"I mean, she wasn't thrilled. She told me I should wait a little longer next time before I run a victory lap, but said the hype for the Snow Bunnies would have started dying down in a day or two and now I've started the cycle fresh with a pinch of controversy. Instead of teenage girls clamoring for the boots, the anti influencer crowd is celebrating the embarrassment of Instagram's top model by getting their own pair of treasonous footwear. In all that mess, people don't know how to feel, but at the end of the day, the shoe is getting talked about. It's an earworm wriggling in and that's all Shelby cares about."

"So, you didn't lose funding?"

"Nope, proceeding as planned, though Shelby told me to stay off social media for awhile. I reminded her that she really needs to speak with my phone thief about that, but she dismissed my concerns and told me to get back to work."

"Wow," he said, looking impressed and disappointed all at the same time, "lucky you."

"Someone stole my phone and attacked my character. My car, my credit cards, my everything has been taken away from me this month, and because I get to continue pushing a shoe that's been nothing but trouble for me, I'm lucky?" I took a deep breath and stared down into my empty coffee cup. "We have two very different views of luck, I think."

"My month hasn't been a cake walk either," he grumbled before setting off towards his office. I then made myself another cup of coffee and went back to work.

The remainder of the day was one big headache. Without Ashley to keep track of my meetings and appointments, I was rushing from one place to the next. Whatever time I could find to sit in my office and breathe, was weighed down by the overbearing presence of the tower of Snow Bunnies that were piled into my room. It would be difficult to move them without Ashley's assistance, however I had already contacted the shelter about the donation and they were eager to claim the contribution, especially with the cold hitting the city.

Plus, I didn't need another day with my failures staring me in the face while I tried to sell them to a confused and conflicted market. So despite the migraine bubbling up in my skull, I rounded up a few of my staff and had them cart the shoes down to a truck waiting for us in the parking garage. I had intended to go with the truck and make sure the boots made it into the hands of those who needed them, but once they were out of my sight, I wanted nothing more to do with them.

The second the clock struck five, I packed my things and headed home. I curled up in bed without grabbing dinner and remained there until the following morning.

***

Jessica for hero to zero pretty quickly, although she still has Shelby's support so can't be that bad.  Could always get worse...

A bit of a mopey chapter, but maybe that's because I'm all kind of stressed out irl.  Work is crushing me, but it needs to get done.  I just need to get through to the other side and things will go back to a reasonable pace.  Hopefully...

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