A Vantage Point of Asses, chapter 1
This is not necessarily the final version of the first chapter but It should give you an indication of my writing:
Imagine being at butt height every single day. Jenna Carter knows exactly what that’s like; she’s been staring at people’s butts for years, spending most of the day sitting in a wheelchair. That’s her awkward predicament.
Other things are awkward too, like not being able to reach ATMs or counters in shops or having to look for a way to avoid a flight of stairs at an unfamiliar coffee shop (like, seriously, who opens a coffee shop on the second floor?).
In general, Jenna is as well - or un - adjusted as everyone else. She pulls a faded grey long sleeve over her head and shivers. She’s totally not a morning person. What makes it worse is that it’s winter and still dark by the time she has to get up. The cold makes her muscles stiff and tense and she’s already sure that by the end of the day, she’ll be tired and sore and moody and a bitch. Not very different from what she’s like in the morning before the first cup of coffee. Once she’s wiggled into yesterday’s pair of black jeans, Jenna shifts across her sizable double bed and pulls herself into the wheelchair waiting on the other end almost effortlessly.
She uses her wheelchair nearly all the time now. It’s only been a thing of the last two years or so. Before that, she used to walk little bits whenever she was indoors, but over time her muscles have stopped growing properly along with the rest of her body and the lack of exercise hasn’t helped her case either. Of course she regrets having let it slip, sometimes. Her parents regret it even more, but they also accept her decision.
Jenna made a conscious decision when she started university, after years and years of physical therapy, two, sometimes three times a week: she stopped going. It’s not because she doesn’t care, but she cares about other things more and physical therapy drains her of the energy she needs to do those other things. First, she chose university, now she chooses her career and spends whatever energy she has left at the end of the day on things she likes. It has slipped too far to get back into it now anyway and even if it hasn’t… Jenna’s not determined enough to pull through.
Things are going fine as they are, Jenna thinks as she zips up her boots and straightens her jeans neatly over them. Yea, it’s not as if she can’t walk at all or anything, it’s just… hard, tiring and not worth it, she decides - for the second time that month - as she wheels herself out of the bedroom and into bathroom on the other side of the hall, flicking on lights as she goes.
She doesn’t shower in the morning because the activity leaves her feeling so tired she’d like to go back to bed. So instead, she saves it for the evenings and plunges into bed right after. Other than that, her morning ritual involves the things you’d expect. Moisturising (but only because her mother insists), brushing of teeth, washing of face, you know, the usual stuff.
After wrapping herself in another two layers of clothing and skipping breakfast, she grabs her stuff and heads out the door. There’s a ramp down from the front door of her 3-apartment building. It’s only a block or two to the nearest bus station and just one accessible bus ride into the city. The bus driver lets down the ramp for her and Jenna flashes her bus card briefly in his direction. It’s unnecessary, because he sees her nearly every day.
The bus is pretty packed and Jenna cringes when she sees that an elderly lady has occupied the reserved seat, knowing the woman doesn’t officially have to give it up.
A few rows down, a man in a dark winter coat notices and gets up from his regular seat. The elderly woman looks at Jenna but seems incredibly reluctant to get up.
“I’m sorry,” Jenna offers her her best apologetic hunched shouldered smile, but it isn’t until the man mumbles a vague “You can sit over here, ma’am,” that the woman huffs and shuffles out of the way.
Great, offended someone before lunch, Jenna thinks as she backs her chair against the wall and puts her breaks on. “Thanks,” she says quietly to the man who is now standing beside her. He smiles in acknowledgement.
The bus ride to Jenna’s office building is never particularly interesting, so Jenna fishes her iPhone (product placement, cough) out of her bag and plugs the in-ear headphones into her ears. When she hits play, the music starts off where she left it, halfway into Mumford and Son’s White Blank Page. She has to resist the urge to nod her head to the waltz. People don’t need any more reasons to stare at her, do they?
Most people get off the bus a stop before Jenna’s, including the elderly lady, who gives her a glare on the way out. Jenna forces a smile. There really is no other way to deal with moments like this than to just smile like you mean it.
By the time the bus gets to the street that Jenna’s office is on, it’s raining. Jenna looks out of the window and sighs, putting her iPhone back into her bag and taking her wheelchair off the breaks as the bus stops. The bus driver lets the ramp down. “I’m sorry. I’d wait, but –“ he begins and waves a hand around the general vicinity of the bus. Jenna pulls her hood up around her face.
“That’s ok, I’m all set,” she smiles.
“Alright, take care,” he replies and Jenna waves a hand.
“Yup, see ya later!” Jenna chirps and rolls down onto the sidewalk, into the downpour.
It’s not far to the office, but it’s uphill and it’s cold and damnit it’s raining. So Jenna waits underneath roof of the bus stop for a while. She’s always early anyway, there’s not going to be a fire if she shows up ten minutes late for once. And it’s Friday, anyway. Nobody really worries about Fridays. Her projects aren’t going to walk away and she has a meeting at 09:30. Writing before that would have been difficult anyway. Jenna’s pretty good at her job, but she needs continuum.
When she started university four years ago, she set out to become Bachelor of Communication. She didn’t quite know what she’d end up doing with it, but becoming a copywriter wasn’t her first thought. She’d thought she’d be doing something a little more adventurous. When a position opened at an advertising company, and one so close to her newly bought home, she didn’t hesitate to take it. She’s heard the many stories of graduates who just fall into this black hole after they finish college. She didn’t want to be one of those people.
But after three years of working the same job; working the same job really hard for a minimal pay-check, Jenna finds herself often wishing that she had made different choices. Maybe studied something else, or at least that she had gone for a master degree. At the time, independence had seemed more important than anything. A job meant that she would have a steady income and a steady income provided her with the means to be independent. She wouldn’t have been able to buy the house she lives in now, let alone make the necessary adjustments to it, if she had opted to stay in college. It would have meant living at her parents’ house for at least another two years. She loves her parents, but she would only be in their way and society really is built upon the notion that everybody works hard and stands on their own two feet to make it in life. Figuratively speaking, of course.
Jenna really doesn’t like the rain. It makes her think too much. It makes her contemplate. But it doesn’t seem like it’s letting up anytime soon, so she takes a deep breath and pushes herself out into the street again, starting the uphill climb towards the office.
Its almost 09:30 by the time she gets in, and she’s soaked from top to bottom. Something about sitting down in the rain… it’s an open invitation to get completely soaked. Like the rain is thinking: Hey, that’s a nice lap, let’s fall on it.
Bob Maxwell is waiting for her by the elevator. “Ah, there you are, Jenna. I was starting to get a little worried. We have a meeting, remember?”
Well, that’s unsettling. Bob is Jenna’s manager. They have meetings all the time but he is never the most punctual. “Sorry, it was raining so hard I thought I’d wait it out for a bit.” Jenna offers.
He looks her over once. “Didn’t help much, I see, let me get you a towel. Go on ahead into my office.”
Jenna frowns as he hurries away. There seems something incredibly unusual about him, like he’s nervous. She peels herself out of her coat and wheels herself by her desk quickly so she can drop it there, before going over to Maxwell’s office.
Bob follows her in and closes his office door behind him, before making his way around his desk and handing Jenna the towel from there. She takes it, frowning as he sits down uneasily and watches her. “Is anything wrong?” she asks.
Bob opens and closes his mouth a couple of times in a way that closely resembles a fish and then sighs heavily and starts.
“We’re not doing so well. You’ve seen the reports. I try to be as open to everybody as possible.”
“Hmhm…” Jenna nods, no less confused.
“…Jenna, I have to start watching my overhead. There might come a time when I’m going to have to let people go…” Bob says and Jenna takes it in, rethinks it, and feels a knot in her stomach.
“Are you saying you’re going to fire me?” she replies, in a voice that’s a bit quieter than usual.
“We’re not there, yet, and we might not come there at all, but I just wanted to… Well, you’re a good writer. You are. You’re just… Well, Astrid and Peter are more productive. They have given me an indication that they’re willing to put in extra time. But like I said, we’re not there, yet.”
The thing is, Bob is not a bad guy. In fact, he cares a whole lot about the people that work for him and he was the one who hired Jenna without even asking about her disability. Jenna realises he’s trying to give her a fair warning, or a heads up, or whatever. But that doesn’t mean she wants to hear it.
“I uhm, I really have to get back to work, sir, if that’s ok…” she stammers, looking up at him only briefly before avoiding his eyes altogether. For a minute, there’s tension in the air, like Maxwell is going to say something, but he stifles it and nods.
Jenna backs her chair away, bumping into the closed door a little clumsily, before managing to pull it open. She hurries out, not looking back, over to her desk, pushing her coat to the side and hauling her bag onto the wooden surface. She takes her papers and laptop out and flips open the lid. The screen flashes to life as she hits the space bar and the file she has been working on since yesterday appears. She starts typing, ignoring the dozens of typos she makes at 65 words per minute. She is going to show him productive.
After five minutes, though, she’s at a loss. She can’t think of anything to write because all she can think about is getting fired. It’s not her fault that she can’t work any more hours. Her energy isn’t as infinite as everyone else’s. She takes a deep breath, reminding herself that she’s in the office and there are people around and she’s a grown woman and she certainly cannot cry about this. People are let go all the time. They’re in a financial crisis after all. It just hurts that it comes down to productivity and work hours. If it came down to perseverance, Jenna’s name wouldn’t even have come up.