Masks for Beginners

Chapter 2: Change

The streets seemed empty and desolate, while the lamppost flickered ever too gently with its unique buzzing, giving the street its ambience of a somber day. Right in the middle of the street, there seemed to have been an accident with two cars destroyed and up in flames, the flames seemed to light up the whole world as they raged on. Close to the flames as one could be was a nine-year-old child with black hair, sobbing inconsolably while staring at the flames with a defeated look in her bright blue eyes, as she walked closer to the flames she slowly muttered one word over and over.

”Mom…mom…mom… ” muttered the child with the same empty look in her eyes as she marched forward with no regard for the flames till she too was consumed by the flames, she continued her muttering as she closed her empty eyes for the last time.

Suddenly a woman in her early twenties shot up from her bed, sweating heavily and panting. She reached for her face, holding on for dear life as tears streamed down her face.

”It was that damn nightmare again… ” muttered the woman who finally got her breathing back under control, she checked her clock and groaned at the time she saw. Seven oclock in the morning.

”Of course, Im gonna be late on the first godforsaken day, just my damn luck. ” She exclaimed with clear irritation as she got off her bed and sprinted to the bathroom with the clear intent of getting ready as fast as humanly possible.

The streets of Illinois were rather busy for it being eight oclock in the morning, there could be seen a woman running as if her life depended on it through the hordes of people on the streets. She runs into a large skyscraper with the name ”SABER INDUSTRIES ” written clearly on the top. As she checks her ID card and enters the elevator, she hits the seventh floor and waits while tapping her foot impatiently.

As she exited the elevator she ran into the one face she most definitely did not want to see, a tall dark-haired man, Jay Peterson.

”Ah yes Ms Bale, how wonderful of you to join us today, I had assumed you were going to drop out at the last second, ” he said with a sadistic grin on his face. ”But it seems you had just decided to arrive half an hour late on your first day instead, truly spectacular professional conduct, ” he said with scorn as he walked away towards another latecomer who he greeted quite heartily. Jay walked away with the man before the woman could even speak one word, she walked towards the reception ashamed and discouraged.

”Hello Im Lyra Bale, I start work today in the nuclear engineering department. ” she introduced herself with as friendly a smile as she could give. ”I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction. ” She politely asked the receptionist who informed her to head right down the hallway and wait in Mr Petersons office.

As Lyra waited inside the office, Jay walked in with arrogance in his gait as he chose to sit in his comfy seat.

”Lyra Bale. Graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a degree in nuclear engineering as the valedictorian, ” he said as he read her files with a disinterest very evident in his intonation. ”The first female valedictorian MIT ever, no one ever expected this much from you, did they? ” he asked with a patronizing tone.

”Regardless of what anyone expected of me, I graduated the best nuclear engineer MIT has ever produced and that is an irrefutable fact, ” Lyra said with a cold tone as she was quite frankly tired of the constant disrespect.

”Indeed, the mark sheets would indicate as much. But in the real world, these mark sheets mean absolutely nothing, ” he said as he tore her mark sheets right in front of her with no expression on his face.

”I have assigned you a desk at the corner of the office, just go left after exiting the office, ” he said as he turned away towards his laptop and began to type away at it. ”You are nothing but a newbie so don show that ego of yours around here. ” he sneered at her as she was leaving the room.

Lyra walked out of the room and headed to her desk fuming. ”Who does that no good jerk think he is? I bet Im already a better engineer than that loser, ” she muttered as she got settled in her seat.

”Whats got you in such a sour mood on your first day Granger? ” said a man who was about six feet tall and had ginger-coloured hair, with honey-brown eyes that stared at Lyra as if he was quite amused by what he saw.

”Sid Brandon, god dammit this day cannot get any worse, ” exclaimed Lyra as she saw who was speaking to her. Lyra and Sid had both studied at MIT together where they were sworn rivals, in a school of elites; these two were on a completely different level from the rest of them. Even though Sid was one-year older than Lyra, they competed evenly in every research project and contest the university held for all three years. He took to calling her Granger due to how similar she behaved to the famous fictional character Hermione Granger.

”Ah still rubbing people the wrong way as usual I see, its nice to see not everything changed over one year, ” he said cheekily as he glanced towards Jays office.

”Give me a break, would you Sid? Ive had as bad of a start to this day as I possibly could have. ” Lyra said, exhausted. ”Not only did I get here late on my first day, but I also work directly under yet another misogynistic pig. ” she exclaimed as she recalled all the professors she had back at MIT who tried to discredit her due to her being a woman.

”Well its the world we live in, ” he said wryly. ”If you get in deep trouble, come find me, ” he said nonchalantly. ”I don want my eternal rival flunking out right away, what would everyone think of me? ” Sid questioned in an amused tone with concern hidden well as he walked off into the distance of the chaotic office. Lyra looked exasperated and decided to focus on her job, of which there seemed to be plenty already sent to her mail courtesy of Jay.

The days passed by in a flash as Lyra was put through the wringer, the workload was obscene yet not fulfilling in the slightest. She was responsible for the most menial tasks that required no skills in engineering, and this irked her immensely. Not only was her work dissatisfying but her work environment might just be worse, she was the only woman involved in the engineering department and everyone was painfully aware of this.

The men all looked down on her or didn want to be targeted by others, so they ignored her. Sid was the only one that talked to her on occasion, but that was becoming more and more infrequent. There were indeed women in the company, its just that they work in the HR department instead. That gave her hope to find companionship, at least during lunch, which might have been her best decision since getting to the office.

”Hey yall, Im Lyra, ” she said hopefully to a group of women at the lunch table.

The women looked at each other and moved over to give Lyra some space to sit. They began to converse but it was clear to Lyra that everyone was very guarded when speaking to her as if they were judging her every word. Lyra pushed through though, determined to win them over.

”Lyra, you are different from how everyone in the office speaks about you. ” said a black-haired woman of Indian descent named Anastasia Silva.

”There are rumours about me? ” asked Lyra, genuinely confused.

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