(Thanks kvennarad for the inspiration! 😉 )
“You shouldn’t dress like that, Nancy,” said Angela, eyeing the Goth girl critically.
“Why not?” Nancy glanced down her own attire in bewilderment. A short black skirt; a corset-style lace-up top with shoulder straps; the two pieces didn’t exactly meet in the middle, but then again she had a middle that didn’t mind being shown off, with an interesting little silver dragon bellybutton ring, and a black rose tattoo in the small of her back (courtesy of Nadisda). That tattoo was only one of various that adorned her body. Nancy liked her tats; all of them were high-quality, detailed embellishments, not lewd or pointless body graffiti. And if you carried all these artworks on your person, what was the point of covering them up with frocks and gowns?
“It won’t get you employed, for one,” Angela pointed out, her eyes flitting momentarily to where Danny, her seven-year-old son, hung over Mike’s computer in fascination watching the hacker program.
Nancy blinked. She wasn’t aware of having applied for a job with Angela?
“You see, if you ever want to make something of yourself, you’ll have to smarten up,” said Angela. “Buy yourself some decent clothes. I don’t mean jeans. Decent clothes. Have a look at what… oh, what the girls in magazines wear, that’s the easiest.”
There weren’t too many real-life examples here on the deserted outskirts of Detroit, of how young urban professionals dressed.
“Really,” commented Nancy, listening with growing astonishment. She couldn’t remember asking for a lesson in improving her life, either.
“Long blouses probably,” said Angela, “to cover those tattoos on your wrists.” She looked a bit more closely. “Ah well, maybe those are small enough, and they’re not offensive… though some people will definitely take offense to that hidden pentagram there, that’s witchcraft. It may well cost you an interview or two.”
“Interview in what?” asked Nancy, amazed.
“You see, that’s the next thing,” said Angela. “You don’t even have a high school diploma, do you? The first step would probably be to swallow your pride and go back to school to complete your education.”
Nancy said nothing, just kept on listening, unsure how she should react.
“There are programs for kids like you, don’t you know?” asked Angela. “There is a whole state system that helps orphaned young people complete their education and better their lives.”
Ben looked up from where he was fixing up the old Dell for Nadisda.
“Lady, we’ve escaped that wonderful system you’re talking about. Do you really think Nancy would want to hear all this?”
“Well, it’s not my fault if you unthankful brats spit in the face of the structures that are there to help you,” said Angela irritably. “You’re from the Me-Generation, and it’s obvious why your generation is called that! You want everything for free and you don’t want to put any effort in yourselves! Everything on a silver platter. And all full of excuses why you don’t want to work.”
Ben glanced at the unwashed dishes on which Angela and Danny just had their lunch – sharing the programmers’ meal.
“It occurs to me that it’s three in the afternoon,” he said idly. “Isn’t your boss waiting for you to get back to work? Please don’t let us hold you back!”
“I don’t work,” said Angela. “I’m a single mom. That’s plenty of work, believe you me!”
“You don’t work? Then who pays the bills?”
“Not that it’s your business,” she retorted, “but my boyfriend Bobby. He lives with us. You see, he has a decent job, he’s floor manager at the Costco. He wouldn’t have got in there if he hadn’t had a high school diploma.”
Ben nodded to himself and returned to fixing the computer. “Uh, huh.”
“Anyway, Nancy,” Angela returned to her victim, “I’d go through to hospice if I were you and see if there aren’t some still-good second-hand clothes that will look more acceptable on you. That would be a start.”
Nancy had pulled her wand out of her fifth-dimensional pocket that Nadisda had bestowed on her as part of her outfit.
“Granted,” she whispered as she pointed it at Angela. The woman and her little boy both disappeared.
“What happened?” asked Jen in alarm. She’d been following the conversation from the doorway, ready to jump in to help her friend. “What did you do to them?”
Nancy smirked. “If she were me, she’d go to the hospice to get some second-hand clothes. I can’t grant her to be me, but I could grant her the trip to the hospice.”
The four teenagers laughed and exchanged hi-fives.