PC name: Nora Marshallquestion.jpg

Location: [?]

Date and time: January 20th, mid-day

This has not been the greatest of weeks. For anyone. I'm still catching up on sleep, and I hate to say it but my anger almost got the better of me. After all that work. Nathan comes in and tells me I need to work another full week, and what do I get? A man telling me my work was a waste, and nearly breaking my best friend in the process.

Waiting for our time slot to be judged, I had nearly fallen asleep leaning against the wall three times. I shook my head. I had to stay awake, make a good impression, be a 'lady' for all it's worth. I glanced at Emily, who was bouncing on the balls of her feet with a glimmer in her eyes. Then I looked at Nathan, nervously half pacing as he went over his speech in his head. Seeing him flustered is always amusing, since it's different than his usual pep. I felt a grin briefly slide onto my face. While I was worried he might get ahead of himself with declarations of grandeur, we'd all decided he was the best to give the pitch. Emily can be too forceful, the machine is Nathan's dream, and I am much too tired to be of any use. I'd already collapsed on Friday while working, and I didn't want to pass out while talking to the men deciding our fate. My head felt heavy, and there was a ring of dull, consistent pressure behind my left eye – ignoring dry tingling. The cold seeping into the hall wasn't much helping either, barely helping keep me awake, so I hugged my thick wool coat closer, which my arms protested against. God I hate the cold.

Finally we were called in, a soft, collected voice giving us instructions. We all moved to roll in the expressionless humanoid into the room. A much warmer room, I couldn't help notice. I regret using brass over iron, but I had limited materials at the time. Gabrielle's father prides himself on appearances, and iron isn't always that fancy looking. The machine rolling along the smooth tiled floor was the only sound until we stopped as told, and we got the chance to look at our judges. Five men, all dressed in shades of tweed or wool; nicer suits than anything we could ever afford. One was balding, another had removed his jacket, showing off his smooth blue collared shirt.

One of the men raised a hand in our direction, and Nathan was given the go ahead to speak. I'd rehearsed it with him the night before to make sure he didn't accidentally go off on tangents, and he was holding true to what would hold their attention. Only... their attention did not look promising. I didn't need to be fully awake to interpret the souring faces, and the scowl on our surprise judge - Greene himself - was easily the worst. I’d seen my father with that face once, sending a dull shiver up my back, and I never made that mistake again. Nathan was either putting on an iron front, or blissfully unaware the predators growing impatient. They stopped him, and Nathan fumbled over his words as he came to an abrupt halt.
“Would you give us a moment?”

We were asked to step back out into the hallway. At first my anchored body wouldn’t move, and Nathan had to lead me out so I didn’t fall over. Emily was again jittering beside me. I turned to the calmer of the two, trying to get my jumbling thoughts in order.

Did something go wrong? What went wrong? Why did they stop you? Was rather rude of them. Where’s Emily. What happened?

“What…?” I mumbled in a stupor. He just shrugged at me.

We were invited back in.

"It’s an absolute waste of time!" Greene had spat, throwing a hand up to punctuate himself.

My legs nearly buckled, jolting me out of balance a moment. A sudden uneasiness took hold, and it felt like an iron curtain was dumped over me. I lost feeling in my limbs, a crushing, pressure against my chest, I felt nothing more than a warm, sagging husk.. I would have loved nothing more than to have just collapsed into a broken, beaten heap, yet I remained standing on numb legs. The longer I stood, the more the words sunk into my bones, and the more my anger grew in strength.

Emily immediately began to shout, unsurprisingly, with choice phrases aimed particularly at Greene. I snagged her arm after she shrugged me off the first time, and yanked her to the door. She screeched the whole way there, giving me a rather sharp headache. Flinging her out the door, slamming it shut behind me, I lastly tossed the brat a glare with as much energy as I could muster. Her mouth snapped shut, giving my head some relief.
Then we looked over at Nathan, and partly wish I hadn't.

That unfocused face screamed at me, begged me, pleaded to say it was all some cruel prank. Color drained from his face, arms hung loose at his sides, he braced himself against a wall. Whatever anger I was feeling before would have to wait. My puppy just got kicked.

Forgetting the harsh rejection I was enduring from people I didn’t know, it must have been tenfold for Nathan. His idol had rejected his dream, his working dream! He had been rejected at all for that matter. He could deal with failures, I know, but this wasn’t his failure. This was denial. There wasn’t a trace of his enthusiasm from earlier in the week, almost none of his usual persona.

“Nathan… Nathan, it’s fine. The machine is fine, you know that. It works.” With mothering words and what I hoped was a soft touch, I tried to bring him back into the present before he might sink beyond repair. I purposely avoided his metal arm, making sure he could feel me prodding him to come back. Nathan’s skin was clammy, and cooled to the touch, neither a feeling I enjoyed. I heard Emily’s shoes clack as she walked off. I briefly called out for her, but she either didn’t hear or ignored me. When Nathan finally looked up at me, with the light still glimmering in his eyes, I released a shaky breath and stood up.

“Let’s go.”

“The machine…” He glanced to the closed doors.

“It’ll be alright,” I tugged his arm with vague purpose. “We’ll get it later, when they deliver it to the shop. Let’s go home, Nate. We’re done here for today.”

He nodded, and we escorted each other home.