Can't you work hard, Catherine!

Submitted into Contest #136 in response to: Write a story where hard work doesn’t pay off.... view prompt


Coming of Age Fiction Sad

Lying on the bed looking at the night sky I wondered where it all went wrong.


“Catherine, where’s my coffee?”

“Catherine, why haven’t you still printed copies of this section?”

“Catherine, walk faster would you?”

“Catherine, why did you swap the pieces from the winter collection with the spring collection?”

“Don’t you have eyes, Catherine?”

“Why do you keep messing things up, Catherine?”

"Can't you work hard, Catherine?"

Hiding my tears, I ran around the office all day acting like what they were telling wasn’t getting into my head. It wasn’t easy but I still managed it. I think I did. Maybe I didn’t, considering the amount of time I was told to just go and f*** off without messing things. It wasn’t easy but I still put up a smile every day and went to work early in the morning so I wouldn’t be last in the line to get coffee, so I wouldn’t be late to print the copies and place them on everyone’s tables. Did I like it? Honestly I don’t know. I was so busy to stop for a second and think about it. I was simply glad I couldn’t get a job and not having to get into prostitution to earn money. People say bad things about prostitution, but do you know what? We have no idea about the thoughts some of these girls have when strangers touch their bare body. I have seen them crying and rushing to bathrooms to get ‘his scent off’, to get the ‘dirt’ from their bodies. But do they have a choice? People would say why would you do it? Why can’t study properly, get into a college and get a damn job? I’m ashamed to be called your mother! Don’t let others know that we’re family! But do you what none of them tell? Some may choose the profession but many of them out there don’t have a damn choice. Many of them dreams of becoming hair-dressers, makeup artists, painters, designer and god knows what. They sell their body not because they like it but because they aren’t given a chance. Not a single chance. That’s why I considered myself lucky when I was told I passed the interview and landed the dream job of becoming the MYN magazine’s editor’s second assistant.

I wasn’t rich, I wasn’t from a moderate background even. I was the second eldest daughter of six kids from a very poor family. I have four brothers and one sister. We all have big age gaps between us but I was very close to Kat, the eldest. She was this fun spirit wondering about things she sometimes shouldn’t be thinking of. When I was just ten years old she was married off to a man, much older than her for the money, hoping that a rich husband would mean happiness for her. It was unlikely that anyone of us would get a good job, so for girls the best thing was to marry rich husbands. I was young I wasn’t stupid not to realise that my sister was in a way being sold off to a man who she hadn’t even seen until the wedding day. But she went off with a smile and I prayed she would have a good life. Did she have a good life? I thought she did until the police called my parents to come and claim the body of my sister who was raped and left in a motel. My dad died the very next day and my mother started forgetting things. I just twelve years then and my youngest brother was just two years old. We had no income and my brothers started to steal and I started to beg. I don’t know if it was fortunate or unfortunate but the state put the youngest three of the family for adoption and soon after I was told they were adopted my good families and I was given some money. That night I hugged Nile, and cried for a long time. I prayed they would live well forgetting us so they wouldn’t be put in any disadvantaged. All the money was paid for my mother’s hospital bills but she left us after a month. I promised myself I wouldn’t give up on Nile and wouldn’t let anyone have him. He wasn’t a bad kid and although he wasn’t smart, he was good at working at a garage. Whenever I had time I went to work at neighboring houses did whatever they told me to do. The remaining time I studied. I studied until I grew blisters on my butt and until blood started spluttering down my face. Nile and I both secured scholarship. He was able to go for the technical college down the college while I studied design because I could draw. I opened bank accounts for me and Nile and always put half of my savings to his account which he doesn’t know exist. One day when there’s a lot I would give it to him. With the half that was left for me I paid the bills and to buy a newspaper every weekday.

I applied for whatever job I could find. Many rejected me without taking a second glance. I was told to dress better and put some makeup. But I didn’t spend my money any of that. The money was too precious to waste on those. But I did buy myself a suit, a pair of shoes and a comb because I was desperate to get a permanent job. I worked until I couldn’t take a step anymore. Sometimes I would drop myself in front a wall and rest because I was too tired to breath. I saved money and skipped breakfast and dinner for myself but bought food for Nile. I couldn’t buy him a cake or a toy for his birthdays but I would always save up some money every year to get him a cake slice at least. He’s a good boy. He never asked for anything and ate whatever we could get our hands on. He never complained about his life nor did he ask for things from me. He knew I was working way too hard for my age and only spoke to ask me how I’m doing and whether I need anything. But I didn’t tell him anything. I didn’t tell him that I’m breaking up and I could barely move on. I didn’t tell him how I want to give up and just forget about everything. I didn’t tell him how hard it was for to smile every day when I my whole body was hurting. I didn’t tell him how I did another job after my shift at MYN. I didn’t tell him anything not because I didn’t want him to know but I didn’t want him to suffer. At least he deserved to be happy and making him smile and happy is the only thing I wanted to do. I collected some toys for the other three over the years and wishes one day I would be able to see my other siblings. There was a faint hopeless hope inside me.

“Catherine, what the hell were you doing without getting the drink?”

“Catherine, don’t you even know how to make a presentation?”

“Who the hell accepted this useless girl for out department?”

“I have enough work already and now I have to waste my time doing your work?”

“Why can’t you just leave when you don’t know how to do anything?”

“This isn’t a baby-sitting place, Catherine!”

Every single day it was getting harder for me to work. There were more complaints than I could handle. Whenever I did something right I wanted someone to compliment me. I just wanted someone to tell me that it’s enough and I could stop now. But no one told me. No one even bothered. They only cared whether I did whatever they told me to do even when they know a single person can’t finish that workload. But I did. I got coffee and ran to get food. I travelled to town after town to send the copies and clothes. I ran up and down the stairs countless times because the elevator was slow and I would be a second late. I ran from one corner to the other corner to give them their lunch and water bottles. I don’t have time to sit and give myself time to catch up my breath. I would end up eating an expired sandwich while running because that’s cheaper than the other one. It was way too hard when I got cramps. I could barely do everything but I still do it. Why? Because of hope. Hope that something good will happen one day if I work hard like everyone tell.

I didn’t believe in hope nor I did believe that anything good will happen. But thinking like that was the only way that made me wake up early in the morning to start my day and get myself ready to run. But one day I did a mistake. I ended up printing the wrong set of the magazines and accidentally spilled coffee on a proposal. I was shoved off in front of everyone and they spilled coffee on the only suit I had. They dragged me to the entrance and threw my stuff out shouting at me. They were shouting at me but was praising the girl who did absolutely nothing because she was someone’s daughter. She didn’t lift a single finger while I did everything. While I ran around like a mad dog doing all the work even when I didn’t have the strength.


“Catherine, go to 201.”

Sighing I wiped my tears with water and applied the makeup. I lifted my dress way above my knees and walked to 201. I let him touch and do whatever they wanted because I needed the money. I needed the money to get some food for Nile. I did want to jump off the building but I didn’t have the strength and I couldn’t leave Nile all alone in this world. I’m the only one he had and he’s the only one I had. I working my a** off only to be treated like filth. Only to be thrown off the door just because I spilled some coffee. Does hard work pay off? I don’t know. All I know is it didn’t for me. From the second I joined my role was already laid down for me. When he was done with me, he threw money on the floor and left. And I let the tears role down my face. If anyone ask me why don’t I work hard and get a job, I would ask them why wouldn’t they give a chance for people like us who have nothing. I worked harder than I have seen but what do I have in the end? Nothing except tears and pain.

March 07, 2022 18:47

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Graham Kinross
10:40 Sep 04, 2022

Any workplace that's big enough ends up like some version of this. Some people are just out to take credit for the work of others. Anyone who's been through that will relate to this.


Show 0 replies
Sharon Hancock
01:45 Mar 17, 2022

Wow. So heartfelt and real. I could feel her pain through your story. Reminds me of Les Mis mixed with the devil wears Prada. You have an interesting voice with urgency that makes me want to keep reading. I did have a suggestion that you clarify Nile a bit more in the beginning. Great job! I enjoyed reading this.


Naduni De Silva
05:52 Apr 28, 2022

thanks for the suggestion!! thank you for giving it a try!!


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Jeanette Harris
20:15 Mar 13, 2022

This story is very sad, there a lot people who work hard and get no created for it, I use to at factory were Miss No manner would cuss out all white people and she was white.


Naduni De Silva
05:52 Apr 28, 2022

omg.. thats so sad.. unfortunately people still try to control and discriminate others!! hope you're doing gd now!!


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply