(1 of 1. Originally posted on February 24, 2023 for the prompt “Modern fairy tale.”)
Preston Chadwick Vanderbilt the Third nearly fell off his barstool trying to find his wallet. He glared at the artfully tattooed bartender as if this misfortune were the latest in a long line of personal insults against his family name. Preston stretched out a blurry hand in the man’s general direction. “Didn’t earn much tip, anyway. Gimme my keys, Cartoon Jeeves.” He giggled at his own presumed wit.
“I’m sorry, sir,” The bartender continued mixing a drink as he replied. “I can’t let you have your keys in this condition. You’ll have to get a ride, and come back for them when you’re sober.”
“I should buy this place and turn it into a parking garage,” Preston muttered as he patted his shirt pockets, looking for his phone. When it didn’t appear in his hand, he turned his glare on the other patrons lining the bar. “Okay, which one of you pricks has my phone?”
None of the greasy-looking characters slouched over the bar bothered to look at him, much less reply.
Preston’s stream of mumbled curses grew louder and more colorful as his fumbling continued to prove fruitless.
“Excuse me, sir.” A clean, feminine hand touched his forearm. The patterns painted on her fingernails somehow made him feel disconnected from his body. Either that, or he’d drunk more than he remembered.
“Yes, sweetheart…” Preston’s lecherous smirk melted into disgust as his eyes followed the arm back to the crusty, scabby body at the other end of it, and a face that no amount of tequila could fix. “Ew.”
He gave her a once-over, just to be sure. Her tattered shirt didn’t hide her sweat-stained bra, or the faux-leather miniskirt that had probably looked cheap even before it started peeling. “Um, no. I’ll stick to my regulars. Leave me alone. I’m having a crisis, here.”
“I can help you find your wallet and your phone,” The woman flashed purple contacts at him, then resumed staring at the floor through a curtain of mud-caked hair. “If you’ll do me a small favor.”
“No, thanks,” Preston sneered. “I’m still taking medicine from the last ‘favor’ I gave a girl.”
“Not that kind of favor,” The woman’s face turned from dirty pink to dirty red. “I need a job. I’ll find your stuff, if you promise to get me a job at your dad’s company. Nothing more. Just get me in, and I’ll do the rest.”
Preston snorted. “Yeah, sure. You find and return my wallet and phone, I’ll get you a job. Promise.”
The woman smiled. She squatted, and felt around on the floor under Preston’s stool. She popped up, holding out a wallet and a cell phone.
Preston snatched them, wiped them down with his napkin, then called for a ride. By the time he staggered out the door, a limo waited for him at the curb.
“About that job…”
Preston pushed the woman away so hard, she bounced off the pub door sprawled on the ground. “Stop harassing me, you filthy whore. I told you I’m not interested.”
He jumped in the limo and drove away, leaving her on the sidewalk.
The next day, Preston strolled into the office at midday, wearing sunglasses and flinching at every loud noise.
His father stood behind Preston’s desk, next to a woman in a sharp business suit. “Son, I’ve been too slack with you. You know a man’s word is his honor. Last night you gave your word, and broke it the moment it suited you.”
Preston scoffed. “It was just some random two-dollar whore, it didn’t mean anything.”
“Keeping your word is about your character, not about the other person.” Mr Vanderbilt shook his head. “I’m afraid I have to relieve you of your position.”
Preston’s mouth opened, but shock blocked any words from coming out.
“This is Luna.” His father nodded toward the woman next to him. “She’ll be taking your old job. She’ll also be in charge of training you, with my full authority.” “From now on, when you give your word, I will hold you accountable for keeping it.” Luna’s green eyes bored into Preston. Her fingernails clicked against the desk. The patterns painted on them made Preston feel disconnected from his body. Her eyes flashed purple, then back to green. “Next, we’ll address the issue of treating others with respect. Once you have that down, we can talk about smaller things, like showing up to work on time.”