"Leeta! I'm not paying you to stand around and daydream," Quark hissed.
"All right, all right," Leeta said, slipping her shoes back on and heading out into the bar from the cramped storage closet. In the union negotiations, Quark had agreed to give his employees one fifteen-minute break per shift, but only as long as they kept out of sight while they weren't working. The last thing he wanted was for it to become public knowledge that he was soft on employees, by Ferengi standards. But boy, that fifteen minutes off her feet, without the ridiculous 'high-heeled' shoes that were required for Dabo girls, made a huge difference.
She pasted a smile on her face, patted her hair to make sure it was fine, and strode out into the bar towards the Dabo tables. She was the first to take her break; it was the midafternoon lull so things weren't busy. Still, there were two tables going, and it looked like Etheria had a live one at the main table. Not a good time to interrupt, so she headed to the other one.
"Your turn," she murmured to Kimor as she passed. Kimor nodded, gave a general smile at the crowd gathered around the table, and slipped away.
Leeta assessed the table as she stepped up to the wheel. No heavy drinkers at the moment, and those were always their first targets. (Besides making more money for the bar by consuming more, heavy drinkers also tended to lose more money at the tables. Keeping them happy was, according to Quark, the most important thing a Dabo girl could do.) The three Bajorans were all married, relatively happily from their conversation, she figured. She didn't mess with happily married guys, no matter what Quark ordered, so she just gave them her generic smile, no special treatment. There were no Ferengi, which was good because Quark considered Ferengi only slightly below heavy drinkers in the hierarchy of People To Schmooze, and Leeta generally didn't like Ferengi. They were too slimy, like she was just a piece of meat. Except for Rom, Rom didn't look at her that way. Not that he dared to look at her often. Leeta prevented a sigh with long practice, and started her well-practiced chatter, collecting bets and getting the game rolling.
It didn't take much of her attention, which was just perfect. She flashed a smile at a Bolian walking by, which turned genuine when he returned it and stepped up to the table to join the game. She'd been reading up about Bolians since the last time one had played at her table. Really fascinating people. Their biochemistry affected their social arrangements in ways Leeta would never have thought of!
It was so nice to have a job where her hobby—people watching, especially exotic people—was such an asset.
"I'm going over to Glidia's to watch a vid," Leeta said as she dressed for the day. She and Glidia were on evening/overnight shift today, which meant they had the day free. "Want to come?"
"No," Kimor said, flopping down onto her bed and grabbing a PADD. "I'm going to study."
"Again?" Leeta said. "Girl, you were on your feet all day, and you haven't done anything but work and study in the two months since I met you! You have got to loosen up a little."
"Easy for you to say," Kimor said. "You have no ambition. You're content to be a Dabo girl until you're too ugly for Quark."
"Hey, that's not true!" Leeta said. "I'm saving up to buy my own restaurant. Or maybe a bar, I haven't decided. It'll take a while, but I'll get there. But denying myself time to relax now isn't going to make that day come any sooner."
"Why would you want a bar?" Kimor said, wrinkling her forehead. Leeta hadn't figured out how to interpret her body language—there wasn't much information available on Kimor's species, at least none she could get her hands on without asking a favor from Quark—but she figured it meant puzzlement. At least, it would on most species.
"Because I know how they work," Leeta said. "Also, there aren't many better places to watch people. And you know how much I love that."
"I do," Kimor said, an undecipherable look on her face. It was strange: with customers, Kimor was a perfect Dabo girl, showing exactly the body language they expected. That changed completely when she wasn't in the bar, almost like she was a different person.
"So, what 's your ambition?" Leeta asked. "What are you studying for?"
"I … don't know, exactly," Kimor said. "I'm trying to get my GED, now."
"GED? Oh, that minimum basic knowledge thing the Federation has?"
"Yes," Kimor said. "I thought, when my contract was transferred to Quark's, that being in Federation space would be better. I could leave, and get a different job, and I wouldn't have to be on display for alien men anymore. But I hadn't realized how few skills I have. Almost every job I can think of is either done by machines or takes more knowledge than any Ferengi allowed anyone in my family to have, ever. Even my brothers wouldn't be able to get work, and the Ferengi let them learn a lot more than me."
"I understand," Leeta said. It was the most she'd heard Kimor say since she arrived on the station and they started rooming together. "The Cardassians were the same way. Well, they didn't make all that much distinction between men and women, but they didn't want any Bajorans who weren't 'safe' to go to school or anything. It was a privilege for good behavior. I doubt there's a job on the station outside the bar that I would qualify for."
"It is wonderful to be here," Kimor said. "When I'm outside the bar, no one stares at me. Women are equals, here. But … that means that I have to work hard to catch up."
"Well," Leeta said, "I hope you do." There were a lot of jobs on Bajor that didn't need education beyond what Kimor had, but aliens weren't always very welcome there after the Cardassian invasion, so Leeta didn't suggest it. "Although if Federation women were truly a hundred percent equal to men, I doubt they'd have any article of women's clothing as uncomfortable as those shoes we have to wear."
"I don't mind them," Kimor said. She paused. "Leeta, I've heard you talking with Doctor Bashir. You were talking about something called sociology—that is one of their sciences. If you like it, you could study it, and get a job in that field. Then you wouldn't have to work in the bar, and it would be better even than running one of your own."
"Says who?" Leeta said with a snort. "Sociology is a fancy word for people watching. And you know what their sciences involve? Reports. Lots and lots and lots of reports. I'd rather talk with people than write about them. Working in a bar is a lot more interesting than working at a desk. No, I'm happy where I am. It's not perfect, but it's good." She glanced at the chronometer. "Hey, I'd better get going, or Glidia will wonder where I am. Good luck on your studies!"
"Thank you," Kimor said, already absorbed in her PADD.
Leeta went on her way, humming, enjoying her day. It was so nice to finally have some insight into her roommate. She was really looking forward to the vid Glidia had got for them. Her tips had been good this week, and she'd been able to put a bit more in her savings this week than usual. If things kept up, she'd be able to buy a bar of her own in a few years!