Allison stared at the bank balance on her computer screen, willing it to climb higher, to expand. She remembered staring at the presents under the Christmas tree, when she was still young enough to think Christmas was the best day of the year, trying the same experiment. Willing them to open and reveal the tricycle or pony or giant stuffed panda she longed for.
As in her childhood, wishing on her bank account did not yield results.
The money she’d saved from the last round of family Christmas checks (so much less fun to imagine opening than a pile of gaily wrapped presents, yet so welcome) was nearly gone. Given her decision to end her education and invest in an old house, and her father’s illness, she could not be sure that anyone in her family would be pulling out their checkbooks this year.
She considered, briefly, asking Leo for rent. He offered, periodically, reminding her of how much she could get for the basement if she rented it on the open market. But he was working on her house, buying groceries, and providing the kind of company that kept her sane. Plus, she shuddered at the idea of finding a stranger who would live underneath her.
“Time to get a job,” she said out loud, testing the sound of the words. But what kind of job could someone with a master’s degree in a field that only rewarded doctorates find in a town that had an economy built on retail and tourism?
Allison decided to print out her most recent resume, ready to curl up in a chair with coffee and a red pencil to revise it. Her printer blinked a warning: low ink. Her spirits rose. A trip to her favorite book and office supply store perked her up.
The “Help Wanted – Holiday Season” sign on their front door seemed like a welcome message from the universe.
Allison plucked up her best professional smile, pushed the door open, and asked the girl at the first register for an application.
“You’re kind of overqualified, aren’t you?” the girl asked. “I mean, I think I recognize you from campus. You were a grad student in my department.”
Allison tried not to let her smile deflate. “We all need to make a living.”
“Sure, of course. Well, we do all our applications online.” The girl handed over a business card with the web address and a look of gentle pity. “Hey, put my name down as the person who referred you, would you? Because if they hire you I’ll get a reward.”
“Sure,” Allison answered, suddenly needing to get out of there without her ink cartridges. “Thanks.”
“My name is Lydia,” the girl called after her as Allison headed for the door.