She was nervous. That alone surprised her. She had no reason to be. Things were finally coming right. This was just a temporary measure. A summer job. Some extra cash. Pocket money. She wasn’t a waitress. Not again. This was different. There was light at the end of the tunnel now.
She jumped as her phone buzzed against her leg. She glanced up at the clock on the wall. 4:54. She had time. With a surreptitious glance at the receptionist who kept shooting curious looks in her direction, she pulled out the cell. A red light flashed at her. Her heart started. This was it. This was it. This was the moment she had been waiting for. She could see the light now. It was so close she could touch it. And the timing couldn’t be better.
She punched in her passkey and opened her inbox. Her heart accelerated. Right name. Right address. Right reference number. Her hands shook as she clicked open.
It took her a few moments to actually process the one word that changed everything. “Sorry.” Her hands shook worse than ever. She didn’t need to read the rest but she did anyway. In case there was some mistake.
And in that moment she felt the light go out. She should have known better. Known better than to pin everything on hope. Her chest tightened and suddenly she was glancing at the receptionist again. She expected everyone to be staring at her. As though they too could see that her world had just fallen apart and her with it.
She felt the tears coming. She winced as someone said her name. She felt the shadow fall over her. The phone was still in her hands. A voice in the back of her head told her to put it away but she couldn’t. Instead her fingers gripped onto it tighter and tighter until it scored into her skin. She looked up and used the last of her control.
“I’m sorry. I just can’t.”
She left her potential employer just staring after her as she gathered her things and ran. As the tears came, she didn’t want to stop. She didn’t want to face her reality. She knew it was foolish. She knew it was a good job; demeaning, punishing and soul-sucking, but a good job for money she now needed. But she just couldn’t do it. No. She wouldn’t do it. She wouldn’t work under these conditions. Not anymore.