In the morning I woke up, my head throbbing. Had I dreamt the phone call? I checked my messages and saw the text from the science lab. My head hung slightly and decided to give Aiden a call later that day.
I didn’t get a hold of him until it was almost time for work, so I had to keep the conversation brief. After a quick how-have-you-been-doing, I cut straight to the chase. “Did you tell anyone at the science place about how much chess I’ve been playing?”
“Hmm…” Aiden was quite a moment then said, “No, not to my knowledge. Why?”
“I got a call at midnight,” I said then explained to him what had happened.
Now Aiden chuckled. “That sounds really weird! It was probably someone playing a joke.”
“You’re right,” I said with a grin. “Some weirdo playing a joke.”
Over the next few days, Pauline worked on finishing up my house. Work was going well and I got used to stocking and restocking… and rerestocking. It really surprised me at how many hopeful mothers-to-be bought apples and watermelons.
One night when I left the store I saw a familiar face. I looked over at the girl, wondering where I had seen her. She was standing outside the movie theater, looking rather bored. When she turned and I saw her full face, it clicked. She was Ayesha Ansari, the girl I was supposed to talk to about logic.
“Excuse me…” I went over to her, feeling like a complete gimboid. “You’re Ayesha, right?” She gave me a suspicious look, and I didn’t blame her. I plunged on. “This is gonna sound so weird but, see, I got a strange phone call from the science lab–“
She held up one hand. “Don’t tell me. They asked you to convince me on how awesome logic is, right?”
I rubbed the back of my head. “Sounds stupid, right?”
“Not at all. Well, kinda, but that’s how things work around here. You can’t keep your skills a secret for very long and eventually someone will want you to do something…” She smiled at me. “I guess it’s my fault for bad-mouthing Landgraab Industries. Go ahead and give me the speech, otherwise they’ll be sending someone else to convince me!”
We talked for quite a while. She listened patiently as I made up a bunch of stuff and also included a few things the science lab suggested. When I was done, she pat my arm and thanked me. “I’ll apologize to them for what I said and thank you for coming to talk to me. You’re a bit nicer than some of the other people who do this.”
We exchanged numbers upon her request and as I turned to leave, she grabbed my arm. “But Jacob…”
“Yes?” I asked, wondering if I had just done something wrong. Or… surely she wasn’t going to start flirting with me like Pauline always did!
But Ayesha just gave me a worried look. “Be careful, okay? Landgraab Industries… ” She looked around nervously and pulled me in close. “They’ve done some great things for the world but they’ve also worked on some less than pleasant experiments. Try not to get tied to them.”
“My friend works there,” I said, biting my bottom lip. “He’s trustworthy.”
Ayesha smiled sweetly. “Not everyone there is a weirdo but I just wanted to let you know to be careful. Okay?”
I thanked her for her concern and headed on home. My worries disappeared when I stepped into my house and discovered Pauline had finished. The wallpaper and paint had gone up the day before and now I had floorboards and a sink.
I looked around my finished house and smiled. I couldn’t believe all this was mine. Mine, and not something given to me by my father or mother. Not that they’d ever give me a house, anyway. My dad would probably insist it was a waste of space and money.
I ran my fingers through my hair and turned my thoughts to something cheerful. Despite having bills now, I was starting to earn money. Plus a tiny discount at the store helped with my food bill. Not that I ate much, I just bought a few apples or tomatoes and those were my meals. But soon I’d be able to afford a fridge, and then after that… who knew?
I sat down on top of my sleeping bag, hugging my knees to my chest and looking around. My lot seemed so tiny when I had bought it and when the four walls had gone up the space inside seemed even smaller. Now with everyone fixed up, it seemed huge. Too big. Too empty. I’d change my mind about the emptiness once I started getting furniture, yeah, but still…
Soon I realized the emptiness was not a problem of space, but a problem inside my mind. I frowned and went into my sleeping bag, pushing the feelings of loneliness out.
And so, life in Sunset Valley continued. Over the next few months I got a small raise and then a promotion. As soon as I could afford it, I bought a fridge which was barely stocked. I never had much of an appetite and even with a fridge I usually had nothing more than a sandwich. Especially since I needed to get some dishes… ergh. Life on your own, leaving your parents, was difficult.
Over time I got a membership to the gym. I really enjoyed the pool but when I tried out the exercise machine…
I got off the treadmill, my face flooding with embarrassment. In less than half an hour I had fallen down four times and some guy on a nearby treadmill kept laughing at me. I left the gym, deciding not to waste the money on a full membership anymore. I’d just go walking a lot. Besides, it felt as though my athleticism never even went up at the public gym!
I kept the half-pass, though. The one that gave me acess to the pool.
But it was starting to get a bit too lonely. I decided that I needed a change. I remembered Aiden talking about Busy Bee’s Daycare, and thought that perhaps a new job was in order. Maybe that would help, since my dating life hadn’t been going so well. I had been on exactly two dates since coming into Sunset Valley, both with different people–and both had gone so badly that we never spoke again.
My third date didn’t go so well either….
It was almost the end of fall and I had been asked out by a fellow gym-goer. We had met in the pool and after splashing around and having contests to see who could hold their breath the longest, I was asked out.
“Meet me at ten tonight at the club by the beach.” So after work I ran home and got a long shower then spent some money on a cab so I wouldn’t have to walk all the way to the club. When I got there at five-till my date was no where to be seen. Shrugging, I sat down at the bar and waited. And waited. And waited.
And waited some more. I went through a couple drinks and by midnight I gave up and headed home, feeling quite depressed.
My first winter in Sunset Valley was nice. It got pretty chilly but I didn’t need to wear long-sleeves every day. There were still flowers everywhere and the trees never lost their leaves. It was a bit sad, not seeing any snow or leaves changing color. Maybe one day things will change, I thought as a cool breeze rustled through my hair. I set down the box and straightened rub, rubbing my back. I had just come from the store where I had bought a toybox and some toys. If I was going to run a daycare out of my house, I’d need some kid stuff!
Not bad, I thought to myself as I situated it in my house. I took off my jacket and gave the Busy Bee center a call. I was super nervous and nearly hung up when a woman answered the phone. I introduced myself and asked her if they were still looking for employees. She assured me they were and, after asking a few questions, told me she’d be by the next day to check out my house.
I was so nervous. Mrs. Bee would be by any minute! What would I do? What would I say? What if she turned me down? What if she laughed in my face? STOP IT! I yelled at myself. I rubbed my temples for a bit, calming myself down until…
Ding-dong! I spun around and crept over to the door. A bespectacled woman stood in front of me, a small satchel over one shoulder and a big smile on her mouth. She introduced herself as Elouia Bee.
I let her inside and the first thing she did was pull out a small container of cookies. “I know how nerve-wracking this is,” she laughed, offering me a cookie. “Go on, have one.”
After we both went through a couple of cookies, I felt much more relaxed. We started talking about my current job and then I explained why I wanted a new one. “I love kids!” I exclaimed, clasping my hands together. “My dream is to one day have a big family. I’ve always loved kids. I always knew I wanted to spend my life taking care of them.”
“You certainly sound passionate about this,” Mrs. Bee replied. “But passion for the job isn’t everything. I need to know you’ll be a good employee…”
The look on her face made me feel sick. I had the feeling she’d turn me down. But she adjusted her glasses and smirked. “You look nervous again. I just meant that I need to inspect your house!”
I exhaled slowly. “Of course!” I said brightly. “I knew that!”
Mrs. Bee winked at me and then began looking around, making sure my house was suitable for little ones.
Finally she started asking me questions again, about what I’d do in certain situations.
She seemed to enjoy the silly faces I started making and made a few of her own. We laughed for a moment then she pulled a form out of her bag. “You’d be a perfect addition to the Busy Bee Daycare. Just fill these out and bring them by my office tomorrow, and I’ll give you your uniform and introduce you to your first clients.”
I couldn’t stop the beam from coming to my face. “Thank you so much!” I said, taking her hand and shaking it enthusiastically. I managed to wait until she was gone before breaking into a dance and pumping my fists in the air several times.
Things were definitely looking up!