“Look,” Melissa ran a hand over her damp brow and swallowed back a growing lump of desperation, “I don’t want to beg, but honestly, you’re my last chance at this point. If you don’t hire me, I’ll be reduced to …” she rapidly blinked tears from her eyes, “I’ll have to,” she continued with a firmer tone, “file for government assistance.”
She resisted the urge to shudder. She had always been fiercely independent and had always taken great pride in the fact that she had never once asked for help, even when she was homeless and living out of her car shortly after high school graduation. Her parents had tried to help her but she had refused, wanting to make it on her own. And after several long years of being hungry and dead tired, she had finally made it – she was a successful Real Estate agent.
Life had been great, she had been on top of her game … until the market crashed and suddenly, she couldn’t give her houses away or find a lender that would actually lend anyone any money.
She had earned her Real Estate license shortly after she kicked Timothy out of the door. Of course, the economy took a nosedive shortly thereafter and since she was one of the last to be hired, she was one of the first to be fired.
It was bad timing. The story of her life, actually.
“But,” the woman squirmed uncomfortably in her chair while looking back down at her resume, “you made so much money at your previous job. I’m afraid there is no way I could offer you anything even remotely close to the same figure …”
Melissa leaned forward, sensing the woman’s reluctance to turn her away. “That’s okay. I’m willing to take anything you can offer me. I …” she cleared her throat before continuing, “I have two children at home.” She shrugged lightly and appealed to her, woman-to-woman, mother-to-mother, “I don’t really have a choice. You understand, don’t you?”
She felt bad for playing the mother card, but she was beyond caring about nursing her pride at this point – her children were hungry, the mortgage was due and if she skipped one more car payment, they would likely take it away from her. She had been in difficult situations before; she would dig her way out of this one, too.
The woman smiled and Melissa allowed herself to relax, but only a little. She was making headway, but she wasn’t in the clear yet.
“Well,” the woman hedged and Melissa tensed right back up again. “You don’t really have any managerial experience.”
“Actually, I do,” she responded back with a smile. “Well, indirectly,” she hurriedly continued as she noted the woman’s brows arch. “I’m very used to dealing with people, all sorts of people. And I’m very good at reading people. I can sell them something before they even realize they want it.”
The woman chuckled and nodded her agreement. “I’m sure you can. You’ve sold me, that’s for sure.”
Melissa sat up straight and looked the woman in the eye. “Does this mean …?”
The interviewer stood up and Melissa followed her lead by also standing.
“Alright, Ms. Snodgrass, we’ll give you a shot.”
“Oh, thank you, Mrs. Tindle. You won’t be sorry, I guarantee it.” She firmly clasped the woman’s hand and placed her other hand on top of the woman’s wrist to show her gratitude. “When do you want me to start?”
“Can you come in tomorrow? I know it’s short notice …”
Melissa held up a hand. “Done. I’m at your disposal.”
Mrs. Tindle nodded her satisfaction and pushed a fat manila envelope across the desk top. “Here is your paperwork. I’ll need you to return these to me when you come in tomorrow. I’m afraid I can only offer you $25,000 to begin with.”
Melissa could feel her grateful smile freezing at the corners upon hearing the amount, but she pushed her disappointment to the back of her mind. That was a whole $30,000 dollars less than she had been making at her previous job. She did a quick mental calculation, it would be very difficult to make ends meet, especially at first, but she would make it work.
She had to. What choice did she have?
“If everyone who worked for me was like you, I could retire.”
Melissa smiled before placing her pen down and glancing over her shoulder to look at her boss. She could feel a slow, pleased blush filling her pale cheeks.
“Well, thanks,” she chuckled.
“I’m serious,” Ruth Tindle took the chair at the end of the counter and stretched out her legs. “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all of your hard work, Melissa. Hiring you was the best decision I ever made.”
With her face now burning brightly, she held up a hand and pretended to check a quick fact on her sheet so she wouldn’t start tearing up. She didn’t know what was wrong with her these days – every little thing made her cry.
“I’m just grateful for the job, Ruth. You’ve saved my family.”
It was Ruth’s turn to wave a flippant hand. “You’re smart. You would have figured something out. I’m not …” she paused for long seconds and Melissa looked over at her. Ruth wet her lips before continuing. “I just wish I could pay you more. You’re worth so much more than the peanuts I pay you now.”
Melissa also wished she could get paid more. Her life was so stressful now. She had to cut out so many luxuries and though she didn’t really mind for herself, it killed her to have to say no to the children all the time. She had never been one to spoil her children to begin with, but now, she found she couldn’t even afford to take them out for ice cream any more. Money was simply too tight. Every last cent she made went to her house payment. If something didn’t happen soon, she would be forced to sell their home and move to a different part of town. She had listed her car in the paper just that morning, perhaps that would buy her a bit more time. She would be relying on public transportation for a while.
Melissa placed a hand over her nervous stomach and pasted a brave smile on her face. “At least I have a job. There are so many more people I know who are still looking.”
“True,” Ruth agreed sadly.
The phone rang and both women jumped before giving self-depreciating chuckles.
“I’ll get it,” Ruth said and reached for the receiver.
Melissa nodded and returned her attention back to her paperwork. She heard her boss speaking, but she wasn’t really paying attention. She was concentrating on whether they would have enough food to make a fresh meal that night, or if they would need to eat leftovers, again.
“Yes?” She pushed the food worry from her mind and turned her attention back to the job at hand.
“It’s for you.”
“It’s the school.”