The following morning as Cassie emerged into the glittering daylight, everything suddenly seemed to look up. She decided not to think about everything going wrong, and simply focus on finding herself a job so that she could move out of Mrs. Appleby’s; if anything was going to break her it was going to be that mattress! She was 99% certain that she would get a better night’s sleep on the bench that had looked so appealing the previous morning on her arrival in the Valley. She had a clear goal now!
Not wanting to stay in that depressing box any longer than she had to, Cassie left bright and early and spent some time wandering the surrounding streets and getting to know the area while she waited for everything to start opening, the morning sun warm on her shoulders. Her heart still skipped a beat every time she caught a glimpse of the ocean through the houses, and decided to head down there. As she passed a small diner advertising a ‘Pancakes Special’ this turned out to be a very good decision indeed; she decided that it was worth spending a little money on a power breakfast considering the work she needed to put in today!
Savouring each mouthful, Cassie made a game plan. A little nervous of approaching strangers she had contemplated simply writing some letters and posting them, but she decided that the way forward was to take the bull by the horns and do a circuit of everywhere she thought might have work for someone as underqualified as she was. Maybe Sunset Valley was a little more forgiving than Riverview when it came to academic qualifications!
Finishing off the best pancakes she’d ever tasted (Cassie had never realised how appetising food could be when it was beneficial to her budget!), she set off around the town.
‘Sorry love, we’ve just taken on a bunch of new interns last week. You’re too late! Keep an eye on the paper, something might come up.’
‘Oh okay… Well, thanks anyway!’
The grocery store…
‘Jobs? No hun, sorry, we’re a family business, and in the family you are not! Try the book store next to the theatre, I think they were advertising.’
‘Thank you, and sorry to bother you!’
The book store…
‘Jobs? No, sorry, we had a vacancy but it’s been filled by an agency staff, it was only temporary for maternity leave you see.’
‘Okay, well thanks anyway!’
‘Sorry my dear, we need our employees to have done their certificates in culinary hygiene and prep. You can do a course, but it’ll cost you!’
‘Ah okay. I’ll bear that in mind, thank you!’
‘Sorry love, we did have a vacancy on reception but it’s just been filled by that girl, there. Good luck searching though!’
Cassie looked after the girl just leaving and resisted the urge to throw something at her. Damn it, if only she’d come here first! Thanking the woman behind the desk she grouchily slumped out of the building, unable to believe the bad luck she’d had all day. Kicking a stone down the path she tried to think of somewhere else she could apply to, but with her head full of the demoralising day she’d just had she couldn’t think straight.
Screw it, she thought crossly. I’ll go back to the pub.
Sue’s face lit up as she walked through the door, changing quickly to a look of sympathy as she saw how frustrated Cassie clearly was.
‘No luck on the job front, then?’
‘Nope. Nothing at all.’
Sue reached under the bar and brought out a newspaper. ‘Here, have a look. It’s today’s, there might be something you’ve missed somewhere.’
Taking the paper gratefully, Cassie flipped through to the job section. ‘Thanks Sue. Don’t suppose you’ve heard of anything, have you?’
Sue shook her head. ‘Nothing today love, I’m afraid. Although, have you tried the clubs? They’re usually looking for bar staff and stuff, only part time like, but it’d be a bit of an income until you find something proper.’
Cassie beamed. Everything was not lost!
There were two main bars in Sunset Valley so she decided to start with those, figuring that the bigger the establishment the more chance there was of work. She started with Dune, a trendy, open-air club placed right on the sea front and favoured by the celebrities who passed through from time to time promoting their latest projects. Cassie nervously approached the attractive man behind the bar who was sorting everything out for night ahead; the bar didn’t actually open for another couple of hours.
‘Hi! Um… I don’t suppose you’ve got any jobs going, at all, do you?’
The man stood back and appraised her. ‘We do, actually, a position behind the bar.’
Nearly falling off her stool, Cassie held onto the bar for dear life. She just managed to choke out, ‘Seriously!?’
The barman laughed. ‘Yeah, seriously! Alfie, the owner, he’d been working here for a bit but he’s gone back to Bridgeport so we’re a man down at the minute. How’s your mixology?’
Cassie’s heart dropped a little. ‘M…Mixology?’
The man’s expression fell slightly. ‘Ah… Do you not have any experience? We only take on people with experience due to our extensive cocktail menu, we can’t afford for rookies to make mistakes given how expensive some of the ingredients are. Sorry.’
Cassie sighed. ‘It’s okay. I don’t suppose you know of any other bars hiring round here?’
He pondered for a second, wiping down the bar absent mindedly. ‘Y’know, I think I may have heard something about The Grind looking. Might be mistaken though.’
‘Okay. Well, thanks a lot!’
Rejectedly, Cassie made her way back onto the pavement outside the club. She’d been so close! Still, she reasoned, The Grind had been next on her list anyway. She’d heard at the Blue Swan that it was a new club, part of a chain of ‘The Grind’s that were springing up all over the country. If it was new, perhaps there was more of a chance that they needed staff?
By the time she reached the club it had already opened for the night, although it was still reasonably quiet. Walking up to the bar, Cassie noted a group of already more than tipsy men sat round a couple of tables seemingly on a work night out, along with a few other huddles of people who were knocking back the drinks clearly waiting for the night to kick off.
‘What’ll be, love?’
This was it. Her final chance of a job in Sunset Valley, most likely.
‘Um… A job, please? If you’ve got any going?’
The man shook his head instantly, and Cassie tried to ignore the gaping pit that had just opened up in her stomach.
‘Sorry love. Nothing right now I’m afraid.’
Cassie nodded resignedly, and thanked the man anyway, turning away from the bar and right into one of the men from the work do.
‘Oh gosh! I’m so sorry!’
The man gave her a leering smile, looking her up and down lecherously. ‘No need to apologise darling, it’s a pleasure to bump into someone like you!’
Unsure of how to handle the situation, Cassie just smiled. ‘Oh… Well… That’s okay then. Excuse me!’
She tried to get past the man, who caught her by the arm and held her back. ‘Wait, wait! What’s the rush, darling? What’s your name?’
‘Well, Cassie, it’s very nice to meet you. I’m Hank, Hank Goddard. I’m a cop, don’t you know!’
By this point, Hank’s friends had come over and started to wrestle him away from Cassie, who’d been growing ever more uncomfortable with the situation, clearly apologetic and embarrassed on their colleague’s behalf.
‘Sorry, we are SO sorry! He’s just pissed. C’mon Hank, I don’t think Pauline would be too pleased to hear about this…’
With some effort, struggling a little to move the dead weight of the drunkard, they managed to drag the reluctant Hank back over to their tables, apologising all the way. Now that the situation was over Cassie couldn’t help but laugh. It wasn’t every day a drunk policeman, possibly in a relationship already, tried to chat you up! The comedy of it all softened slightly the series of blows the day had brought.
* * *
Laid out in the midday sun, Cassie tried to relax in one of the sunloungers that were scattered along the beach front, although it was proving harder than she had hoped.
A week had passed, and she was not any closer to finding a job. Her only success had been finding the consignment shop, where she had managed to find a few new items of inexpensive clothing, so that she wasn’t stuck with only a couple of outfits.
She didn’t know where to go from here. Should she pack up her dingy room at Mrs. Appleby’s and follow the coastline down to Bridgeport? Head back inland to Twinbrook? Give up, and go home hoping that someone would let her crash on their floor until she found something to do!
Gazing out to sea, Cassie tried to make up her mind. She needed to find a job, and fast. She couldn’t go back to Riverview, she knew that much. She didn’t want to return a failure, didn’t want to add another degree of infamy to her name – ‘That Girl With The Dead Parents, No Diploma, And Failed Voyage To The Valley’ was a nickname too big for her to handle.
Cassie didn’t want to leave Sunset Valley. She’d fallen in love with the bustling town, despite having only lived here a short time. Riverview seemed so very far away, both physically and in memory; her vivid surroundings had started to erase her recollections of the dull countryside. She couldn’t bring herself to go back to all that.
Abruptly, she stood up. She should go to the Blue Swan, have a look through the papers. Perhaps today something would come up.
A quick wave aside Sue was not free to talk to Cassie when she arrived at the pub; the midday rush meant the bar was busier than usual with people coming in on their lunch break. Returning the wave, Cassie grabbed the last remaining paper and flicked through it, waiting for her friend to grab a few free minutes for a chat. As usual, the jobs section was empty of those she could actually pay for. Grumpily, she folded the paper back up and tossed it on the table.
Cassie looked up to see a smartly dressed gentleman stood by her table, looking at her quizzically. He seemed to be quite a bit older than her. She’d seen him in the pub previously; she guessed that he worked nearby and frequented the Blue Swan on his lunch break.
‘Oh, just the usual. Job issues. In that there aren’t any whatsoever!’
‘You’re looking for a job, you say? In what area?’
A little startled by this stranger’s sudden interest in her, Cassie stood up and took the paper back to the bar. ‘Oh, no specific area. Just something that doesn’t really require high qualifications.’
He laughed, the corners of his eyes crinkling. ‘Ah, did you not enjoy school?’
Cassie frowned a little. ‘No, it’s not that, I just… Well, I didn’t do too well in my final exams. Just one of those things.’
‘Those things I understand all too well, my dear. I’m sorry, let me introduce myself – Eric Stanislav, I live here in the Valley. And you are…?’
Shaking his hand, Cassie wondered why he was talking to her. ‘Cassie, Cassie Rivers. I live here too, although I’ve not been here long.’
‘And you say you’re looking for a job, Cassie, Cassie Rivers?’
‘Yes… Why? Do you know of something?!’ Cassie tried not to get her hopes up, she had been in this position before after all. Still, even if he didn’t it wouldn’t hurt to have a contact who was in business, would it?
‘I do, as a matter of fact. I’m looking to hire someone myself!’
Cassie could have sworn her heart literally stopped. ‘You are? What for?!’
Eric smiled broadly. ‘I’m looking for a live-in nanny and housekeeper. I have a daughter, Maria, she is very young, only two years old, and no-one to look after her. It is just the two of us, you see… Anyway, due to my occupation I’m forced to work all sorts of hours, and I simply cannot be there to look after her as much as I’d like to. Are you good with children?’
‘Yes! I had… have, I have a younger brother who I helped my parents to look after, he was, is, only four years old himself…’
‘Excellent! Ah, my business associate is here. Give me your phone?’
Cassie handed over her mobile, practically in a state of shock. Could this really be happening? Eric tapped away on the keypad, entering his number into the memory bank.
‘Here, this is me. Give me a call this evening, around six o’clock, and we can work out some sort of trial period? You would save me a lot of bother and expense, my girl, if I didn’t have to advertise the position! Good day!’
Eric turned to a man in a labcoat who was patiently waiting with a package for him and quickly immersed himself in conversation, almost as if he’d not been speaking to Cassie at all. She looked at the new number entered into her phone.
Finally, a job she could do that wouldn’t require a tonne of qualifications! She really was good with children, and anyone could clean up a house. Although… Live-in? That would mean that she wouldn’t have to find somewhere new to stay… But then, could she really practically move in with this strange man she’d spoken to for the first time today? She didn’t know him, she didn’t know anything about him. But he had offered her a trial… Would it hurt to try it out, for a short while at least?
Oh, god. Surely it was too good to be true?