The Baker's Girl
She didn’t like most endings. They were... they were final.
And yet she was staring an ending right in the face. Her hands were clutching her bags, struggling to hold onto anything that wasn’t leaving. Her clothes certainly weren’t leaving her.
It wasn’t much of a comfort, though, as much as she loved her cloud hoodie.
She sighed desolately as she left her former home. Her owner wanted to move. She did not. So they’d parted ways, each one looking for a new beginning.
Everyone assumed beginnings came from out of nowhere, she mused as she walked down the gravelly lane. But they didn’t. They came from something else ending, when that ending forced a new path of action.
Even a Draik’s hatching wouldn’t come from nowhere. It was the outcome of millions upon millions of Neopoints being shelled out for an egg. And so came the end of the egg, and the beginning of the Draik inside of it.
She hadn’t been hatched. She wished she had been, though she wasn’t a Draik; it was an ending she could face.
With every footstep a thousand worries were bestowed upon her.
She did not run, or walk faster. She welcomed the worries – they gave her something to focus on.
I suppose I’m going to need a job, if I want to feed myself. And I should possibly buy a house. I’m not sure I want to stay at The Royal Neopian for very long. It does seem like a very nice hotel, though. I wonder what kinds of places are hiring. I know the pharmacy is, I probably wouldn’t get a very large paycheck there, though. Maybe I’ll see if there’s a restaurant around that’s hiring. I’d love to make a living baking.
Such thoughts swirled around in her mind until she found herself staring her new beginning right in the face.
“Name, please?” the purple Shoyru desk attendant asked politely.
“Juliet,” she said softly.
The Shoyru looked for her name in the log book, and then gave her a key. “You have room 54. Second floor, in the middle.”
She took the key, hoisted her bags up, and trekked up the stairwell. The windows on the second floor were open, and the air was warm and stuffy.
She didn’t like summer weather.
She put her key in the lock on the door to room 54, and held her breath for reasons unknown. She turned the key, and the door swung open.
She released the breath she’d been holding as she peered into the room.
“What was I expecting?” she whispered to herself. She set her bags down on the floor by the door, and looked around. “Welcome home, me.”
She unpacked swiftly and then grabbed her free continental copy of the Neopian Times. She flipped the pages over until she found the job listings.
Clerk, clerk, receptionist, clerk, mail, baker, clerk... wait. Baker?
She scanned the description for the job, humming in approval and anticipation. She rummaged through the desk for paper and a pen, and wrote a very short letter asking for an application.
Then she went down to the hotel’s restaurant for dinner.
Thank you for your interest in a position at The Cookie Jar. Enclosed are an application and an in-depth job description.
I look forward to reviewing your application.
The Cookie Jar
Juliet skimmed the job description, finding nothing new or of interest on it, and set to work on the application.
It was simple enough. She knew very well that she was a female purple Aisha. She knew her birthday, her age.
It wasn’t until she reached the last section that she felt concerned. Previous experience? She didn’t have any previous experience working in a bakery.
She wrote “amateur chef and baker” in the box and hoped it would be enough for at least an interview.
She mailed the application back to the bakery, and prepared to face the day.
“Excuse me, miss,” said a voice behind her, disturbing her thoughts.
She shifted in her seat to look at a young yellow Grarrl wearing an apron. “Yes?” she said.
“Are you ready to order?” he asked.
She blinked and looked down at her hands. Hands that were holding a menu. “Oh, uhm. Not quite yet, thank you.”
The Grarrl nodded and disappeared. She shifted in her seat and opened the menu.
She’d have coffee, of course. She couldn’t live without that stuff. What else? Hrm. The nova waffles looked good. She’d have those.
The yellow Grarrl came back around presently, and scribbled her order down while he took her menu from her.
She didn’t have to wait long.
She was grateful for the steaming coffee and she tried to clear her head. The waffles weren’t much of a distraction, but at least they tasted good.
I am sorry, but we are not looking to hire anyone without professional experience for the position you applied for. I wish you luck in your future job-seeking endeavors.
The Cookie Jar
She looked at the paper, unfeeling. It figured, really.
Everyone wanted professionally experienced employees. How were you supposed to get the experience if nobody wanted to hire an amateur? Your only options then were to get a low-paying desk job or start your own business.
Neither was very engaging. Desk jobs were, well, boring. They didn’t tend to pay well for the hours you put in. Starting your own business was a nice idea, she mused, except for the huge financial risk. You’d need enough money to launch it in the first place, and then you’d need a miracle to make sure the business stood on the ground and made you a profit at the end of the day.
She sighed and tossed the letter into the rubbish bin.
Best to forget about it.
The days continued, long and unrelenting and monotonous. She sent out applications for a week, a total of ten, and only the last one had granted her an interview. She wasn’t sure why a clerk job at a pharmacy required an interview, but oh well. It was her last chance.
She was running out of money to stay at the hotel. The restaurant wasn’t exactly cheap, either. She went food shopping at the grocery store once, but she was so caught up in her anxieties that she could barely cook anything.
It was easier to just pick up a fork and eat what was right in front of her.
She straightened her jacket and inspected herself in the mirror. She looked presentable enough.
She grabbed her bag and headed into the stuffy hallway and down the stairs and out the door.
It was raining outside. Lovely. At least it was just a drizzle and not a downpour. She didn’t need to go back inside and get an umbrella.
Still, she stuck to covered areas on her walk to the pharmacy. No need to show up looking like she didn’t have any dignity.
She paused in front of the pharmacy door, thinking that the termination of unemployment was an ending she could probably face, even though it would change her lifestyle.
“Welcome,” a matronly-looking blue Elephante said.
“Hi. I’m here for an interview,” Juliet said, holding out the letter.
“Oh, yes, with Ivy,” the Elephante said as she scanned the letter. “She should be in the office, in the back.”
“Thank you,” Juliet said, taking the letter back and weaving her way through the aisles.
The office door was nondescript. If the Elephante hadn’t told her it was an office door she would never have guessed.
She turned the knob and saw a stick-thin red Acara with glasses reading something. The Acara looked up as Juliet entered the room, and then glanced at the clock.
“Juliet, correct?” she asked. “I’m Ivy. Do sit down.”
She left the pharmacy in a slightly different mood than she entered with. She felt a little more optimistic at the end of her state of unemployment. She only hoped she could stand working as a clerk.
At least she didn’t have to wear a uniform.
The rain was coming down a little harder now, and she kept her head down as she made her way back to The Royal Neopian. She bumped into a solid yellow mass at the door of the hotel, and stepped away to see the yellow Grarrl waiter she saw every morning at breakfast time.
“Sorry,” she muttered.
“Not a problem,” the Grarrl said. “What are you doing out here?”
“I was at the pharmacy,” she said. “It wasn’t raining this hard when I left.”
“Yeah, it just started up a few minutes ago,” he said, holding the door open. “Have a nice day.”
“You too,” she said softly.
The lobby was full of soaking patrons, water drops forming dark spots on the carpet. She made her way through the small crowd, grateful for the heat of the hallway of floor two for once.
Once at her room she immediately shrugged her jacket off and assaulted her hair with a towel until it was dry. Then she went down to the restaurant for some coffee.
Life toiled on. Her job was boring, but at least she got some money doing it. Savings went into the bank bit by bit as she swore to never take the money out until she had enough for a house.
The day had come. Well, almost. She was looking at a house for sale, right on the outskirts of Neopia Central. It was a nice little neighborhood, and a nice little house. It was also within walking distance of the pharmacy.
I wonder if the living room would look better yellow or white. I don’t like the blue that it is now. And what am I going to do with the basement? I don’t need an office or a library or anything. The rest of the house looks really nice, though. I like the kitchen a lot, nice and big. Perfect for baking and cooking.
She wasn’t listening to a word the real estate agent was telling her as they walked around the house. She didn’t care about the age of the house, or the antique bookshelf in the living room, or the handmade wallpaper in the attic. She only cared that the house worked and that she had a nice kitchen.
“I’ll take it,” she said as soon as they’d stopped walking. “Where do I sign?”
The house was bare. She didn’t mind. She’d said her goodbyes to the hotel complete with daily-made bed and refrigerator and fresh donuts gladly, but with a sense of melancholy.
She’d never stay in that hotel again, she was sure. It would forever be linked to where she was at now, and it would forever hold a feeling of nostalgia.
She’d unpacked and put away her things, all the while musing over what she’d need to buy. She had a bed and a full working bathroom, so that was a start.
I’ll need to buy a refrigerator. And an oven – the one in the kitchen is a little small. And paint for the living room, of course. I think I’ll go with yellow. I must have a coffee maker, too. Wait, white would be more versatile than yellow. I guess I’ll see what sort of furniture I want first.
She changed into her pajamas. She turned the light out. She crawled into bed.
And she tried to sleep.
She didn’t like most endings, still, but she’d grown used to them and didn’t mind them quite as much. She was warier of beginnings now.
Life was okay. She was managing better than she thought she would – she had a steady paycheck, she’d earned her own lodgings; she’d done well for herself.
She’d painted her living room yellow.