Job hunting, I text back.
Yeah, I text. Sorry.
So when can I see the place? Paul wants a tour, too.
I have no more excuses at the ready. Sure, I could come up with something on the fly about tomorrow and even the rest of the week, but I can’t spend the next three months making excuses. I need to tell her the truth.
Chloe’s reply is immediate. Why not???
No visitors. Building policy.
I’ve barely finished sending the text when my phone rings.
“What kind of bullshit is that?” Chloe says as soon as I answer. “No visitors? Even prisons allow visitors.”
“I know, I know. It sounds weird.”
“Because it is weird,” Chloe says. “I’ve never heard of a building telling residents they can’t have guests.”
“But I’m not a resident. I’m an employee.”
“And friends can visit each other at their workplaces. You’ve been to my office plenty of times.”
“Rich and important people live here. Emphasis on the rich. And they’re big on privacy. I can’t really blame them. I’d be, too, if I was a movie star or billionaire.”
“You’re getting defensive,” Chloe says.
“I’m not,” I reply, even though a definite edge has sliced into my words.
“Jules, I’m just looking out for you.”
“I don’t need looking after. Nothing bad is going to happen. I’m not my sister.”
“Between this no-visitors thing, my grandfather’s weirdness, and what Paul has told me about the place, I’m starting to get freaked out.”
“Wait—what did Paul say?”
“Just that it’s all so secretive,” Chloe says. “He said it’s next to impossible to live there. The president of his firm wanted to buy there. They wouldn’t even let him inside the building. They told him nothing was available but that they could put him on a ten-year waiting list. And then there’s the article I read.”
My mind is starting to spin. I feel an annoyance headache coming on. “What article?”
“I found it online. I’m going to email it to you. It talks about all the weird stuff that’s happened at the Bartholomew.”
“What kind of weird are we talking about?”
“American Horror Story–level weird. Illnesses and strange accidents. A witch lived there, Jules. An actual witch. I’m telling you, that place is shady.”
“It’s the complete opposite of shady.”
“Then what would you call it?”
“I call it a job.” I look out the window, taking in George’s wing, the park below, the city beyond it. “A dream job. In a dream apartment.”
“That I’m not allowed to see,” Chloe adds.
“Is it unusual? Sure. But it’s the easiest job in the world. It’s practically money for nothing. Why should I give that up? Just because the people who live here are private?”
“What you really should be asking is why they’re so private,” Chloe says. “Because, in my experience, if something seems too good to be true, that’s because it is.”
The call ends with the two of us agreeing to disagree. I tell Chloe I understand her concerns. She tells me she’s happy something good has happened. We make plans to have dinner soon, even though I can’t really afford it until next week.
That task out of the way, I go about looking for a job. I wasn’t lying to Chloe about that. It’s how I plan to spend today—and all the days after it. I grab my laptop and check the latest postings on a half-dozen different job sites. There are plenty of openings available, just not for me. The curse of being your basic office drone. I’m a dime a dozen, and everyone is looking for a quarter.
Still, I make a note of all the jobs that land within my narrow window of qualifications and compose cover letters for each of them. I resist the urge to begin them all with Please give me a job. Please let me prove myself. Please give me back the feeling of self-worth that’s been missing from my life.
Instead, I write the platitudes all potential employers want to read. Stuff about seeking new challenges, adding to my work experience, reaching my goals. I send them off with my résumé. Three in all, joining the previous four I’ve sent in the past two weeks.
My expectations of hearing back from any of them aren’t high. Lately I’ve found it best not to get my hopes up about things. My father was the same way. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, he used to say.
By the end, he ran out of hope, and nothing could have prepared him for what lay in store.
With the job search, such as it is, out of the way, I open a spreadsheet on my laptop and try to come up with a budget for the next few weeks. It’s frighteningly tight. In the past, I relied on credit cards to get me through lean times. That’s no longer an option. All three of my cards are maxed and, at the moment, frozen. All I have to live on is what’s in my checking account, a figure that makes my heart sink when I check my balance.
I now have only four hundred and thirty-two dollars to my name.
I now have only three hundred and twenty-two dollars to my name.