Better Luck Next Time/ Chapter 1
DECEMBER 19TH, 2015
The weather was cold and snow was almost certainly looming. The heavy clouds hung permanently above Nora as she drove her two door Ford Explorer into a half ice and half snow-covered lot. Both options were less than ideal but she knew her tank of a car could handle snow better than her bare tires could handle ice. She pulled her car into one of the first two spots in the row right in front of the brick building, coated thickly with yesterdays snow.
Nora checked the time and put her car in park, 1:47 pm. Her interview was scheduled for 2:00 pm. She liked to be on time but her fingers were still tingling from the bitter cold. She decided to use the spare minutes to heat up her bare hands in front of the luke-warm heater, the vents forcefully pushing resembling a dragon breathing fire but unlucky for Nora, had a drastically less warming effect. She popped out of her car once the dexterity returned to her hands and checked herself in the reflection of the car mirror. Her brown, wavy hair tangled in the icy wind. She noticed the dark bags under her eyes and made a mental note to grab some concealer on the way home since the medication from the doctor either makes her sleep for 18 hours at a time or makes her vomit. Both side effects she’d prefer to avoid.
Nora knew she needed this collection agent position. She was 9 months out of college, business degree in hand, and no one wanted to hire her. Nora expected college to be a fun place, where she got to try new things and experience life for herself but that was far from the truth. Nora had always gotten okay grades, which continued in college but was disproportionate to the endless hours studying, thick packs of opened flash cards scribbled with multisyllable words, and review tests she had done herself to get those mediocre grades. Pushing herself to pass her senior year was truly a test of will.
For Nora though, college wasn’t a complete waste of time. She learned, without studying she might add, that she hated most people and preferred to spend her time alone. Her revolving door of roommates always thought she was a freak and, just maybe, she was. Truthfully, Nora wasn’t sure she would ever figure out who she was. Some days, she’d stay locked in her dorm room and would sleep all day. Other days she would work herself into a fit of anxiety and wouldn’t sleep for days; reading books, painting her walls, going for runs in the middle of the night only to close her eyes for 5 quiet minutes. College was hard. But she quickly found out that real life was harder. Nora had already been on 6 different job interviews and hadn’t gotten a single call back. Her luck needed to change today.
She walked through the front office doors that were only a few quick steps from the lot, good for living in such a pervasively cold state, she thought. She welcomed the burst of hot air on her face with a relieved sigh. The young guy sitting behind the front desk watched her carefully as she buzzed in. She wondered if the smile she had plastered to her face looked as fake as it felt and she felt immediately self-conscious, like she wasn’t doing it right. Nora reduced her toothy grin to a more mild, closed mouth smile. Much better, she thought as Jay pointed her to the correct office to wait in.
A man wearing an outfit of entirely khaki walked in. His name was Rich and he looked like a walking contradiction with stains on his jacket and scuffs littering his dull brown shoes. Despite that, Rich clearly thought very highly of himself. He showed Nora all his accolades hanging on the wall behind him and told her that she could maybe one day earn the same. Nora wants to make a good impression, show Rich that she had done her homework for the interview. Not only that, Nora knows people- especially men- and she knows how to stroke and ego. She made her eyes wide with wonder and let Rich talk about himself. She smiled and laughed at his corny jokes and by the end of the interview was pretty sure that she would get the job. She had to get the job. It was the last chance for her to get paid before the 1st of the month, when her rent was due and an eviction notice was likely looming.
She stepped out of the cramped office feeling a little a little lighter now that the interview was over. She glanced at her watch, 3:08 pm, definitely had time to grab something from the corner store before heading home all while avoiding the rush of afternoon traffic when she looked up and her heart dropped. Her car was gone. It definitely was not in the spot where she parked it. Was she going crazy? She ran to the spot where her car should be, and in the thick snow she could see tire tracks. Did someone steal her car, right from in front of this office? Her mind couldn’t fit the pieces together. She hustled back inside, out of breath now, and asked the front desk worker, Jay, if he saw what happened to her car. He looked at her with a pout on his face, his frosted tips made Nora pretty sure he was about to answer her with a Backstreet Boys lyric but he said, “Oh, honey. I’m so sorry but that car was towed because it’s in a handicapped spot…”
Nora expected him to say more but he just sat there pouting at her. She wanted to scream. She felt the anger bubbling up in her throat like lava that was about to pour out. She took a moment, with both hands bracing her body weight on the front desk and with a squeak in her voice Nora replied, “But there are no signs...” desperate now, “you can’t even see the handicapped paint because of the snow!” She felt herself basically begging, choking back the tears burning her eyes, “I just had an interview, I didn’t even know…” her voice trailed off and the hot tears came. Defeated.
“Oh sweetheart!” Jay had true pity in his eyes that made Nora sick, and his hands moved to frame his slender face, “I’m so sorry but there is nothing that I can do. Better luck next time hun,” he said and gave her hand tightly gripping the counter a little pat before disappearing into the back. Leaving Nora to figure it out alone, just as she always did.