I looked in the mirror at myself, happy with my appearance. I chose to wear a standard black pant suit with a bright red blouse. I put my jewelry on and was set to go. I grabbed my black dress flats and headed down the stairs. It was barely light outside I noticed as I waited for the toaster to pop up. I looked around the house to be sure it was picked up, just in case the realtor needed to show it today. I wanted it to sell before I find a new job. Unfortunately, it hasn’t yet. I’m going to have to get used to taking the train into work until it does sell. It’s not ideal, but definitely cheaper than driving into Manhattan, having to pay for tolls, parking, and easier than dealing with the traffic. So, this may become my new routine; up before dawn and to bed by nine.
As I drove to the train station, my mind raced and my anxiety level was definitely high. Today was my interview with an engineering firm as their office manager. Then I would go look at a few more condos, shop for a bit, and catch the train back to New Jersey. That’s as far ahead as I could plan for now. I was trying to take life one day at a time. I had no control over so many things, I was slightly overwhelmed with all of the major decisions I had to make alone, now that Brian was gone. I got through the funeral, listing the house, the desperation and anxiety. It’s been almost six months, I need to get a job. I need it so I can move on, financially I’m ok. I need to do something with my life, I need to feel important. I want to feel powerful again.
When Brian and I were married eight years ago, we thought we would have it all; great careers, a big house, a few kids, the american dream. The first three years of our marriage were absolutely amazing, we were on our way to getting everything we wanted. Then shortly after buying the house, Brian got sick and the nightmare began, it lasted for five long years.
I miss him terribly, but am relieved that he is no longer in pain. He spent so much time at the hospital and had to undergo so many treatments. Cancer took away all of our plans, our hopes, and our future together. Now, there’s just me in this big empty house, I never got to fill it up with children, It’s a constant reminder of what I can’t have.
Although I want a decent price, I need it to be over and done with it. I’ve just made a decision without even realizing it. It’s too early to phone the realtor now, but I would do it later and tell her to reduce the price on the house enough to make it sell immediately.
It was just about dawn as I pulled up to the train station. There were commuters everywhere. I didn’t expect to have to park two miles away and then walk to the train, I needed to hurry. I never realized so many people started their day out so early. Brian and I had taken the train into the city just a couple of times to see a Broadway show or to spend the day touristing.
I walked through the train sections for what seemed to be forever until finally, I saw an empty seat. As I walked up closer, I saw a briefcase sitting on the chair.
“Excuse me, can I sit next to you?” I smiled.
“Hello,” he said as he looked up from reading the paper and then slowly moved the briefcase.
I quickly plopped down in the seat, slightly out of breath. “Is it always so busy?” I asked the man next to me.
“Yes,” he said matter of factly.
“I had no idea, I had to search for a parking spot and then halfway ran to make it on time. I’m going to have to get up earlier when I actually get a job in the city.”
He responded, “I get up at five o’clock everyday.”
I said, “Well, hopefully my house sells soon and I won’t have to commute for long. I’m going to get a condo in the city, and a job.”
He laughed slightly, “Sounds like you have big plans.”
The stranger grinned at me and said, “Is this your first time on the train?”
“No, I’ve been a couple times before.”
“You have?” he questioned.
I wasn’t sure why he questioned me, “Yes, this is my first time alone though, my husband...” I hesitated because I wasn’t sure how to refer to Brian, he certainly wasn’t my ex-husband. Do I really have to continue to explain that he’s dead to everyone I meet? There has to be another way? “...he passed away six months ago,” I explained.
“I’m sorry,” he said genuinely.
The train conductor came by, “Excuse me ma’am, this seat is taken.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand?” I said confused as I searched for my phone to show him my ticket. The stranger next to me had his out and ready.
As the conductor scanned the strangers ticket he said, “You will have to move to an empty seat ma’am.”
“But, here, I have my ticket,” I showed him the phone with the barcode to scan. I could feel the train taking off.
He said, “You see these chips up here,” he pointed above the seats to a strip of metal, I could see green and yellow chips all lined up and down the aisle. I peeked my head up over my seat and saw two red chips.
The stranger interrupted, “Fred, it’s ok, thank you, but she is fine to stay.”
“You’re sure Jason?” he said.
“Yes, I’m sure Fred.”
I looked at both of the men confused, the conductor scanned my phone and walked away. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand what’s going on?” I said, “I’ve never noticed the chips and have no idea what they mean.”
“You’re fine, really,” he smiled and then began reading the paper again.
I questioned him, “Are you going to explain the chips to me?” I tried to say it nicely but it definitely came out more sarcastic.
“They have a method of putting the chips up when they’ve checked a passenger’s ticket.”
“Ok...but I don’t see any other red ones, what do they mean?” I continued to question him.
He hesitated, “It’s nothing to worry about, I’ve been taking this train for probably twenty years now every weekday, same time, Fred spoils me.” Then he leaned over and whispered to me, “red means reserved, but technically, you’re not allowed to reserve seats.”
I interrupted “Oh, I’m so sorry, I had no idea,” I grabbed my purse and went to stand up.
“No, no, don’t leave, please let me explain,” he insisted, “I usually have a pile of work to do on the way to the office, so I buy two seats everyday, that way I can spread out my things. Fred watches out for me, one day he scanned my ticket and said he painted two special red chips for me to ‘reserve’ my two seats,” he smiled at me. “I’m happy to share one with you, I’m Jason by the way,” he held out his hand to me.
He was probably mid forties, his hair was light brown so were his eyes. He wore a sleek suit and had on a stylish tie. His shoes were shined and his face freshly shaven. I shook his hand and said, “I’m Tessa.”
“That’s a name I’ve never heard before,” he said.
“It’s short for Theresa, my sister gave me the nickname, back when we were kids and it’s stuck. Thank you for being so kind and sharing your seat.”
He nodded, “I’m glad for the company.” He folded up the newspaper and set it aside. “How long have you been looking for a job?”
“About a month now,” I frowned.
“That’s not very long, what are you looking into? If you don’t mind me asking?”
“No, I don’t mind at all. I want something I can get excited about, you know, I don’t want to just sit at a computer all day but I will take whatever I’m offered, for now.”
“Do you have a degree?” he asked.
“Yes, I went to college, before I was married and majored in Communications, but that was nearly ten years ago and I had to leave my last position when Brian got sick. I was only there about two years.”
“I wouldn’t explain all of that on your interview,” he said cautiously.
I looked him in the eyes and smiled, “I know, I have to work on not talking about the past so much.”
“Just don’t give your employer the impression that your inexperienced, you can bluff a little,” he grinned. He had a boyish smile with the confidence of an experienced man.
“How do I explain that I have been taking care of my husband who’s had cancer for the past five years instead of working at a real job?” I blurted out and shook my head, becoming frustrated with the whole interview process.
He said, “Focus on what you do well and talk about that. You can stretch the truth by saying you chose to stay home to work on your house or maybe to raise your children. Do you have children?”
“No,” I said with obvious disappointment. “We had planned to.”
He sighed, “Don’t let them know your insecurities, an interview is a time to show off who you are, that is much more important than who you have worked for. Let them know you will be an asset to their organization.”
“Thank you,” I said and knew I had a big smile on my face. “That is very good advice. I’m usually more confident,” I explained.
“Well, it sounds like you have had your hands full,” He looked at me as though he wanted to say more. The conductor announced our stop and we gathered our things. “It was very nice to meet you Tessa, I hope you get the position.”
“It was nice to meet you too Jason. Thank you for the advice.”
After we exited the train, I glanced at my surroundings and then my maps app to see which way the office was, when I heard a voice.
“Tessa! Wait!” It was Jason. “Here’s my card, if you have time swing by my office and ask for Robert Hall, there might be a position open that you’d be interested in. Can I tell him you’ll be by?”
I was very surprised, “That’s very nice of you, Jason. Umm, I will do that, unless they hire me on the spot this morning,” I teased, “because I would be a great asset to any organization,” I laughed remembering him telling me to say that to the person who interviews me.
He laughed out loud, “You’re a quick learner too.”
“Thank you,” I laughed.
“Yes, well, I should get going then,” he hesitated, still looking at me. “Unless... you have time for a coffee?” he asked.
“I’m sorry, No I don’t,” I said. I wanted to, but I don’t even know who this man is, I can’t.
“I understand, Good Luck!” He turned and walked away.
I waited in the lobby nervously for my interview. I thought about what Jason had said and rehearsed every scenario I could think of. I took out the business card he gave to me and read it. He was the CEO of a Law firm. I took out my phone and googled the organization. It’s a law firm that specializes in family law and adoptions. It wasn’t far from where I was now. I suppose I could stop by after lunch and see what they had to say. Why not?
“Thank you for coming in today, we will make a decision in the next few weeks,” the man said as he politely escorted me out of his office, after a few questions. That wasn’t exactly the response I had hoped for. I have worked hard the past few weeks trying to get a job. I had no idea how difficult it was going to be. In the past I was hired from a job fair at college and never even went to any other interviews.
I stopped by a few shops, ate an early lunch and decided to take Jason up on his offer. I walked into the firm in awh, it was simply beautiful. It was huge, open, and modern. The offices were all glass fronts, facing the reception area, which looked more like an atrium. There was a pond with live fish, several large trees, beautiful live flowers in extra large planters, soft classical music played on the loudspeakers, there were several leather couches, and four stories of offices with a huge glass elevator in the center.
I sat waiting after speaking to the receptionists and admired my surroundings when I heard, “Ms. Tessa Williams,” from a man who came out of the elevator.
“Yes, that’s me,” I smiled.
“I am Robert, we are so glad you came by, Mr. Stone told me you might stop in. Let’s go up to my office and talk.”
I followed him into the glass elevator and counted about forty offices in all. I could see clients in many of them. There was an additional top floor that had shadowed glass that made it so you couldn’t see through the windows.
“Now then, tell me a little about yourself,” he said as we sat down at his desk.
“Well, at my last position I was in charge of…” I made sure not to mention exactly how long it had been and I took all of Jason’s advice as I spoke, and ended my conversation by saying, “I am sure I would become a great asset to the law firm,” I smiled and sat waiting eagerly to hear what he would say back.
“Do you prefer administrative work or are you more of a people person?” he asked.
“I’m definitely more of a people person,” I responded quickly.
He asked a few more personality questions and then clicked a few buttons on his computer and said, “We do have an opening for a marketing position, I think you might be interested in it. You would be responsible for our adoption clients; explaining our services, filling out all of the contracts, maintaining a relationship with them throughout the process, from the time they walk in the door to the time they leave, with their new child and everything that goes in between. We run background checks, check referrals and do home inspections. Does that sound like a position you would be interested in?”
“Absolutely!” I could hardly contain my excitement, “I would be perfect for this position. I am great with people and I love children. I would be so happy to join the team here and could get started right away.”
“Ok, well, if you could just give me a few moments, I will be back in just a bit,” he said and stood up, leaving the office.
I sat and waited impatiently. I wondered where he’d gone? I think it’s going very well. I would love to work here, it is more than I imagined. I know I would be great at helping the clients become parents and promoting the organization. I hope I said the right things?
“Well Ms.Tessa,” he said as he came back into his office and sat down, “I would like to offer you the position.”
My heart pounded with excitement as I listened to his every word.
“You may be on call occasionally, it’s possible you’ll be needed for emergency meetings that arise, special events that could occur etc.” he went on with all the details and then I heard him say, “the salary is $65,000 a year, with available bonuses. We would love for you to start as soon as possible.”
“Yes! I accept, definitely. Wow, I am incredibly excited and looking forward to the challenge. I can start tomorrow.”
He laughed a little, ”I think we can have your office ready by then. You’ll need to fill out all of this paperwork,” he opened his drawer and began pulling out sheet after sheet. “If you’ll go ahead and bring all this back tomorrow, you can get started,” he smiled and extended his hand to me.
“Thank you,” I smiled excitedly.
I did all I could to control my emotions as I went down the glass elevator. I wanted to jump up and down and shout out loud, I was so happy with myself. I haven’t felt this good in a very long time. I thought of Jason and wondered if I should ask to see him, to thank him. No, I’m sure he is busy, it probably wouldn’t be professional to do so. I could call him? I have his card. I don’t know, I will ask my sister, Beth, what she thinks would be appropriate to do.
After seeing several condos I then hopped on the train back to Jersey and spent the evening talking to Beth. She was just as excited for me. In between her breast feeding the baby and rocking him to sleep, she managed to calm my fears of my capabilities to actually handle this position. She also managed to get her two older daughters bathed and put to bed, while she took the time to listen to my day. She is an amazing woman and fantastic big sister. I am lucky to have had her through all of my heartaches.
I tried to turn in early, but had such a hard time falling asleep, I was just too anxious about tomorrow, and scared, excited, worried, and wondered what I should wear? Then I realized, I forgot to call the Realtor.