“Table four wants to order, Jolena. Jolena!” Michelle, the manager of restaurant The White Rose tries to get her attention but fails. “Jolena! Table four!”
“Err, yeah, Sorry Michelle, I zoned out for a moment. Table four you said?” Jolena shakes her head to clear her mind and starts walking to the waiting customers. After the last clients of the night left through the door, she sinks into one of the chairs in the room. It was a crazy shift with all tables filled and two colleagues calling sick, her feet hurt from all the running around.
Michelle walks to Jolena “Is everything alright?” Michelle asks, “You seemed distracted today.”
“Everything is fine, I’m fine, I didn’t sleep well last night, that’s all.”
“Go home, Jolena,” Michelle says with a sympathizing look in her eyes, “you’ve worked hard enough for today.”
“But there’s still a lot to do. I won’t let you clean up without me,” Jolena protests. There is still a lot of cleaning up to be done. The dishes must be washed, the tables need to be set again for tomorrow’s shift, the floors need to be cleaned. So, there is still a lot to do before everyone can go home.
“No, no, we’ll handle it, it will be fine. In all the years you’ve worked here, you never called sick, you never took a day off. Go home, that’s an order.” Michelle says while grabbing Jolena’s coat and purse, putting them in Jolena’s hands and pushing her gently to the door.
“Okay then,” Jolena says, “If you really insist.”
After parking her fifteen-year-old car in front of her apartment building she stares through the front window, her thoughts drifting off. She has been working at this restaurant for seven years now. But she is tired. Tired of this boring job, she could do better than just waiting tables. Also tired of worrying if she could make it to the end of the month, as it always seemed to be a struggle. She started working when she was sixteen in the evenings. She had to work extremely hard to get good grades at school while working at the restaurant at the same time. Her parents died in a car accident, just weeks before she turned sixteen. With no family around to take her in, she stayed in a children’s home until she was old enough to take care of herself.
Her parents left her a little money, but still not enough to pay for a full course of four years. Somehow, she made it work. She had to work, to be able to pay for college. She graduated two years ago, but still works at the restaurant. She is looking for a job that fits her studies a bit more but jobs that she is interested in are sparse. And working at the restaurant isn’t enough to pay the bills. She cannot sleep, when she closes her eyes, she sees the bills coming in her vision. It keeps her awake almost every day. A knock on her window shakes her up from her thinking.
“Jolena, what are you doing there? It’s three at night!” her roommate tells her. Joe and Jolena share this little two-bedroom apartment since the second year in college. They were both sick of the student homes they were living in in the first year. They both didn’t like the lots of loud and drunk parties being thrown and all the mess that was never being cleaned up, so they decided to share a cheap apartment close by. Jolena grabs her keys, her purse and opens her door to get out. Joe holds the door while she steps out.
“I better ask you what you are doing here,” Jolena says as she locks her car and starts walking to the front door of their apartment building, “I thought you were going to sleep early?”
“Yeah, I know,” Joe says with mischievous eyes and shrugs. “I came across a nice girl at the bar where I met some friends, and you know from one thing came another. You know how it goes.”
They start climbing the stairs and he starts to tickle her at her waist. “My goodness, you womanizer, “Jolena smiles and she runs up the stairs, trying to get away from his tickling fingers. “Last week you promised me to slow it down with the girls, what happened to that promise?” She puts her hands on her side while faking being upset. She already knew that he wouldn’t be able to hold his promise for long.
“You know me, it’s like an addiction,” Joe says while unlocking the door and opening it for Jolena, “I just can’t help myself. When I see a nice girl, I just have to talk to her. If not, I just can’t function properly anymore. I wouldn’t be me if I stopped seeing girls. And if I can’t have you, I need to see other girls to get some love and attention, you know a man can’t do without.” Joe loves to tease her about it. They both know their relationship is based purely on friendship. Making it a romantic relationship would be awkward.
Jolena starts to walk to her bedroom door and looks over her shoulder with a smile, “I think I am going to sleep trying to forget that you said that. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Goodnight Jo,” Joe says. He walks to his own bedroom door, turns around in front of it and looks at her sincerely as he continues to say, “I hope you really sleep well tonight.”
The next day she tries to drag herself out of bed. The last night was no different from all the other nights. Working hard, working late. Then trying to sleep but instead staying awake, thinking about the bills that were piling up until her eyes were so heavy, she couldn’t keep them open anymore. Sauntering into the kitchen to make herself a pot of strong coffee and a sandwich, she realises Joe is already gone. She opens her laptop, an extra cost she had to save money for, she needed it for her reports in college. She starts looking at all job-offers there that are of any interest to her. After thirty minutes of searching, she gives up and puts her laptop to the side, putting on some music and heading for the shower.
When she gets out and walks into their small living room, she sees Joe is back from where he went, talking on the phone to someone. “Yeah, I know,” Joe says to the person on the other side of the line. Jolena bounces on the couch, starting to play a game on her phone. “Well, maybe I know someone who would be perfect for that job. I’ll ask her what she thinks and then get back to you, okay?” He continues to talk to the person on the phone but is looking with an enthusiastic smile to Jolena trying to get her attention, waving his hand in front of her face. “Yeah, sure, I’ll call you when I know more. yes, I’ll call you as soon as possible. Bye Adina.”
He sets himself into the armchair next to the couch and looks at Jolena. “I may have found the perfect job for Ava. My sister just called and told me that they are looking for a nurse where she works. Adina works as a nurse in a clinic in Miller Creek, in the forests at the feet of the Grey Mountains about three hours away from here. There is a whole community that lives there, it’s very closed off from the rest of the world. Ava is always in for an adventure, this might be just something for her.” Ava is a mutual friend, they both got to know when they went to college. Just as Jolena she was looking for a job, but in this city, it is hard to get a job as a nurse. Joe was right when he said that she was into adventure. During their lunch breaks, she couldn’t stop talking about the countries she would want to travel to as soon as she had enough money and got out of college. After graduation she went to travel to China and she still talked their ears off about it.
“Well, that job could be right up her alley” Jolena tells Joe, “She really deserves to find a nice job, you know. Why don’t you call her and tell her about it?” Jolena is sincerely happy for her friend. “Don’t they have a job for me there as well?”
“You are right, I’ll call her after you leave for work, you’re leaving in half an hour, right?” Joe asks friendly, “I don’t think they have other job offers, though.” He is such a good friend, thinking about everything, she thinks by herself. He always makes sure she takes after herself and really cares for her.