Chapter 01: Homeless
Given that she was basically kicked out of the only job she knew how to do, Emma Francisco had every right to be in a bad mood.
For, she had nowhere else to go and none to turn to. She had used up every ounce of help she could afford in her state and not left any card in her deck unturned. There was nothing else to do, but quit the only town she knew and pray that fortune would eventually find her. And soon.
Then again, she was never the kind of girl whose wishes came true – they just never did. She was not Cinderella or Snow White, who would be swept away from their troubles by fairy godmothers and handsome princes. She wasn’t even Harry Potter, who had a wand to do his deeds for him. She was just an orphan who grew up in the system and knew what the world really is like. She had always survived with her instincts and sheer common sense. Logic and intelligence were her forte. A good puzzle would keep her happy for hours.
Nevertheless, she knew that no puzzle, however challenging, would ever get her out of the trouble she was in now.
Up until a week ago, Emma had been working as a bookkeeper in the only library in Gloria, a town known for trade and business. However much she knew she hated it, she couldn’t find any other employment there. At the time she needed money the most, the Gloria Town Library was the only place that could hire her. It paid decently, too, and she survived for a few months, although she couldn’t say she had been very happy.
Now, strange though it might sound, Emma couldn’t help feeling how free she felt. She realised that she really could do anything. The sky above her was endless and so was the world she stood on. She could go anywhere and do anything she wanted!
Except… she didn’t know where to start.
That was when a small voice inside told her that she had to leave Gloria. It was the only way she was ever going to start seeing the world.
She also knew that the unknown world outside was vast and scary. Was she willing to take the risk of seeking a treasure in the unknown?
She wasn’t so sure…
“Well, Jim Hawkins did it,” she mused, as she stared at the dark rainy evening outside her window. “He was barely thirteen and he went to seek treasure in an unknown land with strangers. So, it’s not entirely impossible…
“Except, my treasure is probably going to look different.”
She closed her eyes and tried to imagine what her fortune would look like. Would it be money and riches? Or, would it be the job she’d always wanted? Or, a knight to sweep her off her feet, perhaps…
The next thing she knew when she opened her eyes was that the Sun was slowly rising out of the glass in front of her.
At first, Emma didn’t realise what was happening.
Then, she noticed the time in her wristwatch and realised that she had slept her troubles away as she stared out the window and it was now the next day morning.
She sat up in her seat by the window and stretched out her arms, yawning as she did. She stood up and went to the bathroom in her tiny cottage for a house that she had taken for rent, to freshen up. She came back out fifteen minutes later and prepared the hot water for her bath. While the geyser was heating up, she went to pick some clothes from her cupboard and placed them on her bed.
That was when it hit her: she would have to leave town, which probably means never coming back to Gloria and leaving everything she had ever known for good.
Emma groaned. She knelt down beside her bed and covered her hands with her face. ’Why is the world always against me!?’ she wept. Big drops of tears made their way discreetly down her face through the tiny holes between her fingers. ’Why am I the only one here with so many problems up my sleeve that I can’t even stand by myself anymore!? WHY?!’
She cried like that for a while, before she remembered the heater. She took a towel and headed into the bathroom and shut the door. Now that she had no job to go to, she was looking ahead for a nice long bath; she hoped that would keep her troubles at bay, at least until she found something else to occupy her time with.
As the hot water cascaded down her face and throat, Emma’s thoughts drifted slowly from her present to her past. She recalled about the same time a few days ago, when she arrived back home after work, how she had found a letter in her mailbox. It had come from a Mrs Casterley, who claimed to be the lawyer of a grandmother Emma never knew had existed. Apparently, her grandmother, Leticia Francisco, had been living in a town called Aurora Heights all this time and had just died the week earlier. She had left some items in Mrs Casterley’s possession and would Emma be so kind as to write back to her of her interest? Emma was yet to comply. She had been so shocked about finding a grandmother, after twenty years of being lonely, that she had never been able to decide what she wanted to do about the letter.
’Now that I’m free to leave Gloria,’ she thought, ’I can easily go to Aurora Heights and see it for myself.’
When she emerged out of the bathroom, she decided that searching information about Aurora Heights would be her task for the day.
Aurora Heights was a small town about five miles from Gloria.
Emma found out in a website, when she Googled the name, that it was known for a certain, very pure form of silk that only Aurora Heights had the ability to procure. Nobody knew how or where it came from, but many merchants traded a lot of wealth just for a yarn of the same.
And, Emma discovered, Gloria was one such client. It traded silk for some good-quality cotton every month. Digging deeper, she found the website of a private trading company, which dealt with this extensively.
She picked up her purse from the table beside her and rummaged through it, till she found her wallet. She pulled it out and inverted it onto the table on which her laptop stood. She counted the bills and the coins.
“140 Dinars and 25 cents,” she breathed. “That should be good enough.”
She replaced the money back into the wallet and the wallet into the purse. She put it aside, stood up, and went into her room. She opened her cupboard and lifted a hand to the topmost shelf that was about five inches above her head. She fingered it till her hand found a key and she picked it up. With it, she opened the safe in her cupboard and found a large purse, in which she put some money she had saved. She had just recently closed her bank account, when she had to quit her job, and got back around thousand Dinars.
’More than enough for the travel,’ she thought. ’Aurora Heights, here I come!’