Elizabeth Hughes was tired of pantyhose. It wasn't the first time she had that thought. During the past week, she could think of three separate occasions in which she seriously wanted to destroy every pair she owned. And it wasn't just because they were uncomfortable, or because they only increased how hot she was in the early summer heat; it was because of what they represented.
"Hey," she heard a voice from the doorway of her bedroom. Her mother stood there, her long curly hair up in a loose ponytail. She was wearing an old pair of jeans and a light blue tank top and she looked radiant. Summers off suited her, Elizabeth thought bitterly.
"Hi," Elizabeth responded. She wound the pantyhose around her wrists.
"How'd the interview go?"
Elizabeth was unable to stop herself from sighing. She couldn't count how many times she'd heard that question during the week, or the month, for that matter. "I got the 'we don't think you'd be a good fit here' spiel."
"Again?" her mother asked, oblivious to Elizabeth's glare. "Well, just keep on truckin'," she said. "I circled a few more ads in the weekly paper."
"Okay," Elizabeth replied. "I'll take a look at them later." She unwound the pantyhose from her wrists and tossed it into her closet as her mom left the room. She flopped back onto her bed, still in her interview-best.
It had always seemed to Elizabeth that finding a job after college would be easy. It was all her life had prepared her for, so she did not expect it to be as difficult as it had been. Since she graduated two months earlier, she'd applied for fifty-seven positions, and had interviewed for twelve in the past two weeks alone. None of the interviews left her feeling particularly confident.
And though they were trying, she could hear in her parents' voices the disappointment in her choice of degree. She knew they felt that a Bachelor's Degree in photography wasn't going to amount to anything. They had told her as much when she decided on her major. Though they smiled through the talk of her coursework and the praise she had received from her instructors, it was always clear to Elizabeth that they thought she was making a mistake. It was frustrating to her that they seemed to be right.
She had only been able to find a handful of jobs looking for an actual photographer, most of which were for companies who took school pictures, which wasn't something she found interesting. She wanted to take pictures of important things, of war, of endangered species, but at this point, she would settle for taking pictures of anything. As it turned out, even the school photographers were required to have more experience, and Elizabeth had received rejection letters from the three companies she applied to.
She knew she was going to have to start looking further from home, but that posed a dilemma. It wasn't as if, after four years of independence, she wanted to move back in with her parents, but she didn't have the money to live on her own, especially not in a major metropolitan area. She needed the base pay of a job at home in order to save enough to get out where the jobs were better.
Elizabeth started at the sound of her phone ringing. She glanced at the caller ID before answering it. "Hey."
"Liz," said Ashley in greeting. Elizabeth and Ashley Kessler had been good friends in high school and had gone to neighboring universities in the Twin Cities. They had gotten closer then; Elizabeth was grateful that Ashley was in their hometown of Rochester with her for the summer. She was already unsure how she would have made it through the first two months without her.
"How'd it go?" she asked of the interview.
Liz groaned in response. "If I have to answer one more 'tell me about a time…' kind of question, I'm going to lose it and strangle the person with my pantyhose."
"Awesome," Ashley said. "Sorry it didn't go well, Lizzie. What's next on the list?"
Liz sighed. "My mom said she found a couple more I should apply for in the paper, so I guess I'll take a look at those. I have so many resumes out there as it is."
"You know if you need something, I can get you a job at work with me," Ashley offered for the umpteenth time.
"I know, and thanks. I'll let you know if it comes to that." Liz replied, but she knew it wouldn't. Ashley still had a semester of school left and was working her fifth summer at a major retail outlet in town. It wasn't that Liz wasn't a retail person; she'd worked retail in college to support herself. It was that she felt like that kind of work was pre-graduation and she was looking for something else. She knew it was pride, but she couldn't get around it yet.
"Well, I know it's only Monday, but keep your Friday night open, yeah? Kendy's going to be in town picking up the last of her shit and she wants to go out one last time before she goes back to the cities." Ashley said, speaking of a mutual friend of theirs they'd met in college. "I think we could all use it."
Liz didn't have to think about it. She knew she didn't have much money to go out, but she could go one night if it meant not worrying about a job for a couple hours. "Yeah, I'll be there. Call me with the details later?"
"You got it," Ashley said. "Don't worry so much, okay? Everything will work out."
"I know," Liz responded, though she wasn't sure if she believed it. She just didn't want to whine all the time. "I'm gonna take a shower and go check on those want ads my mom found. Talk to you later?"
"Sure, dollface. Bye!" Ashley hung up. Liz flipped her phone shut and headed for the shower. It was getting harder to not feel sorry for herself and she needed to get out of that mood pronto if she was going to make it through the week.
By Wednesday, Liz had electronically sent off two more resumes to the positions her mother had located in the paper. Neither was of any real interest to her, but she knew she needed to find something, and fast. The first was for a graphic designer at an advertising agency. She knew just by looking at the qualifications that she had nowhere near the experience they wanted, but she didn't think it would hurt to apply. The second was for a copy editor at Rochester's Post Bulletin, the city newspaper. Liz had minored in journalism while in college and thought that would improve her chances. She knew if she got the job that she was bound to be bored to tears, but it didn't phase her much. She felt that she'd be so excited to have found something that it wouldn't matter much.
She had procrastinated online and was rushing to get ready for dinner at her brother's place. Matt was four years older than Liz and they had never been close, but he had a fantastic relationship with their parents, so since the summer began, they'd been having dinner together once a week, usually at Matt's newly purchased condo.
Liz wasn't looking forward to it. It wasn't that Liz held anything against her brother, but he was—and as far as Liz was concerned, always had been—the golden child of the Hughes family. He'd gone into medicine, like their father, and was in the first year of his internship at the renowned Mayo Clinic. It was difficult for Liz to listen to all his success when she felt like she was failing so miserably. She was certain the night would be long, though she was thankful that at this time, her parents' attention tended to focus on Matt.
"Liz!" her mother shouted up the stairs. "We're leaving!"
Liz sighed. "I'm coming." She quickly applied her eyeliner and headed downstairs with as much fake enthusiasm as she could muster. She knew her parents would exchange exasperated glances if she so much as sighed during this visit, so she planned on faking her happiness with the best of them.
The car ride was relatively silent as they drove the fifteen minutes to her brother's new home. Her father asked how the job search was going, which seemed to be the only question he asked her in days. After her response, her parents shared a not-subtle-enough glance and the rest of the trip was silent.
She had to physically stop herself from bolting out of the car when they parked in Matt's driveway. She made herself wait until each of her parents had opened their doors before she did the same. Matt and his new girlfriend Amanda McCluran were standing in the doorway, huge smiles on their faces. Liz had never been more grateful to see Amanda, who was the first girlfriend her brother had who seemed to like her. They shared a hug and moved into the kitchen while her parents and brother talked in the living room.
"How are you, Liz?" Amanda asked.
Liz tried to smile, but she could feel it falter. "How's work?" She answered.
Amanda smiled sadly, but responded. "It's great. You know I love it." It was true; Amanda had always said how much she enjoyed her job as a personal trainer at the only exclusive gym in the city. Liz was pleased that Amanda had a job that her parents wouldn't have considered a legitimate career. While it wasn't a 'soft' career-choice to her parents, as Liz knew her choice was, it certainly didn't qualify as the 'hard' positions her parents had as a heart surgeon and a tenured genetics professor.
When they sat down for dinner, Liz didn't decline the wine her brother offered her. She knew it was going to be a long night full of science-related jargon and she knew she wasn't going to understand a word of it anyway. She was content letting her mind wander, smiling and nodding in the correct places. She wasn't sure why Matt always tried to include her when it was clear she had little to no interest about the relationship between genetics and heart disease, of which her parents so often spoke. Without Matt, she likely would have failed her biology courses in high school.
She knew she wasn't going to get through the night unscathed, however. When Matt asked her about her job search, she contemplated refilling her wine glass, but decided quickly against it at the looks on her parents' faces. "It's going fine," she assured him. "Mom keeps finding me new ones to apply for, so I'm grateful for that." She hoped she sounded more grateful than she felt. She knew, in that aspect, that her mother was only trying to help, but it didn't always feel that way.
"Have you thought about interning someplace?" Matt asked. The question was a relatively innocent one, but the answer was more complicated.
Liz had thought about interning, particularly after her first jobless month. She knew she'd never find a paid internship, but it couldn't be any worse than getting paid nothing and still having no experience. Her parents had, at first, pushed her towards this, until they realized the time would be unpaid. In their respective fields, an unpaid internship was unheard of. As it was, Matt was making more as an intern than she'd be likely to see in her lifetime.
"There aren't any paid ones," her father explained. "It just doesn't make financial sense to do that."
That was Liz's number one problem with her relationship with her parents. No matter what they said, it always came across like they wanted her out. Liz had a hard time dealing with that. Being unable to find a job made her feel unwanted enough, but it was much harder to deal with the fact that her parents didn't seem to want her around.
Dinner seemed to drag. Liz could usually count on conversations with Amanda to save her, but they weren't seated close enough to do so. She looked sympathetic during the few glances they shared, but it didn't make Liz feel any better. She wanted to go home; the fake smile she plastered on her face was starting to hurt.
Matt pulled her aside as they said their goodbyes. She wasn't sure what she expected, but it certainly wasn't what he offered.
"It's a little lonelier here than I expected," he began, throwing Liz completely off-guard. He didn't give her a chance to say anything though, and wasn't looking directly at her. "It's too soon for me to ask Amanda to move in, though I want to." He looked at his sister this time, knowing she liked Amanda a lot. "I wouldn't mind having someone around." He paused for a moment. "You don't have to move in, but if you need a night away from home, you can always crash in the spare bedroom." He reached for her hand, which she offered, baffled. She felt a small metal object pass from his hand to hers and knew it must be a key. "Just keep it in mind, okay Lizzie?"
She nodded, tucking the key in her purse, leaving his house in contemplative silence. She had no idea where this turn of events had come from, but she didn't have much time to think about it, as her phone rang a few seconds later.
She fished it out of her bag and looked at the unfamiliar number. She hesitated, not a big fan of answering unknown calls, but she had started to get over that with all the interview set-up phone calls she received. It was a little late for that kind of call. "Hello?" she answered, raising a hand to her parents to indicate they needed to wait a second.
"Elizabeth Hughes?" a warm voice asked distractedly through the phone. Liz could hear a lot of background noise.
"Elizabeth, my name is Millie Karr. I'm calling from the Post Bulletin. I received your resume this afternoon and would love to set up an interview if you're still interested." Her voice was clear, but the noise in the background got louder.
"Yes, of course," Liz responded. She meant to speak further, but the noise in the background got even louder. Millie's voice became muffled and Liz couldn't understand a thing she was saying.
"Sorry about that," Millie said clearly. "Deadline's approaching. Does tomorrow work for you? Around noon?"
"Sure," Liz said, realizing less was more during this conversation. Millie gave her quick directions to the office and hung up without a goodbye. It wasn't until then that Liz realized she had a real smile on her face for the first time in days.
"What was that all about?" her mother asked.
"What a strange time to call to set one up," her father interjected. They shared a glance again before getting in the car. Liz felt her smile slide off her face. She stayed silent for the rest of the car ride.
Liz found herself grateful for her early afternoon interview. Many of her interviews had been really early in the morning, so she felt like she hadn't slept in in weeks. She allowed herself to lie in bed until ten-thirty before getting ready. She dug around in her closet for a clean pair of pantyhose before thinking, what the hell? She was going to go without them. She exited the house quietly, grateful for the small favor that allowed her to miss running into her mother.
She arrived at the Post Bulletin building about fifteen minutes early. She reapplied her eyeliner before getting out of her car and heading inside. It took her a few minutes to figure out what felt different; she wasn't dreading this interview, or sure she was going to fail. She actually felt lighthearted, a completely foreign feeling since she left college.
Liz checked in at the receptionist and was taken to Millie Karr's office. It was empty, so after she filled out the job application, Liz allowed herself to examine the room. It looked like Millie Karr had at least two children and a brand new grandbaby, if the pictures were up-to-date. She appeared to be a collector of classic rock memorabilia, and her office was fragrant with flowers. Liz found herself comfortable there.
Millie's office door burst open eight minutes after the interview was set to start. She didn't apologize; she just dropped onto the lime green love seat in the corner of her office and smiled brightly at Liz, who had to spin around in her chair to see her.
Liz found that she already liked Millie, in her torn jeans and hot pink flip-flops. Her graying hair was up in loose bun and her skin was brown from sun. She had such a warm demeanor that Liz couldn't help but smile back at her.
Millie quickly glanced over the application that Liz filled out. "Honey, why on earth do you want this job?"
Liz was completely caught off-guard. She realized she probably shouldn't be, that it was clear this interview was going to be nothing like she'd experienced, but she still didn't expect that question.
"Well, I minored in journalism in college and I'm eager to get real-life experience," Liz replied. She wasn't pleased by the content of her answer, but she knew she couldn't just sit there and stare at her interviewer with her jaw dropped.
Millie didn't respond right away. She was reading over Liz's application in more detail. "Have you been looking for a job for a while?"
Liz stifled her sigh. "Since graduation, yes." She hadn't expected that question either, but she answered it immediately anyway.
"Listen, I think you wouldn't fit very well in this position," Millie deadpanned. Liz felt her heart sink into her stomach, even knowing her answers were less than stellar. She was trying really hard to keep the disappointment off her face, but she was certain it wasn't working.
Millie didn't acknowledge the shift in Liz's expression, but Liz knew she noticed it. "But that's not really the reason I asked you here anyway," Millie continued. "Our sports photographer left us two weeks ago." Liz almost couldn't believe what she was hearing. "We'd been trying to fill the position internally, but no one meets the qualifications. So when we got your resume, it felt too good to be true." Millie's eyes met Liz's. "Would this be something you'd be interested in?"
Liz couldn't help herself; her jaw dropped again. "Yes," she breathed. "Absolutely."
"And you're really not interested in the copy position?"
"I'd prefer the photo position, yes," Liz assured her.
"Excellent. Can you start Monday?"
Liz stopped breathing momentarily. "You're not even interviewing anyone else?" she asked, then kicked herself afterwards. She felt that she couldn't possibly make a bigger idiot out of herself.
Millie smiled. "You are exactly what we're looking for. So can you start Monday?"
"Yes, of course." Liz felt like dancing.
"Great. Get here at ten and we'll get you started ASAP. We're all really excited to have you," she assured Liz, rising to her feet. Liz shook her hand and they both moved towards the door. "And dear?" Millie said, eyeing Liz. "We're pretty casual. Jeans are fine unless you're on a particular assignment."
Liz couldn't stop herself. She grinned widely. "You couldn't have said anything to make me happier."
Millie shared Liz's smile and they separated at the entrance. And Liz couldn't help herself; she giggled the entire distance to her car.
Author's Note: This is the first thing I've written longer than a one shot in over two years. At this point, I'm working on Chapter 12. It's unedited and needs some serious work before it gets where I want it, but I would love love love feedback on what I have so far. I will update as frequently as possible.
Also, I am aware of some of the plagiarism that has occurred on this site in the last year or so. I will come after you if you try to take credit for this or anything else I've written, and I won't be nice about it. Just a warning.