Evelyn opened her eyes and let out a startled yelp as she found herself sitting in a chair opposite the man from her last dream. He was browsing over papers in front of him and it took a moment for her to recognize the bundle from the mail.
“Alright, so you need to sign these three pages to finalize everything. We’ll need your banking info for direct deposit, but you can bring that with you on your first night and give it to your trainer.” He slid three pages across the desk to her. She stared down at them numbly. She’d read the whole contract but barely remembered anything. It hadn’t even described what she would be doing. “Is something wrong?”
“I…” She stopped and looked up at him. It was only a bizarre dream. She would just tell Holly it hadn’t worked out, but why not take the pretend job. The man had been right, she had nothing to lose, “I need a pen.”
“Oh yes, sorry.” He fumbled around in the desk drawers and produced a ballpoint pen with a picture of a clock printed on it. There was no company name or other identifying marks, but she supposed it didn’t matter. She signed the pages and slid them back over to the man. He careful replaced them in the stack and slid the whole pile into one of the drawers. “You can keep the pen, by the way. But you should really answer that door.”
“Wha-” She sat bolt upright, wiping a bit of drool from the side of her mouth and realized someone was knocking loudly on the door. The papers were nowhere to be seen as she dashed for the bedroom, “One second, sorry!”
“I’ve been knocking for five minutes, sweetie, I was about to call the cops!” Holly called from the other side of the door. Evelyn pulled on a slightly crumpled sweater, straightened her ponytail, and stuck the pen she was carrying in her handbag as she slid into her shoes. The door opened to an exasperated looking Holly, looking far more put together in a nice blouse and clean jeans. “Have you been sleeping in that sweater?”
“No.. no, I just fell asleep on the couch and didn’t have time to plan my outfit.” Evelyn could feel herself turning red under Holly’s discerning look.
“Well come on then, I know just the place for a nice quiet dinner and you can tell me all about this exciting opportunity.” Holly caught her arm and led the way out of the building and into the streets. The day was dimming and ominous clouds hung overhead, promising late showers. Holly gestured towards the horizon ahead, “We can walk, it’s close enough.”
Holly filled the walk to the restaurant with mindless chatter about the weather and shopping. She stopped in front of a little Italian restaurant.
“This is the place?” Evelyn asked, looking around for a menu and prices.
“Yes, and stop worrying about prices.” Holly pulled her inside, “This is my treat to celebrate.”
“Oh, no, you’ve already helped me out too much!” Evelyn tried to protest but Holly dragged her to a booth, sat her down, and waved over a server.
“Do not let this woman pay, alright?” The server nodded and Holly smiled, “And I would like my usual.”
“Yes Ma’am, and for you?” The server turned to Evelyn, who was staring at the price column.
“Give her the same, and an extra order of garlic bread and spaghetti with meatballs. We’ll probably need a couple to-go boxes as well.” Holly took the menu away and handed it to the server, who gave her a thankful nod and hurried off to the kitchen.
“I told you you need to stop mothering me…”
“I will mother you until the day you stop having a stack of overdue bills on your coffee table.”
“They’re not overdue… not that much.” Evelyn dug into her handbag and she found herself pulling out the pen from her dream.
“Don’t worry about that right now, tell me about this job you’ve found.”
“I… um… I’m not entirely clear on the details right now. It’s a night job, full time.” She heard herself saying the words as she stared at the pen. The clock had been replaced by the generic sounding “Smithson Time” but it was clearly the same pen.
“Night? That’s going to be rough on your sleep schedule. What will you be doing?”
“They haven’t explained exactly, I’m supposed to be working with a trainer my first shift at least.”
“This sounds dodgy, Evelyn, are you sure it’s on the up-and-up?” Holly was starting to look concerned.
“The guy said I’m on a trial period and can quit anytime. Don’t worry so much Holly, I read the whole contract.”
“Contract? Can I see it?”
“Er… I don’t have a copy with me right now.” Evelyn was glad to see the drinks arrive, “Look it’s salaried, full-time, and I can earn raises. Way better than the jack-squat I’ve been getting. So no more worrying.”
“Promise me you’ll get out if it looks bad?”
“You know I have more common sense then that.” Evelyn’s stomach growled as the food was delivered, but she forced herself to eat casually. The mouthful of bagel she had eaten before was long gone, and the rest would probably reappear under a couch cushion tomorrow. Holly matched her bite for bite and made a few gleeful noises.
“Isn’t this delicious? I tried this place a little while ago and I’ve been coming every chance I get.”
“It’s very good.” Evelyn nodded, struggling to hold herself back. Holly could probably tell she hadn’t eaten well lately, but it was a matter of pride at this point.
“Would you like dessert too? They have this ricotta cheesecake that’s amazing.”
“God yes.” Evelyn spoke a little more earnestly than she intended too, and blushed as Holly smiled more broadly. She waved over the server again.
“Is everything tasting alright?” The server asked.
“Everything is delightful.” Holly said, with Evelyn nodding a hurried agreement through a mouthful of food. Her self-control was rapidly vanishing, “We’d like to order a couple slices of that wonderful cheesecake, and a whole one to go.”
“Oh now you’re spoiling me.”
“Once you get your first paycheck and get yourself squared away you can spoil me back, alright?”
“I will.” Evelyn insisted before starting in on the complimentary bread basket on the table.
They chatted about more casual aspects of life as they finished their meal and Holly packed up the extras, each of them carrying a box back to Evelyn’s apartment. The sun had gone down and the city was lit up with windows. The clouds were just beginning to let loose and a few fat drops smacked the pavement next to them as she unlocked the front door. A thunder clap heralded the storm proper as they got into her living room.
“Did you park far?” Evelyn asked, worried, as she stashed away the food in her painfully empty fridge.
“No, I’m just around the corner. Now you’d better get some rest. Call me and tell me how your first day goes, okay?”
“Sure thing, Holly, and thank you.” Evelyn waved goodbye as Holly disappeared into the stormy night. She locked the door, sat down on the couch, and suddenly remembered the job was only a dream. She had the pen, but surely that was just something she’d picked up at a job fair and forgotten about. She set it on the coffee table, changed into her pajamas, and managed to brush her teeth before passing out on top of her unfinished resume.
The ticking of infinite clocks was almost deafening.