Perfects – Chapter 2 Pandora
I grew up in a children’s home, the main feature of which was that there were always lots of people about. If it wasn’t a couple of other kids there were social workers too. It didn’t mean that you couldn’t find a place to be on your own, but it did mean that you never had to be alone. So I found it strange to be in a house all by myself. Stranger still because it was where I lived now and I needed to get used to that.
One of the things I wondered about was how I was going to get a job, not that I particularly wanted one, but the moving on grant was going to run out soon and I was going to need money to pay the rent, eat and probably do some other stuff. None of the others seemed to have problems finding money, although none of them could be described as well off. Sure Jim and Terri were students and funded by the loans that they’d spend the rest of their adult lives paying off, but what did Cat, Rosie and Charlie do for money?
No-one else was in the house, so I resolved to remember to ask them when they got in. In the meantime a bit of playing in my favourite online multiplayer game wouldn’t hurt. Everything seemed simpler when I could just be a kid rather than the adult that the outside world thought that I ought to be. It really wasn’t my fault that they thought I was four and a half years older than I was. I’d told the council social workers at the time what my real age was, but no-one had listened because I was tall for my age, and unknown to me at the time, quite far ahead in educational ability. Rather than being a precocious eight year old, they’d pegged me for a slightly slow 13 year old.
Now, almost five years on, the care system had decided that I was sufficiently adult to look after myself, and the school had decided that I had learnt about as much as they were likely to be able to teach me, so they’d fast tracked my leaving certificate. I was quite surprised that I had passed it first time. Of course, this meant that I was now legally an adult, could vote and get a job. It also meant that the care home couldn’t be responsible for me. So although externally I was viewed as an adult (and I did look grown up) that wasn’t backed up by my own inner view of things, I just wanted to be a kid.
It was really tough for me when I left Dawkins House. They all saw me as grown up, because I was physically mature and had passed the exams, but inside I was still a kid, and I needed people to look after me. All the people I’d trusted to do that abandoned me. The others in the house were sympathetic, but they had their own troubles without needing to look after someone else too. But we did look out for each other, at least for a while.
I had really wanted to go to university after school, but it was months from when I passed the leaving exams until I could even apply for a university place, much less start one. So until then I needed to find a job. Seeing as I wanted to study genetics at university I thought I would see if I could get a job in a lab or something similar while I waited. I thought that it would give me some useful experience, and Cambridge was an academic town that had loads of research labs in it.
Searching the online job databases and reading the forums soon disillusioned me. It seemed that a good number of the researchers had left town, and those that had stayed had a choice of who to employ, so mainly the science graduates were getting the lab assistant jobs. I couldn’t think of anything else, and besides there were thousands of students to compete with, who would mostly be better qualified and older than me.
So I asked Cat and Rosie what they did for money, as they always seemed to have enough to get by. They weren’t often in the house in the evenings, sometimes they surfaced about ten in the morning, or came in when I was having breakfast. They were pretty coy about what they did and said that they didn’t think that it would suit me, and besides I was too young. Instead they told me to speak to Charlie about getting some work. They knew he did some sub-contracting systems development work and they thought he might be able to use a hand from me.
When I returned home I found that the house had a new resident, a beautiful young woman by the name of Pandora. She’d apparently been in Dawkins House, the Hephaestus children’s home that I’d grown up in, but I didn’t recognise her. She looked about 18, slightly shorter than me, golden blonde hair, blue eyes, curves you just wanted to hold onto, a pretty face and a smile so dazzling that it made you melt when she turned it onto you. In short, she was a total honey.
That said, I was immediately suspicious, if she’d come from the home why didn’t I remember her or recognise her, she was only about four of five years younger than me by the look of her. So I kept my distance from her, lest she distract me from the mission and also I needed to verify who she was before getting involved with helping her out, if she was one of the Hephaestus children, that is.
A couple of weeks after Pandora arrived I got cornered by her, while I was trying to sort out some of my personal administration at home. I’d been avoiding the place ever since she’d arrived as her presence set off my paranoia alert. That wasn’t the only thing she triggered, and the level of distraction she caused seemed to be oblivious to her, and it took a lot of concentration to focus on dealing with her without embarrassing myself.
She was full of questions about what we all did for money. I stalled her a little by turning the tables on her and asking her what she was good at and how she thought she could get some money. There were some flirtatious offerings, but in the end I said I thought I could get her some work as an alpha tester but that I would need to check with some of the guys doing the developing to see if they were happy for me to subcontract to her.
It was all I could do to get away from her so that I could focus, and I made it my priority to check out her background and make sure I knew exactly who and what I was dealing with. I was pretty certain that she must be one of the Hephaestus children. I didn’t think that a normal woman could possibly have that sort of effect on me, not a fully clothed one that seemed like an angel anyway.
I couldn’t get a job using the normal online channels, it seemed I lacked any sort of work experience or had fewer qualifications than most, not yet having been to university. So I tried another route.
Firstly I went and looked in the local high school forums, which I still had access to even though I’d just passed the citizenship exam and had now officially left school. I wanted to see where the older kids were working, as that would give me ideas.
Once I had a list of places that seemed to employ under-qualified and inexperienced teenagers I got my coat and went out. If I couldn’t get a job online I would try some good old fashioned face to face. The worst that could happen was that they’d tell me they didn’t have any jobs available.
The list in question was mostly coffee shops and eateries, with a couple of the mass entertainment places too. I noticed that it didn’t include the bars, which the under-age couldn’t work in. I decided to avoid the university area to start with as I figured that the students would crowd me out, they’d be better qualified and lived closer to the workplaces that would be frequented by their friends.
Round the corner from the house was a small collection of suitable places, a pub, two coffee shops and three cafe/restaurants as well as a couple more late night fast food places. There were also some retail outlets, but only a couple of them actually traded and both were charity shops that didn’t pay their part-time staff at all. I tried them in the order of their distance from the house. The first one was a global chain coffee shop, and they had no immediate vacancies. I was told to keep an eye on the job boards as that’s where they advertised.
Next was a local cafe, it looked like a family business from the outside and was well within the cheap end of the market. Looking through the window it seemed reasonably popular, there were people at about half the tables and several busy looking staff. All the staff looked young, except one older woman behind the counter. I went in and spoke to her “Excuse me, are you the manager?” I asked as she turned her attention to me.
“I am, yes.” She replied smiling. I noticed that she was wearing a Christian fish symbol on her business suit jacket lapel and also a crucifix round her neck, which was on top of a modest blouse.
“I’m looking for a job, and I wondered if you had any vacancies at all?” I asked.
“We do, as it happens. What sort of work were you looking for?”
“Um, I was thinking of being a waitress, but I’ll try anything you might have.” I offered, unsure of what might be the best route to employment.
“Have you any previous experience?”
“No, I’ve only just passed my exam.” I confessed.
“Not to worry, I’m sure you can pick it up as you go along. Have you got your ID with you?” she said with a brighter smile.
“Yes, I’ve got it all here, including my exam results”
“Excellent, why don’t you come into my office and we can talk a little more.” My spirits rose, it looked like I’d landed a job.
She lifted the hatch on the counter and I followed her through a door marked ‘private’ and into a small windowless office with an old fashioned desk, two chairs and shelving round the three walls that didn’t have doors in them. The desk was against the wall with the door in it, which had a large uncluttered white space above it. She motioned for me to sit in one of the chairs as she sat down in the other.
“My name is Mary, and you are?” she asked
“Pandora” I replied.
“OK Pandora, I just need to take a few details from you and get your consent to check them before I can offer you a job. Also, I imagine that you’ve probably got some questions for me, and I need to make sure that you know what will be expected of you. Is that OK?”
“Yes, it is”
“OK, let’s start with some of your details. Can I take them from your citizen card?” as she spoke the space above the desk lit up and became the Citizen Portal.
“Of course” I replied, passing my Citizen Card over the reader on the edge of the desk. The screen updated itself with my details, and my terminal buzzed to alert me that someone had accessed my Citizen record, which I authenticated. A moment passed and then the screen updated again, informing us that it was a Pre-Employment Check and it filled with my name at the top and then a series of green and amber boxes, with a red against the overall status.
“Oh dear!” Mary said “I’m really sorry, but I don’t think we can employ you.”
“Why? What’s wrong?” I was puzzled about what had suddenly changed. I was legally an adult, and allowed to work. I’d never been in any trouble with the police or done any of the other things that the care workers and teachers warned us all against. Why had this check suddenly gone red on me?
Mary paged it down to find another red box against ‘Health’ and then asked me “Do you have any health problems?”
“No, I’ve never been sick in my life” I replied.
“Can you show me your Citizen Card again please?” she said holding out her hand for it.
“Here it is” I said passing it over. She took it and turned it over to look at the back, glanced at it quickly and then returned it rapidly, like it was infectious.
“Look, there’s no way I can offer you a job, I think you’d better leave” Mary said standing up and making ushering motions at me. I looked bemused at her, but stood up and made my way out without saying anything else.
I worked my way through the other likely places on the row, although not the pub, and got pretty much the same result from them all. I went home feeling utterly dejected and worthless. I just couldn’t understand why no-one wanted anything to do with me.
Chapter 3 – Trust will be published on 11th October 2013.
If you cannot wait, get Perfects on your kindle for 99p.