This is part of a series. Refer to the Blog Index if you wish to read them in order.
When she finally (finally!) arrived in Los Angeles, despite the creepy guy with a neck tattoo that kept winking at her the last few hundred miles and the old lady who sat down next to her even though there were tons of open two seat spaces throughout the bus, she exited the bus with her bag in hand, walked a handful of steps and then stopped. It was chaos. There were people and buses everywhere. There were homeless people on the sidewalk out front, someone talking to themselves and rubbing their head with their thumb and forefinger sitting on a bench just outside the depot doors, and there was a urine smell pervading the entire area.
Her first thought was, what have I done. This was followed quickly with, never judge a book by it’s cover. She shook her head, hiked her bag up firmly into her hand, and walked through the depot and out the big glass doors and into the city. She walked around for a good half hour before she was in a neighborhood that felt safe enough to stop and sit for a minute, which she did as soon as she came to a little park with some benches. She needed food, a job, and a place to stay, and she needed them in that order. She also knew she didn’t want to head back the way she’d come. She sat and listened to the birds in the bushes, watching as they’d peek out at her, see if she had any food, then retreat back to the safety of the leaves.
Hunger got the best of her and she decided she’d rested long enough. She heaved her bag and continued walking west. As she’d hoped the neighborhood continued to improve and soon became rather swanky. She stopped at the first coffee shop she saw, it would do for food and liquid fuel. She noticed a help wanted sign on her way in and considered it would work out for more than she’d expected.
The cashier looked at her and then at her bag as she walked in, gave her a half-smile and said “we don’t allow camping, company policy; you have to purchase something to sit down and I have to kick you out after an hour unless you make another purchase.”
“Uh, oh, I just, um, I just arrived here and wanted coffee and something to eat and maybe,” she gestured back over her shoulder towards the sign, “ask about what kind of help you need?”
“Here’s the application,” the cashier replied after digging around under the counter for a second, “what’ll you have?”
“Coffee, biggest you have, and,” she looked over at the pastry display which was mostly empty, “which is better, the muffin or the scone?”
“They’re both too sweet. The scone is more filling though.”
“Scone it is, thanks,” she said.
She paid and took the application and her bag over to a nearby table. She began rustling around in her bag for a pen but the only one she could find was the one from the car salesman who’d insisted she take it. She didn’t want to use it but she also didn’t want to have to ask to borrow a pen. She finally decided to use it, who would notice? and she sat down to start filling out the application.
“Sorry about the camping remark,” the cashier said as she brought the scone on a plate and her coffee in a large cup, “I wasn’t trying to be rude, it’s been a long day. I’m Christy,” she said, sticking out her hand for a shake.
“Sarah,” she said, accepting the extended hand, “Um, so, when I said I just arrived, I mean I just walked off the bus. The application here wants all kinds of stuff like bank accounts and I,” she took a deep breath, “I don’t have any of that yet.”
“Do you have a place to stay?” Christy asked.
“Not exactly, I kind of figured it was more important to get a job than to get a place,” she replied, blushing at how naive she sounded.
“Oh boy,” Christy said taking a breath and sitting down across from her, “let’s not fill out an application just yet. We have a really high turnover rate here, really high. My boss has started paying new hires cash every Wednesday until they’ve been here two weeks and knows he’s going to keep them on, so let’s just see how you do. If you work out, you’ll have all the stuff you need for a formal application by then, right?”
“Right, definitely!” Sarah said, biting her lip.
“Normally I’d have you start on a midday shift, like right now, but it’s too late to start that shift so you’ll have to start on an evening shift later today, if you can?”
“Absolutely, yes, I can,” Sarah said, eyes lighting up.
“You’ve got a few hours if you want to go look for a place? There’s always stuff available this time of year because school is out. There’s probably a bunch of places listed in today’s paper,” she got up and went over to a table by the front door holding a stack of hastily patted together newspaper sections. She came back holding the real estate section and set it down on the table. “Look near the back, the stuff in front is all for sale.”
“Thank you,” Sarah said, “thank you so much. I really didn’t expect…”
Christy cut her off, “just show up for your shift tonight and be ready to be on your feet the entire time.”
“I will,” Sarah said smiling.
Christy got up and went back behind the counter. Sarah tried not to pay attention to what she was doing, there’d be time to learn the job later, right now she needed to focus on a place to live. She followed Christy’s advice and turned the entire section over, starting at the back. She realized she had no idea where the different neighborhoods were and that they were all more expensive than she’d expected. She looked over toward Christy who was busy cleaning out the pastry display.
She finished eating her scone and realized she’d only circled four possible places, all the ones that were cheapest. She stood up, picked up the now empty plate, and walked back up to the counter. “Thank you for this, and for the paper.”
“No problem,” Christy replied, “you find anything?”
“Well, I’m not exactly sure,” Sarah replied, “I’ve circled a few but I don’t really know the area, so I’ll go check em out and see I guess. You have any advice?”
“Yeah. Don’t go south of the Ten or east of Western Avenue.”
“Right,” Sarah said, not knowing what any of the meant, “thanks again! I’ll be back on time and ready to work. Jeans okay?”
“Of course, and we’ll give you a shirt to wear. You a small or a medium?”
“Medium,” she replied, as she turned and walked back to get her bag and what was left of her coffee. “See ya!”
She headed out to the street and turned to keep walking west. The paper wasn’t going to be helpful without knowing the area. So she just walked and kept her eyes open. Surely there’d be apartments or houses or something. But after twenty minutes it was all still businesses. She decided to turn south and in less than a couple blocks was in a neighborhood. She started walking back west looking for signs.
All the houses were cute and small with perfect little green lawns in front and great big trees out by the sidewalk. This would be the perfect area to live, she thought, but there weren’t any apartments. She’d seen lots of people jogging over the last hour and she finally decided she’d stop the next one she saw. Sure enough a woman with an incredibly long ponytail, unbelievably short shorts, and a tiny bra came running her way. Sarah waved and said “excuse me.” The jogger didn’t slow and Sarah realized she had ear buds in. She turned as the jogger started running by and began to run with her.
“Excuse me!” she tried again.
This time the jogger saw her out of her peripheral vision, did a double take, and then stopped to run in place and pull out an ear bud. “Yeah?” she asked.
“Sorry, I was just wondering if you know of any apartments around here?”
The jogger looked up and down the street and said, “not here, you’d have to go west or south, this is all houses for a few blocks. You looking to rent?”
“Yeah, I just got to town and I have a job and everything, but I haven’t figured out where I’m gonna live yet.”
“Where ya from?”
“Oh, pfft, a long way away,” Sarah looked down at the ground and waved her hand in an over the rainbow gesture, “it doesn’t matter,” she said smiling, hoping that would be answer enough.
The jogger shrugged, “we’re all from somewhere. There’s a house a couple doors down, I know it’s always got different people living in it every few months so I think they rent it to students. You might want to check there.”
“A house? That would be amazing,” Sarah said, “which one?”
“That one there,” the jogger said, pointing across the street to a cute little craftsman style cottage, “the green one with the white trim.”
“Thank you,” Sarah said, “thank you so much!”
“You’re welcome. I’m Holly, by the way,” the jogger said, “if you move in you’ll be seeing me every day. This is my regular route.”
“I’m Sarah. Thank you again, Holly.”
Holly put her earbud back in and waved as she ran off. Sarah hoisted her bag, looked both ways across the street with cars parked up and down both sides but none driving, and headed to the little green and white house. With any luck this would be home, she thought.
~~~That’s one hour~~~