Thursday, December 6, 2012

Excerpt from The Green Ticket

College junior Alex Abrams scores her dream job at the ripe age of twenty – manager to a successful salon and spa. Thrilled to finally have a real adult job, Alex enthusiastically jumps into the world of schedules, conference calls, and getting a massage when interviewing prospective employees. What she doesn’t expect are the very grown-up issues that comes with a demanding boss. Kevin Dohlman quickly becomes Alex’s worse nightmare – covering up his affairs, dealing with his enormous ego, and trying to protect her female staff from him becomes a full-time job in its own right. Alex has also befriended Kevin’s wife and co-owner, Dani, and is trying to keep Kevin’s secrets hidden from her. The situation only worsens when Kevin starts paying Alex off to make sure she keeps her insider knowledge to herself.

While struggling to keep her wits and stay happy with her new grown-up job, Alex is juggling college courses, a new love interest, and keeping up with her close group of girlfriends. When her roommate and best friend Lila gets offered an opportunity to move to Los Angeles and sign with an agent, Alex realizes her life truly is changing, and everyone around her – including herself –– is growing up.  Knowing she is faced with some hard decisions ahead, Alex struggles with keeping her job at Blissful. But does she really want to throw away what she dreamed of as a career – or will the secret-keeping for Kevin become too much to handle? The Green Ticket is a story about morals versus money, and how one young woman navigates the shaky line between the two.

Chapter 1

Bustling salon and spa seeking a full time manager to oversee daily operations. Job duties will include but will not be limited to: hiring and scheduling staff, assisting with appointment management, scheduling training opportunities, dealing with cash flow, marketing and advertising of the business, and ensuring salon and spa is run with class and enthusiasm. No experience in salon and spa business is required, but a business degree is preferred. Serious, enthusiastic, and hard-working individuals please email résumé and cover letter to Hours will vary, pay is negotiable and based on experience.

I cracked my knuckles against my palm, tiny pops of the bad habit music to my ears. A manager at a salon and spa? This job listing was practically screaming my name. I didn’t have any experience with managing a salon–– or anywhere for that matter–– but I loved getting my hair done. And mani/pedis. And my bushy eyebrows needed a good hot wax job at least once every thirty days.

                I bookmarked the job listing, making a note on my daily to-do list sitting next to my laptop. Polish résumé, I scribbled, right after 60 minutes Pilates/yoga workout and finish cleaning kitchen.

                Lila burst through the door at that moment, her long blonde hair flying behind her. “We must work out tonight. Please come and motivate me. I’m getting my pictures taken in two weeks and I really need to drop some weight. And tone up. Look firm. Look good. The TV adds ten pounds, you know. Did you get your assignment done yet for Bater’s class? I need to work on that too.” Even though Lila Medlin had been my best friend for years, the speed at which she did everything still amazed me. I watched her beautiful virgin hair (she’s a natural blonde–– the bitch) barely make it past the doorframe before getting caught.

                “You’re in luck. I was going to do some Pilates and yoga tonight anyway. Just do it with me. That will help firm and tighten. Even though you know I don’t think you need it.”

                “When I fit into your size two jeans, I’ll finally start listening.” Lila walked into the kitchen, opening cabinets, then the refrigerator. “We have no food! Want to order a pizza or something? Ooh, maybe some wings? I’m craving hot sauce.”

                I walked into the kitchen behind her, peering into the depths of our pathetic excuse for a dorm fridge. “We have food. Here’s a bag of lettuce, some carrot sticks back here and croutons in the cabinet. I snagged some packets of ranch from the lounge yesterday. Voila–– let’s make a salad!”

                Lila pulled a face, reacting like I asked her to go on Survivor and eat cockroaches. “Uh, yeah. Salad sounds great if I was trying to starve myself, Alex. I’m craving real food, not rabbit food.”       
                I held my hands up in surrender. “You’re the one talking about toning and firming. I’m just saying a salad will give you better odds than buffalo wings.” I wasn’t going to mention the calorie count I had just estimated in my head.

                Lila dreamt of one day becoming an entertainment reporter and was itching for the chance to get out of Dodge–– or rather, Iowa. Lila and I had been best friends since we came to Kaufman College in Des Moines three years ago, and had been living together for two. We wanted to move out on our own and get a house, but neither of us had the financials to support that yet. Lila was saving every penny to put towards photography sessions, voice lessons and even acting classes. Her big goal was to head out to Los Angeles and somehow land an audition for Buzzworthy, the hottest celebrity news show at the moment. I supported her goal of being a reporter, though I had no idea how to help her achieve it.

                My goals weren’t as specific as Lila’s. Mainly, I wanted to be able to stand on my own two feet and stop relying on my sister for everything. Alicia was my big sister, married to Craig Bowersworth and living with their five kids in Seattle. Craig’s job as a political campaign manager led them to many places, but Alicia fell in love with Seattle the minute she laid eyes on the rainy landscape, so they put down roots there. Alicia was a stay at home mom, and with Craig’s income that he pulled in, money was not a worry for them. Alicia helped me stay financially afloat by sending me money each month. I held down stray jobs here and there, but still hadn’t quite figured out what I wanted to do when I graduated. I was studying Business Leadership and Entrepreneurship at college and still waiting to see which direction the wind would take me. 

                “Fine, fine, a salad it is. Can you whip one up for me quick? I need to put my face on before Joel comes over.”

                “What time is he stopping by?”

                “He said around five. He has some study group thing tonight so he wanted to drop by and see me before that.” Joel Lohrbach had been Lila’s boyfriend for just over year, starting when we were sophomores in college. Lila fell hard and fast for Joel, and the attraction still baffled me. Joel was short and geeky, with spiked black hair and big glasses that did not make a fashion statement, and always had his nose in a book. Lila was tall, blonde and gorgeous, with ambitions to live in sunny LA and schmooze with celebrities. Joel was not agreeable to Lila’s future plans and I had no idea what would happen to their relationship if Lila actually made it in the entertainment biz. I wouldn’t mind seeing them break up. I thought Joel was a dick to Lila more than a sweetheart. But she loved him, and who was I to say anything if my friend seemed happy. Enough.

                “Okay. Get your makeup on and we’ll eat some salad and change for the gym. And you can help me look at this job I’m thinking about applying for. Tell me if you get good vibes or not.” Lila always said she got “vibes” about certain things, such as if the elective I wanted to sign up for would be a brain buster or if the new Chinese restaurant in town had bugs in their food. And she’s usually pretty spot on.

                “No problem. Are you thinking about leaving Tastie’s again?” Lila’s voice was muffled as she shouted out from the bathroom.

                I put a healthy portion of lettuce in two plastic cereal bowls, quickly diced up the carrots and sprinkled those in, and shook the worn bag of croutons over the top. After smothering the salads with ranch dressing–– officially taking them from a healthy snack to a questionable one with the rich, calorie-laden topping–– I was satisfied. Finding two clean forks in our utensil drawer was somewhat of a challenge, since neither of us were big on washing dishes. After finally finding two, I took a seat at our two-person table shoved in the back corner of our minuscule kitchen and waited for Lila.

                “Did you hear me? Are you thinking about leaving Tastie’s?” Lila came back into the kitchen, her face glowing and her blue eyes popping, even though she looked like she had no makeup on. I had yet to master the natural look like she could–– wearing two tons of concealer, highlighter, blush, shadow, liner and mascara, and looking like she had just woken up. Mine always ended up looking like clown makeup when I would put the effort in.

                I dug into my salad, loading up my fork with lettuce and a crouton. “Yeah, just thinking about it, though. I’m getting tired of all my Friday and Saturday nights getting spent with sleazy guys. But the money is really helping me build up my savings account. I can’t live off Alicia forever.”

                “I know, but look how good you’re doing saving money. You won’t be a waitress forever.”

                “I wish I knew what I did want to be. How hard is it to figure out a career, especially as a junior in college? Shouldn’t I have this down already so I can stop taking all these electives?”

                “Some people need more time. You’ll figure it out. If you don’t by the time I hit the high road out of this state, just come to LA with me. You could probably find a job out there in a heartbeat.”

                “As what?”

                “A model! An actress! I could get all the exclusive scoops on which designer you’re wearing and who you’re making a sex tape with next. We could rule the world out there together. Come on, Alex! What do you think? Sounds good, huh?”

                “Lila, I won’t be making sex tapes with anyone in the foreseeable future. Or the unforeseeable future either, you perv.” I dug out the last crouton from the bottom of the bowl, crunching it between my teeth. “Besides, that lifestyle just isn’t for me. I don’t like being the center of attention. I would rather be behind the scenes.”

                “What about a movie director? Or a screenwriter?” Lila kept firing off suggestions, and while I appreciated her trying to help, I knew it would never work. I was a painfully shy child growing up, always hiding behind my sister and keeping to myself. Our mother, Lisa Abrams, died when I was five, Alicia fifteen. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer and by the time the doctors found it, the disease was too far gone. She was only thirty-three. I didn’t have a lot of memories from her, just little snippets–– like the way her perfume smelled and how she loved being outdoors. I remembered that she used to push me around in a red wagon all the time, around the block or sometimes all the way down to the convenience store if she needed something. I missed her terribly, but sometimes I thought it was just the idea of a having a mom that I missed most. I didn’t know her enough to miss Lisa the person, but I knew I missed Lisa the mom.

                Our father, Marcus Abrams, was madly in love with our mother. Alicia would tell me stories of how they would dance around the living room at night when they thought she was already asleep. How Marcus was the kind of guy who never missed her birthday or forgot flowers on their anniversary. My parents were high school sweethearts and married just weeks after graduation, welcoming Alicia eight months later. Marcus went a little crazy after she died, not being able to handle the grief. He tried hard to stick around and be a good dad, but left right after Alicia turned seventeen. I really didn’t miss him as much. My memories of him aren’t very good ones. After Mom passed away, he took up drinking too much whisky every night to hide the pain, and I remember him yelling at Alicia all the time. He wrote Alicia and myself a letter when he left, saying he couldn’t stand the physical reminders of Mom–– which apparently were us. He eventually remarried and now lives in Georgia with his new wife and her children. I hadn’t spoken to him since he left, and Alicia was no longer in contact with him, either.

                Alicia was my hero. We had an aunt and uncle that took us in for a year, until Alicia turned eighteen. After that, we moved to Des Moines from our hometown of Baruva, Illinois, population just under 1,000 and not much opportunity. Alicia secured a job at the capitol building, starting as a typist and working her way up to secretary, then an office manager. It was there that she met Craig Bowersworth, and they immediately fell in love and were married. Alicia worked her ass of as essentially a single mother for years, helping raise me, enrolling me in school, keeping me clothed and healthy. I loved my sister with all my heart and missed her terribly. I had thoughts of moving to Seattle to be close to her again, but I loved Kaufman College and Lila and my other friends and really wanted to make it on my own. I wanted to stop relying on her for tuition and rent money and health insurance.

                “Those are all great suggestions, just not for me. I was thinking about choosing a different major, maybe trying to narrow it down or something. Business is so broad, so general. Maybe that’s part of the problem.”

                Lila carried our bowls to the sink, adding some dish soap and running water over them to “let them soak.” Lila’s version of doing the dishes.  “That’s always a possibility. Let me look at the job quick that you mentioned. What was it for?”            

                “A manager at a spa and salon.”

                “That would be perfect for you! You love those places. And see ––your major could help you out here.”

                “Don’t get too excited. I can’t see a whole lot of owners putting an inexperienced twenty-year old in charge just because she loves getting pedicures.” I pulled up the bookmarked page and Lila started reading, running her eyes across the page.

                “Alex, are you kidding me? It says right here, ‘no experience required, business degree preferred.’ That’s you! What are you waiting for?”

                “First of all, a lot of job postings say they don’t need experienced people, but if someone walks in and has ten years working at a spa under their belt, they will get the job. And secondly, I don’t have a degree yet. Or have you forgotten that minor detail?”

                Lila shooed off my concerns with a wave of her hand. “Big deal. You’ve nailed every interview you have been on. You’re enthusiastic, hard-working, and personable. You have to at least apply for it. Just give it a chance. You’ll never know unless you go for it.”

                “I already put getting my résumé together on my to-do list for today.” I hesitated, weighing the pros and cons in my head. “And I do interview well.” I once landed a job as a hotel clerk, even though I interviewed in a mini-skirt. In my defense, I never meant to interview, or even apply for the job when I left my apartment on the way to the mall that day. I saw the Now Hiring sign from the road and decided to stop in for an application. The manager was there and not busy, so I filled out my app, did the interview, and scored the job the next day. “I’ll get it done by the end of the week,” I decided, causing Lila to squeal and clap her hands together. “But I’m not going to get overly optimistic about this. And I’m going to keep job hunting. Waitressing is just not for me anymore.”

                “I agree. I’m getting tired of it too. I feel like something positive could happen here. You’re focusing on getting a fab career, and I’m going to up my chances of getting discovered. I feel good. Things are about to change for us, Alex.”

                “I hope you’re right, my friend. I hope you’re right.”

Samantha March... an author, editor, publisher, blogger, and all around book lover. She runs the popular book/women’s lifestyle blog ChickLitPlus, which keeps her bookshelf stocked with the latest reads and up to date on all things health, fitness, fashion, and celebrity related. In 2011 she launched her independent publishing company Marching Ink and her debut novel Destined to Fail. When she isn’t reading, writing, or blogging, you can find her cheering for the Green Bay Packers.

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