Twenty-seven days. It had been twenty-seven days since I broke up with Michelle, since I’d quit my job and since I’d put a decent pair of jeans on. Being unemployed wasn’t working out well for me. Our ex-colleagues had put two and two together – me suddenly not showing up to the office anymore, and Michelle being cranky and upset when she was at work – and word had gotten out that we’d had a relationship. This made it impossible to find a new job, since no game designing company wanted that sort of drama in the office. I hadn’t gotten any reaction on my many e-mails or phone calls. It made me really unmotivated and I spent most of my days chilling on the couch and watching TV.
The doorbell rang. I reluctantly got up and walked towards the door. Surprisingly, I saw Hester standing on the porch through the glass window. I hadn’t seen her much lately, mostly because I never left the house anymore.
“Hey, Hester,” I said after I opened the door. “What’s up?”
Hester smiled. “I wanted to come by and check on you. I haven’t seen you around for a while.”
“Uh… Yeah. I’ve been kind of busy with work,” I murmured, my cheeks reddening.
Hester looked at my sweatpants and raised her eyebrow. “I can see that. Can I come in?”
I stepped aside and Hester came in. “Okay, I’ll be honest,” she confessed. “Allie sent me a message on Facebook saying she was worried about you and if I would check on you. She told me that you broke up with your girlfriend, but I don’t know the details. All I know is that you seem kind of down and… Well, I wanted to cheer you up.”
I felt slightly embarrassed that Allie had to ask my neighbor to take care of me, but at the same time, it was really nice to know that Hester cared enough to come by and check on me. I hadn’t felt like a woman cared about me in a long time.
Hester just looked at me with her typical half-smile. “How about I make us some lunch?”
Not much later, we were talking in the kitchen while Hester was preparing a salad. It felt great to get the whole story of my chest – the secrecy, the arguments, the break up and its horrible consequences… Hester just listened, giving me sympathetic looks, but not once did she scold me or scoff or make it feel like it was all my fault. Just her presence in my kitchen made me feel comforted, safe, and… happy? Happier than I’d been in the past few months, that was for sure. And for some reason, even though we weren’t super close, it didn’t seem strange to talk to her in my house, have her cooking lunch for me, and telling her about what I was feeling. It felt like it’d always been this way.
“I just don’t know what to do now,” I sighed, when we were sat at the table. “How can I ever find another job now? Nobody wants to work with someone who made his way to the top by screwing his boss.”
Hester snorted. “Such an elegant way of putting it.”
“I’m serious. I’ll have to spend the rest of my life working at a fast food chain or something,” I groaned. “God, how did I mess all of this up so badly? I thought breaking up with Michelle was the right thing to do, and it was, but it’s gotten me in a totally different kind of trouble.”
Hester looked at me for a second, then put down her fork and leaned forward.
“Enz… If nobody wants to hire you, then why don’t you just… Do it on your own?”
I frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Well, you told me that Michelle often let you join important marketing and financing meetings. So you know how the business side of game design works. And you’re so creative, your designs, your ideas, they’re amazing! Why don’t you just start working independently?”
“I can’t do that!” I exclaimed. “I’m twenty, I don’t have that kind of experience.”
“So you’ll build experience! It might take a while for things to take off, but it’s better than sitting around at home in sweatpants all day.”
She had a point there. But the idea alone made me so scared and nervous…
“You really think I could do that?” I asked shyly. Hester smiled encouragingly. “I know you could. And hey, I know quite a lot about money and managing from working in my aunt’s restaurant. I could help you out if you needed it.”
“You would do that for me?”
“Of course. But only if you finally buy me that cup of coffee,” she added with a grin. I couldn’t help but smile, for the first time in a long time, a genuine, broad smile played on my face. Hester’s idea seemed like a leap, but maybe it was worth taking a risk. And not just in the professional area of my life… Maybe things would start looking up from now on?