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Chapter 14 : How to Find the Perfect Occupation
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As I am lying on the floor of the airport, everything seems fuzzy except for one face: Al’s. Brad and Tanner are hovering above me, but it’s Al’s approaching face that somehow seems very clear to me. It finally occurs to me how much I’ve missed him the past four years. It feels like someone poured liquid chocolate cookies right out of the oven straight into my chest and I can’t help but smile broadly. This concerns Brad and Tanner, however.
“Oh man, she’s gone loony!” Tanner exclaims nervously.
Brad is shaking my shoulders, “Taylor! Taylor! Are you ok?!” He asks, on the edge of losing it.
“Well you shaking my shoulders sure isn’t going to help, dipshit.” I say, putting a hand to my forehead where I made contact with the solid metal sign.
“Oh thank god you’re allright!” Tanner says, engulfing me in a hug. It’s while I am being crushed by Tanner that brad notices the presence of our other friend.
“Al?” Brad exclaims, confused. “What are you doing here? When did you get here?”
“Taylor, are you all right? I saw you go down.” Al says. I’ve missed his voice so much. “I was just getting back from Northern France for a work trip.” He says, answering Brad’s question.
“Hey Al. Haven’t seen you in a long time.” I say as Tanner finally releases me, only to engulf Al in a huge bear hug.
“Albus! It’s been so long, man!” He says.
Al’s eyebrows crease. “I saw you last week Tanner.”
“I know, but today’s just been really weird. First we see Taylor for the first time in four years, then we get arrested by the airport police, then Taylor hits her head on a ‘watch head here’ sign, then you just pop out of nowhere!” He elaborates.
I scoff at Tanner’s weirdness. Then I go over and give Al a hug. “Hey.” I say softly.
He grins. “I’ve missed you Tails.” He breathes into my ear.
“Hey guys! I got an icepack, I see Taylor’s doing better?” Mr. Wood has returned with a first aid kit.
“I’m fine Mr. Wood. Really, thanks though.” I say, letting go of Al.
“Ok, well, that’s ok since I don’t know how to operate this weird muggle shit anyways.”
Like father, like son.
“Well, Taylor, Dad’s at home waiting for us. We should probably get going if you’re doing better. “Don’t be a stranger Al. You still on for the pub on Thursday?”
“Yeah, I’ll see you then. See you around Taylor, Tanner. Nice to see you too Mr. Wood.”
Mr. Wood grunts. Tanner looks hurt. “You guys are having drinks without me?”
“You can come if you want.” Brad says, trying not to roll his eyes. “It’s not exactly a closed event.”
“YES!” His face lights up like a Christmas Tree on radioactive batteries. “We be getting’ crunk! Shots are on me, good fellas!”
Al shakes his head and smirks at me. I laugh.
“See you guys around.” I say before leaving with Brad.
The five of us disperse and head out into the different lots. Al catches a ride home with the Woods, who live not far from his flat in London.
Brad and I are about five minutes from my dad’s more suburban flat when Brad brings up the conversation I’ve been dreading.
“So, I know I hinted at this in my letters, but dad… he hasn’t been doing so good.” He starts up hesitantly.
I sigh, remembering the letters I received from Brad. Each one, while generally upbeat and congenial, had an underlying feeling that crept up between the lines. Phrases like, “Dad’s been pretty quiet lately”, and “Dad lost another job” came up pretty frequently, and I couldn’t help but worry. My dad had been in bad shape when my mom first died, but he still put on a good front until he was caught for the fraud. He explained to me when we were together in America for my last year of schooling that the pressure had built up so much that the business side of his life was suffering. Paying the rent became an issue, and the fraud was how he acted to solve the problem. It was still wrong, but there were other stresses that had caused it. After he was released, his grief had seemed to transform. While it was always visible since my mum had gone, he returned from prison gravely stoic. Too long without me and Brad hadn’t done him well, along with the pressures of guilt and grief to keep him company for the entirety of his stay in the prison. Something remained broken inside of him, even though our relationships strengthened. I had worried a lot while I was gone about what was happening. His letters grew shorter, and the scary phrases in Brad’s became more frequent.
So Brad’s blunt statement had me clenching the armrests in anticipation of seeing my dad again.
“Not so good how?” I asked Brad.
“He’s been so quiet and reserved. I think he’s dealing with too much stuff bottled up inside him Taylor. I think he needs some sort of help.” He admitted.
“Have you talked to Aunt Mart about it?”
“Yeah. But she can’t really do much about it. She lives pretty far out.”
I chewed on my thumbnail. “While, she must be able to do something about it. Hasn’t she been calling you guys?”
Brad sighs. “Well, even if she could do something, it’s not exactly her responsibility.”
“Well, why wouldn’t be? And maybe you’re wrong. Maybe dad’s fine. Maybe he’s just being himself. He could just need space.” I argue.
He looks at me. “Taylor, he’s in a pretty serious state. And we’re the adults now. We have to do something about it.”
I’m quiet as he parks in the street in front of the house.
“C’mon. You can see for yourself.” He says.
We walk up the walkway and Brad unlocks the front door, letting me in first with my duffel.
The house is dark, and eerily quiet.
“Dad?” I call out into the empty hallways. There’s no response.
I find him out on the deck. I shoot my brother that says, See, he’s outside in the fresh air. How bad can it be?
Not so good doesn’t really cover it.
My dad is sitting in a deck chair, staring blindly out into the small yard and then out into the forest behind the fence. It’s dark, as it’s about eight, and it’s very cold, but my dad doesn’t seem to notice even in his white t-shirt and jeans. The look in his eyes is what scares the shit out of me though. It’s blank and cold, empty. Beside him is an empty beer bottle and he appears to be clutching something in his hand.
“Daddy?” I say softly.
He looks over to me, noticing my presence for the first time. He smiles, but it doesn’t reach his dead eyes. “It’s so nice to see you Taylor.”
He stands up, slowly and sluggishly. His hands are shaking, and as he comes closer, I notice that the empty eyes are bloodshot and accompanied by dark purple bags.
I hug him, gingerly. He feels emaciated compared to when I last hugged him a couple of years ago. “I missed you dad.”
“Me too. “ He says.
It’s a happy reunion, but the look Brad and I share over my father’s shoulder is anything but.
My dad is not doing so good at all.
A week after I get back, I begin the search for a job. Now that my internship in Romania is up, I have to start figuring out what I want to do for real. I could go back and continue the dragon taming, but that was just a tester job to gain experience. Plus, my family needs me right now. Leaving Brad and my dad alone for so long sucked.
So now, the options were wide open. Me and Brad had begun to write a list of possible jobs for me.
It looked like this:
Dragon Tamer (all the way back in Romania)
Ice Cream Vendor (but only if they pay by yearly salary)
Professional Quidditch Player
So not a lot of headway in my search for a job. None of the jobs were really appealing to me, as I wanted to stay on the land mass called “The United Kingdom” on a regular basis. I was open to travel, I actually preferred it, but family came first right now.
“You know, Al mentioned some openings in his company at the pub the other week. You should ask him about it. “ Brad suggested, realizing that the list wasn’t exactly well considered.
“You mean like, journalism?” I asked, questionably.
“Yeah. You could be a freelance reporter of some sort, like Al. Plus, your writing isn’t bad, I mean, you wrote pieces for publications while you interned in Romania.” He pointed out.
I pursed my lips, thinking hard. That wasn’t a bad idea. I’d probably be somewhere down low, as my writing technique wasn’t exactly prime journalist condition, but I could do little write ups, and I had experience. They could always throw me in with Al, jetting around the world to report on different adventures. “Yeah, I’ll owl him about it.” I decided.
“Good. It’ll be a good chance for you two to catch up anyways.” Brad’s eyes had a soft glint to them when he said this.
“Uh-huh.” I said, distracted by thoughts of running around the world with Al at my side, reporting for a classy publication that many adventure loving wizards would read.
“TAAAYY… BRAAD. IS THERE ANY BEER LEFT IN THE FRIDGE?” And there came the sound of my father’s voice, bringing me back to the present.
Brad and I sighed, looking at each other. Brad gave me a pointed look, and I knew he was pushing me to consider the help idea again, something I was more than a little hesitant about.
“Just a second Dad.” I called out to the deck.
“Thanks for meeting me Al.” I said, as he sat down across from me in the rugged booth at the Leaky Cauldron. “I was hoping you’d be able to spare some time.”
“Taylor, of course.” He smiled warmly. “There’s always time in my books for you guys.” He said, adding the ‘guys’ piece somewhat rushed, like he wanted to make sure he got that in there.
“Well, I know you probably have better things to do than to help me with my dismal job search.”
He faked thinking really hard, putting his fist to his chin and looking up. “Nope, I can’t think of anything better.”
I laughed. “So, Brad tells me there might be a couple of openings at your company?”
He nodded, and flagged down a couple of butterbeers. “There were a bunch of people that left, so now they’re rebuilding certain departments from basically scratch.”
A waitress arrived with two butterbeers, perspiration still running down the sides. Al and I popped the tops off. “Cheers,” Al saluted. We clinked glasses.
“So are there any departments I’m qualified to apply for?” I asked, taking a huge swig of the cold foamy drink.
“There’s a couple of jobs that would fit you really well, if you ask me. There’s spaces for a few columnists if you have any ideas for something you could write about on a weekly basis. There’s a couple basic desk jobs, some broadcasting positions that are harder to get with no experience. And then there are positions in the freelance department. If your writing or photography or whatever is good, they’ll just hire you there and tell you to pretty much run with it. Then they publish whatever good stuff you come up with. That’s what I do.”
“Ok, where do I get applications? Is there specific paperwork to fill out or whatever?”
“Just tell them I told you to write in. Owl them a letter that just tells them what you’re looking for and what you can bring to the company. Mention any jobs you’d be interested in taking, and tell them about your experience in Romania. Really emphasize the reporting stuff you were in charge of. Maybe the magazine piece you were in that we published a couple years back.”
I nod. “Sounds easy enough.” I scan the restaurant. “So tell me. Is Scorp really some hotshot business man, or is that a bluff?”
Al laughs. “Yeah, he cut into a great deal. Got lucky right off the bat.”
“Well, must be a whole lotta luck. Scorp is horrible at making decisions.”
“Yeah. He’s a lucky bastard. Got the girl and the galleons straight out of Hogwarts.” Al commented.
“Please tell me that he’s a huge prick now and a cocky prat that’s too good for us.”
“Nah. He’s just an insufferable git now is all when it comes to business deals. He tried to convince Brad to invest in this pirate ship company a couple months back. Said it was going to be huge.”
I laughed. “I’m sure that went well.”
It was weird how easy it was for me and Al to just blabber on about everything and nothing like we were the same old Tails and Al. It felt like there was a lot between us, but now that we were face to face, everything felt clear, as if the fog had only come when I left. I had been questioning how much I had missed when I was gone. But Al made me feel like everything would figure itself out now that I was here. It would be easy to reconnect, to bridge the gaps. But Al himself was one of the biggest conundrums that I should have been considering now that I was back. Would things have passed between us, or was there still something there that was more?
The buzzing of my skin as I sat just across from him told me that there was an ocean more.
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