Chapter three – The hermit in the mountains
‘So? How did it go?’
I sighed and rubbed my neck, explaining what happened. Lara was a good listener.
‘So now I have to wait one to two months for my request to be put through,’ I concluded. ‘If it gets put through at all. I had to make up a false name, and I’m sure they’re going to check it.’
‘You tried your best,’ Lara stated. ‘Now there’s nothing more you can do but wait and leave it to great mother plumbob.’
‘I know. And I was sort of thinking…’
‘Where you are going to sleep until then? I already told you that you’re always welcome here.’
‘Thank you,’ I smiled. ‘But that’s not it. I know I can stay here, but it feels wrong to take advantage of your church for that long. I don’t want to stay here in the knowledge of being a burden on any of you-‘
‘You’re not a burden, love!’ Lara protested.
‘Please, just hear me out. I know it doesn’t feel that way to you, but it does to me. So I’ve been thinking. What if I got a job? Then I’ll be able to pay for my lodging here, at least until the Town Hall lets me into their file room.’
‘Well, if you’re that set on paying for your lodging, I guess I can’t stop you,’ Lara sighed, but there was a smile on her face. ‘Taking care of sims in need is the job of the church, but only until they’re able to take care of themselves. Allright, my dear, you have my blessing. Go out there and find yourself a job. Actually…’
‘I might just have something you’d be perfect for. An acquaintance of mine has been having trouble hiring someone to help her out. Would you like to have the address?’
‘Really?’ I said with excitement in my voice. ‘Yes, please!’
My potential workplace was far out of the city. All the way into the mountains, where the buzzing everyday activity of Bridgeport faded. I eventually found the address, and was surprised by what I saw.
There was a tiny lake at the base of the hills, and next to the lake stood a small, two-floor wooden cabin. Laundry was drying in the wind next to the house and behind fencing I could see plants and trees. But the really amazing thing was what was around the tiny lot.
Endless mountains and peaks, going as far as the eye could see. The grey noisiness of the city was nowhere to be seen or heard. In the distance I heard some unknown birds singing, and on the other side of the lake something deer-looking moved quickly into the shadows of the trees. I felt as ease right away.
Okay, her name is Ashley Hemmington, I thought, reading Lara’s handwriting from the piece of paper. I ascended the stairs that led to the porch and rang the doorbell. It stayed suspiciously silent on the other side of the door. After a few seconds I figured that whoever lived here must have left, and attempted to turn around again. That’s when the door opened.
She seemed… a bit odd. Her reddish brown eyes looked at me with no expression, and for a second I wondered what on plumbob I’d gotten myself into now.
‘What… what do you want?’
Okay, gotta make a good impression now, I thought, and cheerishly raised my hand.
‘Hiya, miss Hemmington! My name is Cathy, and I’m here about the job request you put up at the agency. May I come in?’
‘Yes, but… the job is outside. Come with me.’
I quickly followed her to the fenced garden. Some plants I recognised – tomatoes, apples in a tree and another patch of watermelon plants – but others were completely new to me.
‘Are those… purple oranges?’
‘Yes,’ Ashley said proudly. ‘This place is… important to my research. But I don’t have time to take care of all the plants because of work anymore…’
Her voice trembled and then just seemed to fade away, as she gazed upon the garden.
‘Eh, miss Hemmington – Ashley?’
‘Ah, yes. I’m… sorry. You wanted the job here, did you not?’
‘Yes. What do I have to do?’
‘It’s not… much. I can’t take care of them all when I’m out at work, and I work all day at the lab. Would you… take care of my garden when I’m not here? They don’t need a lot of attention…’
She talked about the plants as if they were her children. Maybe she really did think of them in that way.
‘I’ll leave instructions how to take care of them when I go to work. I’ll pay well, too… what do you say?’
‘Wait, you hired a gardener?’ I asked, surprised. Lara hadn’t said anything about that. And what was with this weird situation?
‘I’m not a gardener, miss. I don’t know anything about plants.’
Of course, that wasn’t why I was really hesitating. The woman seemed a little… strange. As if she didn’t know how to talk to me properly. Maybe there was a reason why this job was left alone for so long.
‘I don’t need a… professional gardener. You only need to water them.’
‘Well, that doesn’t sound too hard.’
‘We’ll practice if you want… don’t go, please…’
She almost looked desperate. After seeing her face, I couldn’t say no anymore.
‘Really? You’re staying?’
‘I’ll help out,’ I said, a little uncomfortable. ‘Just tell me what to do.’
A small smile appeared on Ashley Hemmington’s face.
‘Yes. I look forward to… working with you.’
I was going to regret this, wasn’t I?