“A job?” I asked, trying not to let my voice crack. It did.
“Yes, honey, a job,” the woman said, rolling her eyes, “a good paying job, too, better than the one you have in that factory. It’s a win-win here, and I have about a thousand documents to sign, so could we PLEASE hurry up here, hun, just a yes or a no.” the woman clicked her tongue and adjusted her winged glasses.
“I… uh…” not working in the factory with the creepy dudes any more was an obvious win for me. But trading that in for twenty armor-clad swat agents? I didn’t think so. “I think–”
“She’ll take it,” Max answered.
“What?” I asked him. I had been about to decline the job. Why did he want me to take it?
“El, you speak Spanish fluently. You can defend yourself. You’re smart and sharp like mom. And you’ll get some money, El, and that’s what a person like you deserves. To make money and be awesome. I would take it, if I were you.” Even after he stopped talking I still stared at him, trying to look directly into his soul. He stared right back.
The woman, who had been staring at Max as well, decided that this was the time for more information. “May I mention that it’s not a guaranteed job. You’ll have to pass an Initiation, which is just a written and physical test. But then yes, if you pass, you’ll have the job.”
About a half hour later, I sat at a round white desk with three other people–most of whom looked older than me. There was a girl with brown hair who looked as ripped as any dude I’ve ever seen, a lanky guy with bright orange hair and glasses, and the real competition–a twenty-year-old freshly-graduated-with-a-criminology-degree man whom I later learned was named Will. He had dark black hair and stark green eyes. I was going to crush him.
“You will see in front of you there are four sheets of paper. This is the first written test,” said the same woman who had burst into my house unannounced. “You have half an hour. Please use the number two pencils in front of you only, no pens or anything. And above all, no cheating, because I. Will. See. You.” she made eye contact with each one of us as she said the last four words. I cringed a bit in my seat. “Go.”
The other three turned their papers over instantly, but I hesitated, unsure. Looking back on it, I’m not sure what I was unsure of, but it was important enough that I had a split second of hesitation before grabbing it and flipping it over. On it, there was one simple question.
Why do you want this job, Ella?
It had my name on it and everything. I looked at my competition, writing furiously on their white papers, and then looked back at my own. Why did I want this job? What about it seemed to appeal to me? I mean sure, I hadn’t really signed up for it, but I did want this job and I wanted to crush the competition to a pulp. I could have said no at any point. I could have backed out, but I didn’t. What was keeping me here?
I waited for inspiration. And waited. And waited. I tapped my pencil on the table, which appeared to be plastic. I didn’t know why I wanted this job. Why on Earth did I stay?
I glanced at the clock on the wall, a round thing with a black border. Fifteen minutes left. What would I write?
I don’t want this job, my paper began, I need it. When I was little my dad left, and my family was poor and alone. We lived in a cardboard box, and all we had was each other. And then my mom left, and all me and my brother Max had was each other. And that was it. That was all we needed, at that time in our lives, to survive, to make it to the next day. But now, my hand started hurting and I flicked my wrist a bit, we need more than that. When you’re a kid, it’s easy to survive on your own because people pity you. But now that we’re grown-up I still held on to the hope that these people didn’t know I was sixteen, not twenty, it’s getting harder. So what I’m telling you is this–I don’t want this job. I want to be at home, with my family, snuggled under a blanket watching reruns of Seinfeld. I want to be going to school and making friends and having fights with my over-protective brother. But that option was ripped away from me by my dad, and my mom. And the only person who has stood by me all this time is my brother Max. I don’t want this job. I’m taking this opportunity because a brother who will stand by his little sister through everything–the time I had pneumonia and we couldn’t afford a hospital trip, the time I punched him because he got fired from his job and we couldn’t eat, the time I was chased by a cop and he had to save me. A brother who can not only withstand and endure that but also never get angry, never raise his voice, and always be back to hug me when I was hungry or angry or confused or sad, a brother like that deserves a better life than the one we got. So I don’t want this job. I’m taking it to repay a debt. I’m taking it to give someone what they deserve. I’m taking it to slap the devil in the face and tell him that he can’t always win and make the good people lose. I’m taking this job for my brother.
That was it. That was all the writing I could muster in those fifteen minutes. Sure it wasn’t the best paper if I wanted to actually get this job, but it was honest and true and from my heart and if they didn’t give me the job then so what? I could always take another job for my brother if I needed. I wasn’t sure it would make up for the pay this job had (the woman had told me at our apartment and holy heck it was a lot of money) but it would be something. Next, for the physical exam.