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Summer's Crucible- Chapter Ten: One Good Thing Can Turn it Around

That morning had been chilly, leading into a cloudy day. Summer didn't have to make the drive to work because her restaurant was closed until the next tourist season due to expansion and rebranding. The owner gave Summer no promises as to whether she would be needed when they were to reopen, probably because he had lost his majority stake in the business to his ex-wife during their divorce. This didn't stop Summer's bills from rolling in like clockwork.

Summer hit the job market as aggressively as she could to keep the lights on, but there were no bites. She had long since moved into a tiny studio and sold everything worth something to pull through these hard times. Many nights she wondered if this was the permanent routine of her life among the working poor, forever diving deeper into a vicious cycle of poverty. The one certain thing Summer was aware of for the foreseeable future was that Mimsy too had gone bankrupt. Summer's inclination had been proven correct shortly after Mimsy's conviction when her lawyer suggested that she pursue a civil suit to recoup her losses. The effort seemed to be an act of futility, yet the groundwork was laid nonetheless.

Summer's only remaining hope was what she had lined up with a private securities firm. Although Summer believed that she was overqualified for the job, she was still proud of herself for nailing the phone interview a few days previously. The day prior she even wowed their group panel via Zoom. The final hoop to jump through to get on the payroll was to have an in-office background check interview done. She had already turned in the extensive seventy-six-page packet, which filling out was a feat in and of itself. Summer learned from her previous mistakes not to make mention of her former dubious employer, the heinous embezzling doctor she worked to distance herself from. Luckily by this point in time he had even faded from internet search archives.

Summer readied herself as best as she could given her limited means. She was annoyed with the humidity in the air that made her foundation look goopy. However, she ignored the issue expecting the background check to be nothing more than a brief formality in what seemed to be a done deal. If only that had been the case.

When Summer arrived at the company headquarters, she was greeted by an older woman who held out her hand in introduction saying, "Hello, I'm Gillian. I will be doing your background check today." She ushered Summer to the elevator, while Summer reciprocated the sentiment with, "It's nice to meet you. I'm Summer." She said not expecting much out of it, however, Gillian looking at her inquisitively asked, "Susan? I was going to ask you more about that alias. I saw it in your packet." Summer wasn't sure how to respond because at no time had she used that name or even known of anyone in her personal or professional life who used it either.

Summer tried to correct her but Gillian was too busy guiding her into the side office they would be using. Summer had a seat as Gillian went further in-depth about her qualifications, "Before we get started, just to put you at ease, I've been doing this for twenty years." Summer nodded in acknowledgment despite her attention being fixated on Gillian's smudged eyeliner, causing her to wonder about Gillian's age by the outdated trend. "So going back to the name 'Susan' do you want to tell me about that? I found an email of yours with it." Gillian started as she tapped her pen on the table while she flipped through Summer's paperwork. Summer repressed a giggle at Gillian's mistake because it was so silly to her as she explained, "I think you are mistaken. I don't go by that name and never have and it is nowhere in my packet." Gillian grumbled and wrote something on a sheet of paper she had beside her in red ink. Summer didn't know what to make of that. She simply knew she felt like this was equally bizarre as it was unprofessional.

There was silence for a moment before Gillian continued, "You left out your parent's information. This packet can't move forward without it." Summer was surprised she was being asked this because she had clearly stated in those documents that she was adopted. She had even gone as far as to include notarized copies of the adoption finalization for reference as she had been asked to do so. As much as everything she was seeing was a red flag and her intuition screamed for her to walk out, she went against her judgment and grinned her way through it, "I'm adopted and I'm not currently in contact with my adoptive mother, I apologize if there was any confusion when I filled that out." Gillian wrote down something else in red ink on her form, sucking her teeth as she did so to imply Summer's answer was something to criticize.

Gillian continued to ask Summer another question she had prepared, "You have a work history gap here," she said as she held up Summer's packet pointing to a few years prior, "You need to fill that in." Her tone had a condescending edge that irritated Summer greatly. Summer knew if she made it through this she would have health insurance again, something she desperately needed because her's had lapsed due to lack of payment. She dedicated herself to being as sweet as she could and answered, "Actually, I do have a work history gap there, it's not an error. I took time off after I had surgery." Gillian asked accusingly, "Were you told not to work that whole time by your doctor?" Summer felt attacked in addition to belittled by that, yet made light of the inappropriate question, "No, for things like this the general advice is to go at your own pace because no one case is the same." Gillian murmured to herself disapprovingly for a moment as she wrote more on the packet before she had Summer sign her initials next to the quote of Summer's explanation that she had just written down.

After that, an unsure Summer remained in her chair while Gillian scribbled more things on her sheet of paper for a few minutes. When Gillian was finished she looked at Summer and stated, "Well, these are all problems here. These gaps and missing information." Summer could see where Gillian had circled multiple items in her packet which was overall red due to being thoroughly marked up by Gillian, even though Summer had written in more than sufficient information. "I just don't see anyone hiring you because it's more work for people like me. Your family history is almost blank and these work history gaps... well you understand, obviously," Gillian dismissively said in between clicking her tongue against her teeth and shaking her head. Then she gestured toward the doorway, saying "This was all I needed. We're done here." Summer thanked her undeterred to remain cordial in the face of how badly that had gone and walked to her car, not looking back once from the indignity of it all. She held her head high and made sure to steady herself so no one could see her struggle in her steps due to her mobility issues.

Summer drove home, wiped off her globby makeup, and crawled into her bed in sheer disbelief at how unpleasant that had been. As she lay there she saw that she had a text message on her phone from Gillian that read, "Thank you for your interest in this position. Unfortunately, at this time we are seeking other candidates." The time stamp was from when Summer was still in the parking lot outside of the interview. Gillian had probably chucked her packet as soon as she was out of the room. Summer considered the possibility that the entire "background" process was a method to bypass illegal job interview questions but knew it wouldn't be her to make a formal complaint with all that she had already on her plate against her. It hurt because she felt that she had been a great candidate for the job, but that she had been disqualified due to being related to awful people and having poor health. Summer thought about her future and how bleak it looked once more. When things are this bad for this long there isn't much of a chance for a turnaround anymore, she reasoned. She felt like the wind had been knocked out of her. The weight of her circumstances consumed her.

Summer's self-pity grew for a few more days until an upset Heather gave her a call, needing a ride away from her shared home with Morgana. Summer with what little gas money she had drove out to get her. On the way back to Summer's place, Heather explained that Morgana caught her with one of her OnlyFans clients in what she described as a "one-time thing." Summer assumed it was sex or something of that nature from the given context. Summer hadn't realized how much she had fallen out of communication with Heather until Heather started speaking again, "I just needed one hit. Morg' has been getting into my stash too much. It's not like the yoga studio is making as much as she thinks. It's not my fault." Summer peered at Heather out of the corner of her eye in between stop signs and red lights. Heather had grown more gaunt and was paler than she was when she last saw her in person at Mimsy's trial.

Summer not knowing what to do pulled over to a gas station to fill up her car. She watched Heather pick at herself for a moment before she made an excuse to go inside the gas station. There she called both of Heather's parents and told them of Heather's condition and her plan to drop her off at Cecilia's before hanging up and going back to the car. Heather realized what was going on when Summer took the exit to the coast instead of the city. Heather asked why they were going to her mother's, in response Summer said she didn't have the money to put her at her place, which was truthful. The remainder of the trip was in silence between the two. At Cecilia's Summer's last words to Heather as she hugged her goodbye that night were that she was sorry to have to leave her there before she drove all the way home, knowing Heather needed to make this journey for herself and that she could not do it for her, just as she had known she had to break out from under Mimsy and Landon's thumbs for herself.

On the drive home, the one consolation Summer had was that no matter how bad things were for her, she never regretted leaving Landon. Hard times are double the torment when a person is in a relationship with someone like Landon. He could not console, only ever chastise and he enjoyed that fact. If there were one slice of bread left for them each, he would burn both out of spite without reason. He took great pleasure in creating conflict between himself and anyone who made the mistake of taking him into their lives with open arms. Landon had an unexplained hatred that he would spew at those unaware of his loathing. Regardless of how he hurt himself to destroy others, he gave into his unfounded narcissistic rage all the same. Ironically he had a strong sense of entitlement in taking from others. That was just the kind of person he was.

Summer was grateful that at least she had gotten out of that relationship before Henri got into his crash that injured and ultimately disfigured Charlene. Being with people like that comes with doom. Summer gladly accepted her poverty knowing their family would one day be in her situation as well, sadly it would likely be their children that faced the consequences their parents never did.

Summer resigned herself to living with long work hours, and cheap food, which made her back slip out of alignment more easily. This was why, the day Mr. McLads's paralegal, Ethan called Summer to say that Dr. Wentz was ready to settle for his part in Mimsy's identity fraud case, seemed to come out of the blue. By that time, Summer had finally broken down and picked up a job as a holiday seasonal cashier at a big box store in hopes of eventually being able to apply as a manager there when the position became available. The shifts were extremely painful for Summer because it made her lumbar spine feel pinched in from the long periods of standing. She constantly had to hide when her legs gave out or when she could not lift something that was a nonissue for even the most dainty or elderly of employees. Summer was intrigued by what the doctor was willing to offer. It wasn't long before a non-disclosure agreement was signed and Summer was at the law office to pick up her check. The timing was perfect because her employment was coming to an end now that the holidays had passed.

Summer smiled when Ethan handed her the envelope. The amount would give Summer some room to breathe. Ethan seemed glad for her when he asked, "Do you know what you're going to spend it on, yet." Summer being open with her intentions said, "I'm going to use half of it to live off of for now until I find a new job and the other half to invest in a pharmaceutical company because the meds for my back just aren't good enough." Ethan cautioned, "Okay but just remember the stock market is like gambling if you don't know what you are doing." Summer realized then that he wasn't aware of her investment background. She let out a breath of relief as she said, "I guess we'll have to see how I do this time next year." Summer chuckled at that as she folded the check to put it into her jacket's pocket before she said goodbye. There was a hopeful smile on her face that was apparent for all to see as she walked by a billboard that was being taken down for the 2020 New Year's festival on her way to her car.


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