“You HAVE to go to this interview!”
That’s what Vicki said to me over coffee yesterday. I’ve been looking for a job for almost two months now, totally unsuccessfully, of course, when she drops this in my lap.
“It’s, like, the best opportunity,” she said. “I found it on Hacker News, so you know it’s legit.”
I frowned at her. “Hacker News?”
“Sure, it’s where all the cool people in tech hang out.”
I didn’t question her at the time. I really wish I had, but hindsight is amazing and all that.
It was the most bare bones job posting I’ve ever seen. She handed me a printed piece of paper with a basic description of the job, some requirements, and an address. Nothing else.
All I had to do was show up.
“It’ll be easy,” Vicki said. “You’ll love it.”
“What’s the company?”
“Who cares? It’s a job and it pays well. You should give it a shot.”
I hate to admit it, but that’s all the convincing I needed.
Now, as I walk up the stoop toward a weirdly abandoned-looking house, I wish I had done a little more digging.
I bite my lip and glance down at the ad, just to make sure the address is right. Sure enough, I’m at the correct place, but…
“This has to be a trap,” I mutter to myself.
I quickly take in the ad one more time, trying to decide what to do.
Up-and-coming tech firm seeks brilliant young minds.
Tired of impossible tech jobs? Tired of getting rejected?
We want you, the bright and downtrodden.
We are looking for junior programmers, consultants, developers, web designers, and general staff. Pay ranges from $40k/year with benefits to $120k/year with benefits, depending on position and experience.
Oh, and speaking of experience: little to no experience is preferred.
That’s right. Little to no experience is preferred.
Tired of entry-level jobs with required two years’ experience? Yeah, us, too.
Come to 252 West Arch and apply in person today!
That’s it, that’s the whole ad. It’s apparently a tech company that does… something… looking for people to do… everything.
I sigh. This is so stupid. It has to be a freaking scam. As soon as I walk in there, I bet they’re going to ask if I’m ready to climb the ranks of Scientology or something. But still, I’m desperate. I got my two-year degree in computer science in order to find a real job… but that hasn’t gone well.
I’m in debt from school and from years of struggling as an actress. I dropped out of college to move to LA and tried to make it happen… but now I’m twenty-eight with basically zero acting credits.
My parents cut me off. I was barely making ends meet as a barista. I had to make a choice.
Stay and struggle and probably have my whole life repossessed.
Or move home and get it together.
So here I am, back in Philadelphia, trying to get my life back on track.
And I feel just as desperate as I did out there.
I sigh and look at the door. There’s no sign, but there is a bell, an intercom, and a little camera in the corner.
Whatever. I need a job. I might as well find out if it’s a scam or not.
Who knows. Maybe I’ll get lucky.
I hit the bell and wait. At first, nothing happens, and I’m almost relieved.
But then a voice comes on through the intercom. It’s a young guy, surprisingly upbeat.
“Hey there! Who’s this?”
“Uh, hi, my name’s Carly Miller, I’m responding to an ad placed on, uh, Hacker News?”
Short silence. I glance at the camera, fidgeting a little, until the guy comes back. “Awesome! Wait right there, I’ll come get you.”
And more silence.
Who says “awesome” in a professional setting? But then again, this isn’t exactly a traditional office.
It looks more like a haunted house.
The neighborhood isn’t bad, though. It’s in east Philly, near the river, a bit north of Old City. There’s really not much around here except some businesses across the street, a few boring houses, and a hipster bar that looks like it serves beer in fake human skulls.
I definitely don’t want to drink beer from a skull, real or fake, so hopefully I won’t be involved with those weirdos.
After another minute of nervous waiting, the door slowly creaks open. Seriously, it creaks, like straight out of Scooby Doo. If it weren’t two in the afternoon, I might just turn and leave.
Instead of a creepy butler, a young guy in a polo shirt and skinny jeans pokes his head out. He’s wearing thick dark glasses, has tussled brown hair, and his smile seems incredibly earnest.
“Hi there,” he says. “Carly, right?”
“Yeah, nice to meet you.”
“I’m Jeremy. I’ll take you in now, he’s not busy. Follow me, please.”
I hesitate, but Jeremy seems harmless enough. Definitely not like a skull-drinker.
I step inside and he shuts the door behind me.
The house is surprisingly nice inside. I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t this.
It’s all modern, totally refinished. The floors are shining, nearly polished, and entirely wood. Thick, expensive carpets are tastefully placed, dulling some of the echoes and creaking floorboards.
I follow Jeremy to the back of the house. And it is actually a house, not an office at all. The kitchen looks unused, but modern and spacious. There’s a living room and a huge kitchen table with papers strewn all over, plus a laptop open to Gmail.
Clearly, Jeremy’s workstation.
“So, take a seat, Carly, he’ll be with you shortly. Can I get you something? Tea, water?”
“Water would be great.” I hesitate and decide to sit at the far end of the table.
Jeremy opens the refrigerator and I can’t help but notice that it’s entirely filled with Fiji water bottles. He grabs me one of those and brings it over. Once it’s in front of me, he sits back down and starts typing away on his laptop.
I sit there for a second, taking in the totally bizarre and insane situation I’m in.
I’m apparently here for a job interview with some guy. I don’t know what the job is, or what the company is, and I’m in someone’s actual house. Although their refrigerator is full of fancy waters instead of food. Meanwhile, this friendly nerdy guy is typing away like it’s all totally normal.
I can’t stand it. I honestly can’t decide between running or screaming, so I land on somewhere in the middle.
“Excuse me, Jeremy?”
He looks up and blinks like he forgot I was there. “Yes?”
“Where am I right now?”
He looks confused. “Your job interview.”
“No, I know,” I say, laughing uncomfortably, although he does seem to get the joke. “It’s just that, the ad was really vague. Is this an office, and uh… what company am I here for?”
He leans back in his seat for a second. “Do you have the ad with you?” he asks.
I nod and fish it out of my bag. I hand it to him and he skims it before groaning. “Freaking Avah,” he grumbles before handing it back. “I can see why you’re confused. I mean, Jesus, there’s no info on there at all.” He cocks his head at me. “Why are you even here?”
“It doesn’t require experience, I need a job, and I just got a CS degree.” I shrug a little. “Took a chance.”
He laughs softly. “Well, you’re in the right place, believe it or not.” He leans back in his chair. “You’re interviewing for a position at Bison.”
I stare at Jeremy and I honestly don’t believe him at first.
But I don’t have long to remain shocked. A bell rings from somewhere and Jeremy hops up.
“He’s ready. Let’s go.”
I get to my feet and follow Jeremy back to the center staircase. We head up to the third floor, skipping the second entirely. There’s only a single door at the very back up here.
“A little advice, don’t mention that you didn’t know where you were interviewing,” Jeremy says.
“I love Bison,” I whisper to him. “I mean, I use it all the time.”
He grins at me. “Glad to hear it. Mr. King will see you now.”
With that, Jeremy turns and walks away. He leaves me in front of a boring wooden door with a simple brass doorknob and a plaque that reads “OFFICE” across the upper center.
I hesitate for a second, my heart beating fast.
I know the man behind this door.
We went to high school together, way back in the day. I heard he started Bison, which is a mobile payments app that’s heavily integrated with businesses, and I knew it was doing well, but I had no clue he was in Philadelphia.
We weren’t close back then. I mean, I knew him from afar.
Okay, I had a crush on him. Like, a massive crush.
And now I really, really hate him.
Like, with a passion.
I hate him more than anyone else in my life. I’ve held this hate deep inside for a long time, watered it, let it grow and flourish.
Now, he’s on the other side of this door.
And I want to work for him.
My hand hovers there for a second. My mind flashes back to that cocky asshole, that gorgeous, cocky bastard.
This has to be a trap. I can feel it, deep down inside.
This isn’t a coincidence.
I should turn around. Run away. Go back to my normal life.
Or I can turn the doorknob and step into a new world.
I clench my jaw. The weight of my debt suddenly makes me step forward.
But the memory of his face makes me turn the knob and step inside.
I look into an office. There are bookshelves on either wall and straight ahead is a large wooden desk. Sitting behind the desk is Davis.
He smiles at me, cocks his head. I recognize that look.
The scrutiny. The confidence.
The door clicks shut behind me. I’m rooted in place. Davis’s face is handsome, gorgeous really, with perfect blue eyes, a striking jaw, thick hair, slim nose. He leans forward and I can tell he’s more muscular than I remembered, definitely older, more powerful.
It’s Davis, but he’s all grown up.
And now he’s even more gorgeous than I remembered.
“Hello, Carly,” he says, his voice silky smooth. “Remember me?”
I remember him. I remember hating him. I remember wanting him.
I should’ve run away.