“But I’m waiting for a call back!”
“I’m sorry Miz An. You’re on the twenty-hour plan.” He looked at me archly. “Unless, of course, you want to upgrade to the twenty-four-hour plan.”
I closed my eyes so he couldn’t see me roll them. “No. I can’t afford that.” I sucked in a deep breath, trying to think. I really needed this job or I’d be on the ten-hour plan. “Look. Why can’t I just pay for four hours.”
I thought his eyes were going to pop out. “Miz An! That is not possible. I mean,” he rolled his eyes, “the cost!” Then he looked at me, assessing whether I was lying about my financial status. “You can afford the hourly rate?”
I couldn’t afford the hourly rate. But I could borrow credits from my mom. The recruiter was in Japan. I needed to be available for the call as soon as they decided, which was supposed to be o-dark-thirty my time. “I can handle the cost of four hours.” I put on my confident face.
He took another breath. “Very well. That will be one-hundred and twenty credits. Will that be hard credits or your swipe?”
Crap. I didn’t have the hard credits or nearly enough on my swipe. “Uh.” I dug my comm out of my pocket and looked at the screen. “Look. I have to take this call. It’s about work.” I hurried out of the store but in the door reflection I could see him shaking his head. I held the comm up to my ear to make the ruse real and left. Out of sight, I stuffed the comm back in my pocket and leaned back onto the building.
Mom would still be at work and her company did not allow people to use their comm while on duty. Back in the day there was too much data trading so now, people had to give up their comms at the security desk and pick them up at break, lunch, or after work. Who else could I get the credits from. I called my sister.
“Hey, Kari. What’s going on?”
“Lynn.” I could hear the baby screaming in the background. “Nothin’ much. Little Johnny has an ear infection.”
I could see her run a hand through her failed pony tail. Hair was hanging loose all around her face. “He’s been screaming for five hours straight. The clinic said the meds would kick in soon.”
That didn’t bode well for me. “Uh. I need a favor.”
She looked me square in the screen. “No. Didn’t you just hear me say I had to buy meds?” Kari shook her head. “Unbelievable.”
“I had to try. It’s getting late and I need four hours on my comm plan for a job notification.”
“How do you know they’re going to call you.”
I sighed. Big sister jabs always hurt. “I’ll admit I haven’t always been the most reliable, Kari, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to get this job. But not if I don’t have a comm for them to call me on.”
“Where’s the job?”
Her eyes went wide. “Japan?”
A look of surprise, then an impressed look crossed her face. Finally. I did something she approved of. “Good for you. Get out of this dying excuse for a city.” Her face fell. “How much do you need?”
“Holy crap, Lynn! We don’t have that kind of spread.” I watched her rub an eye. I knew this was going to be a tough sell. “I don’t have a spare credit, Lynn.” She looked so sad as she pulled out a kitchen chair and sat down. Her shoulders slumped and she rested her elbow on the table. She looked totally defeated.
“Sorry, Kari. I am. I’ll find the credits somewhere.”
She bit her bottom lip. “You know John just got that new job. He doesn’t get paid till the end of the month.”
I held up my hand. “Don’t worry about it. Mom get’s off at midnight. I’ll try her.”
“That’s cutting it close.”
“Sure.” I nodded but put on a happy face for her. She and John had been struggling even before little Johnny came along. “It’ll work out.” We traded good-bye’s and I clicked off.
I shoved off of the wall and began to walk. At a little park, well lit, I sat on a bench. There were lots of people out and about. It was a twenty-four-hour world after all. I called several friends, watching the time click closer and closer to midnight. Everyone was in the same boat as me. At midnight I had no choice. I called mom. The comm went to voice-mail. I waited ten minutes and called again.
“Hey, mom. How are you?”
“Tired. It’s after midnight, what do you need?”
That was my mom, right to the point. I explained the situation.
“You think you’re going to get the job?”
“Well. I guess. What do you need?”
“Just send me the credits. I’ll pay you back. Really.”
She gave me the stink eye. I’d been lax about that before. “You’d better.” I watched her punch the screen. “Okay. It’s done. Get your time.”
“Thanks, Mom. You’re the best.” I clicked off and hurried to the comm store. The clerk I’d dealt with was gone. A girl was at the counter. “I’d like to buy four hours, please. Added to my current plan.”
She looked at me like I’d grown a second head. “That can’t be done.”
“Yes. It can. I talked to the guy you replaced. It costs a hundred twenty for four hours.”
It was obvious she didn’t believe me. She checked her comm. “I guess.” She took her time punching in the order but eventually she asked for my swipe. I held the comm to hers. They both beeped. I breathed a sigh of relief. I had the time. Now, if I could just get the job.