Those were the numbers her bank account displayed on her phone screen all day long. It was her only bank account, too. So, it was the only savings account she had been maintaining for about ten years now.
"Patience, Jess. It'll work out. Just trust the process," Jessiah mumbled the words as she stared at her phone screen, trying not to frown.
She had been waiting for the figures to change all week. Frankly she was praying every day and every night for some money to come in after that two-day modeling stint she just finished and worked for last week.
It wasn't easy at all. The traveling expenses, the make-up, the time and effort... Being a struggling, working model and part-time make-up artist from a small town involved a lot more than just showing up and looking pretty.
It wasn't all glitz and glamour most of the time. That much she knew now. Since graduating from college, she had been trying her best to break into the make-up industry and in the modeling scene after her first corporate job didn't do much to jumpstart her career.
It didn't jumpstart anything, per se. What it only did was put her in close proximity day after day with an inappropriate, self-absorbed misogynist who thought he was God's precious gift to all of womankind.
The jerk didn't even pay her enough for the long, painful months of enduring that crappy job as his full-time executive assistant (a.k.a. personal maid and office secretary). She also thought about filing a sexual harassment lawsuit once or twice, but she had better things to do. She'd much rather seek another path to traverse than have to interact with him again in the same room.
Moving on with her life seemed much easier. Jessi sighed at the memory. It had been almost two years since that happened. By now, that unfortunate experience should be buried deep in the past. It didn't get that serious, anyway. She didn't even tell anyone about it.
Not even her parents. She figured sweeping it under the rug would help her forget the asshole and help her move on from it easier. Sometimes it felt like she was well past it, but, some days or nights, her brain still recalled memories she would rather not dwell on at this point of her life. She was well into adulthood by now.
At 24, she should be busy enough and too preoccupied to be brooding about the past. But keeping that kind of secret took a toll on her emotions sometimes...no matter how often she tried convincing herself that it didn't matter now because she was so done working for the spawn of evil she used to call her boss.
In fact she had moved to another city. She was now meeting new people—much nicer people—and living her life free from the mentally traumatic shackles of that small, boring office she used to call her workplace for half a year. Funny how temp jobs could make or break someone's career that way.
But that was the past. And since that day she shoved her signed resignation letter onto the jerk's desk, she had promised herself to only look forward since that day and forget about the awful things she used to endure day in day out. "Used to" being the operative word. Or words.
Whatever. What's most important? She learned a valuable lesson after what happened, and she had a good reason to start over and figure out what she really wanted to do in her life.
"Follow your dreams. Aspire for something bigger. You're destined for great things if you put in the work..."
All that motivational crap. Well, for now, it felt like all of those were pure bullshit. Because her life wasn't quite where she wanted to be at this point, and having been let go from a mall job just two months ago, it just felt like her life wasn't going in the right direction.
She had tried praying, eating better, going vegan, working out more, moving to a better neighborhood, doing online self-promotion, but...none of it seemed to work.
For now, what's keeping her from being completely bankrupt was her meager earnings from doing part-time make up gigs through word of mouth and some print modeling on the side.
God knows she wasn't the poster child for runway work. She just wasn't blessed with the right genes for that kind of modeling, is all. Jessi threw her phone onto the pillow and gave up.
No way would the numbers change. It was a favor for a friend, after all. Well, the girl promised her a 50-50 cut if ever a significant amount of the photos would be bought by her patrons online.
Sadly that didn’t work out, either. “Sorry, Jess. No one purchased more than two copies,” her friend had said.
Nobody liked or bought the rest of her photos. Jessi sighed loudly and rubbed the grogginess off her eyes.
The only good thing about her life now was that she was no longer living off her parents' money and she had enough cash to last her another month. Until she found a steady, well-paying job.
Did she want to move back home? Of course. Her parents would love for her to just go back to Rosenville. "You know you can always find a job here. Your dad would like it if you moved back home, so we can see you more often," her mother said last week over the phone.
They preferred the small town life. But Jessi didn't. Ever since graduating from high school, she had always dreamt of getting into a good college, landing a good job, and exploring the rest of the world.
Unfortunately, getting a college degree didn't mean a high-paying job and a blooming career that would enable her to reach her goals before she turned ripe at 25. The world just didn't work that way, obviously.
Unless she'd win the lottery or something...
Heh. She was never the type to believe in that stuff, anyway. She had been raised in a religious family. Therefore, believing in plain luck in order to be successful in life wasn't really encouraged in their household.
Maybe next week, next month, next year.
Maybe then she'd get her big break. Start a real job that would help her pay all of her bills without fearing she would run out of money for her own food any day now. Hopefully, the tables would turn soon for her.
Hopefully, adulthood would cut her some slack and lead her straight into the job of her dreams. Maybe soon.
Maybe. All maybes for now...but of course she had to stay optimistic. Jessi got up from the bed and uttered a short prayer.
No time to be negative. For now, she'd just keep trying and trying. No time for drama. She was running out of money and patience, but, no time to be depressed. She just had to push through.
"Good afternoon. Yes. This is Jessiah Kinley speaking."
"Hi, Jessiah. This is Daniella from Steinway Productions, calling from the HR office. I came across your signed application letter earlier this week. Are you still interested in working here in LA?"
Oh. Dear. Lord. Steinway. LA. L freakin' A!
The woman just invited her to come for an interview and fly to Los Angeles. Wow. Prayers indeed worked. Jessi took in a deep breath and tried not to jump all over the bed, but her blood pressure might have spiked up from the very first second she'd heard "Steinway Productions".
It was one of the biggest production companies in Hollywood at the moment, and she knew so ever since she heard of it after taking up that 30-day cosmetology training course back when she was working at the mall for a famous cosmetics brand. And someone from Steinway wanted to interview her for a job?
"Hi, Daniella. Yes. To confirm, I have submitted an application a few months ago," Jessi replied with a smile while her heartbeat escalated into a faster pace that almost made her stomach turn into knots. "And yes. Definitely. I'm very much interested in working for your company. Thanks for giving me a call to let me know you...took an interest in my application."
"Oh, okay. Great! Really good to hear," Daniella replied over the phone with more enthusiasm now. Her voice sounded like she was barely 18, but maybe her voice was just naturally high-pitched. "After checking with my immediate supervisor, I was told to call you in for an interview here in our LA offices. Does Friday work for you?"
"Yes. Sure," Jessi responded over the phone without thinking twice. Actually, she didn't know if she had enough money for airfare but...whatever. She would borrow money from her parents if need be. This was the answer to her prayers. A brand new job, and in LA, at that!
"Great. Okay, so, this Friday morning...I could squeeze you into my ten o'clock. Since that's the only time my boss is free for interviews that day. That sound good?" Daniella asked.
Yes. Thank God. As soon as next week, she would no longer be in the unemployment line and no longer pretending that being a freelance make-up artist slash part-time model would be enough to push her towards her financial and career goals this year.
"Yes. Ten will work." Jessi couldn't help but smile to herself again. The excitement just took her breath away and the new opportunity even brought her relief from all the anxiety she had been feeling lately. "I just have to book a flight by today and I'll be there at your office Friday morning." No matter how expensive that would be, she wanted to add.
"Sounds great. I will forward you our complete address and contact details, as well as a quick online test for you to complete within the hour. If you need further instructions, just give me a call or message me. That sound good to you?"
"Yes. I'll wait. Thank you."
"Alrighty. Real nice talking to you today, Jessi. See you soon."
She was done. Absolutely done.
Done with anxiety-laden days and nights...
Done with two whole years of high-functioning depression...
And done feeling like she was meandering purposelessness on two legs.
Those days were over. She was on a different path now. Well, too early to call it, since it was merely an initial interview for now. But her optimism was just through the roof these past few days.
She had bought herself a plane ticket, packed up practically all she needed to start her new city life, and she already let her parents know she was moving away and getting a new job in Los Angeles.
The city of angels...
Jessi could still recall her mother's tearful advice over the phone yesterday. Her mom was just the sweetest. Supportive no matter what, but just a worrier and too sentimental sometimes.
"It's gonna be a rough couple of months, but...I'm happy for you, baby." Her mother was holding back another sob at that point. "If you need anything, some cash for rent, just text me or give us a call."
"Thanks, Mom. Don't make me cry, though. It's not like I'm moving to another country. Relax..."
"It's LA! You don't know anyone out there."
"Uncle Pete and Aunt Marin's still in San Francisco. Just a bus ride away," Jessi reasoned to her mom, even though she already mentioned it the other night.
Her Uncle Pete, her father's brother, oftentimes held the job title of being an executive producer in some Hollywood movies and a few TV shows in the last two decades.
Jessi didn't exactly know for sure whether the company, Steinway Productions, would be hiring her full-time, but the follow-up email from their HR staff said they needed a group of experienced make-up artists "urgently".
The word "experienced" didn't quite suit her—she'd only been working part-time as a make-up artist for the past three years—but she would push her luck.
Never mind all those rejection letters she had received since she graduated. Never mind that she was going broke and might even end up homeless soon.
Never mind the thousands and thousands of dollars her parents had wasted just for her to get a college degree. Never mind that she was practically a failure according to the success standards of modern society.
She was done feeling sorry for herself.
It was time for her to jumpstart her career, and she was getting her dream job no matter what.