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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: 4 – A Chance To Get On

There’s tension, and bitchiness, as Helen with other girls to be interviewed for a job with Illingworths, the mighty Yorkshire textile firm.

To read earlier chapters of John Waddington-Feather’s novel please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/illingworth_house/

The others being interviewed made her feel out of the Ark. They ignored her, chatting non-stop about their jobs, clothes and boyfriends. Helen wouldn't have dared speak about her job. She didn't have a boyfriend and she'd no clothes to speak of. Those she had were years out of date, hand-me-downs from cousins.

As they ignored her, Helen sat by herself, perspiring and becoming more and more nervous. One of the others began manicuring her nails and the rest followed suit. As the clock nudged towards nine, they went to the loo to do some running repairs to the inch-thick make-up which had begun to show the effects of the heat. All the time they'd been there, the sun had shone down mercilessly through the great glass dome above the entrance hall where they sat.

They returned heavily rouged and powdered up to their eyebrows, which they'd plucked into thin lines then pencilled darkly. Helen glanced at them and felt even more from the sticks.

Joe was old-fashioned. He didn't approve of make-up, so she'd never used it. Her skin was peach fresh, and her blonde hair and eyebrows set off her serious grey eyes wonderfully. She didn't need make-up and at seventeen was a stunner, though she didn't realise it. But the other girls did, and it made them even more bitchy towards her.

A mahogany wall-clock directly opposite, chimed nine. The interviews started and they were called in one by one. After the first girl was called in, the others went quiet. There was a ‘No Smoking’ notice by the clock, so they couldn't light up. The others had gone out at times during their wait and had come back reeking of nicotine. Now it was too late for a drag and they hung on their nerves in silence.

When Helen and the last girl were left, the other finally spoke. "Where you from?" she asked in a superior way, though her accent was pure Bradford back-streets.

"Keighworth."

"Oh! It's a long way to travel each day. Aren't there any jobs in Keighworth? What you want to come to Bradford for?"

Helen drew a long breath. If only the other knew! She said she'd have more chance of getting on in Bradford.

"I s'pose you right," said the other, and looked even more superior. "Keighworth's a bit out of the way, isn't it? I mean you're almost in the Dales up there." Then she added," I wouldn't like to live anywhere 'cept Bradford. I mean, you feel sort of secure where you're brought up, where you know everybody. I wouldn't want to live anywhere 'cept Bradford."

And the way she said it left no doubt she certainly wouldn't want to live in Keighworth. Neither did Helen.

The sun dried up their conversation, and the girl took out her mirror and began touching up her hair ready for the interview.

Helen looked at her own reflection in an office window opposite. She was plainly dressed. She'd wanted to buy something new for the interview, but money was tight and she felt dowdy alongside the girl next to her, who was called in shortly after.

Helen's nervousness grew. She had no idea how the others fared. They had left by another exit. She was left by herself for an agonising twenty minutes, the worst she'd ever spent. The old doubts returned tenfold and she prayed almost audibly so by the time she was called, her face had drained of colour and she was feeling sick.

An office-boy was sent to call her. His voice was breaking. He was a cocky fifteen-year-old who revelled in his position. He had the applicants at his mercy for the thirty seconds he led them from the entrance hall to their interview.

He did his best to make them anxious each time he came to call in a new applicant. "She's got one of ‘er black-dog moods. Eatin’ ‘em alive in there! The last one left cryin'," he said, as he led Helen from the entrance hall, along a corridor between two rows of offices. He grinned at her maliciously.

Helen raised a smile but could have killed him. Her legs were jelly.

"She'll put the fear o'God in yer!" he continued, leering over his shoulder.

She ignored him but when he'd turned back she wiped her mouth. It was as wet with perspiration outside as it was dry within. She gritted her teeth and followed him doggedly along the corridor which seemed to go on forever, and all the while the brat in front chirped idiotic remarks and made fun of her.

There had been no interview at the garage. Old Grayson had told her he was doing Joe a good turn taking her on. The old man was a supporter of the local rugby league team, and Joe had been a star player in his day so Grayson had kept on saying he was doing her a favour for Joe. Jobs were tight; typists ten a penny.

But the old bugger made her do more than typing. She ran his office. A middle-aged, faded, grey woman who was leaving the next day had explained what Helen had to do. Helen soon found out why she looked so faded. She was fading fast herself after a month in the job and knew she just had to get out before she faded altogether.

They had to pass through the main office. It looked huge, compared with the dingy hole Grayson had. Each clerk had a desk and a light hanging over it. It was neat and airy, but she had to walk in front of the people working there. They paused in their tasks as she went by. Curious faces looked up and eyed her up and down. Someone giggled.

Helen dropped her gaze but flushed angrily and the colour rushed back to her face. She set her jaw. "Ignore them. This is your only chance!" she told herself. "Take it, girl!"

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