in one corner was a small card with âShop Assistant Requiredâ written on it.
Amabel opened the door and went inside.
She supposed that the lady who came to meet her through the bead curtain at the back of the shop was Dolores Trent; she so exactly fitted her shop. Miss Trent was a tall person, slightly overweight, swathed in silky garments and wearing a good deal of jewellery, and she brought with her a cloud of some exotic perfume.
âYou wish to browse?â she asked in a casual manner. âDo feel freeâ¦â
âThe card in the window?â said Amabel. âYou want an assistant. Would I do?â
Dolores Trent looked her over carefully. A dull little creature, she decided, but quite pleasant to look at, and she definitely didnât want some young glamorous girl who might distract customers from buying.
She said sharply, âYou live here? Have you references? Have you any experience?â
âI live with my aunt at Bolton Percy, and I can get references. Iâve no experience in working in a shop, but Iâm used to people. I ran a bed and breakfast houseâ¦â
Miss Trent laughed. âAt least you sound honest. If youcome here to work, how will you get here? Bolton Percyâs a bit rural, isnât it?â
âYes. I hope to find somewhere to live here.â
Several thoughts passed with quick succession through Dolores Trentâs head. There was that empty room behind the shop, beyond the tiny kitchenette and the cloakroom; it could be furnished with odds and ends from the attic at home. The girl could live there, and since she would have rent-free accommodation there would be no need to pay her the wages she would be entitled toâ¦
Miss Trent, mean by nature, liked the idea.
âI might consider you, if your references are satisfactory. Your hours would be from nine oâclock till five, free on Sundays. Iâd expect you to keep the shop clean and dusted, unpack goods when they arrive, arrange shelves, serve the customers and deal with the cash. Youâd do any errands, and look after the shop when Iâm not here. You say you want to live here? Thereâs a large room behind the shop, with windows and a door opening onto a tiny yard. Basic furniture and bedding. Thereâs a kitchenette and a cloakroom which you can use. Of course you do understand that if I let you live here I wonât be able to pay you the usual wages?â
She named a sum which Amabel knew was not much more than half what she should have expected. On the other hand, here was shelter and security and independence.
âI have a dog and a cat. Would you object to them?â
âNot if they stay out of sight. A dog would be quite a good idea; itâs quiet here at night. Youâre not nervous?â
âNo. Might I see the room?â
It was a pleasant surprise, quite large and airy, with twowindows and a small door opening onto a tiny square of neglected grass. But there were high walls surrounding it; Cyril and Oscar would be safe there.
Dolores Trent watched Amabelâs face. The girl needed the job and somewhere to live, so she wasnât likely to leave at a momentâs notice if she found the work too hard or the hours too long. Especially with a dog and a catâ¦
She said, âProvided your references are okay, you can come on a monthâs trial. Youâll be paid weekly. After the month it will be a weekâs notice on either side.â As they went back to the shop she said, âIâll phone you when Iâve checked the references.â
Amabel, waiting for Josh to fetch her in answer to her phone call, was full of hope. It would be a start: somewhere to live, a chance to gain the experience which was so necessary if she wanted to get a better job. She would have the chance to look around her, make friends, perhaps find a room where Cyril and Oscar would be welcome, and find work which was better paid. But that