Three nights a week turned into four and Ani became a regular feature at the strip-club. She still hated Saturday nights, but there was no way around it as far as she could see, so she just took what she could get.
Mr. Markowitz treated her like she was special and she felt like she had a little something to share with him having managed her own store. Sometimes, when business was a little slow, he would sit and talk with her about owning a business. He never treated her like the teenager she was, instead he often asked for her views on customers and business in general. She in turn respected him for the way he treated her and gladly worked any shifts that were required of her.
One Sunday morning, after another boring ‘Western Saturday Night’, she turned the taps on and poured bubble bath under the spewing water in preparation for a long leisurely soak. As she waited for the tub to fill she decided a quick tidying could be done. Picking up the coat she had flung over the couch in the early morning hours she went to the front closet to hang it up. Flipping on the light, she spotted an envelope that had been slipped under her door. Taking it back to the bathroom with her, she ripped it open and read the notice the rent was going to be increased substantially in 60 days.
Laying in the hot water with the bubbles up around her chin, she absently studied the paper where she had left it on the counter. She thought of the three years she had spent in this ‘basement’ apartment and wondered if she should move. She weighed the cost of her rent and the money she made at the hotel against how she felt about the apartment. It had never felt like home to her, just a place that held her furniture. There was nothing special about it at all and deep inside she knew she hated how dark it always was and that she could barely see anything when she looked out of the windows. On the other hand she had no idea what rents might cost elsewhere in the city and she was nervous about moving.
When the water had finally cooled, she was not surprised to find that she was no further ahead in making any decisions. Sighing, she pulled the plug and grabbed the soap holder as she hoisted herself out of the tub. She gave a small yelp as the holder came off in her hand, leaving a gaping hole in the tile. With the water swirling down the drain she stood holding the soap holder and staring stupidly at a cluster of mushrooms that were sprouting in the mouldy black hole left in the wall. That does it, she thought. Dressing quickly she headed out to the corner convenience store and bought Saturday’s paper.
She was more than delighted to find that an apartment had come up for rent in the building directly behind her on Bristol Street. When the superintendent had shown her the one bedroom on the third floor with the off-white carpeting, she knew she had to get out of the hole she lived in. She also knew she could afford the $85.00 more a month for the rent and she gladly turned in her notice and started packing.
On moving day, Ed and one of the bouncers arrived with a truck and got her moved in less than three hours. They set up her bed and positioned her dresser before leaving her to unpack.
Once she was alone, she slid open the large glass door and stood out on her balcony. Taking a deep breath, she gazed at the Speed River that stretched to the left and right of her vision. A large expanse of grass bordered each side of the river, and people were walking their dogs or jogging along in the afternoon sunshine.
She watched idly as a police cruiser pulled into the OPP station just down the street and she wondered if she might be bothered by sirens before shrugging it off. It was most likely one of the safest apartment buildings to be living in with all those uniforms about. With one more look at the beautiful view in front of her, she heaved a happy sigh and went inside to unpack.
A month later, Ani’s world was rocked once more when Ed told her he had given his notice and was moving to Alberta. She had grown used to this quiet bartender who had taught her the ropes and she had to turn away to hide her tears when he gave her the news.
“What are you going to do out there Ed?”
“I’m hoping to get work in the oil field. It’s suppose to be booming right now and they say there is a ton of money to be made up north if you want to work hard at long hours. If I can’t get on right away I’ll get a job in a bar. At least it will get me out of Guelph and out of here.”
“I’m going to miss you Ed.”
“I’ll miss you too Ani. But of all the people who work here – I know you’re the one who is going to succeed with whatever you do.”
The next evening when she arrived for her shift, Mr. Markowitz pulled her aside and took the tray out of her hands.
“Not tonight Ani. You are going to learn how to be a bartender. I want you to work Ed’s job once he is gone. He is going to teach you how to pour draft and make drinks. Then I want you to be our full-time night bartender. Is that all right with you?”
Ani nodded numbly and put away her tray. Mr. Markowitz patted her on the back and grunted before climbing up the three steps to the kitchen and disappearing. Turning to Ed he grinned at her and hugged her hard before starting her on her next journey.