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A Mogul in the Making

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#1 DianeHanna

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Posted 30 March 2013 - 07:02 PM

Cathy Stanley stood in front of the ticket seller at the bus station with a handful of small bills.

“How far will this take me?” she asked as politely as she could. She was impatient to get out of town before she was missed, but she put a lid on it. The agent was a lot less likely to remember her if she wasn’t rude.

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“This will get you pretty far away. Close to Riverblossom Hills.” The agent smiled back at her as she straightened out the bills and asked, “Will that be far enough?” The agent gave her a conspiratorial look. Probably had some experience with people trying to get out of town quick.

Cathy smiled. “I think so, I hope so.”

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Likely any distance farther than the next state would be enough. Her mother could hardly bring herself to get up off the sofa to eat or go to the bathroom, much less go hunting for a missing daughter. Cathy would have felt bad about leaving, but she was the last child to leave the house, she didn’t have to worry about leaving any innocents behind. Her mother was demanding, picky, lazy and mostly drunk.

When she was younger, her mother had been attractive. Lazy by nature, her ultimate goal was to have a man take care of her. Unfortunately she attracted men that had no intention of taking care of anyone. So she ended up with what seemed like an endless string of children. Actually there were only five. She didn’t seem to realize that with each child added to the household it would be less likely for one of her boyfriends to shoulder that burden. But in a weird way, she met her goal, the kids were all pretty responsible and tried to take care of their mother, themselves and each other.

In turn, they gave up. One after the other they took off as soon as they were of legal age.

Now it was Cathy’s turn. No, her mother probably wouldn’t follow her, It would require too much effort.
Cathy had been working since she was a teen. It had been hard going to school, then going to work, then homework, followed by housework. Then listening to her mother’s complaints. She had missed the chance to go to college. No more! She was an adult now and she had bigger goals than trying to keep an impossible woman happy.

As she sat on the bench waiting for the bus she thought about Riverblosssom Hills. She knew little about it besides the fact that it was small and rural. The agent told her there was a thriving downtown and a shopping district. It sounded just right. She sighed just a little under her breath, and thought about her dreams. For as long as she could remember she wanted to have a business of her own. Over time the dream had morphed. She wanted many business of her own. “I wonder if 5 businesses will be enough.”

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Cathy was a clever girl. She had never let her mother know exactly what she was earning. She had carefully turned over just enough to keep the peace, but squirreled away as much as she could for her future. By never spending a penny on herself, and picking up work where she could find it she had §20,000 and the few bucks for bus fare. It was going to be tight.
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“They spoil every romance by trying to make it last forever .” ~ Oscar Wilde


#2 DianeHanna

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Posted 30 March 2013 - 07:12 PM

Chapter 1

It was early morning when she got off the bus in Bluewater Village. She spent some time at the bus station reading a discarded newspaper. There were very few houses available, most out of reach. Just when she was starting to feel panicky, she saw one that looked possible. It was listed as a fixer upper, so it was probably awful. But it was just on the edge of Bluewater. Two points for convenience!

It really didn’t matter how bad it was. She needed to get into something really cheap, so she could start looking at business property. She’d need money for inventory and amenities when she did buy the property, so she’d just pray whatever house she found was weatherproof and not infested. The rest she could deal with in time.

From the pay phone in the station she called the number in the ad.

She made a quick stop at the grocery for some supplies before she started the long walk home. Baloney, bread, mustard and some soda. She could live a long time on baloney and none of her stash was going for taxis, as long as the weather stayed nice.

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7 Carriage Lane. $11938. Just a little over half my money. Cathy stood in the front yard of her new home and was very pleasantly surprised. It didn’t seem like a dump to Cathy. She wondered why it was so cheap and why they had called it a fixer upper.

After a few minutes staring she unlocked the front door and stepped inside.

It wasn’t bad at all. There had been no attempt at decorating, and it had minimal furniture, but really? There was fridge and stove in the kitchen and the bathroom fixtures were old but adequate. The carpet in the bedroom wasn’t yucky, and there was a bed. For the short term she didn’t need much else. She could live out of her suitcase in the short term.

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Cathy was too nervous to be hungry, so she pulled a still fairly warm soda out of the fridge and sat down with her journal. It didn’t seem too soon at all to start working on a business plan. She soon realized that she wasn’t going to get far with her planning without more information about the town and its business real estate market.

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She remembered seeing a paperboy walk by earlier, so she went outside to check. Yep, there it was. Had the old owners forgotten to cancel the subscription? She’d sort it out later. Right now she needed to start reading about the town.

She was holding the paper high, reading intently when she heard something odd. She looked up to see a man walking around her house to the back. Why wasn’t he coming to the front door? She was trying to decide if she was afraid when he rang the bell at the back door. Odd, she though, but not that scary. She opened the sliding door and … no one. Just a big pink box with a bow. She caught a glimpse of him disappearing down the street.

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She hesitated. You’re not supposed to open suspicious packages, she reminded herself. Her curiosity outweighed her good sense and she opened it. A computer! Who would give her a computer? The package wasn’t even addressed, so if it was delivered to the wrong place she had no way of tracing the rightful owner.

She hesitated for another minute. First thing on my shopping list is a desk, every business needs a computer. She hid it away. A couple of other things came to mind, she needed a mirror for the bathroom and at least one nice business outfit.

At about noon she was again interrupted by the doorbell. Three people were standing outside waiting to meet her. She wasn’t ready for guests. Why didn’t they give her a little time to get settled? She didn’t even have places for them to sit. And serving baloney sandwiches did not seem the best way to impress new neighbors. Nevertheless, if she wanted to get ahead in this town, she couldn’t afford to offend anyone. She stepped outside and introduced herself.

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The first neighbor to introduce himself was a stocky blond man in a brown leather jacket. His name was Malcolm Landgrabb IV. Next was a dark lady in a really old fashioned dress. She looked like a farm wife and introduced herself as Wanda Tinker. The last was a Hispanic man in a brown business suit. He said his name was Checo Ramirez.

Cathy steeled herself and invited them in for a bite to eat. She would just pretend that baloney sandwiches were appropriate fare for entertaining.

Before they could make it into the house, one of the neighborhood stray dogs growled at Malcolm. He ran away shrieking and didn’t come back. Cathy and the others shared a laugh and Wanda, fearless, chased the dog away.

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With only one chair, serving lunch was awkward. She distracted the visitors by asking questions about their work and families. If she kept asking questions, maybe no one would have time to question her back.

In spite of the embarrassing situation, Cathy felt like she did herself some good by entertaining these folks. Wanda, Checo, and Malcolm were all business owners in Bluewater. She couldn’t have asked for better first contacts. Wanda and Checo made the best of the limited entertainment by cooling off with a water balloon fight just as the sun went down. They sure aren’t stuck up. Kathy was relieved as she watched the two from the window. She wasn’t so sure about Malcolm.

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Since there was no sofa or chairs in the house yet, the three sat in the yard and chatted. The grass was cool, and they lingered well past dark. Cathy mentioned her desire to join their ranks as a business owner, and both promised advice and help. She made sure she had phone numbers before she said goodnight.

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#3 DianeHanna

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Posted 31 March 2013 - 01:05 AM

Chapter 2

Business ads were plentiful but most of the businesses for sale were expensive. In fact, she only found one she could afford. She phoned the realtor and had the funds transferred. She now owned her first business. She decided to call it Valentine’s Anytime. She sat down again and wrote the first few lines of ad copy.

Want to get out of the doghouse? Or just show her how special she is? Valentine’s Anytime. We’ll get you out of hot water and into a loving embrace.

Corny? You bet! Cathy called it in to the newspaper for tomorrow.

The phone rang, it was Malcolm. He apologized for disappearing on her yesterday. Said he remembered a sudden, pressing business matter. Cathy tried not to laugh into the phone. If she knew him better, she’d have suggested a stop by her new store. Chocolate or jewelry was always good for an apology.

Her desk was delivered. It set her back §80. While she was at it she had a burglar alarm installed. No use losing any of her meager possessions. Funds were shrinking fast. She had planned to make some purchases locally, you know, support her neighbors businesses, but the internet had some bargains she really couldn’t pass up. She lucked out. There was a perfect wallpaper by one of her favorite designers Hiedibear75. And only §1 per roll. She ordered enough for the back wall.

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It was 9:00 before she finished all the details and walked to her new business. In the dark, it looked pretty inadequate. How many hours can I stay open with no bathroom and nothing to eat? The stock she ordered earlier had arrived. She hung the wallpaper, painted the other green walls white and lamented over the floor. It did not go at all with her theme, and she was down to §901.

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Tomorrow was her big day, but her stomach was in a knot, worrying about money. She walked home in the dark and was too anxious to eat dinner. She hadn’t enough capital to stock any high priced merchandise. She was obviously going to need a sideline. How could she earn extra money without taking too much time away from her business?

She noodled around on the computer a little. She’d try to write a novel. A romance novel, in keeping with the recurring theme she had going. Good advertising for her if it sold well. People would want to buy romance stuff from a romance writer.

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They might even think she knew something about it.

Finally, after making a little headway on the novel, she called it a night.
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#4 DianeHanna

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Posted 31 March 2013 - 07:01 PM

Chapter 3

Cathy walked to her little shop early did a last little bit of rearranging. She opened for business. First day on the job. More nervous than she had ever been before. It was a good thing a customer walked in right away or she might have had a heart attack. Time to see if she has what it takes.

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Jill Smith was first through the door. Cathy greeted her warmly. She chatted happily about this and that, not really attempting any sales tactics. (Not that she knew how anyway!) A couple of other ladies came in within a few minutes. Cathy was determined to greet every customer personally and try to learn their names. She hoped they would like what they purchased, and come back for more!

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The ladies took a long time examining the merchandise. Each Item was scrutinized and evaluated. Cathy was surprised. She was more of a grab and go shopper. Maybe this is how you shopped when you weren’t all that busy. She, herself, had never had the time or money to linger over purchases.

She was also surprised that the customers were all women. She thought she had aimed her ad towards male customers. She was not going to complain about women buying nice things for themselves, however unexpected. It made her think she might add a clothing rack when she could afford it. A nice little line of tasteful lingerie?

Yay, someone was ready to check out. Her first sale! She realized with a sinking stomach that she had not even tried to use the cash register. She stared at all the keys, comprehending nothing. Pollie was getting impatient. Please don’t let me ruin my first sale, she begged. Finally the right combination of keys were pressed and the register opened. I’ve really got to do better with this.

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A steady stream of buyers kept her busy though the hours. She decided she would open at noon and close at 8:00. She was aiming at the after work crowd.

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Finally, right at closing, her first male customer made an appearance. She had to close, it was 8:00 and her bladder was bursting. How much to build a bathroom? she wondered. Right now she’d settle for an outhouse, but that would really spoil the romantic image.

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She made a couple of calls to her new friends Wanda and Checo, plunked away on her novel for an hour or so, then headed for bed.

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At 2:00 AM she was woken by a noise, a loud crashing sound. Someone or something had kicked over her trash. Better not be a business competitor! she cursed. She set the can upright, collected the spilled trash and then noticed. Roaches everywhere. Perfect! She swore again. Seems she’d inherited a colorful vocabulary from her mother.

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After the spraying and sweeping, Cathy was wide awake. She had a snack to help her get sleepy again and of course, as one does when awakened in the night, she started worrying. Money, People Skills, the dreaded Cash Register, she worried about it all.

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The rest of the night was a misery.
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#5 DianeHanna

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Posted 31 March 2013 - 09:30 PM

Chapter 4

On day 2, Cathy got up and worked on the novel. She finished it and was sort of satisfied with the outcome. She submitted it on line and got a call back from the publisher almost immediately. They didn’t love it, and were disappointed, but still sent her a check for §1370. Now for the hard decisions. More Stock? A bathroom? A nice dress to wear in the shop? She’d think about it over breakfast.

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It was still pretty early, so she did a touch of housework. Clearly not her favorite occupation and she dreamed of the day she could spend money for a housekeeper.

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A pretentious looking man came to the house. News of her novel had gotten out and she was invited to join a hobby club called Desirous Discourse. Like she had time for hobbies! Well, contacts are contacts, she’d just have to see.

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She opened the shop and three customers came in. All men this time. Cathy really wished she had a nicer outfit. None of the men were dressed up, so maybe it would be ok. She talked to each, as was her plan and did some restocking while they were browsing. She noticed that quite a few items were disappearing into shopping bags.

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Then the inevitable, they all lined up at once to check out. Again Cathy blushed over her poor skills at the cash/wrap. While she was ringing up the last one she noticed that a young lady had been wandering around acting confused. Cathy wanted to get to her quickly and answer her questions, but she still had one customer in line. Please be patient, I’ll get to you as soon as I can. Cathy knew from experience how bad it felt to be ignored in a shop.

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A bladder crisis made her close early and head home. It killed her to have to send customers away before they were finished shopping. And she couldn’t even hang around long enough to restock her shelves.

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She went to bed very early.

Around 9:00 her doorbell rang, so she hopped out of bed and into her clothes. It was Wanda Tinker, wanting to introduce her husband Steven. Cathy was glad to see them, but wished the timing was better. She really needed some sleep after last night’s restlessness.

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She served a fruit plate and chatted for as little time as seemed polite. When she said goodbye, Wanda gave her a hug. It made Cathy feel great. She didn’t remember any hugs from her own mother.

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She went back to bed, and with only a little planning for tomorrow, she fell into a deep sleep.
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#6 DianeHanna

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Posted 01 April 2013 - 12:55 AM

Chapter 5

The next day was more of the same. She ate breakfast, showered, and wrote a bit on her second novel. Not long before noon she heard a horrible pop and smoke started pouring out from the computer. Kinda justice, she thought. It probably wasn’t mine to use anyway. Now there would be repair bills, before she could finish her second book. Drat, she’d been looking forward to that royalty check. Even a poor selling book made some money.

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Still and all, there was a shop waiting for her to open.

Today she had her first really grumpy customer. Norah Becker didn’t seem to want to talk at all, and didn’t spend much time there either. To be expected, I guess, Cathy assured herself. I didn’t do anything wrong.

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Then three really good things happened right in a row. She earned a bronze cash register badge, quickly followed by a bronze restocking badge. Then her business was awarded Rank 1. Cathy wasn’t sure just what Rank 1 meant, but shortly she got a call from a vendor, offering her a better wholesale rate on her stock purchases. Yay – More Profit!

At home that night she was thinking about the grumpy customer. It was time to practice some “People Skills”. She hung a small mirror in the bathroom and began to practice speaking. Not sure it would help, but if it made conversation easier, it was worth the effort.

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She wasn’t all that tired so she walked into Riverblossom Hills for a spot of shopping. Oh boy! Free food! There was a small patio off the boutique with a grill. They said the hot dogs were free to anyone who wanted to make them. She would have felt bad about pigging out, but she would be buying a dress here for sure tonight. Blue jeans were just not the image she wanted in her super-romantic store.

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She spent a long time on the clothing racks. She couldn’t decide exactly how she wanted to go. The only given was that it should be red. She might go businesslike. She tried on a practical looking red and black dress that looked office-appropriate. Then she tried on a revealing red dress. Dramatic wins! She liked the way this dress made her feel.

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When checking out, she couldn’t help compare her skills with the cashier in the boutique. I have a long way to go to be that quick and efficient.

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Back at home the phone rang. It was her nasty customer from today. Norah apologized for her rudeness, explained she had been arguing with her boyfriend and felt sad that she was shopping in the Valentine store instead of him. Cathy hung up the phone feeling much better. She wasn’t to blame after all. I have a lot to learn about people, she thought. First of which is, it's not always about me.

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#7 DianeHanna

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  • 503 posts
  • LocationDesert Southwest USA

Posted 02 April 2013 - 02:20 PM

Chapter 6
It was snowing heavily when Cathy work up. She was pretty tired but got up at the regular time anyway. Her mood seemed as dark as the sky. It was her nature to want to buy expensive things and she had been denying herself for years. She was afraid of not meeting her long term goal, but her short term desires were going unanswered and she was suffering because of it. She waited around for the repairman, and the computer was soon back in order.

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In spite of the blue meanies, She started the day pretty well. Sold a few things and was chatting up the 3-4 customers in the shop. She got a notice that her business rating had risen to rank 2. This is a good thing, right. But before she could even celebrate, a customer complained that her shelves were too empty. She was bounced back down to rank 1.

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Cathy found herself huddled behind the cash/wrap rocking back and forth, in shock. Her psychiatrist dropped in for a few minutes and got her on her feet. He explained that she had something called an ‘Aspiration Failure’. Although she did not understand the term, she was vertical and starting to run the business again.

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She concentrated on everything and was able to increase the business again to rank 2. This time she was being very careful to keep the shelves fully stocked. She had gotten pretty good at restocking while keeping an eye out for customers who wanted to pay for their purchases She had her own little skip thing she did to beat the customer to the register. Rand 2 was announced again. Rank 2 seemed pretty good for such a new business.

Suddenly, a customer complained that she had been ignoring him. The business dropped back to Rank 1 for the second time in one day. Cathy again collapsed on the floor. She couldn’t cope with all the demands of schmoozing, stocking and checking out. The psychiatrist dropped in a second time. This time he gave her a strong warning about neglecting her desires. Aspiration failure was apparently not something that should be taken lightly.

Cathy closed early. She wanted to finish her novel, so that is what she did for the rest of the day. She also learned how to make gelatin, and bought a living room chair. By bedtime she was feeling much better, and her new novel paid §2270.

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#8 DianeHanna

    Junior Member


  • 503 posts
  • LocationDesert Southwest USA

Posted 02 April 2013 - 02:32 PM

Chapter 7

Cathy now had about 4,000 in the bank, after the repairman and after she bought some more clothes and paid her household bills. She needed more inventory, but she also needed a bathroom. How many more customers could she handle if she could get away to a bathoom a few times a day? Bathroom wins! She decided to make it an employee-only space so she would not have to decorate it or use expensive fixtures. Not to mention clean up after the customers.

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After the bathroom was functioning, she felt a lot better. It was deepest winter and since she was in early to supervise construction she took a few minutes to play in the snow. She built a couple of snowmen and made a snow angel.

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Since she was in such a good mood, she had no trouble keeping up with the customers, and her cash flow for the day was pretty good, since she didn’t have to run home immediately to use the bathroom she stayed open pretty late. She got her rank 2 back and then right at closing she got rank 3. Things were looking up!

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And Valentine’s Day would be here soon. She hoped for her busiest day ever.

Norah Becker came over uninvited that night. She had started acting as if Cathy were her new best friend. Cathy considered it more of a business friendship and she really didn’t want to take on all Norah’s issues. After Norah had poured her heart out of a couple of hours, Cathy suggested that she use the internet to register at a singles site, or maybe just chat online.

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While she was occupied, Cathy did the first dishonest thing of her life. She went through Norah’s backpack. Inside were 5 items that she had purchased from Valentine’s Anytime. Cathy removed the items and hid them in her own backpack.

The next day at the shop she set up another display rack and put Norah’s purchases out for sale again. She knew she should feel guilty, somehow she just didn’t. Norah was just buying stuff for an excuse to make Cathy listen to her problems. Besides, ruthlessness in business was a given, in her opinion.

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It was a very busy day. She was starting to notice some repeat customers. Mr. Jeffries had been in 3 times already and spent a bunch each time. He must really like to spoil his girlfriend or wife (lucky woman!) She was smiling about it when he motioned her aside. She found out what her really wanted: he offered her a job.

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She was kept busy all day but her own bathroom made all the difference. She stayed focused on the stocking and the customers. And her register skills were greatly improved. She even stayed open late for a few last minute shoppers. She won a bronze restocking badge. Her business ranking jumped up to 4 – two levels in one day. Cathy was ecstatic.
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“They spoil every romance by trying to make it last forever .” ~ Oscar Wilde


#9 grandmajam_of6

    Trashcan Kicker


  • 948 posts

Posted 03 April 2013 - 11:44 AM

My you have been busy! Great story forming.
Grandma.
Proud member of S2HBAA & TSRAA

#10 DianeHanna

    Junior Member


  • 503 posts
  • LocationDesert Southwest USA

Posted 06 April 2013 - 03:09 AM

Hey thanks for reading Grandmajam! I appreciate your comments.


Chapter 8

She walked home as quickly as she could, she wanted to be there when the sofa she ordered was delivered. Otherwise, it would be hard to get it into the house by herself.

When the Tinkers dropped by again for a visit, Wanda approved of the new sofa. Cathy checked the refrigerator for something to serve. It was empty, except for some leftovers. There was nothing for it but to order some takeout. Chinese food arrived within a few minutes and they all ate.

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The Tinkers were becoming a nuisance. Cathy liked them, but she had too much to do to entertain them all the time. Some of the things she had thought were so cute about them at first were beginning to irritate her. It was sweet that they were affectionate towards each other, but were they really making out in her bathroom?

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Out of self-defense she invited Malcolm to join them. He ate some Chinese and then started skipping rope in her living room. Her conversation must really stink if all her guests felt the need to amuse themselves in such weird ways. She distracted him with some kicky bag. She made a note to shop for something fun that people could do together. Either that or she was just going to stop answering the door!

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The garbage can went over in the middle of the night again, and this time Cathy tried stomping on the roaches before she sprayed them. Inevitably she got sick with the flu. It didn’t seem right to stay in bed, there was no one to open the business for her. But she nearly passed out after a violent coughing spell and lay back down. She stayed there for almost two days before she felt well enough to get up and eat.

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She went with her usual cheerios.

She was able to finish another novel while she was out sick. It got a little bit better reviews than the last two, and paid over §3000. For a woman with almost no romantic experience she was faking it pretty good.

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Back at work things were really hectic. A lot of people had noticed her rank 4 rating and were stopping by to shop. Now there were always 5 to 6 customers at a time. Cathy could chat and run the register or run the register and restock, but she could not do all three. When she was nearly sold out of everything, she had to close early, or face a bunch of disappointed customers.

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#11 DianeHanna

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Posted 06 April 2013 - 04:14 AM

Chapter 9

Cathy was overjoyed when her business went into the black for the first time. She was busy all the time now and had added a few items to her stock. She had enough loyal customers to reach rank 5. Oh boy, now she could ask for better wholesale prices! The store was extremely busy, but Cathy was still able to greet everyone who came in. Her cash register skills were pretty good now, but the increase in customers still meant fairly long checkout times. It seemed to Cathy that everyone waited to get in line at the same time.

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An unhappy looking woman came in and spent a long time looking over the items for sale. Cathy greeted her warmly, but the woman frowned and did not return her smiles. Cathy went back to the register and checked a few more people out. Three times she tried to chat with the unpleasant woman and three times she was rebuffed.

As a long line formed at the checkout, the woman approached and announced that she was giving Valentine’s Anytime a bad review. She called the shop “Lackluster”. What a horrible way to end the day, Cathy thought. Miserable woman, if I hadn’t spent so much time trying to be friendly, I could have restocked everything.

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When Cathy re-opened, there were a lot fewer customers. Word of the bad review had spread. Small towns are like that, Cathy supposed. She took time to do a little sprucing up in front.

In a way, it was a welcome respite. Cathy had time to think about hiring an employee which she desperately needed. After a short round of interviews, Cathy made her decision. She hired Allyn Thomason and asked her to report the next day.

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Allyn arrived early and Cathy started her off restocking. If Allyn was slow at first, restocking seemed to be the place where she would do the least harm. After Cathy’s own struggle with the cash register, she didn’t want to deal with training a new employee to do that. They were far too busy.

At the same time she added a lingerie rack and an outdoor grill and tables. Employees need a place to eat and rest, after all. Maybe the customers would hang around longer.

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As the day progressed, Allyn proved to be industrious and efficient. Cathy made sure to give her coffee breaks when it looked like she might be flagging a little, but she was back at work promptly.
All in all it was a good couple of days.

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Cathy made a detour on the way home that night. Just for fun she stopped at Sue’s Secret Kitchen, one of hobby clubs she had been invited to join. It was her first visit there and she was impressed with the quality of the equipment and the general pleasant atmosphere. On a lark, she prepared a contest entry, fried shrimp. She nearly died when Carter Adams and Sue herself submitted entries. Sue was leader of the club and an experienced chef. Carter had tons of experience cooking, and his dinner parties were legendary. She let out a loud whoop of surprise when she won and was awarded §500.
With an eye on a possible business opportunity she asked Sue for candy making lessons. She ate more than she prepared for sale. With that and sampling the contest entries, she noticed her dress was getting tight.

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She was exhausted when she got home and collapsed into bed.
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#12 DianeHanna

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Posted 07 April 2013 - 04:51 PM

Chapter 10

Another uneventful day at work! The bad review as still out there and customers were steady but not numerous. She chatted, joked and tried to cajole her reluctant ones into making purchases. She was just about breaking even every day now, but was down on overall cash flow since the expansion. Level 6 was elusive. She bounced up and down, gaining then losing a customer loyalty star. She seesawed up and down all day.

She took a shower when she got home, finishing just in time to hear the doorbell. She peeked out the bathroom door and saw that it was Malcolm. She grabbed the dress she had worn to work, it being the closest thing to hand. Checked herself in the mirror and decided the dress would do for another couple of hours.

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Cathy wasn’t sure how she felt about Malcolm. She greeted him with her best smile anyway. He was the first single male in town who had paid her any attention. She served him banana pudding and they played a few games. In a way, Malcolm seemed quite childlike. That couldn’t be true. The man owned two businesses.

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The kiss he gave her when it was time for him to go home was anything but childlike!

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Cathy paged through a catalog she had been given when she moved into town. There were a lot of items you could buy with Aspiration Points, whatever those were. They must be some sort of credit card reward points, but she hadn’t taken out any credit cards. She had enough to order something called the Magic Static Treadmill. It was advertised as a way to get fit without getting tired or sweaty. Sounded like just the thing for her!

She set it up and started walking then running. This was unlike any treadmill she had ever seen. She was able to run for hours, all the time thinking about Malcolm. It wouldn’t do to start a new romance with her stomach sticking out and her backside looking like Wanda’s.

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In no time at all she was running well, tripping less and the belly was flattening nicely, thank you very much.

She had been painting instead of novel writing to raise capital, and she sold a few in rapid succession. Almost enough money to buy a second business property. She spent a few minutes browsing the real estate listings and then off for a few hours of sleep.
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#13 DianeHanna

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Posted 07 April 2013 - 04:55 PM

Chapter 11

The late nights were telling on Cathy. She overslept and had to make do with an instant breakfast. She opened the shop late.

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This is not good, she told herself. Fewer hours mean fewer sales. She didn’t call Allyn right away. She had been thinking a lot about business management and it didn’t seem necessary to be paying a stocker until a few sales had been made. So she dealt with the customers a few hours by herself, then called Allyn when the shelves started to have holes. She saved the business at least a couple of hours of salary. Allyn worked without showing any tiredness or lack of enthusiasm.

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Finally, towards the end of the day she reached rank 6 and Allyn had earned a bronze restocking badge. Cathy gave her a raise. Allyn was overpaid now, but worth it. Cathy never had to stare at empty shelves and customer frowns because items weren’t available. Now she just had to deal with frowns if they weren’t getting enough attention. She thought about Allyn as a future manager. Eventually, she’d have to let her try the cash register. Shudder!

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Cathy’s bank account was looking good. She almost had enough for a second business. She worked on another painting and spent some time browsing the web and blogging before bed. She stumbled onto a site where people were asking for financial advice. Who’d have thought people would pay her for telling them what to do with their money. She handed out advice freely for the next couple of hours and was earning §75 an hour. In her pajamas no less. What a great day!

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#14 DianeHanna

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Posted 07 April 2013 - 05:01 PM

Chapter 12

Cathy had expected to reach rank 7 today. Her bad review had lifted. Lots of customers were shopping again. Valentine’s Day was getting close; everyone needed something for their special someone.

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She gained a star, then lost another. Her ranking was not moving up at all, and it just about killed her when the customers were frowning. They were buying a lot of stuff and she was coming out ahead in cash flow but something was wrong. Few smiles and no new stars.

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Another one of those sneaky reviewers from the newspaper came in. Cathy spotted him right away and made an effort to be pleasant and helpful. Like the first review she’d had, he listened and smiled and gave her a bad review anyway. Her ranking plummeted back to 5. Cathy closed the store and stood In front of the register, crying with frustration.

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Cathy called Checo Ramirez to ask him to help her. He had offered his phone number earlier, but she had not followed up with this contact. He was the most experienced business person she knew. He kindly came over right away.

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“Cathy,” he told her. “You are a charming woman, and have the potential to be a great businesswoman. But your timing is off. You make the initial contact just fine, but don’t spend too much time chatting. Just be your friendly self and then back off. Watch the customers carefully, if they start to look unhappy or confused, then go into your pitches. You’ll get the hang of it soon.”

Cathy nodded gratefully. Suddenly she found herself no longer listening to Checo; they were kissing. She was more attracted to him than any other man she had met so far. He wasn't so good-looking, he was older and balding. Malcolm had him beat all the way around on that one: it was just some inexplicable attraction. She pulled away and said goodbye to him quickly.

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That can never happen again, Cathy told herself. He’s a married man and I have a reputation to consider. If anyone had seen this, I’d be in serious trouble.

To get her mind off Checo, she went home and spent some time on the internet. She had just enough cash to buy a second tiny business lot, so she did.

She started working on another novel, she could use the money to buy inventory for the new business. This time she’d open a store to sell cookware and accessories for the kitchen. She called it Kit-chen Caboodles.
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#15 DianeHanna

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Posted 13 April 2013 - 02:38 AM

Chapter 13

Cathy called Malcolm and invited him over. She had again paged through her aspiration rewards catalog and sent away for a hot tub, advertised as a Love Tub. She still did not know where these points were coming from, but who was she to complain about such great free stuff. It felt so good to just soak. She hadn’t really noticed how tight her back muscles were. Her feet had been hurting from so much standing in the shop in high heels. The pain and stiffness melted away in the steaming, swirling water and Malcolm was pleasant company.

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Malcolm had inherited his two businesses. Oh, he was interested in money all right, but not that enthusiastic about running his businesses. He’d had them for years and they were languishing from neglect. He told her about his businesses. Club Dante was rank 2. It was a nightclub, but even Malcolm didn’t find it all that interesting to go there. There was music and sports on the big screen, and he always put out snacks, but the bar was the biggest draw. Malcolm admitted that if he weren’t the owner, he’d probably never go there. No wonder it isn’t popular, thought Cathy.

His Electronics Superstore was only rank 1. He had an employee hired to run the register, but he mostly just played pinball when he was there, and let the customers fend for themselves. Cathy was jealous. Her business was doing much better than his: but she had worked her tail off just to get started.

She just couldn’t get her head around Malcolm’s attitude. He had what she desperately wanted, but he talked about it like it was just a big bother. She wondered what he really wanted to do with his life. Maybe he was content to just spend what he had been given.

She’d like to take a look at Malcolm’s places and see if she could offer him some help. But that would have to wait for another day. She needed to make an early night of it. She had lots to do in the morning. Malcolm was okay with leaving early. All this talk of business made him think he should go by Club Dante and see if it needed his attention. He kissed her goodbye and she liked it as much as the last time.

Cathy smiled. She had kissed more men in the last two days than in her whole life.

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#16 DianeHanna

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Posted 13 April 2013 - 02:44 AM

Chapter 14

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Kit-chen Caboodles. Cathy unlocked the door and stepped inside. It was as plain and bare as Valentine’s Anytime had been when she saw it for the first time.

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This one didn’t have a bathroom either. She hated to think about running home again in desperation after a long day. Cathy spent the morning decorating the new store and setting up some displays. She wanted to stock everything you could want for a kitchen, whether for a professional chef or a wannabe. The wholesalers had plenty to offer, and Cathy ordered what she could afford.

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Though she still needed to do a few things to the store before she opened, she had made a good start.

Off to Valentine’s Anytime. She was still operating under a bad review and didn’t expect any increase in rank until that got lifted. Since it wasn’t that busy, she assigned Allyn to the cash register. Allyn was as frustrated with the machine as Cathy had been only a short while ago. Cathy kept her smiles to herself and didn’t jump in to help until the very end of the day. A few customer stars were lost, but it was worth it to get Allyn cross-trained. They were becoming quite good friends and Cathy hoped to promote Allyn one of these days.

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Back at home, she finished her 5th novel and collected enough to buy the rest of the inventory she had picked out for Kit-chen Caboodles.

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She suddenly realized that she needed something to wear. She loved her red dress, but what was right for a store specializing in romance would just seem tacky in housewares. It would have to be a quick decision so she rushed out to the nearest place that was open this late and grabbed the first thing she saw that looked modest. She didn’t even stop to try it on, trusting that it would be true to size. She was determined to open in the morning. She flopped into bed for far too few hours of rest before the sun came up.

When she finally tried on the dress, it fit.

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#17 jay68614

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Posted 13 April 2013 - 11:12 PM

Its interesting to see how the open for business expansion works. I havent tried it yet and truth be I just ordered it, so I am anticipating that real soon! Your story makes me excited and nervous about it. lol.

#18 DianeHanna

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 02:33 AM

Thanks so much for reading along tanniew! It is really hard to do it this way. It would be a lot easier if you played a couple of generations adding businesses a few each time. But I am cheating with aging off.


Chapter 15

I’ve spent all my time since I moved here working, though Cathy. She urgently felt the need for some outdoor time. A walk around the neighborhood would be just the thing. She looked over her shoulder as she walked down the hill in the opposite direction she usually walked to town. Her yard and house were clean, but still as bare as the day she had moved in. A few plants would do wonders, she thought. At least she had solved the problem of the garbage can. She moved it into a small fenced in area at the side of the house and locked the gate. Only she and the garbage collector had keys. The roach problem was solved and Cathy stopped getting the flu. She wondered if she would ever have time to sit and enjoy her house. Or have the money to spend on decorations and plantings. Ironic that she sold decorations to everyone in town, but had none herself.

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Malcolm’s house was almost on the way to work, if you walked up Carriage Lane to Toboggon Way then cut over to Gondola Way. A little zigzagged but a plausible story. Who am I kidding? I just want to see where Malcolm lives. So, having prepared her clichéd excuse that she was just in the neighborhood, she strolled by his house. More like his mansion, she thought. This place is amazing. Why is Malcolm so restless and dissatisfied? She was so intimidated by the front view of the property that she almost ran away. Don’t be childish, you can’t ring the bell and run away like a kid playing pranks.

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Malcolm answered the door. “Oh, Hi Cathy. I just got home. I went to the store today. Come on in. Wait for me while I take a shower?” He didn’t even give her a hug, just turned around and walked back into the house without waiting to see if she was coming.

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Oh No! Cathy thought. This was a bad idea. She nodded and followed him into the house.
The entry hall was just as impressive as the outside.

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“Why don’t you wait in my study? You can use the computer if you’d like. I’ll only be a minute.” Malcolm was polite to her, even though she had obviously come at an inopportune time.She looked around his study and thought, Imagine the kind of work I could get done in an office like this. She browsed the web for articles on cuisine while she waited.

Malcolm wasn’t very long at all and when he came to find her he was in a much better mood. And certainly smelled better, too. Cathy smiled.

Afterwards, Cathy couldn’t explain how everything had happened so fast. One minute he was showing her around. The next minute she was naked in his bed. She hadn’t hesitated for even a second. Was it Malcolm, or was it the ambience? Hard to tell, but Malcolm had everything she had ever wanted. Including a fantastic body, silky blond hair and a smile to die for when he chose to use it. Cathy had been told that the first time was often not that great. Maybe it was lack of experience on her part, but this had been fantastic.

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He invited her to go to his club. She would have loved to go dancing at Club Dante. She knew she had a tough day tomorrow, so she asked him to invite her another time. She wanted Malcolm again, in fact many agains. She sincerely hoped she was not falling in love. How was she going to fit him into her schedule? Her quest for business success seemed to be taking on a quixotic twist.
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#19 DianeHanna

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 02:41 AM

Chapter 16

As the weeks went by, she and Malcolm had only a little time to spend together. Some of it was actually talking. Once or twice they planned a day off together. Malcolm loved the big screen TV that Cathy was given in some networking deal. Cathy was happy for the respite. As they sat together on her sofa, watching a game, she was really watching Malcolm. Trying to figure him out. He hated running his businesses, but he didn’t want to get a 9-5 job either.

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Cathy would have loved to buy his Club Dante. She’d have it ranked up in no time. There simply wasn’t enough cash in her bank account. Profits were great at Valentine’s Anytime, but she kept pouring her cash back in for expansion. More displays and more stock. She had located a new line of goods aimed at her teenaged customers. Cutsie stuff, but irresistible to teenage girls. Especially teenage girls in love.

Her stores were worth way more than she had invested. Maybe she should sell one of them. If she started from scratch again, she could probably buy 3-4 more properties. The thought of starting from scratch was disheartening. If I were a real mogul, I’d use these stores to leverage myself up to my five businesses. She knew she’d never do that. She loved her little shops too much to part with either one.

She realized how far her mind had wandered from the ballgame they were watching.

“Let’s go to the park,” she suggested. “I need some fresh air.”

“Sounds good,” Malcolm was off the sofa and halfway out the door.

Restless as ever, Cathy thought. “Hold up, Malcolm, I’ll put together a picnic. Sandwiches sound ok?”

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The park was very romantic and it was a beautiful day. Inspired by the sunshine, Malcolm kissed Cathy almost as soon as they came through the gates. Cathy gave him a kiss for good luck and Malcolm took a ride in one of the beautiful balloons. Cathy was too chicken to go with him.

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As the afternoon waned, they sat on the upper deck, enjoying the sun, watching the balloons launch and cuddling. Wow, the man is handsome! Cathy had never seen such a glorious smile.

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“Malcolm,” she finally asked. “What do you want out of life? What is your secret desire?”

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“I can’t answer that yet,” Malcolm didn’t exactly frown, but he obviously didn’t want to go there. Then he turned on that smile. “It may include you,” he teased.

Cathy had truly not been expecting this kind of response. Did he think she was fishing for a proposal? Good going, Cathy, she thought. She wasn't pressing him for a commitment. She didn’t have time!
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#20 DianeHanna

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 01:43 PM

Chapter 17

When Kit-chen Caboodles reached Rank 4, Cathy faced the same dilemma she had with Valentine’s Anytime. She thought of it as her tipping point. There was not enough revenue to afford an employee, but there was not enough Cathy to do it all. If she could find a good employee, she’d be able to make more sales. If the employee was inexperienced, she’d have to run in the red for who knows how long. If I want to grow, I’ll have to take a chance.

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She was considering the wording for her ‘help wanted’ ad, when her friend Norah Becker came in. Cathy still felt guilty about stealing Norah’s purchases that time Norah came to her house. Norah never indicated that she suspected anything, but still! Maybe she could make it up to her by offering her a good job. Norah was overqualified, or rather qualified in some skills Cathy did not need for a kitchen store. Norah had a bronze flower arranging badge. But it couldn’t hurt to ask. So Cathy offered. Norah accepted.

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Even though Norah also had a gold sales badge, Cathy assigned her to the register. It was super-important that each employee become proficient in this area. This was the one job in retail where you could lose the most goodwill. She had learned from the first store that it was much harder for an employee to learn the register with a line of customers 4-5 deep, than a line of 1 or 2. Poor Allyn was still struggling at Valentine’s.

Not for the first time did Cathy wish there was somewhere potential employees could go for vocational training for retail jobs.

Cathy added some floor space to Caboodles and a bathroom and break room. She thought the store was looking pretty good.

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Valentine’s Anytime was stuck at Rank 7. There were tons of customers and it was getting terribly cramped. Cathy knew it was past time for an expansion and some more stock. She promised herself that when she got her next business rebate, she’d hire a second employee and push the back wall out for some more floor space.
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