Author's Note: This story has been forming in my head for a while (It all started with a dream…) so I decided to put it to paper. This is an introductory chapter, as I wanted to set up a baseline. Other characters will be introduced in the upcoming chapters. Reviews are always welcome, good, bad, or constructive. N.B. Italicized words are in a different language (either Polish or Russian for the most part). I will put translations at the end of chapters if needed. Also, the counties, and cities used in this story are fictional, but the province is real. I hope you enjoy Chapter One!
Green trees whizzed by as my brown eyes focused on the stretch of highway in front of me. Country music played on the radio as I twitched my naked nails against the steering wheel.
"Range Road 115...I still have a ways to go." I mumbled to myself. I was headed all the way out to Range Road 215 for my first job interview. I had left an hour and a half early, and I was only thirty minutes out. I checked my mirrors before flicking my signal light and switching lanes towards the inside, passing a green Camry. My phone began ringing, but I ignored it; I never answered my phone while driving. Twenty minutes later, I saw the small green Range Road sign that indicated RR 215 was up ahead. Pressing on the brake, I clicked the "Off" button on my steering wheel. The green "CRUISE" light went off on my display console.
Flicking my left signal on, I waited as a large semi passed by while I positioned myself in the intersection, ensuring I was within the protection of the grass medians. When both lanes heading back to the city were clear, I turned. I took my sunglasses off while searching for Township Road 253. Finding it, I turned into a crescent and passed the sign advertising Beaver County Veterinary Hospital. I was relieved to find it fairly empty, but it was also only 10 am. Pulling into an empty spot near the side of the building, I put my truck into park before turning the ignition off. The sun warmed my side as I dug in my black purse for my phone.
I had been right; my mom had called. I inhaled before hitting redial on my old Samsung. She answered within two rings.
"Hello, pypus." my mom's voice came from the other end.
"Hi Mama. I made it here fine. Highways were good today." I stated as I watched a robin hop around on the grass.
"Good. You're early but go on in and knock them dead. You will be amazing."
"Thanks Mama. I should go in now. I don't like to keep people waiting. I will let you know when it's over. Love you."
"Love you too." I touched the screen and ended the call, breathing again. The butterflies were present. I pulled my sun visor down and glanced in the mirror, ensuring I was acceptable to leave my truck. My makeup was minimal: some foundation, mascara, and a bit of sheer, nude eyeshadow. You could barely see it. Wiping my lipbalm off on a kleenex, I smoothed my bun back before grabbing my purse, a folder containing a copy of my CV and covering letter, my NAVLE results, and my keys. I smoothed my grey dress pants down and closed my truck door. The seafoam green 1997 Dodge Dakota had been washed, but bits of rust on the wheel wells and near the door handles slowly grew bigger with each season. The truck had been my older brother's, but when he had graduated Engineering, he had gotten a new Ford as a gift. And so the Dakota was given to me when I was sixteen. It had been mine for the last ten years.
'It still feels weird thinking I'm twenty-six...two days ago I was still twenty-five!' I shook my head, adjusted my black blazer and red dress shirt, and walked towards the entrance. The door chimed as I entered, and the smell of coffee greeted my nose.
"Good morning. How can I help you?" an older woman asked from behind the desk. She paused in her clicking away at the keyboard before her.
"Good morning. My name is Amelia Laskowicz...I'm here for an interview at 10:30 with Dr. Caldin." I stated.
"You're early; Dr. Caldin will like that. He actually hasn't pulled in yet, so have a seat and I will let him know you're here, dear." I nodded and sat down.
A few minutes later, a back door opened and a man's voice could be heard.
"Sharon, do you know who parked in my spot? Some Dodge…" an older man stepped behind the desk, and the receptionist, Sharon smiled.
"Your interviewee is here." She pointed at me.
"Ah. Miss...Lasko...vich? I'm Dr. Caldin. Do you drive a Dodge by chance?" he asked, blue eyes staring at me.
"Yes, I do. I'm sorry, I can move if you-"
"No worries. If you come aboard don't do it again. You can park near the grass if it's easier."
"You're nearly fifteen minutes early. I like that. Well, let's get started." I had long since stood up, and I simply followed him as he went up a side stairwell. We entered a large office full of book shelves with a sturdy desk in the middle. A few other rooms lined the corridor.
"I'm Dr. Caldin. We spoke on the phone last week. I apologize if I butcher your last name." the man stated wryly.
"It's Polish; not the easiest to say." I replied.
"So...your CV is impressive. You have references from some people whose name carry a lot of clout. Majority small animal...one or two mixed vets. All people I know." he flipped to the second page of my CV, eyes scanning the document.
"The veterinary community is small, I suppose. Especially in Alberta."
"Indeed it is. You went to the school in the UK...why come back to Alberta?"
"My family is here. Besides...Alberta is my home, and it always will be." I replied.
"List the vaccines we give to dogs here."
"Parvo, distemper, bordetella, rabies."
"Which one is not compulsory?"
"Good. If you said rabies we would have been finished. It's not core in the UK, I believe."
"No, it's not."
"Who comes first...clients, or patients?"
"Our oath is to uphold the welfare of animals committed to our care." it was an instantaneous reply.
"So...if a client can't afford certain treatment, but the animal needs it...what do you do?"
"I do what's best for the animal." I knew my eyes had gone bright...this was my belief. I lived by it. The "proper" answer was to say "do what you can, within the client's means" but sometimes...rules were supposed to be broken.
Dr. Caldin's pale eyes looked at me and my stomach sank. 'Stupid stupid stupid. You just sunk yourself...'
"Welcome aboard, Amelia." I blinked.
"Pardon me?" Dr. Caldin smiled.
"I've lost count of how many new grads I've turned down because they said "do what is within the owner's means". Bull, that is. Most of the time, owners will do their best and you can move along. Sometimes, people can't afford it, but their pet needs it. You either a) discount it or b) just do it. Why did you become a vet?"
"Exactly. If it ain't gonna put you in the poor house, do it. Especially if this is a long time client, and it's what is best for the animal." Standing, Dr. Caldin extended his hand. I stood and shook it, still shocked.
"You'll have a tour, meet my associates, and then there will be some paperwork. Leave your things." He stepped around his desk and we travelled back down, through the back door and outside.
"The layout is fairly simple...large or farm animals go there. Horses have their own area further back. Small animals and exotics are down the path to the left. We will start there." I nodded and walked after him.
Almost two full hours later, the tour completed. I had met Dr. Tomson, who only dealt with clinical cases, and Dr. Bishka, who was the only other female vet on the premises. She was from Iran and though she was intimidating, she was really lovely. Small streaks of grey peppered her hair, but she pulled it off so well.
"Now comes the fun part...paperwork. Just a contract that you will abide to our rules and other legal nonsense." Dr. Caldin smiled. I read through the paper, which made me agree to not set up another clinic within 25 km of this one, and that I would not cause any conflicts of interest. I signed and dated the documents before receiving my own copies.
"You don't see those around much." he gestured to my pen. I smiled.
"I'm kind of old fashioned...I love fountain pens. Besides, the ink is forgery resistant." I smiled sheepishly. It earned me a clap on the arm.
"I think we will get along just fine."
After returning down stairs, I was given phone numbers for the reception, as well as all the staff.
"Log your number with Sharon and everyone will add you. Communication is essential. We will set you up with an office tomorrow, and get the other small things sorted, like keys and alarm codes. I hope you don't mind being on call."
"Not at all." I replied.
"You say that now...we all start off saying 'it's fine' and then...well." Dr. Caldin laughed and shook his head.
"Have a good day, Amelia. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow at 9." I got a warm smile and a handshake.
"You as well, Dr. Caldin. I'll be in for 9am." I beamed. "May I give you my number now, Sharon?"
"Course, dear." she typed it as I recited it, having to think for a moment to ensure I didn't give her my old UK number.
The door chimed after me. As soon as I was safe from view of the windows, I jumped up and squealed.
"Oh my goodness! I GOT THE JOB!" I danced happily for a moment before remembering that I was supposed to be professional. The second I got into my truck, my mom's number was dialed.
"I got the job!" the only reply I got was the sound of my mom screaming in happiness.
"I'm so glad, pypus! Your dad and brother will be sooo happy for you!" We hung up shortly after, and I knew my mom would be calling my aunt and uncle to spread the good news. Opening Facebook, I did a quick status update. 'Newly employed veterinarian! On cloud nine!' It was unprofessional to state where you worked, so until I felt it was okay, my employment history would simply state "veterinarian".
Turning the ignition, I smiled and cranked up my local country station as Paul Brandt's "Alberta Bound" came on. Backing out, I relished the sound of gravel crunching under the tires before rolling down the windows and heading back to the road to get me out of the crescent. A truck hauling a horse trailer passed me, likely on the way to the clinic. Putting my sunglasses back on, I flicked my signal as I waited to be let back onto the highway.
Once an opening was provided and I was sure I had adequate time to get my old truck onto the road, I turned cruise control once more before bringing the Dakota up to the 100km/h speed limit. Hitting 98, I set cruise and let my foot relax.
My smile lasted all the way back to my house in the suburbs of the capital, Ingliston, and the giddy feeling didn't leave my system until I went to sleep that night.
Pypus: a term of endearment; a nickname. Cannot be translated.