AN: This is for Vil's revision contest. I know I had intended the original iteration of this story to be a longer piece that I never got off the ground. I do think there is a lot of story to tell but I haven't decided what form. Since I only wrote the prologue originally, the same is true here. I certainly hope to continue this somehow!
All of her life, Dorothy hoped that something interesting would happen to her. In high school, she’d been lost and she hoped that graduating would offer her a chance to start fresh. She had neither the grades nor the money to leave Atlanta or to move out of her mother’s house. So she’d settled for community college and work full time at the local grocery store, a job she’d started in high school, hoping that one day she’d save enough money to move anywhere else. Travel the world, maybe, when her bills didn’t prevent her from saving.
She’d turned nineteen on the day Ronald Reagan was overwhelmingly re-elected for a second term. Her mother cried the whole night and while Dorothy hadn’t voted for him either, she couldn’t bring herself to care. Politics was politics, and whatever happened in Washington DC seemed distant. A lot of people understood politics better than she did. A lot of people understood a lot of things better than she did. She’d been an average student at best and sometimes thought that she was a person who was destined to pass through life anonymously.
A month after the election, Dorothy was sitting in her kitchen, eating cereal and watching the news. A salt and pepper haired man in a double-breasted navy suit was being interviewed.
“What are you getting out of this, Mr. Keene?” Asked the reporter. He spoke in a posh British accent. Dorothy didn’t even think he was that attractive, but she loved the sound of his voice. “I want to provide an opportunity for seven young people to stay for a week at the castle that’s been in my family for generations in the Scottish Highlands. I have more money than I can ever spend in a lifetime. Not everyone has that. Can’t I give back? We’ve gotten thousands of applications from all over the world already.”
That was good enough for Dorothy. If she had as much money as Mr. Keene, she would want to give back too.
Of course, I’m not going to get it, she thought, but still she acquired the application.
For a week she’d stared blankly at the questions. The primary one being, “How will this opportunity further your goals in life?”
Then, one afternoon, she’d stared at the application, convinced this was a dumb idea, that she had no chance. And then, something possessed her to write.
I am only nineteen years old, and truthfully, I still do not know what I want out of life. I have never traveled outside of the United States and never lived on my own. I was an average student in school, but I’ve always liked history. And my coworkers and our customers say I’m an empathetic person. We live in a suburb of Atlanta so most of our customers are regulars. They ask for me. I heard my boss saying they might promote me. That’s good, isn’t it? But I don’t know if I want to be a manager of a grocery store. At least not forever. Being able to travel to Scotland would allow me to experience the world outside of my bubble. The world doesn’t begin and end with the United States and I want to experience a piece of it firsthand.
Dorothy had put the application in the mail and told herself to forget about it. They had said that you would only be contacted if you were selected. Six months passed, and forget about it Dorothy did.
It was summer now, and Dorothy had been promoted to manager. It was almost unheard of for someone so young to be a manager, but she’d been there for years and proven herself. And still, the days had a monotony to them. Go to work. Come home. Unwind. Go to bed. Wake up. Rinse, repeat.
One afternoon, her mother had gone to have drinks with an old high school friend and Dorothy was home alone. She’d been sitting watching TV when the phone rang.
“Gardiner Residence.” Dorothy was prepared to give the canned response. If you’re looking for my mother, she’s not home. But I can have her call you back.
Then, a man with a British accent spoke. “Yes, I was hoping to speak to Ms. Dorothy Gardiner.”
It took Dorothy a moment to process that someone actually wanted to speak to her. But it was probably someone looking to sell insurance.
“Speaking,” Dorothy said. “Who’s this?”
“My name is James Keene, I’m calling from London.”
James laughed. “My apologies. About six months ago, you submitted an application for a stay in my family’s castle in Scotland. And I was interested in what you had to say.” Dorothy swallowed. The TV was still on in the background. “Is this a good time? If not, I can phone later.”
“Um,” Dorothy said, quickly turning off the TV, her hands shaking. “Now is perfect.”
“You were working at a grocery, yes?”
“Well, I’m the manager now,” Dorothy replied.
“And you like it?”
“It’s okay,” Dorothy said nervously. Get to the point, she thought.
“Do you think your coworkers mind if you would take two weeks off this September? Because I would love for you to come to Scotland.” Dorothy had a delayed reaction. Then, she exhaled. This couldn’t be real. She’d actually… won? Her application had stood out among thousands of others?
“I think that would be okay with that,” she said, laughing excitedly.
“I’m going to be doing a television special next Tuesday where you will all be officially announced. Expect reporters at your house. I’ll be in touch with more shortly. I’m truly, very excited to have all of you. Is this the best number to reach you?”
“Yes,” said Dorothy. She was shaking. She couldn’t believe it.
“I’ll be in touch, Ms. Gardiner.”
As she hung up the phone, Dorothy squealed.