Chapter 1.1: One Foot in the Door
Somewhere in a town called Moodwayers…
“I’ve been scammed!” Was all Haven Cash could say when she arrived at the big, empty plot of land that was now her home.
The guy who sold it to her showed her pictures of an elegant house, built on stills upon the sea. It turned out that the house in the pictures was actually just the view from the empty lot.
“I was broke before I got here. Now, I’m broke and homeless!” Haven complained.
Thankfully, she got a job before making the big move to Moodwayers. She quickly phoned her new boss to find out if she could start working ASAP. Although it was Sunday, it was still only 8.am. A full day’s work would at least get her something to eat.
Haven’s job wasn’t that fancy. She got hired as an Amateur Entertainer after impressing the boss with her amazing musical abilities through a video.
When she got the job, she thought she had it all: a break into the industry, a house by the sea just big enough to build a lounge in the back, hands full of musical talent, and perfect looks with her flawless tan skin, brown eyes, and orange hair.
Sadly, the “house” part was still a lot of paychecks away.
Haven’s boss told her that work would only be available for her by Monday
“What am I supposed to do till Monday? Eat grass and sleep on my suitcases?”
Determined to get some cash, Haven decided to head to a lounge and play piano for tips. Although she was more of a guitarist, she didn’t own a guitar at the moment so any piano would do.
At that time of the day, the only audience was the bartender and she didn’t seem to care about Haven’s music or anything else actually.
11am came and still, there was no one. A guy came into the lounge but he was only there to work the next shift at the bar… and try impressing Haven with his bottle juggling tricks.
Haven wasn’t too bothered about the empty lounge or the annoying bartender. She got to brush up on her piano playing, plus she’s a bit of a loner, despite her musical skills and confidence on stage.
The piano playing wasn’t getting her any tips though so she left the bar in search of some other way to get money.
Moodwayers had a lot of lakes and rivers. There was a man renting out fishing rods by a river and the first hour was free so Haven gave it a shot.
She didn’t really know what she was doing but it was okay because no one who was fishing that day seemed like they had done it before.
Just like the piano playing, the time swept by and Haven wasn’t getting anywhere. A friendly lady, who also had no luck fishing, felt sorry for her, and so she made hotdogs for everyone on an outdoor grill.
All hope wasn’t completely lost. Haven found some frogs, stones and seeds by the lake that she could sell. She also found out why no one was catching any fish: A mound of wet soil was blocking their fishing lines from the water. Clearly the guy with the fishing rods was up to no good.
Making enemies with the locals wasn’t a good way to start her first day in town she ignored that little fact and went on with her treasure hunting elsewhere.
Some locals started scolding a man just for digging in a trashcan.
“I guess rummaging isn’t an option.”
By sunset, Haven had thoroughly searched the area and sold just enough collectibles to buy a meal.
She returned to the lounge to use the bathroom and found that people were starting to arrive.
“Yay!” Haven cheered.
After a quick trip to the bathroom, she was back at the piano, playing her heart out.
She played song after song, well into the night but not a single person tipped her. By the time she left and went back to her empty lot, she was already questioning her musical abilities.
Haven easily snapped out of it, though. She had always been better at guitar than piano. Work was tomorrow and she could redeem herself as a musician there.
The collecting went well, though and that was something she could be happy about. She found quite a few seeds and planted those on the empty lot before doing a little more treasure hunting before bed.
Eventually she had made enough money to buy a bed, a very cheap one that didn’t come with a base.
It was warm, cozy, and better than sleeping on the grass and that was all that mattered in that moment.
The Next Day
Digging for valuable rocks in her pajamas was not how Haven imagined spending her morning but she had no other choice. She was very hungry and very poor.
Luckily, the area around the lot was full of collectibles that she could sell, just in time to buy a fridge and eat something before work. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much she could do about her morning breath because there wasn’t enough money to buy a sink or shower.
The day went on, Haven went to work and came back home. Her first day went well, despite her armpit odor. The first thing she wanted to do was buy a shower but her funds still weren’t enough.
And as for that homeless stench, it was scaring away all the cute guys at work!
After a long needed shower, she did a bit of collecting (which surprisingly earned more than her day job) and was able to buy a nice shower and toilet combo, which would have to be outdoors.
It was a good thing that the lot was far from the rest of town so no one would ever walk by. There were a few boats though that came a little too close to shore.
Days went by and, being the ambitious person she was, Haven felt that she wasn’t progressing as quickly as she wanted to. Also, she was getting very lonely. After her smelly first day, most people at work didn’t want to be seen with her.
Having yet another bad day, Haven took a selfie, captioned it “No love for Moodwayers” and posted it on her social media profiles. To her surprise, she got a lot of likes.
That’s when the idea hit her: she could sell pictures for cash. It was enough to buy furniture but every cent was worth it.
On the work side of her life, things were slowly starting to pick up and Haven got promoted to Open Mic Seeker, which meant that open mike nights were essential if she wanted to progress further.
To celebrate, Haven bought herself a guitar. She could live without walls and a roof but not without her steel strings. She had been seriously regretting coming to Moodwayers without her guitar.
Next, to celebrate, she went to a bar she had never been to before. As much as the loner in her hated to admit, she really needed some friends. Those plants on her lawn could never hold a conversation.
Haven was just about to order a drink when the bartender complained about an employee that was late so she grabbed the opportunity to tend the bar. What better way to get out of one’s comfort zone?
Soon enough, a cute guy came up to order a drink. He had jet black hair, green eyes, and from the way his t-shirt groped his biceps, it was obvious that he was into working out.
Haven wasn’t that good at mixing drinks but she made sure that one drink he ordered was the best she could possible make.
He introduced himself as Don, and to Haven’s surprise, he was the bartender that was late for work.
“Oh, I am so sorry. I really wasn’t trying to steal your job or anything.” Haven said apologetically.
Don chuckled, “Hey, no problem. I actually thought you were the new bartender. You made a pretty good Ridgeport.”
“Thank you!” Haven said with a blushing smile and took a seat at the bar with him.
As they continued chatting over drinks, Haven learnt that Don was also new in Moodwayers. He came from Western Espansy, the desert land, in search of a new life. Mixing drinks had always been his talent so he took the job as a bartender quite happily. Just like Haven, Don also aspires to own a lounge.
Haven was really enjoying chatting with Don but unfortunately he had to go. They exchanged phone numbers (much to Haven’s excitement) and said their goodbyes.
Haven wasn’t ready to go just yet. She met some interesting people, much friendlier than the ones at the last bar she went to.
There was Amira, an entertainment blogger who was a bar regular.
Then there was Gabrielle, and she loved wearing the most unusual clothing combinations.
Lastly, there was Mitchell, a chubby guy with a warm heart, passionate about all things edible.
Although the four of them had just met, they got along like old friends and each of them vowed to hang out together again.
Haven had become quite fond of Amira, in the short time that they became friends. She asked Amira about Don, since she practically knew everyone that worked at that bar.
“Don, what can I say about Don? He’s a nice guy but I don’t think he has a life outside of bottles and bars.” Amira said with a hearty laugh.
Haven chuckled, “I think he just needs friends.”
Gabrielle piped in, “Yeah, friends that aren’t sold in a bottle.”
They all had a good laugh at that but Haven was serious. She was curious to know more about Don.
After the night at the bar, the four new friends became frequent text buddies and also hung out whenever they were free.
Haven and Don were also chatting often. There was sometimes a hint of flirting in his texts and sometimes there wasn’t.
There was no doubt that she liked Don but she wasn’t sure how he felt about her. It was that mystery to him that she could never seem to unravel. It even inspired her to write a song on her new guitar.
And then a strange thing happened one morning. Haven was using her outdoor toilet when some people started coming up to her lot. They called themselves the “neighborhood welcome wagon”.
Far too embarrassed to be seen living in that squatter camp, Haven grabbed her suitcases and guitar hid in the bushes until they were gone.
While hiding, she found an apple tree. More stuff to sell! But on a more serious note, she really needed a home with actual walls.
As if things couldn’t get any worse, Don wanted to come over to hangout. She didn’t want to refuse but she also didn’t want him to see the way she was living. There was only one thing left to do: Sell as many things as possible to build some walls.
Though Haven did make a lot of cash from collecting, it was only enough to build a few walls around the bathroom and bed before Don’s visit. It would have been a room but there just wasn’t enough money for a door.
Haven found Don waiting for her in front of the lot. He kept texting her, asking if he was at the right place.
Nervously, she walked up to him and told him the truth, “I really do live here. I got scammed into buying this place.”
“What? A similar thing happened to me too!” Don admitted, “At least you have a land to live on. I live in a camp called “Notin World” with a bunch of other families.”
After Haven heard Don’s story, she felt a lot better about the lot. It might not have a house with four complete walls but at least it was hers and she could build a home on it.
“Enough about this house-drama,” Don decided, “Let’s go somewhere fun. I know a really nice lounge that I bet you’ve never been to.”
Sure enough, Don took her to a lounge she had never been to. It was quite an elegant, calming place. Haven was starting to wonder if it was a date.
A classical tune was playing on the stereo. Don convinced Have to dance with him completely off beat for fun, gaining the disapproval of all those who saw.
An elderly woman nearby really couldn’t stand it so she got up and started teaching them to dance.
Eventually, everyone else in the lounge got up to learn some dance moves.
While they were dancing, Don said to Haven, “I have a confession to make. I brought you here on a date.”