The smell of pancakes and eggs fills the dining room of Omega House as I sit across from my roommate. I look down at the plate of food in front of me and try to work up an appetite. Unfortunately, I don't really feel like eating. With a deep breath, I push my plate to the middle of the table and lean back in my chair.
"Are you gonna eat that?" Rubin eyes my plate with interest.
"You can have it." I smile then nod toward the table laden with food at the far end of the room. "It's not like they're starving us. You could always go get seconds."
"I know." Rubin pulls my plate toward him. "The thing is, I'm a little self-conscious about it. I mean, look at all these other omegas and their kids. What are they gonna think if they see pudgy, little old me going back for seconds…or thirds?"
I look at him pointedly. "You shouldn't be self-conscious. I honestly don't think anyone will mind if you eat all the leftovers."
"Why are you being so picky today?" Rubin tilts his head to one side with his eyes directed down at the plate in front of him. "You ate half a piece of bacon and took one bite from your toast."
"I'm not being picky. I'm just not hungry." Rubin and I haven't known each other for very long, but the two of us have become friends over the few weeks I've been staying at Omega House. He's taken on a mother hen sorta role in my life. After everything I've been through the last several years, it's nice to know someone cares even if it does get a little annoying at times.
"So…what's eating at you, then?" Rubin finally looks back at me as he waits for me to come clean.
I sigh and look away from him, letting my gaze drift across the dining room that's full of omegas and their children. Everyone seems to be absorbed in their own conversations and their own routines. Most of the kids will be leaving for school soon while their parents are caught in a never-ending battle of trying to make sure their children are getting enough sustenance when they aren’t here. I can't even imagine what this place will be like when school is closed for winter vacation.
It's already more hectic than I would like.
"The thing is…" I slowly look back at Rubin. "That last job interview I went on was a complete failure. That makes six in a row. All the other applications I’ve submitted have either been rejected outright or are probably sitting at the bottom of a file somewhere." It sucks not being the most employable omega. There are more than a few gaps in my resume that probably look bad to potential employers. But I don't have a lot of options. If it weren't for Omega House, I’d be sleeping on the streets right now. The only way out of here for me is to find a job that pays well enough for me to save up so I can get back on my feet.
"I'm really sorry about that." Rubin offers a small smile with sincerity in his eyes "I thought it might be something like that. I'm kinda in the same situation myself. No one's looking to hire an omega with limited work experience and no formal education. Black Friday is just around the corner, and I was hoping that with the holidays, people might be looking for more help. Apparently, even the really desperate companies have standards." He chuckles and digs into the pocket of his hoodie before pulling out a folded piece of paper that crinkles as he lays it out on the table between us.
"What's that?" I ask as I reach for it.
"That is my last hope." Rubin shrugs as he takes a bite of food. "They were handing these out yesterday while you were at your interview. I figured I'd grab one and see if you’re interested in doing it with me."
I look over the flyer and read the heading. "Volunteers needed. The Omega House annual Christmas village is in need of elves. Compensation includes $500 cash and references for your resume. A great opportunity to help omegas seeking future employment. Don't miss out on a chance to give back to Omega House while earning some money and experience for yourself."
"Elves?" I raise my eyebrow at Rubin with an uncertain expression. "I’m not dressing up in green tights and plastic ears. This is the path to the North Pole thing where the kids take pictures with Santa, right?"
"Yeah, it is." Rubin nods his head, encouraged by the fact that I’m familiar with the place. "But look at it this way… What other options do you have? It's not like you're doing anything better right now."
"Yeah, but this is the kind of job kids in high school take. This isn't something that's gonna pay the bills." I know I'm being stubborn, but the fact is, I can't really picture myself lifting kids onto Santa's lap so they can tell him their wish list. It all just sounds a little too silly for me.
"Besides…" Rubin takes another bite of his breakfast. "You said yourself that you have gaps in your resume. A reference from this tree lot owner could go a long way toward helping you get a real job. Not only that, but $500 is nothing to sneeze at. I don't know about you, but I'm flat broke right now."
I look down at the flyer again and sigh. It is not my first choice, but I've already gotten turned down from my first and second and third choices. Hell, we're all the way down to sixth choice, and even they didn't want me. "Fine, I don't like the idea of it, but you're right. What choice do I have?" I groan as I look up at the ceiling overhead. "I'm only doing this if you do it too. I'm not gonna be the only one making a fool of myself in an elf costume."
"That’s the spirit." Rubin grins at me before taking a bite of bacon. "I’ve done this before and it’s actually kinda fun. I was gonna do it whether you said yes or not. I'm not turning my nose up at $500."
I smile at him but say nothing in response. From what little I've been able to gather, Rubin has been here for a long time. He's one of those omegas who never really managed to find his feet after landing here. Now, all he does is help out wherever he can. In fact, he's taken part in every fundraiser and volunteer event for the past three years. It's not surprising that he'd want to do something like this. What is surprising is that I agreed to go along with it.
"Okay then," says Rubin after he finishes eating. "I’ll go and let the admin know we’re going to take this position." He rises from the table and gathers up our dishes. The dining room has emptied out significantly since we first started eating and is a lot quieter now. I feel like I'm finally able to hear myself think.
"Just so we're clear, there's no backing out of this. Once I sign us up for it, we'll be out at the tree lot every day from Black Friday to Christmas eve. Are you sure you're gonna be able to commit to this?"
"Yeah, I'm sure." I'm a little surprised by how serious Rubin suddenly is. "You don't have anything to worry about from me. I don't back out of my commitments."
"Just wanted to make sure. The last omega I took with me backed out after two weeks and left us in a bind. The family that runs the place is really nice, and they've always done right by Omega House. We owe them a lot." Rubin looks me in the eye to make sure I understand the sincerity of his words before turning and walking away with our dishes.
Rubin is generally pretty laid back, and it's nice to see that even he can be serious when the situation calls for it. Even though it wasn't my first choice, I'm actually a little hopeful about this whole tree farm thing. If it will help increase my chances of getting hired at a real job, then I'm willing to give it a try. I make my way out of the dining room and head back upstairs to the room I share with Rubin.
It's nothing fancy, but I count myself lucky to only have one roommate. Some of the omegas are squeezed in four to a room. I actually feel a little bit better about myself knowing that I'm volunteering to help keep this place running. Omega House is always full of omegas who need their help. If I can't help myself into a better situation, then at least I can help them.
With some food in my stomach, I reach for my backpack and dig through it for my suppressants. While not strictly necessary in a house full of omegas, it wouldn't be smart to be in heat during a job interview. If I'm gonna be spending the next several weeks working at a tree lot, I'll definitely need to stock up on pills. My current package only has three left in it. As I pop one out of the blister pack and take it, I make a mental note to pick up more later.
Given my luck, I’ll probably come into heat right as I'm helping some hot alpha out with his Christmas tree.