If there was such a thing as Hell, Lee supposed it would be similar to this. Well into the sixth hour of an eight-hour shift at Books-A-Zillion, she again tried gently explaining to the irate woman in front of her that her 15% off coupon could not be applied on top of her buy-one-get-one-free voucher.

"Is this what you call customer service? I'd like to speak to your manager, now," the woman demanded, drumming her manicured nails against the counter in annoyance. Lee sighed internally, shooting a sympathetic glance towards the two customers behind her in line. Of all the New Yorkers she had encountered, rich Brooklyn moms were some of the worst.

"One moment please, ma'am," she said, happy for the opportunity to escape her icy glare. Slipping out from behind the register, she paced the labyrinthine aisles of the bookstore until she found her manager, Tanya, restocking the magazine section.

"Hey Tanya, I have a customer who needs to speak with you. Wants to know why we can't double-up her coupon and BOGO voucher."

"Damn Karens," Tanya huffed. "Alright, I'll go take care of it, finish stocking these in the meantime, will you?" she said, handing her a stack of magazines. When Lee returned to her register a few minutes later, she was relieved to see the harpy had left.

Crisis averted, she thought, returning to her register.

Thankfully, the other customers she served that day were halfway decent, giving her a bit of a reprieve. While working retail wasn't exactly high on her list of dream jobs, she supposed it was better than nothing. Despite the protests from her aching feet, she knew she was better off than most, what with the economy in the toilet and all.

It's just a bump in the road, she tried to tell herself.

At least she was bringing in a little income, even if it was barely enough for her portion of the rent and groceries. She hadn't bothered trying to save some money for gifts for the upcoming holidays, and given the bare state of her pantry, she figured she would get everyone $2 Hallmark cards this year. After all, it's the thought that counts, right? Still, shame trickled through her, acidic and biting, pouring into the dark ocean of melancholy that haunted her more and more frequently these days.

Her thoughts were interrupted by someone calling her name, her real name.

"Hello? Space cadet? It's 2:45, you can balance your drawer and clock out," her co-worker Brian said with a smirk.

"Oh, thanks. Sorry, my mind was somewhere else for a minute," she muttered, grabbing the "Register Closed" sign from below the counter and beginning to count up her drawer.

While she didn't mind her real name, she only ever used it in professional settings. To everyone else, she was Lee, a nickname spawned from her kindergarten obsession with the Bruce Lee action movies her father was so fond of. Her parents would laugh at the way their "Little Lee" would prance around the house punching and kicking her invisible enemies, towel tied around her head like a bandanna, and the nickname stuck.

After clocking out, she grabbed her bag from the employee lockers and dipped into the bathroom to change. Her heart fluttered with anticipation. For months her inbox had been clogged with rejection emails and her follow-up calls had been ignored, but her luck had recently changed: a prestigious company across town had been forwarded her resumé and wanted to schedule an interview. The only trouble was she had scheduled the interview for 4 o'clock this afternoon, and Tanya had unexpectedly called her in today to cover a sick co-workers shift.

She fixed her hair in the cracked mirror, smearing on a fresh coat of lipstick and adjusting her blazer. If she wanted to make it on time, she'd have to book it, and she couldn't afford to screw this up by arriving late. When she had graduated from college five months earlier, she had been hoping to find an entry level position in her field and start rising through the ranks, but her hopes had quickly been dashed by the ruthless competition she faced from thousands of equally if not more qualified new grads. She said a silent prayer to whatever deities might be listening that luck would be on her side and she wouldn't be stuck taking tongue-lashings from rich yuppies for much longer.

While she would have preferred to catch a cab, such luxuries were for people with money and free time, and lately traffic had been brutal. Ignoring the protests of her sore feet in their too-tight shoes, she power-walked to the subway station, hoping to catch the 3pm train downtown. Melting into the crowd of commuters, she weaved her way through the throngs of businessmen, socialites, and regular working stiffs, the familiar scents of pollution, perfume and possibility filling her lungs. Even now, she was surprised with how well she had adjusted to urban life, although it did feel isolating at times.

Alone in the superorganism of the city, she had done her best to branch out and find new hobbies: painting classes, Jazzercise, and even goat yoga in Central Park (which resulted in one of her favorite shirts being torn by an overenthusiastic young goat named Mister Woolsworth). But despite the activities themselves being fun, it was the people around her that she always had a hard time connecting with. Even her roommates, though cordial, seemed to ignore her most of the time. It wasn't like they were jerks or anything, they were just… busy. Their lives seemed too full to add a chronically underemployed newbie to their roster of drinking buddies, and they weren't exactly eager to try to make room. They had even been making plans the other day about which bars they were going to hit up on Halloween, and they didn't even think to ask if she'd like to come.

She glanced at her phone as she stood at the crosswalk, waiting for the signal. Her group chat was filled with messages of encouragement from friends back home, as well as a few links to articles on acing job interviews. Thank God for social media, otherwise she would have moved back home months ago, job prospects be damned. While she liked to pride herself on trying to be independent, in truth she found herself needing more and more support these days, and their well wishes, despite the physical distance between them, were about all that was keeping her sane. Still, one can only keep going on hope for so long, and the idea that she could be confined to a string of boring, minimum-wage jobs for the rest of her life weighed heavy on her conscience.

She was halfway through typing out a thank you message when a new picture popped up on her screen: a white candle surrounded by flowers and crystals.

"Said some prayers and made an offering for you" read the message accompanying the photo.

A smile crept across her face. Her best friend Talia had gotten into witchcraft and other spiritual pursuits over the past two years and would always call on higher powers for advice and a bit of extra luck for anyone who needed it. The budding mystic had offered to do a tarot reading to ask the spirits how her interview would turn out, but Lee had turned her down. She wasn't sure how much she believed in the benevolent forces her friend claimed to tap into, but her policy towards the supernatural had always followed the vein of "it's probably all bullshit, but don't mess with it just in case."

Eyes still glued to her phone, she started to cross the street as she heard the "walk" signal ring out, tapping out her reply.

She didn't notice the car cutting through the crosswalk straight towards her.