Ella Murphy knew this was crazy. She was a city girl. Galway born and raised and was very happy surrounded by vibrant buildings and vibrant people. Even though she’d grown up surrounded by streets with walls painted every colour of the rainbow, it never became mundane. Ella had no interest in leaving her beloved city, but this morning her whole life had been changed by one lucky encounter.
Ella was 22, an only child, and the daughter of a fisherman. Her father worked every season with his beloved crew and her mother worked in their fishmonger shop. Murphy’s tackle, bait and fishmongers. Nothing like covering all the bases, her father would always say. They worked very hard, loved live, and adored their daughter. Ella couldn’t have asked for better parents. What she did ask for, was a different life for herself. She didn’t want to be a fisherwoman or sell fish in the family store. She had plenty of cousins who worked with her dad who could take up the mantle and keep the Murphy business going.
No, Ella wanted to live the life of luxury, and would work her backside off to get there. Hotels. That’s where her dream lied. She had it all worked out. Ella would save up and buy a B&B first. Then she’d upgrade to a hotel, then a chain of hotels, and live the high life. It would be designer clothes, days by the pool and martini’s from dusk to dawn for her.
Being the daughter of a fisherman and fishmonger, she didn’t have the spending money for that venture quite yet. So she worked towards her goal whilst working in the industry she wanted to one day be a giant in. Carlton’s renovations. A company that bought, renovated and flipped their purchases for a profit. They tended to buy a property at auction for a low price and tried to sell it for the best profit possible. She’d worked for them right out of collage and so far she felt like a glorified handy woman and interior decorator. She also disliked being everyone’s lacky, but everyone started off at the bottom of the ladder. Her last few projects had been easy enough. The project managers? Not so easy.
This morning Ella went into the main office to ask for reassignment after being put on a town house interior redesign with Mac Walsh as her boss, and that guy was far too handsy to just put up with. She made an appointment with Mr Carlton, but knew it would do her no favours to come across like a whiny child who didn’t play nice with others. She also had no serious evidence to back up her allegations. Mac was too clever for that. So instead she decided to ask for a challenge, to get away from Walsh. It would be a win win, really. She'd get some breathing space from the guy who couldnt accept she wasn't interested, and try and make a name for herself in the process. At first Ella wasn’t as confident as she hoped in her plea, as Mr Carlton wasn’t alone in his office when she arrived. The stranger sat beside her boss, and both nursed a whisky in their hands. Neither showed any sign that he intended to leave, so she carried on regardless.
“Go on Miss Murphy. I don’t have all day. Speak your mind while you’ve a mind to do so.”
After a bumpy start she built momentum and hoped she was convincing enough, between her gusto and the portfolio of her work to date she laid out on the desk before them. For an eternity, that was actually a minute, Ella waited for their verdict. Carlton was grinning as he spoke to the stranger in the grey suit, and both were smirking by the time they turned to face her. That's either a really good sign, or a really bad one...
“Miss Murphy, my friend here has a property that is in need of a young thing wishing for a challenge. If you can leave today so the place isn’t left vacant, you can have the project.”
“Have it?” Ella’s blue eyes widened with surprise. “You mean, the whole project? I’d be in charge?”
“Ay.” The stranger spoke and took a cigarette from an old fashioned silver case. “It’s a lovely little house, though it’s been unloved for a while now. Never sells. A thorn in my paw that place.” He stood with the cigarette in his mouth and his dark brown eyes looking very pleased. “Got it off auction whilst I was still a young man and cannot get shut of the place. I was just asking Joe here to put his best man on the job to finally flip it for me. You’re no man, but are you up to the challenge Miss?”
“I am.” Ella answered without hesitation or caution. “I am ready to be a project leader. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity.” She nodded eagerly, making her thick curly black hair bounce about her shoulders.
“Have you now?” Mr Carlton hummed with a smile and turned the screen of his smart phone on in his hand. “Well impress me on this job and I’ll make you a project lead more often.” Ella’s face beamed with glee. That was exactly what she wanted to hear. “It was lucky you arrived early today Miss Murphy. Otherwise Drake wouldn’t have still been here to suggest you take the job. I’d have given it to Mac.”
Oh Lord no. Not that creep.
“Lucky for me I am always organised and ahead of schedule.” Ella’s face hurt she was smiling so much.
“I’ll leave you to go over the specifics. Jo. Miss Murphy.” He tipped his hat to them and walked out in a puff of cigarette smoke. That wasn’t exactly legal, or pleasant, but Ella didn’t say anything. Neither did Jo Carlton, who simply chuckled and pulled the draw of his desk open.
“You’ll leave today. Here’s the key.” He handed a thick envelope to Ella, who held it like it was her golden ticket. Oh wow. Project leads get a bonus out of the profit the house goes for. If I do a good job on this place, then I’ll get to be the project lead more often. More pay. More steps closer to owning my own hotel. “I can see you’re eager to begin.” He chuckled at the stars in her eyes and escorted her to the door. “Drive safe, and make sure you take plenty of batteries and a torch.” Ella did a double take when he said that and frowned for the first time since she walked into his office.
“A torch? Why would I need a torch?”
“The electrics in rural places can be a bit unreliable at times.” He shrugged and walked her out of his office doorway. “I hope you enjoy the country side Miss Murphy. And trees. Lots and lots of trees.”
Ella stared at the door as he shut it and left her to process the moment. She opened the envelope and unfolded a blank and white print out of the property’s details. What she saw was a run down shack which was half overgrown by nature. She'd need more than a torch to stay the night in that place. Good job I still have my camping gear from college. What she saw as she read the brief was months and months of work. Ella read on and saw she had a decent budget for supplies, but that she’d have to stay at the residence to keep it secure. Probably why Carlton said I had to take a torch. Because it’s a live in job. A nice salary attached to it, as long as I stay on schedule. Ella wasn’t looking forward to doing everything on her own, but with a snigger, she realised that wouldn’t be so different to what she did now. Just without the grabby hands to dodge. Heck, this might even be easier.
She got in her little Toyota and drove back to her studio apartment to pack her things and head right back out. Her parents shared their congratulations at finally leading a project, and their concerns about her living out in the middle of nowhere in Cloosh Valley forest. By the time she’d packed, loaded up her car, and reassured her parents for the tenth time she’d be fine, it had really sank in. This is it. The break I’ve been waiting for. I need to make this shack a palace so I can make a name for myself. If I can impress Mr Carlton then I can head more projects and save up enough to buy my own B&B. Finally, my luck is turning around!
Ella had no idea what she was getting herself in for. Her luck was certianly changing alright. Just not in the direction she thought it was.