Julia stood on the sidewalk, the letter in her hand.

She looked at it again and then searched the storefronts for a matching address.

There IS no 404. Am I even on the right street?

She craned her neck to read the street sign.

Hmm. West Burnside. It’s the right street.

She turned around to look the other way and jumped.

A woman in a white blouse and sensible shoes seemed to have appeared out of nowhere.

“Are you here for the meeting, too?”

“Um, tea with Yolanda?”

“Yep. You’re in the right place.

“And yes, it IS hard to find. We’re hiding in back of this place.” The woman nodded toward the bar. “Come on. I’ll show you.”

Julia followed her through the door and into a friendly bar.

“I’m Heidi, by the way.” The woman turned quickly and put out her hand.

“Julia. Nice to meet you.”

The man behind the counter looked up and gave a hearty hello.

“Hey, Harry,” Heidi waved. “We’re here for the meeting.”

“You know where to go, then.” He went back to slicing his lemons.

Julia followed the woman to the far end of the room and into a long dark hallway.

She wondered briefly if they were on their way to a basement.

They passed by the requisite bathroom doors and what looked like a supply closet before they emerged again on the other side.

“Here we are!” Heidi stopped and turned. “Welcome to Story Bistro.”

Julia looked around.

It was a bright airy room with tall ceilings.

“This way. We’re back here.”

As they walked through the restaurant, Julia noticed that all of the chairs and tables were different. An eclectic jumble of sizes and styles. Even the light fixtures were different from each other.

Story Bistro interiorAt the far corner of the room there was a single booth.

“This is us. Go ahead and get comfortable. I’m going to use the ladies’ room.”

Julia lowered herself onto the bench and scooted around the table to the back.

She didn’t know what to look at first.

There were paintings everywhere. The one above their booth featured a giant cabbage. And beyond that she could see what looked to be a bunch of whisks, another had a large meat cleaver, and still another, a whimsical stack of teacups.

She turned her head again and there was Heidi.

“You certainly have quiet shoes. That’s the second time you’ve snuck up on me.”

Heidi laughed as she sat down. “Totally unintentional. I promise.”

Before she could ask about Yolanda, a young man called out to them from across the room. “Don’t start without me!”

He wore dark, tight jeans and had bleached the tips of his hair.

Heidi looked at Julia. “You’ll love Tad. He’s one of the most generous humans I know.”

As he slipped into the booth, Heidi introduced the two of them to each other and nodded at Julia. “She’s the one Yolanda told us about.”

Tad stifled a nervous giggle.

“He’s not sure what a life coach does,” Heidi started to explain. “Yolanda will be here soon. Why don’t we share a bit about each of our businesses?”

The three of them sat in silence for a moment.

“I’ll go first,” Tad sat forward. “I’ve been doing freelance graphic design for the couple of years. Mostly for Providence.

“The work with them is pretty steady but its not even close enough to what I need to make rent, let alone eat.

“I’m constantly having to check job boards, Craigslist, Odesk, you name it. And I’m tired of it.

“Plus, half the time I end up getting jobs I hate with people who don’t have a creative bone in their body. They just don’t know what good design looks like. So I end up making things I would never put in my portfolio.

“I’m SO ready for things to be different. And I’m hoping you two can help me figure it out.”

Heidi cleared her throat. “Sounds like hell. Do you mind if I ask? Is there anything you like about being a designer?”

“Yeah. Sorry. Don’t mean to be such a downer. I love my art. When I get to work on a project where the client is like ‘do your magic’ and they let me be me…those are the times I feel like I’m on the right path.

“But because I hardly ever find a client like that, I sometimes design something just for me. You know, take something that’s pretty lame and do a redesign in my style. It’s too bad the hospital won’t go where I’d like to take them.”

There was a pause and then Heidi jumped in. “Your side projects sound interesting. You’ll have to bring a few to our next meeting so we can see what you mean.”

“Um. Sure. Okay.” Tad looked down at the table. I’ll try to remember…

Heidi smiled her grandmotherly smile and turned to Julia. “What about you? Wanna go next?”

Julia sat up straight and tucked her hair behind her ears. “Happy to.”

“So, I have a coaching business that I’ve been trying to get off the ground for the last 18 months. And I can’t seem to push past this particular plateau.

“I feel like I’m stuck on a hamster wheel. If I could afford to quit my part-time job at Powell’s, I’d have enough time to do what I need to do to market my business. Which would, of course, give me the boost I need to make my revenue grow. There’s always so much that needs to get done.

“I guess my question for the three of you, is should I quit my job? Or is there another way?”

The three of them looked at each other.

Heidi shifted in her seat. “I guess that leaves me.

“I’ve got a small bookkeeping business. I’m able to pay my bills – at least most months. But I’m so ready to make this bigger and better. Or at least better.

I’m think about enrolling in this program that teaches you how to market yourself online. It’s got a boatload of great reviews but it’s definitely beyond my budget right now.”

“How much?” asked Tad

“Just over $2,000. It’s an 8-week course and you get all kinds of video lessons and templates and there’s a private forum for asking questions. It sounds amazing – at least from the reviews I’ve read. People are saying if you want to grow your business, you’ve gotta be online. And that this program is the best way to go.

“Do you have a website now?” Julia asked. “Have you done anything online before?”

Heidi seemed to bristle. “I do. But it needs to be updated and I think this program would help me figure out how to do that.”

It sounded to Julia like she’d already decided.

Tad chimed in. “Is that the ‘Sexy Wealthy Joyful’ thing?”

Heidi nodded. “You’ve heard of it?”

“Yeah. But I thought it sounded a little too good to be true. Besides I don’t really understand that woman’s dance moves. She’s way too…happy.”

Julia looked at her booth mates. What have I gotten myself into?

“So when will Yolanda be joining us?”

***

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