We're following a lady named Lou Clark as she counts the steps between her house and the bus stop. Must be the life of the party, this one.
Behind her sits Stortford Castle, which seems to be an important locale in her life story. She seems to have spent her whole life here—wherever here is.
Lou enters her home to find her dad "facedown on the sofa" (1.1). He's looking for some Legos helpfully stuffed into the cushions by Lou's five-year-old nephew, Thomas.
Lou's mom is upstairs ironing clothes. Mrs. Clark is known for a relentless energy that's typically channeled into cleaning.
Mr. Clark asks Lou why she's home so early, but she ignores him and walks into the kitchen, where she pours a glass of water for her grandpa. Grandpa isn't able to do much for himself since having several strokes a few years back.
Mrs. Clark asks Lou about her upcoming vacay with her boyfriend, Patrick, but Lou's head is off in space. Finally, she comes clean: she just lost her job.
Lou's boss, Frank, is shutting down his café tomorrow to return to his native Australia and take care of his ailing pops. Luckily, he's giving Lou three months' pay.
Lou describes the café, explaining that she loves working there because of all of the life she's able to observe. She's worked there for six years.
Lou's parents are freaking out because they rely on her wages to survive. Lou's little sister, Treena, makes next to nothing at a local flower shop, while Mr. Clark is worried that he's about to be laid off. Bad news.
Lou decides to head to the job center the following day.
Later that night, Lou visits her boyfriend at the gym. He makes her run beside him on the track to have a conversation.
Patrick tells Lou that losing her job might be a good thing because it will help her re-orient her life. He also tells her that he'll pay for the vacation, though he adds that he expects her to pay him back once she's found a job.
What a keeper.
Lou visits the job center, where she's given a stipend as long as she's actively looking for and accepting job offers. She spends time at a chicken-processing factory and fast-food restaurant, which doesn't bode well for her prospects.
The supervisor even suggests that Lou start stripping. For real, dude?
The supervisor does have one other offer, however. There's a "care assistant position" with a disabled man, which actually pays quite well (1.131).
Assuming that the client is an old man, Lou immediately recoils. Still, she has no other choice and accepts the invitation to a job interview.