Chapter one, Part four
Everyone filed from the small room and milled back to their desks. John sat down on the chair next to her, placed his hands on his lap and put on a serious face. “So,” he said slowly, “How have you found your first day?”
“Oh, it’s been really great,” Louise said with a smile, “Everyone’s been really nice and welcoming.”
“Good, good,” he leaned back into his chair and crossed his legs, “well today has been quite informal. And tomorrow we’re going to get down to your induction more seriously. You’ll be spending the day with Tim and Hannah, so when you get in in the morning they’ll be expecting you.”
John Edward Reynolds, Head of Copy Writing, paused for a moment.
“Louise,” he said, and paused some more, “I think you have great potential. But today you have been quiet. You have said almost nothing, you have been shy, but it seems like there are 1000 thoughts in your head. We are not shy here; I want you to open up. I want to open you up – it will be my mission. I don’t want you to hold back.
“I know,” he continued, “that you have a lot to learn. This whole world is new to you. This is your first job, your first few days in the city. You are young. You have a lot to learn. Now, you are an empty vessel but not for long. Here, I will make sure we use you to your full potential. Now ask me a question, any question. I can imagine there are a million things you want to know. Let me hear something from you.”
Louise paused for a second. On reflection it might have been better if it had been two or three seconds, or certainly enough seconds to allow the filter between the brain and the mouth to kick in. But too late. The words were already out there.
“Why are you having an affair?”
John Edward Reynolds, Head of Copywriting, sat expressionless for ten whole seconds, then slowly, very slowly a slight smile sat upon his lips. “Well that was not what I was expecting, but as you have asked; It is good for my wife, it makes me nicer to be with, less demanding, less grumpy.”
Louise stared her boss, and for a moment she was lost for words. She couldn’t be sure, but she felt that her mouth was hanging slightly open. Still no words, but now a thought – “Selfish git!”
“and anyway,” he continued, “sometimes even if someone does need you at home, you just have to follow your heart.”
Louise almost wanted to laugh. “It is unbelievable”, thought Louise,” how some people try to justify the indefensible”.
Meeting over, desk cleared ready to go home, Louise paused for a moment to send a short text to her Mum – she just wanted to feel close to something safe and familiar.
The evening came and went, punctuated by take away, a bottle of wine, bringing order to unpacked suit cases and wondering how long she could live without a television; until at last she found herself on the phone.
“No Mum, it was a really good day. Everything was just how I expected,” Louise was sat cross-legged on the newly carpeted floor of her flat. Her voice echoed around the empty room as she talked on the phone.
“And was everyone nice?” her mother asked in her usual chirpy tone.
“Oh yes. Everyone was really lovely. Mum, I think I’m really going to love working there. It’s just what I want.”
“Well, that’s perfect then,” Louise could tell she was smiling; but she knew her better than that. She knew for sure she was smiling on her face but crying deep throbbing tears in her heart, “you know we’re so proud of you.”
For a few seconds, Louise felt ashamed that they were proud.
Moments later, Louise sat alone in the silence. It had been a long day, a long London day. Images, replays and edited highlights jumbled themselves as they flashed across her mind. Her mum, pride and shame, Jeremy and his gay cat, Jo’s handbag playing classical music to Paul, Becky and the date that wasn’t a date, or was it; Tim and the seduction that wasn’t a seduction, or was it; and the new glamorous life that she was now starring in that was an unfolding, ever changing soap opera – wasn’t it?
She stared at her stark lonely bed. It was a big bed and the item of furniture she owned. She sighed and felt an affinity with its obvious loneliness. Louise shrugged, there was nothing she could do. It was time to sleep.