Chapter two, Part two
It was the end of her first real London day, and as Louise slipped between her new sheets and let her tired eyes roll shut. As they did she saw herself, so slim, slender and naked in this enormous bed. Her eyes half opened and heavily slipped shut once more and as they did she saw a man laying next to her. The man was not Mark. Startled at the unfamiliar imagining, she opened her eyes and glanced reassuringly across her empty bed. As her eyes closed once more, the man, and it was not any man, it was a particular man, was now holding her, hugging her, embracing her. Despite herself, she liked it. She opened her eyes and looked at the ceiling. Her eyes closed again in time to feel him to move ever closer; ever more intimate, she drew him to her, and looked up to see the now familiar grin of John Edward Reynolds, Head of Copy Writing and scurrilous whore man in chief.
In one moment she felt pleasure; surprise; and disgust; three melded emotions all in the same second. She shot open her eyes as wide as they would go and stared out of her bedroom window across the London roof tops that surrounded the maze of streets and back alleys. ‘One day’, she thought. ‘One day. I have been in London for one day and already I am lost.’
It was Wednesday morning. Billy had spent most of the night in hospital and with the Police. Sleep was a memory and Tuesday was a blur. He had had a coffee, he had had a Danish; it was time to go home. In a vain and senselessly overtired attempt to rekindle the only joyous part of yesterday, he chose a circuitous route home past the road of the running blonde – just in case.
It was 8.57. The street was full of people, but she was not one of them. He took his aching, bleeding wound to bed.
The next morning arrived too quickly, and as the sun rose higher in the sky, Louise found the memories of the night before slipped away. Squeezed onto the rush hour tube, the night could almost have been a film and she was merely playing a role, she tried to convince herself that it was an insignificant one. After all, it was only a thought, a fantasy, a slight dalliance of the imagination. It was insignificant, Louise said to herself. But if it was insignificant, which it was, why could she think of nothing else while walking to the office? She found herself hoping, only for a second, that she would meet John in reception and that they would travel the six floors together enclosed in the lift. “Stop it!” Louise whispered under her breath, and she did. She pushed open the glass doors; there was no one in reception – she was early. Louise arrived at the sixth floor alone.
“Hiya,” Hannah almost shouted across the room, “Are you excited about spending the day with me?”
“Wow, that woke me up!” Louise smiled back, regaining her composure. “Hannah, I couldn’t think of a better person to spend my second day with.”
“And him?” Hannah almost whispered as she nodded in Tim’s direction. Louise could already tell that they didn’t get on.
“Yes, and Tim,” she continued smiling as she walked over to his chair. Tim was deep in concentration. Placing her hands on his back rest, she had to resist the urge to ruffle his hair. “Are you excited about spending the day with me?” Louise leaned over his shoulder, allowing her hair to brush against his face. In the reflection on the computer screen, she could see his was turning red.
“I guess so,” he cleared his throat and leaned away from her slightly.
Enjoying his embarrassment, Louise put her hand on his shoulder forcing him to look at her as she joked, “You guess so?” With a glint in her eye she continued, “Don’t worry, you’ll love it!” And more importantly, she thought to herself, I’ll love it.
“Ok everyone,” Louise turned around; it was John, “time to stop gossiping and get on with work. Tim, Louise, Hannah, come into my office.”
The three of them obediently followed their boss into his office. Trying not to seem too eager, Louise was the last to enter.
“Sit down. Louise, shut the door behind you.” She could feel his stare hot on her back. His eyes worked their way from the tip of the heel of her stiletto to the top of her blond glossy head. As she turned to make her way to the empty chair, their eyes met. Louise wanted to hold his gaze, but blushing looked away and scurried to her seat.
“Alright, are we ready?” sitting in his padded leather chair, John was leaning as far back as he could without toppling over, “It’s really important that you guys show Louise everything she needs to know,” he was looking from Tim to Hannah from Hannah to Louise and quickly away again.
“Louise, before you arrived Hannah made this induction plan for you,” John handed Louise an A3 piece of paper filled with activities and the names of people she didn’t know, “it is up to you to make sure this happens in the next four weeks.” He was looking directly at her.
“Up to me?” Louise stammered, already unsure how she was going to get Kelly to show her the Library system when she had no idea who Kelly was or what the Library system was for.
“Yeah,” Hannah answered before John had a chance, “here, we are all responsible for making sure our own inductions are completed. Obviously John, Tim and I will help you, and John will have to sign everything off once you’ve done it.”
“It encourages everyone to take ownership right from the beginning.” John was leaning forward, taking ownership of the meeting.
“Ok,” Louise was nervous but she didn’t want to mention it. I’m sure I can figure this out, she thought to herself.
“And today,” Tim said quite loudly, “you can see that you are with Hannah and me.”
“Oh yeah,” Louise said, her eyes blindly looking up and down the page in front of her.
“Good then,” John was standing, “off to work we go!”