Tuesday, April 14, 2020

The Audience Adventure - Day 2

Emma teased the ribbons on the baubles until they were all hanging straight and gazed idly out of the window.

“Be careful you don’t break them.” Called Fiona sharply.

Emma hadn’t taken to Fiona, she seemed snappy and cold. In fairness to Fiona, Emma had turned up late to her very first day at the shop and then proceeded to forget nearly everything she was told straight away while she limped around.

“What’s wrong with your foot?” Fiona had asked bluntly and Emma, tired and unable to improvise at the best of times had panicked and simply replied “foot accident” so Fiona had, fairly understandably, assumed Emma was not particularly bright.

As Emma stood, gazing out onto the street through the window, she wondered if Fiona might have a point. Perhaps she wasn’t very bright? What on earth was she doing here? She shook the thought away and consulted the checklist Fiona had written out painfully clearly.

  • Dust the ornaments. Done. None broken.
  • Detangle the baubles. Done. None broken.
  • Unpack the angel delivery. Ok. Try not to break any.

Emma had been delighted when she’d first landed the job at the Christmas shop. Emma absolutely adored Christmas and the thought of working in a shop surrounded by Christmas decorations all year round was a magical thought. How could you possibly be sad when you would spend January in tinsel, February with Santa, March in Advent and the rest of the year in a pine scented grotto dedicated to the best festival on the calendar?

By about lunchtime on day one Emma had had to come to terms with the idea that working in a Christmas shop was about as dull and repetitive as any other retail job but with a much more limited soundtrack. If she had to listen to Carol of the Bells one more time she thought she was going to throttle someone with a string of fairy lights.

Never mind,’ she told herself, ‘just swallow it down and eventually you’ll find something else to do.’ She thought back to her desk at her job. Her old job, she reminded herself. 

‘Yes, you walked out of that job, didn’t you?’
‘Yes, I did. So what?’
‘What do you mean so what? You just walked out of a perfectly good job and flat to come here and do this. You need to have a think about that.’
‘No I don’t. I’m busy.’

Emma shook the two squabbling voices out of her head and again wondered who on earth they were and why they were so mad at each other. Perhaps she was cracking up? It would be one explanation for having moved across the country, gotten a job on the set of Home Alone and abandoned everything that had previously made up her existence.

Let’s have a look at the facts…” she thought to herself.
‘Good idea.” She also thought, and then thought that she was annoyed at herself for responding in thought to the original thought.
‘Can we just take it as read that I think all my thoughts are a good idea or I wouldn’t have thought them?’ She thought angrily to herself.
‘No,” thought some of her other thoughts, ‘because there are large parts of you that think a lot of your thoughts are plainly insane. For example… everything you have done in the last month.’

One of the angels she was carefully unpacking came loose from its bubble wrap and tumbled across the thick carpet. Fiona looked up instantly and Emma reddened.

“Oops.” She really honestly did try to sound sincere but she had no idea if it landed. Fiona craned her neck over the counter to check it wasn’t broken, frowned, and went back to ticking delivery items off on the checklist.

Emma picked up the angel, dusted it off and put it on the shelf next to the others. She glanced quickly out of the window before picking up the next one. ‘Are you hoping he’s going to stroll by and notice you, you mental cow?’ Said the thought stream she currently liked the least.

‘No.’ Snapped back the defensive one that was lying. Of course she was hoping that was going to happen. That was the obvious plot wasn’t it? The handsome man walks past the shop, notices the beautiful shop assistant and can’t help himself but walk in. Only, in this case, the handsome man would have to walk past, notice the beautiful girl, walk into the shop and then say, “hang on a minute, didn’t you or someone who looks exactly like you used to work in the finance department of a tech company in London called Futurescope because I recognise you from all the times we spoke and from the fact that it’s you Emma.” At that point the wheels would really come off the plot and the handsome man would realise that the beautiful girl was an absolute psychopath and would hurriedly leave the shop. Emma felt a burning flush starting on her neck as she dwelt on the enormity of what she had done.

‘Well not an absolute psychopath,’ said the thoughts Emma was going to give a payrise to, ‘Because you recognise that what you have done is absolutely batshit. If you were a total psychopath you wouldn’t be questioning it at all, would you? You’d just think it was totally normal and you’d have rung him by now shrieking GUESS WHERE I AM.’

‘Maybe you only haven’t rung him because you don’t have his number.’ Said the more bastardy voice and Emma couldn’t think of anything to think back in any of the voices. She unwrapped another angel and smoothed its hair down over its porcelain face.

Ok, so she had to admit it had all been a little weird. 6 weeks ago she’d had a nice, stable job in the finance department of a software company in London. London was nice enough. She’d moved there for university, never left afterwards and had happily settled into a job. She had a few friends, wasn’t a million miles from her siblings and parents and was pretty content to start a job and wait for the rest of her life to find her.

A year into the job she got a promotion and managed a small team. Two years into the job she was a little bored but decided to just put more energy into finding a boyfriend who would turn into a husband who would invent children and everything would be fulfilling. Three years into the job she was daily thinking of ways to fling herself out the window just to escape the tedium of her life and four years into the job Theo started.

Theo was in sales. The sales department wasn’t in the same room as the finance team, but he would come in to make photocopies, to discuss payment schedules and money details, and of course they all shared a break room. Theo was absolutely perfect, to Emma. He was a few inches under six foot she guessed, so perfect for her 5’4” in heels. He always smelled immaculate, she’d never noticed that a person could smell neat and tidy before but Theo managed it - he smelt deeply inviting but with an edge of citrus on the borders of the cloud to keep it clean and not smarmy. He had amazingly clear skin, and perfect stubble and he smiled all the time and he was so confident. He always had some sort of sports bag with him at the office; squash on Mondays, football on Tuesdays, tennis in the summer, swimming on a Thursday and then a change of clothes for the bar on Fridays. That man really wore chinos.

Emma had been obsessed from the second she had seen him. She’d needed to know everything about him and had stored the information away. In a way, she was a squirrel, having a particularly entertainment light winter who was taking this opportunity to gorge on as many of these distractingly gorgeous nuts as she could gather. Theo had never really noticed Emma all that much, as far as she could tell, but she was pretty sure that was only because he was utterly bewitched by Elaine.

Emma despised Elaine. As the memories of Elaine came back to her she very nearly decapitated a poor defenceless angel right here and now in the centre of Bath.

‘Oh my god I’m in Bath.’ She thought to herself, panic stricken and very much back in the moment all of a sudden.

‘Yes you are… but you know who isn’t? Elaine.’

Elaine was tall and wonderfully curvaceous and managed to make every single office dress she had look at once thrown on and ironed. She was the only woman on the sales team and her company figures were as brilliant as her physical one. She excelled at making people feel comfortable and excited, she oozed enthusiasm and it wasn’t long before she and Theo were an item. Emma had hoped that perhaps seeing Elaine and Theo together would kill her crush on him but it hadn’t. Instead she’d become daily more convinced that Elaine wasn’t right for Theo, and that all the partying and living the high life was actually killing him inside because really he’d want to be at home with her doing a puzzle if he could but stupid Elaine kept making him go to The Ivy.

Theo and Elaine had dated for a miserable 18 months. Miserable for Emma; Theo and Elaine seemed perfectly content. Then one day Emma had come into work to find the life-giving scent of sandalwood and lemon was not on the office breeze, there was no sports bag thrown casually beneath the coats, no Theo at his desk. She’d shaken off her shoulders by the lifts and made her way to her desk deciding he was probably just out on a call.

As she put her handbag down, she noticed that Elaine was perched on the edge of Henry’s desk a few over from her own. Her eyes were puffy and her hair… no her hair was still perfect, but hey, her eyes were puffy so that was something. Emma picked up some papers and pretended to need to put them closer to Henry’s so she could eavesdrop.

“I just couldn’t take it any more. I’m so sick of arguing with him, so… so I told him it was over.” Emma’s heart made a dive for the carpet through her mouth. She swallowed it back down and tried to listen past the roaring waterfall of blood that seemed to have moved in to her ears. “And he didn’t say much. He just left my place, went back to his and I came in this morning to be told by Greg that he’s accepted the transfer to the Bath office. Gone immediately. They couldn’t wait to have him.”

“Shut the fuck up.”

Elaine’s head had whipped around because Emma seemed to have said that out loud. She briefly wondered if she could get away with pretending she’d been talking to the plant, and then decided she probably couldn’t.

“Bluetooth.” She said, indicating her definitely empty ear, and scurried back to her desk.

She’d sat there for an hour, trying to get a grip, trying to focus on the spreadsheets in front of her or the emails piling up but nothing had filtered through. He was gone. The only thing that was even vaguely interesting about her day had gone. She felt drugged, under water, completely dessicated and at the same time waterlogged. A small part of her mind tried to tell her that it wasn’t normal to be this bereft at a co-worker you fancied from afar leaving the office, but that voice was beaten senseless and locked in a basement to die by the other voices as her feet and body made their way to her boss’ office, handed in her notice and went home to pack up the flat and move to Bath.

Who does Emma meet in this Chapter?
  • Theo
  • An old lady
  • A dog and its owner
  • Old school friend

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