Authors: Sheena Lambert
by Sheena Lambert
Edition | Copyright 2012 Sheena Lambert
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Thank you to
my lovely family, friends and readers; to Vanessa O’Loughlin, Catherine Ryan Howard and Ankit AJ Jain; and to Helen Bovaird Ryan and all the Thursday night Pen to Paper writers.
Christine couldn't remember walking home, but here she was, at her apartment door, her legs tired and her eyes raw. It must have been around three-thirty when she had made the decision to leave the office. She'd been ensconced on a closed toilet seat in the ladies' washroom for probably forty minutes or so, when in a moment of clarity she had advised herself to get up and leave. There was little point in hiding at her desk pretending to work, and there was certainly no value in sitting on the loo for the rest of the afternoon.
Once inside her apartment, she
to the ground and
the blinds across the
veranda windows. The light was fading outside, so the room was almost dark as she dropped onto her sofa. The sandwich she had forced down during the lunchtime briefing
was still lodged
in her stomach, undigested. She sat, staring straight ahead
, her eyes fixed on a silver framed photograph on a bookshelf across the room
A picture taken years before, of a mother and her two daughters, squeezed together, the frame barely able to contain the three wide grins. Christine could remember it being taken, her mother’s birthday, she could remember the little party for four
at the kitchen table
, the cake, the candles. She could remember that hug
, the squeeze so tight
she and her sister could barely breathe, enveloped in their mother’s arms, squealing with joy as her father had captured the moment on film. The
of a mother’s absolute and total love
, saved forever inside a silver frame
An hour later, Christine was still sitting there, her trench-coat still on.
Two muffled voices passed along the corridor outside her front door. Happy, laughing voices.
The gas boiler ticked and chugged to life.
A minute later,
the phone in her bag rang. It took a moment for her to register the sound. She had no intention of answering it. It was most likely her father checking up on her. Or maybe Emily.
Emily would be wondering. Worrying. Emily, whose friendship had saved Christine more than once over the past few years, who had probably been phoning her
office all afternoon
, and getting no answer. Christine didn’t even have it in her to talk to Emily.
But the ringing stirred her, and she got up from the sofa and went into the kitchen. She stood in front of the kettle for a moment, staring at it. Then her legs walked her into the bathroom, where she leaned over the tub and turned the taps. She opened an expensive bottle of bubble bath
Christmas and sniffed at it. The citrus smell roused her a little. She inhaled deeply, and poured almost half of the bottle onto the running water.
Standing at the washbasin, she watched her reflection as it slowly disappeared in the mirror above. She looked
. Hardly a trace of the make-up that she had applied that morning remained, even the streaks of smudged mascara had been washed away by tears. When she could see herself no more she stripped, leaving her clothes where they fell, and got into the bath. She lay back into the hot water, glad of the sensation as it almost scalded her skin. Her hair floating around her, she stayed as still as she could, the water filling her ears. With her eyes closed, she tried to focus on the silence, the darkness. The only sound was her own heart beating in the water. Nothing more.
After a moment, the water got too hot, and she sat up suddenly. She slowly breathed in the rising steam, fragrant with expensive oils. But as she breathed out, she heard a guttural sob echo back from the tiled wall. And she sat there in the water, filling the bath with her tears, until she was simply too exhausted to cry anymore, and the water was cold.
It was January 20
Thirty-three point three degrees celsius. That was the highest ever air temperature recorded in Ireland.
Christine would always remember that little bit of trivia.
A Valentine's Day card she had once got from a
in her climate modelling class had read
For Sexy Christine - Hotter than Dublin in June 1887
While it wasn’t quite t
hirty-three point three degrees
, even at seven forty-five AM
morning the following June,
Christine could tell the day was going to be hot.
The sky above
was hazy, almost lilac
as she walked from the train station past College Green to
, where t
he modern building occupied by
stood guiltily in the middle of a
Inside, she nodded at the security guard seated
at his post in
reception, and took the lift to the fourth floor.
The place was deserted. There would usually be someone in
keeping an eye on the Asian market, but the
rows of cubicles that made up the
dealing desk were all empty.
Christine knew it wouldn’t be long before the
were populated by mostly young, well-
, talking loudly on
hum of multiple monitors
flashing red and green
out ever-changing information on prices and
yields and spreads
But for now, th
e space was still, the Bloomberg screens dark.
She passed by her own
one of five around the floor’s perimeter,
and walked straight to the coffee room.
She needed a coffee.
Whereas staff in all the other
departments had only a kettle and a jar of instant to hand during the day, those on the fourth floor had the use of a shiny Italian coffee maker and an endless supply of Arabica beans.
Christine pressed a button and watched the coffee beans disappear down the hopper to a muffled whirring sound.
The machine was
head of the
institutional trading desk
Working with him on the fourth floor meant access to the good coffee, and this morning Christine was glad of
It hadn’t been a particularly
night, but she'd had trouble
She pressed another button and closed her eyes, breathing in the aroma as the coffee trickled out and into her cup.
“Oh, hi there.
I thought I was the first in.”
voice from behind Christine startled her.
She turned to see a petite brunette teetering at the door to the coffee room in a tight short skirt and tighter short-sleeved sweater
expensive-looking leather bag hangi
ng from one shoulder.
She must be from marketing.
’s new PA.
It’s my first day.
I thought I’d met all the girls last week.”
pointed her cashmere bosom at Christine.
“Are you temping?
“Eh, hi there Petra.”
tine shook the
It felt warm and limp in her own.
I’m the meteorologist.
was over in the London office most of
Petra stared blankly at her.
“A meteorologist? Like, a weather girl?”
uldn’t tell if
she was being mocked
or not. “I’m part of the analytical team.”
Petra looked at her, managing to smile with only her mouth but no other part of her face.
rested the bag on a tab
a couple of tupperware boxes
into the small fridge.
Christine had to marvel at how she could make the manoeuvre in the skirt.
So you report into?”
she asked as she reappeared from the fridge.
Christine suddenly felt lanky and awkward. She wished she had made up her face before leaving for work that morning.
said. “Mark’s my boss too.”
“Right.” Petra flicked her hair back over her shoulder.
“And have you been here long? With CarltonWachs?”
“A year and a half,” Christine said. The conversation was beginning to feel like a job interview. “I was with a Dutch bank before that
Petra crossed her arms.
I was PA for one of the top managers in Lloyds until I moved back home. Didn’t you like London?”