Authors: Carol Mullen
copyright © 2013 Carol Mullen
Ayasha of Cover to Cover Designs
Henry for being there whilst I chased my dreams and butterflies
Carrie stared at the screen in front of her.
Her fingers automatically updating the information needed.
“Yes, Mr Groves, I’ve added the extra stock to your
order. Our despatch team will confirm availability. I have estimated our
best dates at present will be week 10, yes that’s week commencing 10
Pleasantries were exchanged and the call ended.
She clicked the mouse and closed the order. Clicked the mouse again
and back to the grey screen of the company logo.
But still she stared ahead. Her eyes were
drawn the photograph in the silver frame – to the happy smiling couple who were
tipping their glasses in celebration. It was a New Year celebration party
with fireworks exploding in spectacular fashion in the background. For
them it was the perfect party with so much promise for the year ahead.
Then life stopped and she couldn’t stop the momentum that had started to build,
picking up speed twisting and pulling at her. In her head the scenes
after the photo replayed in her mind. Laughing with friends and family as they
made resolutions, pacts and promises. 2013 was going to be the best year
ever! It had a lot to live up to but the previous eighteen months had been
magical for her.
“Carrie, Carrie, Have you heard a word I’ve said!”
her head snapped up away from the photograph and away from the memories.
“Sorry, No Fiona what did you say?”
“The account manager wants to see you. He
needs that report NOW.” She heard the tsk in the final word as it was
delivered. The impatience that Fiona was trying to contain – badly trying
to contain. Carrie could feel the mixture of frustration and anger that
was emanating from her line manager.
“Carrie we discussed this. You did say you
it, that it was under control. If you’re not
The question was left hanging.
“It’s here somewhere, I know I updated it in time
for the sales manager meeting” she began to shuffle paper along her once
immaculate desk trying in vain to find the report. She picked up the
empty paper coffee cup and put it in the recycle bin. Shuffled the papers
again. Once she would have accessed the report at her finger tips before
the sentence was finished. She had taken pride in her job and the respect
that was given to her. Respect she had earned, now she had pity.
Her stomach was cramping anxiously as she knew she
was heading for another tally mark in her ‘mistake column’. It was just what
she needed on a Monday morning for a great start to the week.
“Ah, Ah, I will print it again Fiona just give me a
couple of minutes” she stammered.
“No need I’ve got extra copies. We will be
using the power point presentation but I wanted to pass out a paper copy at the
end” again delivered with a sigh. “Look, sort yourself and your desk out
because you are a MESS! Are you trying to sabotage your career at
AGM? Because if you are trying to sabotage it you are doing a damn fine
The sound of Fiona’s heels stomping – well more of a
muffled thud on the carpeted floor – accompanied by the bang of the office door
signalled that she had left.
It was a small office. Cosy when described
with affection alternating with claustrophobic when arguments over air
conditioning vs. heaters arose. These were debates that could be raged
for weeks and seasons at a time. They would rather switch the air con on
then switch it off. Open a window then close it later. A process to
be repeated many, many times. Offices are very territorial places as she
soon found when she was the newbie and made the mistake of taking a desk that
appeared to be ‘empty’. She was quickly given short shrift that it was
Jill on maternity’s desk. Sacrilege to even consider putting her bottom
on ‘Jill’s chair. Office etiquette it was not. During university holidays
she had spent time working in hotels housekeeping or waitressing gaining
experience as well as lining her pocket. There was a different
camaraderie working in hospitality. She wasn’t prepared for the
bitchiness of office life. But she couldn’t find a job with her degree in
tourism and hospitality management that didn’t involve her moving away from
home and she wasn’t quite ready to make that break yet. Bills needed to
be paid so she had taken a different route.
She felt the eyes of her colleagues watching her
getting yet another bawling out. Quickly gulping air she picked up her
handbag and raced to the bathroom.
In the sanctuary of the cloakroom she looked at her
reflection in the mirror. Where was that feisty smiling girl from the
picture? Where did she go? Her skin was pasty. No golden glow
now; artificial induced via bottles of fake bake to glimmer on her skin or sun
kissed from holidays in the Mediterranean sun. Her dull brown hair swept
back in a ponytail. No longer glossy from regular hair salon treatments.
The choppy fringe had grown out and she could secure the bangs away.
Everything was minimum effort. A bare sweep of mascara and a lip
gloss her only make up. It was like looking at a stranger.
Her skin began to feel clammy and she knew that a full
blown anxiety attack was on its way. Her heart was beginning to race as
if it would burst from her chest as the palpitations began. Sometimes it
was the littlest of things that triggered it. It didn’t have to be a
major incident but this morning it began when she had placed Mr Groves order
her eyes were drawn not to the dates; 10
March but the 14
March which was Rob’s anniversary. Her GP had prescribed tablets to ease
her symptoms and she fumbled in her handbag for the familiar packet.
After tipping her bag onto the countertop she rummaged once again with no
success. Keys, make up, hand cream, a diary from 2013 that she couldn’t
part with, an empty bottle of perfume of her signature scent, painkillers,
tampax, mobile and a multitude of more essential ‘things’ that she needed to
get through the day but no medication.
Then she remembered the packet was on her desk
ironically she was going to take one before the latest incident or FU (Fuck Up)
as she mentally referred to them. That was before Fiona arrived at her
desk and threw her into disarray. Taking deep breaths she swept the
contents back into her roomy tote bag, uncaring of any organisation
attempt. She locked the door of the toilet cubicle and slid down onto the
floor. She hugged her knees and rocked. “It’s okay, it’s okay” she
repeated like a mantra. She needed to regain control of herself
enough to face the office and get the medication she required. With shaky
legs she coached herself back up, opened the cubicle door and ran the cold
water over her wrists. No one was waiting and she wasn’t surprised by the
“You can do it, Get your shit together Carrie!”
More deep breaths and opened the office door.
A quick glance around and the cluster of desks were empty. No
surprizes awaiting her it must be the tea run. The bottle of mineral
water on her desk was empty containing not even a drop to ease swallowing the
tablet. Her mouth so dry she wouldn’t be able to attempt it without
They were her friends, her colleagues and confidants
but now they were strangers to her. No one was going to knock on the door
and check if she was okay or offer a glass of water or words of comfort as to
why she rushed out of the office. She wasn’t part of their clique
anymore. She didn’t go for their girlie lunches and nights out. The
dinner party invites dried up as she wouldn’t have a partner to accompany her
and they didn’t want to throw out their even spaced seats. She had joined
the widow club and that was one club
didn’t require a membership
for or want to join the waiting list. Their husbands and partners didn’t
know what to say and would offer to fix her guttering or cut the grass.
Offers that were viewed with suspicion by their partners. She wasn’t on
the lookout for a replacement or to steal anyone’s husband who just happened to
cut the grass.
Oh they made the offer but the intention wasn’t
there and it wasn’t paranoia making her decline. Things were awkward and
they just didn’t know what to say to her. Secretly she felt they were
glad when she refused; that they had made the offer to appease their own
conscience. They participated in the build-up to the funeral and
all the tasks that were associated with it but once it was over they had
already compartmentalised Rob away in the part of the brains that didn’t
understand why she was not ‘over it’. The first few weeks after Rob died
her friends and family expected her to be ready to move on as their lives had
done. But that wasn’t want she wanted. She wanted to talk about him
and say how much she missed him but that was when the conversation would end.
She felt alone in her work place, alienated from the
conversations as she wasn’t up to date on the latest gossip or even the last
episode of the soaps. They spoke of nights out that she couldn’t remember being
invited to, of compromising situations between colleagues married or otherwise
and the ensuing fallout.
Bugger she would have to face them in the communal
office kitchen. Easy does it, she continued her mental coaching. A
few more steps get the water, then back to the sanctuary of her desk to take
her tablet. The kitchen was L shaped and it was a hubbub for chatter
discrete or otherwise. The place where office gossip battles were fought
and won. Of snatched conversations to full blown character assassinations
– such is office life.
Tina and Laura were fixing cups boiling the kettle
and with practised ease adding sugar, sweetener, milk. To an outsider it
would look a picture of efficiency. They were out in full force.
She held back as an inner voice was telling her to stop, almost at the
doorway but still not visible to the gaggle of women in the kitchen.
“She doesn’t need to be here!” Tina began.
“Did you hear Fi? She’s a mess!”
“Yeah, all that money and can’t even get her roots
done!” They started to cackle laughing at each other’s ad libs. The
kettle continued to boil, just as Carrie could feel her own temper coming to
“My Lisa loved working here. Oh she knew it
wasn’t a permanent thing but she did a better job than
! Times are
hard and she is taking a good job out of someone else’s hands. She
doesn’t need to work. I told Fi... you mark my words... I told her... That
one won’t do a decent days work now. We will all have to carry
Tina continued in her justification for her daughters ‘temporary’
employment. “My Lisa fitted right in here.” She finished her tirade arms
“Her husband pops his clogs. I bet he left her
thousands. Her mortgage paid off, drives that fancy Range Rover car and
comes into work!”
“Would not be me! I’d think I’d won the lottery!”
“Oh come on Tina, it’s not her fault her husband
died on her” Laura interjected.
“Well, it’s never too late; she will probably find
someone else, flash her tits and get married again”
Carrie heard the affronts and her heart began to
race with anger replacing the anxiety that she was attempting to relieve.
Was that what they really thought of her?
so called friends.
Did they think her life consisted of counting the
money in her bank account? Living the good life?
She took a step closer to the kitchen door but they
were still oblivious to her presence and continued.
“Oh and another thing that report is on my
desk. The one Fi was looking for. I heard her ask but thought sod
it let her stew!” Tina confessed with another bellowing laugh. “It’s on my desk
ready to go in the shredder later. Makes up for all the times she’s been
lording it around
Office supervisor, she only got that
promotion because her husband was
plus she probably shook her
tits at them to give it to her. Oh and you all know I let her have the
job ‘cos I didn’t want it”
The spoon tinkled in the mug as Tina spun it round
and round adding the boiling water making her milky tea.
“Is that right Tina?” I interrupted. The spoon
clunked in the mug as it was dropped from a great height.
“Anything else you want to add? I thought
better of you. I thought you were my friend. Come to think of it I
thought all of you were my friends but hold on a second. Let me check my
back for the knives you’ve all been sharpening! I thought I felt a twinge
between my shoulder blades there!”
“Carrie ... I eh ... I mean it’s not
like you think!” Debbie ever the peacemaker tried to butt in.
“What a bunch of two-faced lying spiteful
bitches!” Carrie began her rant and nothing was going to halt her. “Why
stop now? Don’t you have anything else to say about me?
Sounds like you are on a roll. My work, appearance, dead husband, bank
account! The list goes on, doesn’t it? What else can you take a pop
“Carrie! What’s going on here?” Fiona
had now joined the melee. Drawn out of her office by the sound of the
“Well Tina? Is it confession time? Why
don’t you check her desk for the report? The missing one that was career
ending for me earlier. Or follow her to the shredder before she disposes
of the evidence?”