Authors: Carys Jones
In Another Life
By Carys Jones
Copyright © 2016 by Carys Jones
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
First to Fall (Avalon book 1)
Second to Cry (Avalon book 2)
Third to Die (Avalon book 3)
Fourth to Run (Avalon book 4)
Dare to Dream
Paper Princess (Princess Trilogy Book 1)
Porcelain Princess (Princess Trilogy Book 2)
Plastic Princess (Princess Trilogy Book 3)
For all my beautiful ‘Leopard Print Ladies’. May we forever be princesses in our own stories xoxo
The unusually bitter October wind pulled at loose strands of Marie’s hair as she walked briskly along the busy pavement. Checking her watch she noticed with a plunging sensation in her stomach that she was already running five minutes late.
“Damn it,” she cursed aloud as she tried to increase her walk from brisk to fast. Her high heeled shoes clipped manically against the floor creating a sharp staccato soundtrack to her commute.
With as much speed as the six inches of her stilettos would afford her, Marie descended down from the pavement and the ominous grey clouds overhead into the underbelly of the city and the tube railway system.
Despite having lived in London for almost eighteen months Marie still struggled to accept the infiltration of her personal space each time she rode the tube to work. People would push up against her as though she were completely invisible. She’d learnt to use her bony elbows as a weapon against the more persistent of intruders. Clutching her handbag tightly to her chest she boarded her train, moving with the same militant precision as the commuters around her. Everyone seemed to move with such urgency, as though their very being depended on boarding the waiting train before them.
As the train surged in to motion and swept the passengers deeper into the city, Marie dared to remove one hand from her hand bag to wipe wearily at her eyes, careful not to smudge the mascara she’d barely had time to apply.
Marie was tired. The previous night, like all the nights before, the twenty seven year old had struggled to sleep. She lay awake, anxious, as though she were waiting for something though she had no idea what.
It took twenty minutes for Marie’s train to arrive in central London. Not quite long enough to remove her Kindle and delve in to the latest fantasy novel she was reading. She thought about the story as she looked forlornly out of the train windows. Endless miles of nothingness sped by. She missed travelling through the countryside and looking out and seeing endless fields of luscious, green grass. Marie Schneider was a city girl by necessity, not choice. She’d grown up amongst trees and fields not sky scrapers and stop signs.
Every morning as she stood on the tube she wished the same thing; that she didn’t have to go to work that day that instead she could stay home and read and get lost in another world.
“You spend far too much time with your head in books,” her mother would note with disapproval.
“Reading stories won’t get you anywhere,” she’d add callously. Marie would just roll her eyes. Her mother didn’t understand the magic which existed within a great story. She was too pragmatic, existing only in the moment. But Marie dared to dream bigger. She always secretly harboured the belief that she was meant for great things, that her destiny would somehow be wondrous.
Yet as she stepped off the tube and an overweight man in a suit already covered in sweat pushed a little too close up against her Marie realised she was hanging on to her romantic notions of a better life with a very thin thread.
“Excuse you!” Marie exclaimed as the man peeled himself off her and headed towards the escalators. He didn’t so much as turn back and offer an apologetic glance.
“Chivalry is so dead,” Marie muttered to herself as she straightened her blue dress which was adorned with patterns of white tipped daisies. Checking her watch she realised she was still running late, so taking the briefest moment to tuck back any loose strands of hair which had wrangled themselves free of the bun at the nape of her neck Marie headed out of the tube station, back up to the surface.
Emerging in to the dim light of an autumn morning Marie squinted slightly, feeling momentarily as blind as a mole squinting up from the ground. She could scarcely afford even a second to get her bearings. Her boss, Amanda Pickens loathed tardiness almost as much as she loathed those who opposed her right to wear real fur.
When Marie finally pushed her way through the glass doors of the office building where she worked her cheeks were flushed and a slight spattering of perspiration had formed upon her forehead.
“Late again,” predictably Amanda was already lurking like a vulture near Marie’s desk as she scurried across the open plan office towards her cubicle.
“Sorry,” Marie breathed heavily, placed down her handbag and removing herself from her beige trench coat.
“The meeting with All Purpose Shoes is at nine,” Amanda declared, her perfectly shaped eyebrows drawing themselves in to a thin, formidable line. It was eight thirty five.
“I know,” Marie nodded. “I prepared all the documents for them last night before I left.”
Amanda pursed her lips as she absorbed this information. She was torn between admiration for Marie’s diligence and anger over her late arrival.
“I don’t mean to keep being late,” Marie said apologetically. “I’ve been having trouble sleeping and-”
The raising of long fingered hand, adorned with nails painted an icy blue made Marie cease speaking mid-sentence.
“I don’t want to know about your personal life,” Amanda explained coldly.
“Sorry,” Marie blushed.
“Come, let us prepare the meeting room.” Dutifully Marie got to her feet and followed Amanda in to the meeting room. Preparing it simply meant that Marie had to ensure there was a jug of ice cold water, numerous glasses and fresh croissants on the table. Already her feet were throbbing within her shoes. She wished she didn’t have to wear them but Amanda insisted upon it, citing that women should embrace their femininity in the work place. Marie would be much happier in ballet pumps but that would never do. Life working in an advertising agency had taught her that image was everything.
While Marie prepared the water and snacks Amanda disappeared to further powder her nose, even though her skin was already an almost perfect alabaster white. Alone, Marie entertained how if Amanda existed in a fantasy story, she would definitely be the wicked queen. Probably the Snow Queen herself. She was certainly icy enough.
Once the water and food was out, Marie placed the information packs in the seats for all the attendees.
“All Purpose Shoes?” an enquiring voice said mockingly from the back of the room. Startled, Marie turned and saw Jack Walters leaning nonchalantly against the large oak meeting table, one hand in his suit pocket, the other holding an information pack.
“Yes, you can wear them rain or shine,” Marie explained in a sing song voice, as though she were fronting the ad campaign herself.
“They all look hideous to me,” Jack scoffed, flicking through the pack.
“Lucky they’re not your client then,” Marie quipped.
“Indeed.” Jack loitered for a moment. Casually holding the pack whilst glancing over at Marie. He opened his mouth to say something but thankfully the door opened and Amanda and the scent of vanilla flooded the room.
Jack Walters was roguishly handsome. He had jet black hair and lightning blue eyes and was the stuff of most women’s dreams. But not Marie. She found him dull and unimaginative. His numerous attempts to bed her had been decidedly uninspired. Anyone could see through the thin veil of a movie night at his place.
He made a sharp exit when Amanda entered. If the rumours which permeated the office more efficiently than the air conditioning were to believed then the two had shared a night together and there was now a lot of animosity between them. Most women who worked for A and G Advertising felt something towards Jack, feelings which usually started pleasant but after one night at his love pad quickly soured.
Jack would never be the prince of a fairy tale. He’d be the devilish knight trying to take the heroine away from her one true love. Marie had her one true love, Sebastian Fenwick. Or so she thought. There were times when she wasn’t so certain anymore. Lately, she didn’t feel certain of anything.
“Marie!” Amanda’s harsh tone broke through her thoughts. “Daydreaming again! Christ, girl, do you have candy floss for brains?”
Shaking her head Marie managed to mutter an apology. Her tendency to get lost within her thoughts regularly threatened to be her undoing.
Marie had always been a dreamer. At least that’s how she saw herself, others had cruelly labelled her a ‘drifter’ insisting that she was destined to just drift through life as she never managed to truly commit herself to anything.
Marketing was Marie’s latest attempt at finding herself and her calling. Previously she’d been a veterinary assistant and an air hostess. Neither had worked out for various reasons. But marketing and more specifically advertising seemed engaging enough. Marie enjoyed the occasional episode of
and they made it seem like a lot of fun. Her decent grades and earnest attitude had landed her an entry level position at A and G, which basically meant she was Amanda’s dogsbody.
“The people from All Purpose Shoes are already here,” Amanda hissed, not bothering to conceal her annoyance.
“Go greet them and show them in!”
Nodding, Marie darted out of the meeting room.
“Mops the floors, Cinderella,” she said to herself as she wandered towards the main entrance to the office.
“Clean the cooker, Cinderella.”
In her own mind, Marie was the star of her own fairy tale, it was the rest of the world who were just oblivious to her special status.
The meeting with All Purpose Shoes, like all the meetings Marie was required to take minutes in, was mind numbingly dull. Amanda had the charisma of a dead pigeon as she talked them through the information pack. Her less than sparkling personality meant she always had to rely on another weapon in her arsenal when acquiring a client, and luckily she had a pair of them.
Her décolletage heaved in the ill-fitting blouse she’d deliberately chosen to wear that day. Marie could only roll her eyes as the men from All Purpose Shoes hung on Amanda’s every word even though their eye line was considerably lower than her face when she spoke.
Marie tried to focus, tried to pay attention, to write down what was being said but her mind had such a tendency to drift. Her gaze moved from Amanda to the window offering an impressive vista of the city of London beyond. In the distance she could make out the building shaped like a gherkin. The city, whilst a maze of concrete and steel, held a strange magic for Marie. She would wonder about all the hidden secrets a city like London must have and vowed to uncover as many as she could during her time there. A time which was extending long past her original expectations. Living in London had meant to be a short term thing. She had so many dreams and desires. She wanted to travel, to see the world.
“You need plans, Marie, firm, stable plans,” her father would tell her. He was an accountant, he traded in stability.
“I have plans,” Marie would reply, aware she had none.
“Life isn’t some great fairy tale,” her mother would state, frighteningly perceptive of her daughter’s outlook.
“Why can’t it be?” Marie would challenge. As a child she’d been told that she could be a princess, that she could expect a knight upon a steed to save her. What had changed during her ascent in to adulthood?
“Oh, Marie, you’re such a sweet girl but you’re only going to be disappointed,” her mother would sigh.
“The world, it is a cruel place,” her father would add. “I’m worried we’ve failed to prepare you for that.”
“And that concludes our meeting,” Amanda drew the meeting to a close and Marie snapped back to reality. If the meeting was over it meant only one thing; lunch. Marie felt almost giddy at the prospect of a lunch break, time away from the office and time spent catching up with Sebastian.
Marie was still huddled within her coat when she entered the small café located five minutes down the street from her office. She quickly scanned the gathering of patrons already tucking in to sandwiches and scones. It didn’t take her long to spot Sebastian Fenwick, the man she had promised to marry. He was sat at a partly concealed table towards the back of the café. Despite wearing a suit his naturally curly hair gave him a dishevelled appearance which Marie had always found endearing.