Making a Start

I’m going to go backward in time a little bit. This is the last entry that I wrote in my journal before I decided to write the blog instead.

The names  (and some of the places) have been changed so that the people aren’t embarrassed by this… although having said that, they might recognise themselves! I hope not though.

20th December 2011

I spent the day shopping in my favourite place, Cardiff. The range of shops there is amazing and I found everything I needed and a whole lot more… including a new beading shop and a whole new set of gorgeous lamp-worked beads that I am just itching to try something with!

Of course, I stopped by my favourite café, just because I could. It’s one of the things that I love about being my own boss, the ability to decide what I am going to do that day and then do it, no matter if that means a duvet day or a all day metal clay marathon.

I’d barely got sat down with my earl grey and carrot cake, when one of my regular “clients” sat down. I was a little annoyed because all I really wanted to do was drink my tea in peace.

“I haven’t seen you for ages.” she said, adding sugar to her latte and stirring. “So when I saw you come in, I just had to come over. How are you?”

I shrugged and sipped my black tea. There was no point in replying because she always ignored what I said. As usual she didn’t wait for me to attempt a reply.

“Good, I hope. I’m not. D’you remember Gareth? I told you about him the last time we talked. You know, the idiot at work who keeps slipping love notes into my desk drawer.”

I nodded and applied myself to the carrot cake, slipping peacefully into my quiet place while my brain recorded what she said; curse my eidetic memory!

“Well, it was the office Christmas party last Saturday. I kept telling myself not to go, to make some kind of excuse and spend a quiet night in, wrapping presents.

Have you managed to get all your shopping done? I haven’t, I still have mum and my little sister and her boyfriend and my brother’s girlfriend’s mum to buy for… what do you get your brother’s girlfriend’s mum anyway? Do you know?”

I shrugged.

“I know, I’m getting off the subject again, sorry. Where was I? Oh yes, the Office Party. Well I got dragged along by Anika of all people! I said to her that I didn’t think it was her sort of thing and wouldn’t she just prefer to stay at mine and have a couple of bottles of wine. Well she said that she’d promised several people that she’d go and she wasn’t about to go without me because if she had to suffer, then I had to.” she rolled her eyes expressively.

I finished my tea and poured another cup, wondering if I ought to order another cup or two, when one of the Barista’s brought over another pot with an Earl Grey label hanging out of the lid. I smiled my thanks and he grinned, shaking his head at her as he left.

She hadn’t even noticed him, despite moving aside to allow him to put the pot down. “So I got dressed up, put on the slap and went with her. Thankfully it was being held in a fairly decent venue in the centre of town so we decided on the way there, that if it got too tedious, we’d slide off to our favourite bar instead. Gareth was there, of course. He immediately started hassling me and I ended up clinging on to Jon Harris, the regional manager.”

I rolled my eyes. Why do I let them do this to me? I’ll be here forever!

“Of course, Gareth got drunk trying to get me drunk and took a swing at Jon before passing out on the floor of the bar.” She sighed. “That’s when I should have gone home… alone.”

I raised an eyebrow at her pause. I know what’s coming, I should just make my excuses and leave, but of course I won’t. I’ll sit here and drink another pot of tea and let her get her problems off her chest.

“I know, I know. I shouldn’t have done it, but Jon was so nice about Gareth and he kept buying me drinks and even Anika was off snogging that bloke from Accounting she’s had her eye on.” She stopped and took a couple of gulps of her cold latte. “Urgh, I hate cold coffee. One minute we’re in the bar chatting and flirting, the next minute he’s got me into a black cab and we’re off to his suite at the Hilton! I should have said no, gone home and thrown up, but no. I have to go and sleep with the Regional Manager on the night of the Office Christmas Party.”

She collapsed into a sad looking heap over her coffee, tears glistening against her eyeliner and making furrows in her foundation as they dripped down her cheeks.

I felt sorry for her. Another perk of working for yourself is not having to go through the ordeals that HR organise in the holiday season, but she should have known better than to let herself get so out of control.

“Don’t look at me like that. I didn’t know what I’d done until I woke up the next morning. I don’t even remember saying anything to him, I just got dressed and went home.” she sniffed.

Passing her a tissue, I sighed and shook my head.

“What am I going to do? I can’t face him next month when he holds the yearly appraisals; I don’t even remember what we did. And I certainly can’t apply for that Team Manager Position I told you about last time. Plus there is no way I can turn it into a relationship; he’s married.”

I looked at her silently. This is always the tricky bit. At this point they always as me what I think they should do. It took me years to perfect my silent stare as an answer to this part of the proceedings.

“I know, I shouldn’t have done it in the first place, but what should I do now? Act as if it never happened, or hand in my notice tomorrow?” she looked up at me and we locked eyes for several seconds. I gave her a tiny encouraging smile, just a quirk of the corners of my lips.

She dropped her gaze and blew her nose. “I know I have to decide what to do, but it’s not what to do, rather how to do it that is puzzling me.”

I shrugged again. It doesn’t have anything to do with me, so I keep myself quiet. Anyway, if this works out like last time, she’ll be finished soon.

Finally she sighed and looked up at me. “I need to find out what happened, which means I have to ask him. I need to do that before I decide if I am going to leave the company or just ignore him.” She smiled, her mascara running down her face and her make up smudged beyond repair. “Thank you. You’re so good at this and you always know exactly what to say to make me feel better. I couldn’t have a better friend than you.”

I drained my teacup and she caught sight of her reflection in a mirror behind the counter.

“Oh my God. I look such a mess and I’m supposed to be meeting Gareth for lunch. I’ll tell you all about that next time I see you. Thank you, hon, I’ll see you soon!” she stood up and headed for the Ladies, waving back at me. “Have a great Christmas and that present is for you.”

I glanced down at the table as I absently returned the wave, to find a long, thin rectangular parcel with a massive pink bow and ribbon on it, and a Christmas card.

I opened the card. “Thank you for being the absolute best friend ever.” it said and there was an unidentifiable squiggle at the bottom. The only letter I could make out was a capital “L”.

The alarm on my phone went off, reminding me that I’d parked my car in a limited time space and needed to get back to it fast, so I swept the box and card into one of my bags, left a fiver on the table for the extra tea and practically ran out the door.

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