“This must be the worst gig ever” Jenny said to herself, stabbing another pencil into the desk top sharpener. She held the button down forcefully and the blades kicked in. She waited. Six other pencils, already lethally tipped, were symmetrical lined across the counter. She was stuck in this hell hole all summer thanks to her love affair with some Louis Vuittons and casting agents who didn’t know talent when they saw it. Well actually, the butt kick from her mother and her dad’s near fatal heart attack over his credit card bill had forced her into signing on with the employment agency. She tried to wail. She’d stropped. She’d slammed every door and gone back and slammed them again. She’d pulled off the performance of her life with the sudden flow of tears, the anguished howls and almost painful shoulder jerking. Her dad had just looked at her mother, hoisted an eyebrow and gone back to his office, out of earshot.
The sound of a door opening made her look up. She scowled and checked the appointment book, Edgar & Edna Smith, 3.30pm. She plucked out some gloves from a box on the desk. They paid a fortune for hand doubles, she couldn’t be too careful.
Edgar hadn’t mentioned the appointment to her. There was no point, she’d only get herself worked up and he didn’t want her fretting. He hated when she got herself upset, he always had. Edna cried at everything, emotional pearl drops that marked an occasion. She’d cried at the station before he shipped off. She cried at the letters he wrote from the front. He hadn’t told her it all. Not of the blood and the horror or the bodies that were maimed and broken in two. She’d cried when the children came. Then she’d cried at each stage of life that they grew. She’d cried when the youngest was taken and killed, and when she looked at his body on the cold marble slab. She didn’t know Edgar had cried then too. She’d cried when the cancer came and disfigured her body. She would always be beautiful to him. He’d cried on his own when she got the all clear. It was hard to admit things were really so bad but the dementia was stealing her quicker than they thought. He had to be strong and do what was best.
It was 4 ‘o’ clock when the old couple left. Jenny was muttering about boring old people and them not knowing about life, as the tannoy rang out ‘Susan Malone’. Jenny looked across at the middle aged women in the plain navy skirt. I bet she’s a school teacher, has 17 cats and thinks a bikini wax is bottled by sunbathing beekeepers. Jenny sharpened another pencil.
Susan swallowed down the acid burning in her throat. She’d already sat in the car for half an hour outside, trying to hold onto the tiny bit of courage she still had. She only ever had little bits of courage. She wished she’d had the courage to tell Paul it was his fault he hadn’t got the job, when he’d hit her that first time. Or the courage to tell him that the other driver was right when he’d broken three of her ribs when they got home that night. If only she’d had the courage to say it was his fault when he spent all the money on the casino online. That was the night she lost the baby she carried, he pushed her from the top step and she couldn’t hold on. She wished she’d had the courage to tell him to go when the other woman’s husband barged through the front door. But today she was going to hold onto that courage, she had to. She needed the jabs for the trip she was planning, her new life with Brian. She wouldn’t need courage to tell Paul she was going, she’d just leave a note and her wedding ring on the table.
Jenny flipped off the computer when the school teacher left. She scrapped the last flecks of lead shrapnel into the bin and reached for the glossy mag she’d been reading all day. She didn’t notice the bold font tagline that read ‘Life is a stage and we all play a part’.
Photo from : jackiewalker.me