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Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Comedy · #920984
more sordid stuff in chap. 3 - just added.

Being caught with your pants down is probably not the best way to make a first impression, Lena reflected.

But then it had been a toss up between ultra low-rise denim and orange lycra that morning, and although the back office at Bigelow and Sons, Purveyors of Fine Spirits, had turned out to be surprisingly informal, she doubted that her tangerine catsuit would be considered appropriate work attire. Perhaps she needed to explain the concept of laundry again to Tom, a.k.a. boyfriend.

So she’d decided on the figure-hugging jeans and was feeling relatively optimistic about getting to work on time. She’d found shoes. Hair was short, bleached and easy this summer. Make-up was just a bit of powder to ward of ‘Rudolph nose’; Tom had gradually weaned her off three coats of mascara and eyeliner, convincing her to ‘celebrate the innate beauty of luminous rainforest-green eyes’. She’d started to notice that his compliments tended to be hackneyed even when he was sober.

An increasingly frantic search through the bedroom and the laundry basket revealed that a purple bra and a lurid red g-string with the words ‘Sex Addict’ emblazoned on the front were the only other clean items of clothing she currently possessed. Forced to improvise, Lena convinced herself that if she buttoned up her pinstripe jacket and hid the coffee-stain on her shoulder with the oversized aubergine rosette, nobody would notice that about 75% of her bottom was hanging out.

The corporate headquarters of Bigelow and Sons were housed in a quiet part of Glasgow’s West End, where most of the pseudo-Greek residences had been transformed into accountancy and interior design firms. In keeping with the historical setting, Bigelow and Sons had opted not to install anything as uncouth as proper ventilation, so Lena spent most of the day sweltering in the attic where junior employees were hidden from view. Her main task consisted of stuffing envelopes, destined to be sent to Bigelow & Sons’ select, but unfortunately dwindling, list of clients. When Tom phoned and mumbled something about probably getting home at three a.m., she decided it was the perfect opportunity to catch up on some paperwork.

At seven, everyone except Charlie the night-guard had left the building, so she kicked off her shoes, threw her sweat-stained jacket on a chair, popped some buttons on what she was now willing to admit were ridiculously tight jeans, and ran to the kitchen where she attempted to stick most of her upper body under the cold tap. God that felt good…

Not bothering to dry off, she ambled back to the office and switched on the radio which staff-members were grudgingly permitted to use after office hours. Lena sat down in front of one of the steel monoliths containing the backlog of correspondence and started on the lowest shelf –customer complaints from 1953. Humming to herself, she became so engrossed in the monthly remonstrations from the Kirkcaldy Temperance League that the sudden tap on her shoulder startled her enough to make her leap up. She grabbed the nearest blunt object with defensive potential, which turned out to be a miniature stapler.

Lena focused on what could only be described as one of the most outstanding examples of the corporate male she had ever seen. He simply radiated profit-making potential. Everything, from the tailored charcoal suit to the overly coiffed dark hair just screamed Capitalism. Glancing at his face, she noticed that he was focusing intently on her crotch.
         “Sex addict?” he articulated, raising an eyebrow.
Ah, yes. Her state of undress. Her inner prude considered whether to dive for her jacket or scramble underneath a desk. Her inner feminist, who had recently surfaced during `Modernism and the Politics of Gender` tutorials with a passionately butch lecturer, insisted that she had every right to be here, regardless of her state of undress. He, however, was a complete stranger.

Remembering something about a confident attitude scaring off rapists, she squared her shoulders. Unfortunately, that only seemed to prompt her would-be attacker to glance up at her bra.
         “When you’re done staring at my cleavage, would you mind telling me who you are and what you are doing here?” she glared, trying her best to sound intimidating.
He glanced up at her face.
         “Not at all. My name is Adam Greaves and I’m looking for the boardroom.”
Lena dialled reception and switched to intercom.
         “Are you there, Charlie?” she demanded.
         “Affirmative, hen.” Charlie responded.
         “Is there supposed to be an Adam Greaves in the building?” Lena demanded.
         “I should bloody well think so,” Charlie chuckled, “seeing that as of tomorrow he runs the place.”
Lena’s mouth formed a silent o.
         “He’s the new chairman,” Charlie added.
The urge to fall into a black hole increased.
         “Has he found the boardroom yet? If not, be a doll and show him how to get there.”
Lena released the button on her phone.
         “I’m afraid you have the advantage over me, miss…?” the corporate suit enquired.
         “Lena. Lena Young. I’m really sorry,” she rambled, “it’s just that it’s been so hot in here all day and I thought nobody was in the building and I don’t normally dress like this at work…”
         “Don’t worry about it,” he interrupted. “The boardroom?”
He turned and waited while Lena struggled into her jacket. She rushed down the corridor, frantically wondering how to convince this man she wasn’t a closet exhibitionist. He managed to keep up with long, economical strides and remained silent.
         “We’re here,” she said, stopping in front of an imposing set of oak doors, marked Boardroom.
         “So I see. Thank you, Lena Young, for your memorable assistance,” Adam Greaves said, bowing slightly. “Good night.”
With that, he slipped into the boardroom and firmly shut the door.


Pouring boiling water onto coffee granules the next morning, Lena recounted the entire story to Aurelie, Bigelow and Sons’ consistently immaculate management trainee, who smiled pityingly.

Aurelie was rumoured to have a sweet disposition once she chose to allow you to see behind her carefully constructed façade, but she was very selective about whom she deemed worthy. Lena, after a month on probation, had been considered inept enough to become an unsuspecting Eliza to Aurelie’s Doctor Higgins, and meeting for Nescafe in the staff kitchen had become a daily habit. Tom, on the other hand, had once sat next to Aurelie at a dinner party and had refused to go to anywhere near a French-speaking nation on their forthcoming backpacking trip.

Aurelie was the first graduate trainee to grace the confines of Bigelow and Sons. The position had been specifically created for her, all because of Antoine.

Antoine was a carefree young Adonis with self-indulgent chocolate eyes, frivolously long eyelashes, delightfully immoral features and the ability to look decidedly macho in pink lambswool.

Antoine and Aurelie should marry and have four children, three cars, an apartment in Paris and a small farm near Nice, Aurelie had decided at age fifteen.

Antoine was apprised of this at a particularly tedious garden party, where his rampant pubescence had urged him to follow the entertaining little waif into a secluded gazebo. Aurelie had taken great pains to ensure they would be discovered by an easily scandalised aunt.

Antoine was hastily introduced to her parents, and expected to come home every weekend from his Finance studies in Paris.

Antoine was also introduced to a succession of bird-boned women - aunts, cousins and an octogenarian matriarch –raven-haired like Aurelie, constantly assessing, and inclined to use their sharp little mouths to maim with cruelly accurate observations. He was expected to spend his summers at the family retreat near Saint-Estèphe.

Antoine was discovered lapping up a dollop of crème Anglaise from the mayor’s wife’s equally creamy buttocks.

Antoine had hoped that being discovered en flagrante with the mayor’s wife would extract him from what had become an increasingly stifling engagement. But Aurelie had merely smiled.

Antoine was certain that he was destined for great things, and, as he carefully explained to Aurelie, some time abroad with a reputable merchant bank would be highly beneficial to his career and their future together.

Some time abroad would mean that he would be able to afford the 16th arrondisement apartment with the bay windows and the view of the Seine which Aurelie had begun to admire.

Scotland had not been his first choice, but his father had pointed out the appeal of golf, single malt whisky, well-appointed country retreats and inebriated redheads. He had started to look forward to his exile.

Aurelie had not cried when Antoine broke the news of his imminent departure. Instead, her father, oenologist and supplier of the only wines deemed respectable enough to be distributed by Bigelow and Sons, had been encouraged to courteously, but unremittingly, insist that it was the responsibility of Bigelow junior, old friend and recipient of many special discounts over the past 30 years, to find suitable employment for a young lady.

This was not to suggest that Aurelie lacked the proper education for a career in management. She had a degree in marketing from a reputable French business school, spoke five languages, and could probably network in a Siberian morgue.
It was just that Bigelow and Sons had been quietly doing business in the same manner since 1830, and had never troubled themselves with group synergy, out-of-the-box-thinking or viral marketing. They demanded very little from their ambitious young trainee, which left her with far too much time to exercise her most honed skill.
Office Politics.

         “So the new boss thinks you are wanton,” Aurelie counted, using her long fingers, “inept, unthreatening and incapable of coherent speech.”
         “Probably,” Lena sighed, taking a sip of lukewarm Nescafe, “but I’m not going to stay for much longer anyway.”
         “Ah, yes,” Aurelie said. “Your backpacking trip. During which you are not going to experience the delight of foreign culture, because your boyfriend,” a moue marking her distaste, ”will only travel in the Commonwealth - which, I should add, he thinks is North America, New Zealand and South Africa. He mistakenly believes that he will only meet civilised people this way. He is also too lazy to learn foreign languages. And he hopes to come across a McDonald’s everywhere he goes.”
         “He has a lot of food allergies,” Lena protested weakly. If she was honest, she was starting to get a bit dejected about the trip. Dreams of Aztec pyramids and Taiwanese skyscrapers had gradually eroded from Tom’s passive resistance to set foot in four-fifths of the world’s nations. And it seemed to be getting worse: he had flat out refused to try Glasgow’s newest sushi place.

It had seemed like a great idea a year ago. After a night in the pub and a curry take-away they’d decided that a trip around the world would really cement their commitment to their relationship. It would keep them focused during the all-nighters which became increasingly frequent as final exams approached. With Coquilles Saint-Jacques a la Provençale to look forward to, she could live with canned Macaroni and cheese three times a week. Stuffing envelopes all summer in a windowless attic was almost bearable if it meant she would soon be walking hand-in-hand on a sun-drenched beach.

First ‘Plant Life in Costa Rica’ had disappeared from the bookshelf in the toilet, leaving a gap between ‘Mad Keith’s Guide to Wanganui’ and ‘Florida Spring Break Uncovered - the Illustrated Guide’. The postcard that her aunt had sent her from Finland had vanished from the fridge door. Nine Moroccan tea glasses broke when Tom had been doing the washing-up and “a giant rat ran through the kitchen” and knocked him off his feet. She wondered about that sometimes. Tom usually only rinsed what he needed, leaving the debris of his midnight munchies to accumulate in the sink.

         “I think you should stay and consider the opportunities that will develop,” Aurelie interrupted her thoughts. “There will be a demand for impressionable young graduates.”
         “Maybe. I’m just curious why you are not surprised about the new chairman,” Lena said.
         “Because I’ve known about it since March.”
         “Nobody told me anything about it.”
         “That is because he only accepted the job yesterday afternoon,” Aurelie shrugged.
         “But why --”
         “Because, unlike most people I do not have the astuteness of an earworm. Consider the facts,” Aurelie counted on her fingers again, ”Bigelow junior has had two strokes. Two: the firm has to stay in the family, but his daughters prefer religion, Russian playboys, and paediatric surgery to running a slumbering emporium. Three: the only remotely suitable relative is the grandson of Samuel ‘the philanderer’ Bigelow, who emigrated to Canada in 1925 and made a fortune shipping Scotch to California during the Prohibition. Adam Greaves doesn’t smoke, has degrees from Princeton and Harvard, is kind to his mother and might save this place from bankruptcy. Four: summer is the best time to introduce changes. People are lulled by two days of sunshine and two weeks on the Costa del Sol, and are more likely to believe in the bright new future management is about to hit us with."
         “And you know all this because--” Lena asked, stupefied.
Aurelie smiled and removed a microscopic speck of fluff from the sleeve of her lavender chemise. “I pay attention.”

Lena considered this while she went down to the lobby to pick up the mail. Fair enough, she did tend to daydream her way through this job, but a steady flow of innocuous gossip was about the only incentive Bigelow had to offer its workforce, and people seemed to like telling her things. Most of the staff had been with the firm for more than twenty years, and like any group of relative strangers forced to get along with each other on a daily basis, it thrived on spite, hearsay and indirect accusation. And yet, nobody else, not even Archie, had hinted that Bigelow Junior had finally handed over the reigns.

By day, the lobby was the exclusive domain of Archibald Finlay Hunter, security guard, committed chain-smoker, occasional socialist and inveterate gossip.

Archie had been a fixture behind the reception desk for more than 25 years, except during the summer of 1989 when Bigelow Junior decided that customers would prefer to be greeted by someone with class, refinement, and rather less hair protruding from his ears.

The first young lady lasted a week.

The second never returned form her lunch break.

The third was somewhat more robust than her predecessors and not at all intimidated by the leering bulk of security guard who paced the black-and-white lobby tiles incessantly and suffered from a chronic case of flatulence. She had seemed well on her way to becoming a permanent fixture, so Archie’s only recourse had been to make an honest, pregnant woman of her and install her in a tidy wee flat in Paisley.

Archie himself had never showed an inclination to retire, and had dedicated himself to projecting an aura of tranquil vigilance from behind the reception desk. He would rise every hour to amble outside and recline against one of the pillars which framed the front door, and enjoy a smoke whilst exchanging titbits of information with the other nicotine addicts.

Archie was ruler absolute of the lobby, a dark, uninviting place where generations of dour Bigelows glared down at intrepid visitors from the confines of oil on canvas.
Unfortunately the lobby provided the only entrance into the Bigelow premises, and staff and guests alike had no choice but to suffer Archie’s rigorous scrutiny.

Now, as she descended down the last few steps and encountered Archie’s grin, Lena recognised that she had never fully appreciated how hardworking a word lascivious actually was. This grin simply oozed sleaziness.

         “So the boss caught you with your pants down, you wee minx,” Archie smiled triumphantly. “I always figured you as a bit of a goer, but it turns out you’re also one of them scheming career women who sleep their way to the top.”
         “That’s not exactly what happened,” she tried to explain. “I was hot --”
         “You can say that again,” Archie leered.
         “No! I mean it was hot. Yes. The weather was hot.”
One fat hairy caterpillar of an eyebrow crept upwards on Archie’s forehead.
         “And everyone had gone so I decided to cool off and take off some clothes.”
The other eyebrow decided to be neighbourly and joined its predecessor.
         “Look, I didn’t expect anybody in the building. Least of all the new boss! I didn’t know there was a new boss! Nobody told me!”
         “Yes, well, we didn’t think you would be interested seeing as you are deserting us and running off with that sorry excuse for a man,” Archie huffed.
         “He’s my boyfriend!” Lena exclaimed. “And I’m not deserting you, this is just a summer job. I never said I was going to stay for longer.”
         “Noooooo, you’d rather gallivant around America with that good-for-nothing idiot who can’t tell his head from his arse.”
         “I don’t think you should be talking like that about the man I love,” Lena said, narrowing her eyes.
         “You listen to me,” Archie glared. “I’m just looking out for your best interests. That man is no good for a fine girl like yourself. I’ve seen him.”
         “What do you mean?” Lena asked.
         “In the park. Out front, when I’m having a smoke.” Archie reclined his ample body slightly but kept his eyes locked on hers. “He’s in there with a different girl almost every day. Starts out innocently. He gets there around eleven and sits with his guitar.”
         “He’s writing new songs,” Lena said.
         “Of course he is. That’s probably what he tells himself as well. He starts strumming that thing and looking like a lost puppy and before you know it there’s some girl sitting on his lap and examining his tonsils with her tongue.”
Lena blinked.
         “He has a liking for the foreign ones in particular. Yesterday it was some Chinese-looking lassie. The day before a pretty little thing from India.”
         “That can’t be Tom,” Lena protested, choosing to ignore Archie’s archaic opinions on Glasgow’s multi-cultural female population for now. “He won’t even travel to any foreign countries.”
         “Probably because his trouser snake will have no peace,” Archie said.
         “I don’t believe you.”
         “You just come back this afternoon then and I’ll show you that your man doesn’t even make the effort to cheat on you behind your back,” Archie offered. “And then you can decide to stay with us and have a proper career. You’re probably smart enough to get ahead without sleeping with the boss.”


There was a meeting at ten thirty; Adam Greaves was formally introduced by a beaming Bigelow junior, who only reached to Adam Greaves’ shoulder but nevertheless patted the hand of the Ivy League scholar in an indulgingly paternal manner, until his grim secretary took him by the elbow and escorted him to his chair. Adam Greaves took one step toward his audience, smiled perfunctorily, and proceeded to introduce himself in the clipped, careful manner of the seasoned corporate executive. Aurelie nodded approvingly.

Lena, seated next to her, was pretending to be listening to the perfunctory speech about a 'fresh new direction while safeguarding a legacy', and 'people being a key asset', all the while pondering about Archie’s claims. Well, outright lies of course.

Tom wouldn’t do this to her.

Not Tom.

Not the awkward poet who’d crooned ‘Lovely Lena from Linlithgow’ a week after they’d met at the student union where he was performing with his band, Prozac Anecdote.
Not Tom, who used to walk her home after her shifts as a barmaid and would stay up to watch old screwball comedies with her.

Not Tom, who wanted her to write his biography when he was famous, because she would be a famous rock journalist and accompany him on all his world tours.

She bit her thumbnail absentmindedly, letting the last few months play like a movie on a screen inside her head. Now if she chose to believe Archie -- and she didn’t -- then sure, there had been some changes in Tom’s behaviour. He’d been away more often, saying he had to practise with his band. He seemed tired, distant from her - but again, she put that down to the practice sessions.

Polite clapping interrupted her thoughts. Automatically, she joined. ‘What are we applauding for?’ she asked Aurelie.
         “It’s the end of the meeting. Come with me. Time for damage control.” Aurelie gracefully rose from the folding chair and inauspiciously elbowed her way through the throng to thrust her hand out to Adam Greaves, who had no choice but to shake it and respond to her radiant smile. Lena had lingered behind, not looking forward to some caustic comment about her behaviour last night, but Aurelie cast around and grabbed her shoulder, yanking her into their little circle.
         “And you’ve met Lena of course. You know she is a little eccentric, but all those creative types have their little quirks. She is fabulously out of the box, of course. Great networker. Completely cross-functional.”

To his credit, Adam Greaves didn’t say a thing about last night, but carried on listening to Aurelie and almost seemed to be willing to believe her spin on what Lena considered her well-intentioned, but chaotic approach to life. Lena was just about to open her mouth and add something incredibly businesslike and intelligent when Archie sidled up to her, and in an awful stage whisper declared: “Come on! It’s time! We’ll hide in the bushes and see about that hanky panky!”

Ten minutes later they were strategically hidden from sight behind some shrubs. Archie had also brought his fishing stool and had selected a large black oak to rest his back against while Lena crouched uncomfortably beside him.

         “Any minute now hen, he’ll be sitting down there with his guitar and they’ll be coming at him like flies to honey,” he glared accusingly at the lone park bench. It looked entirely innocuous and slightly forlorn, a tiny plaque dedicating the bench to Doris, well-loved wife of Hamish. “You’ll see I’m not lying. You’ll see he’s a bastard. And I wish I’d brought my camera.”

Lena was just about to remind him that this was her love life, and not some soap opera put on for his amusement, when he shushed her. “Be quiet, he’s coming over here.”

Tom was indeed wandering over, whistling his latest ballad - one he had been working on for three years now and was sure to be Prozac Anecdote’s breakthrough hit. He didn’t have a title yet, but he’d explained to her that the lyrics would be about all the heartache he’d experience if she ever decided to leave him.

“I would simply not exist anymore. You, Lena,” he’d slurred slightly, “give me my right to exist. You fill up the empty shell that is me. Without you, us, I have no meaning. Life has no meaning.” He’d stared into his empty beer glass. “I would be cold and empty and meaningless. Empty. Cold. Meaningless. Purposeless. Like this glass.”

She’d tried comforting him and stayed up with him, knowing that she had to be up at seven while he would snore away blissfully, sprawled out on their bed like a consumptive angel.

Now he sprawled on the bench. He took out his sheet music from his satchel and placed the stack beside him, using the keychain Lena had given him last Christmas as a paperweight. He then picked up his guitar, and head down, long tawny hair falling over his face, started picking out some notes until, softly sweet, a melody appeared. To avoid being mistaken for a busker, he would stop playing and make a note on the sheet music whenever a passer-by would stop to listen - head down, avoiding eye contact and seemingly lost in the music.

Until a blonde passed by.

Tom glanced up, made eye contact, and quickly looked down again. Slim, wearing a flimsy gypsy skirt and a pale green cardigan, she faltered in her steps and looked down. At the exact moment she dared to glance at the young guitarist again, Tom caught her eyes. He held them, compellingly, and stopped playing.

“Your music is very beautiful,” she offered, a soft twinge of an accent adding to her charm.
         “Thank you,” Tom whispered hoarsely. He cleared his throat. “Thank you. It’s very nice of you to say so. I know it needs a lot of work. I mean, it’s not very good,” he smiled shyly.
         “Oh no,” the girl protested. “It’s wonderful. Such a beautiful melody.”

She sat down impulsively. “It’s very sweet.”
         “Thank you,” Tom replied. Now his smile was a little more assured. “Do you play music? You obviously have a very good ear.”

No, she shook her head. But she loved listening to music, all kinds of music. And, in response to Tom’s further questions, she told him that her name was Catharina, that she was German, that she was attending a summer school at the university and this was her final day in Glasgow. But yes - she did have some time to stay and listen to his music, and how sad that it was about lost love and how this makes you feel. And yes, she would love to tell him something about herself – perhaps - no it was too much - but yes perhaps, to inspire him, and he would be able to add some lyrics to his melody, and he would dedicate it to her, Catharina, from Dusseldorf Tom was slightly disappointed to learn -- but he could always change it to Caring Catharina from Cologne.

And she told him a story, of how she had loved a boy named Markus when she was seventeen, but she wanted to study and he wanted her to stay in their hometown, and she still missed him terribly but she knew she had made the right decision. And Tom agreed about how hard love was, plucking at the strings and trying a few lines of song, as she drew nearer to him, mesmerized by his infinite understanding, and how he put her pain into words and song, until he set his guitar aside, reached for her, and she went willingly, into his arms, for a tender kiss.

“Touch down!” Archie roared, jumping off his fishing chair and storming out of the bushes. “We’ve got you now ye cheating little shite!” He grinned down triumphantly at the entangled Tom who didn’t understand where this hairy octogenarian had appeared from; let alone why he was interrupting love’s innocent first kiss, and was now starting to poke him in the chest with a nicotine-stained finger. “You really think you’re the dog’s bo--, barometer, don’t you, with your long hair and your – guitar!” Archie spat. ”Well let me tell you pal, we’ve got you sussed! Seducing foreign chicks when you’ve got a lovely lass at home taking care of you and worshipping you. Hah! Well no more! Aye, you know she’s on to you now. You and your sleazy ways!” Archie stood up, coming up for air. “You're out, you're finished, she’s staying with us and that’s final.” He folded his arms defiantly.

All through this tirade, Lena had remained crouched in the bushes, staring at a patch of brown mulch.

Archie had been right.

Tom had been cheating on her.

Tom hadn’t been honest.

Tom was cheating pond-scum.

All that time, all that bloody time she’d spent listening to him, caring for him, changing for him. Trying to make him happy.

There wasn’t going to be a trip.

She wasn’t going to be his wife and famous rock journalist and write his biography. There weren't going to be five children and three dogs and a parrot named Keith.

There was just stupid Lena.

Silly, stupid, gullible, trusting Lena.

“Stop hiding in the bushes lass and confront the cheating liar,” Archie hauled her out and set her on her feet. “Tell him,” Archie pointed at Tom. “Tell him what a no good bastard he is.”

Lena looked at Tom.

“Tell him he’s not fit to lick yer boots,” Archie instructed.

She really looked at Tom now, looked him in the eyes, burrowing deeply into all the places he kept inside him.

“Tell him he’s not fit to lick yer dirty plates,” Archie added, a bit taken aback by Lena’s lack of response.

But Lena finally saw now, vision blurred by impending tears, the places where Tom hid his insecurities and his fears. She saw what he had been, what he had become through her, and now, as she was letting him go, what he really was.

“Slap him!” Archie bellowed, frustrated by the lack of drama. “Show him yer rage, yer anger! He is a cheat and a liar! Don’t just stand there! Slap him!”

Lena lifted her hand, slowly, trancelike, and dropped it again.

“When I come home tonight your stuff is gone,” she said quietly.

“Lena, I…” Tom protested.

“No Tom. Just…. no. No more.” And Lena turned and fled, right through the park, tears flowing freely now -- just ran away, great sobs going through her body.

Ran further, across the road, into the hall with all the dour Bigelows frowning down at her incredible gullibility - and she continued running, hands covering her face, and ran, ran until she found the most remote toilet cubicle she could find and slid onto the floor and howled.

Howled for poor stupid Lena, who believed in happily ever after, and lanky boys with long hair and warbling voices who promised her the moon and the stars with a cherry on top.

Finally, spent, she looked up to find Aurelie standing next to her.

”Move over,” Aurelie motioned.

Lena made room for her, and watched as Aurelie sat down on the lid of the toilet and crossed her legs. Her eyes didn’t leave Lena’s blotched features while she extracted an unopened packet of Marlboros from her purse. She removed the wrapper and withdrew a cigarette, which she stuck between her lips and lit with an impossibly slim lighter. She dragged on it heavily and watched with Lena at the smoke trailing upwards. Extracting it from between her lips, she held it out to Lena.

“I don’t smoke,” Lena said.

“I know,” Aurelie nodded. “I don’t smoke either. But sometimes….” She shrugged and withdrew the cigarette from Lena’s reach. Leaning back on the cool porcelain she continued her inspection of Lena’s face. “Have you thought about what you want to do?”

Lena shook her head.

“You need to make some plans Lena. Real plans.”

“I know.”

“Do you want to stay in Glasgow?”

Lena turned her head towards Aurelie. “I haven’t thought about that yet. I figured I’d be on a plane soon.”

“Put your stuff in storage and come stay with me. Stay. But get yourself together.” She leaned closer, her incessant eye contact slightly unnerving to Lena. “And think, Lena. Really think about what you want. Because every day you live from now on is supposed to get you closer to what you want. Nothing else is important.”

“I don’t know what to say, what to think,” Lena moaned brokenly.

Aurelie stood, stubbed out the barely-smoked cigarette and smoothed down her creaseless skirt. She stepped over Lena and seemed to be leaving her to her sorrows, before she paused and turned. It wasn’t disgust that defined her features, but something entirely more complex. A mixture of pity and compassion perhaps, steeled by her own innate need to confront and solve, rather than wallow. Again, she fixed her stare on Lena.

“You’re a smart girl if you put your mind to it. But you need to think about yourself now. No more living on borrowed daydreams.”

She’s right, Lena thought.

I’m not even crying over losing Tom – I’m crying about being silly, stupid, gullible Lena.

© Copyright 2004 Miss_JoJo (miss_jojo at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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