Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Chapter One...A Work in Progress

"No, Ore-gano. Oregano." Emma mouthed into her iphone as she pulled into the FastTech carpark.

"What is that?" Came the reply.

Emma closed her eyes in exasperation, remembering that she was actually driving a car she snapped them open before she rammed the shiny new volvo that was coming towards her. Putting her other hand up to say sorry whilst still speaking to Becca on the phone caused the driver to look alarmed before before rounding the corner and driving away from her quickly. Driving never had been one of her strong points; she was distracted far too easily.

"It's a herb Becca, you'll find it in one of the aisles of the supermarket that doesn't have wine down it."

"Oh, no wonder I don't know what it is then."

Emma heard her flatmate giggle down the phone, and wondered for a brief moment whether it was possible that Becca had actually poured wine on her cornflakes that morning.

"Okay, have you got that?" Emma asked, slotting her beat up Renault Clio in between Steve's Mazda and Amelda's gleaming Alfa Romeo. Clearly her work colleagues were far more eager to get into FastTech this morning, Emma was more eager about getting out.

"Yep. Beef mince, lean, tomatoes, firm, Oregano, green..."

As Becca began repeating back the shopping list of ingredients for Spaghetti Bolognese Emma looked up at the FastTech offices and felt that familiar feeling crash over her like a wave, another dull day, in a dull building, doing a dull job that she resented but kept her in wine. It wasn't that FastTech weren't a good company to work for but whilst at university Emma had higher hopes. However, graduating in the middle of the worst recession for decades hadn't been what she was expecting and with rent money hanging over her head and the only thing to eat in the flat being a can of mouldy baked beans her career in Events Management had never quite materialised and she'd taken the job at FastTech before she'd ended up eating her own arm.
And now here she was, two years later at the age of twenty four and doing a job where she was abused by customers on a headset for eight hours everyday and her boss was somewhere between completely psycho and oddly friendly.

"...I think that's everything, right? Emma?" Becca was waiting for a reply on the end of the line.

"Shit, sorry. Yes, that's right. Do you think you can get all of that?"

"No problem. Thanks so much for doing this Em, I do really appreciate it."

"It's fine, I'm looking forward to it, see you later."

Emma put the phone down and experienced a little frisson of excitement. Cooking was the only thing that excited her anymore, (okay, so she didn't currently have a boyfriend) and living with a culinary distaster as a flatmate meant that every night,when she walked out of the FastTech office at 5pm she would get to spend the next two hours surrounded by the fragrance of fresh herbs, feel the £100 carving knife that she had treated herself to one Christmas slice through onions and glide through chicken breast and smile at the satisfaction she got from seeing Becca's eyes light up when she put down two plates of steaming, perfectly arranged and deliciously scented food in front of them. There was something so warm and fuzzy about cooking for people, everyone was happier when they had a tummy full of nice food and Emma loved being the one to make them feel like it.

First though, she had to get through today. Jolting her out of her happy place there was a knock on her car window, Glenda was waving franticly at her from underneath a bright pink umbrella dotted with giant purple flowers. Emma buzzed the window down.

"Morning Emma, love. Are you coming in? It's frightful out here."

Glenda was a short woman, in her early 50's, she had a kind face and had worked for FastTech for twenty five years, if you asked her she would explain that after her first child was born she had taken the job part time to bring in a little extra money and had simply become so comfortable there that she'd never left. The idea that she might never leave made Emma want to throw up on herself.

"Morning Glenda. On my way. Is there room under that umbrella of yours?" Emma couldn't help but be nice to Glenda, she meant well and unlike some of the other cretins in the office she did genuinely care about everyone.

"Of course dear, come on." Glenda smiled down at her.

They huddled together underneath the umbrella and shuffled across the car park, Emma could feel the cold February sleet seeping into the back of her tights and once inside the building it was no warmer. Janet, the boss, insisted on only having the office heating on for an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon in order to watch "over spending", in the meantime they all wore fifteen jumpers and tried to hide the fact that they'd swapped their heels for Ugg boots underneath their desks.

Emma waved goodbye to Glenda, who's cubicle was further down the open plan office and made her way to her own desk. Covered with stray pieces of paper, sales targets and the precious Customer Care Bible she checked out her damp hair in the black computer screen, even with Glenda's umbrella her dark blonde hair had flattened itself against her scalp in protest at the drizzle outside and the fact that it hadn't been cut in months. She really should get round to that. Becca had been frowning at her every time she walked into a room for weeks. A beautician herself, Becca always looked immaculate and frowned upon women who didn't care about their appearance with the same overwhelming attention to detail that she did.

Switching on her computer Emma began her morning routine of sifting through the papers left in her in-tray from Friday, when she had beat a hasty retreat from the office, the fact that it was the weekend and the opportunity to spend it blending flavours in their pokey kitchen and burying her nose in cookery books had become too much to resist and she had practically sprinted out of the office at 5pm. The now awake computer screen flashed up and announced 'Good Morning' to her before changing to the FastTech logo on her desktop, it had been of Patrick Dempsey with his shirt off but Janet had told her it was "inappropriate" for the office before staring at for a little bit too long.

FastTech were a computer software company, who specialised in "helping people" who werent IT literate, Emma, IT illilterate herself couldn't for the life of her understand why she had gotten the job. Had she thought about it more carefully, Geoffrey, the manager at the time, now sailing around the Med on his yacht 'Beyonce', was a bit of a ladies man and had been desperate to have some young blood in the office, when Emma had walked into the interview wearing her smart black suit she'd only ever worn once to a funeral, he had taken in her softly curled blonde hair, her moss green eyes and the air of eagerness surrounding her and had hired her on the spot. Grateful that she'd to both pay rent AND eat that month Emma had been too overjoyed to even realise that she'd be taking calls from confused and angry people all day who would need her to explain how to open up an internet window. She had been at FastTech for two years now and even though she had a cubicle (at the beginning she'd had to share a desk with fat Brian who liked to bring Egg and Cress sandwiches to work...everyday!) she couldn't see herself hanging around long enough to graduate to actual office status.

Hovering the mouse over the internet window she breifly considered whether to open up Facebook but a quick glance at the clock told her it was only 9:28am, she could wait until at least 10am before stalking all of the people she went to university with and weeping at how their lives has turned out in comparision to hers.

"Right, Morning all. Can I have some attention please?"

Janet's overly loud voice could be heard from the canteen on the third floor nevermind the entire office. Sliding down in her swivel chair Emma tried to hide from view, Janet probably wouldn't be able to see her anyway, at just a little over 5ft Janet suffered from small person complex and was always convinced people were talking down to her (excuse the pun), in turn she treated everyone with as little respect as she could making sure that everyone knew that she was the boss, even if what she was saying wasn't right. Having stood up for Glenda once after over-hearing Janet berate her for walking through the office too slowly Emma was now officially on her 'Naughty List' so it was best to keep her head down.

"As you all know, with the financial situation the way it is FastTech has been struggling over the last couple of months," A tension filled hush fell over the office floor as everyone tried not to think about the word 'redundancy' "I don't want you all to panic, as far as I'm aware there are to be no redundancies in this sector," A little of the tension ebbed away and Emma was surrounded by sighs of relief, "however, if it comes to it that and redundancies do have to be made I will obviously have to follow through with it, therefore I will be keeping a close eye on your work over the coming weeks. Thank you."

Janet turned on her heel, six inch, not that it helped, and slammed the door of her tiny office with finesse. Within seconds Glenda was over at her desk.

"Oh Emma, do you think we'll be alright? I'd never cope if I was made redundant, Trevor and I are thinking about buying a timeshare in Spain." Glenda fiddled nervously with the giant beaded necklace around her neck.

"I'm sure it will be fine Glenda, don't worry. And hey, if it does happen you'll have more time to spend in that lovely timeshare." Emma smiled up at her kindly as a new email notification popped up in the corner of her computer screen. Her stomach sprouted butterflies.

"I suppose it would be nice to spend more time with the Grandchildren." Glenda smiled, not very convincingly and shuffled off back to her desk before psycho Janet saw.

Emma hovered the mouse over her inbox, enjoying the anticipation of not knowing what the email was going to say but knowing full well who it was from. Michael. She clicked and it sprung open.

From: michaelhouldcroft@fasttech.co.uk
To: emmamidland@fasttech.co.uk

Subject: Important Business...

I know what colour your knickers are ;)

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