Beginning

Beginning

A Chapter by Alice Frances
"

Starting out in life is a b***h

"

An early memory is standing on the pavement outside my parents' house. They lived in a mean little suburb on the fringe of a small city, like so many other mean little suburbs on the fringes of so many small cities. I wasn't long in the world, around two years. My brother and sister were playing a game of hide-and-seek. The rules of the game were simple, they hide, I seek. 


Dutifully (I have always been too dutiful) I clasped my little paws over my eyes and began counting or attempting to count. I heard the siblings titter and scuffle about, and then the sound of their footsteps as they made off, leaving me alone on the pavement, my vision obscured, but bravely counting on.


I heard the garden gate squeak open, and my sister's high-pitched squeal as she dashed out onto the street. Frantic with excitement, I dropped my hands and thrust my tiny body forward, just in time to meet the heavy iron gate as it swung back. Soft bone met hard metal, and before I knew it, I was wearing a gash the length of my forehead.


I must have screamed then because Pops raced out of the house and swept me off the ground. He grabbed a clean tea towel and wrapped it around my head to staunch the flow of blood. Meanwhile, my mother stood by, irritated I think, at the mess dripping onto father's freshly ironed shirt, and onto the carpet in the hall. Father took me to the town hospital in a taxi. They didn't own a car back then.


I came home with twenty stitches in my nut, looking like the child of Frankenstein. Hearing the sound of the car, and then the gate opening, (I suppose), my mother opened the front door and stood in the hallway watching as I toddled up the garden path toward the house. Arriving at the stoop of the porch, I waited for her to bend down and to comfort me, but instead, Mother glared as if I was something the cat dragged in. She stood aside, and my expression must have been pitiful as I entered the long, dark hallway, because I understood right there and then, that Mother didn't like me. It was hard facing that fact, but at least I had Father, or so I thought. That event set the tone for my strange existence, but for now, let me turn to the most recent episode of bullying and harassment, which took place in a small private hospital in another small suburb, on the fringes of another town here on earth.


It was the end of May when I began working at Queen Victoria in Kings Town.  A deceptively bright summer's day, I recall. Prior to that, I had been working in Harley Street, London.  I was an assistant to a psychiatrist of some renown. 


First, let me tell you a bit about that psychiatric hospital in Harley Street. I was glad to have tricked them into giving me the position, having recently been fired from a local law firm. I thought for certain that the vagueness of my appearance and the uncertainty of my sex would go against me, as it had done in the previous position.  I was very enthusiastic at the interview. I sat in that hot little basement office, and I informed them, falsely, that I would work any and all hours that were required to get the job done. 


The two late middle-age doyens of the healthcare industry - listened closely to my enthusiastic comments. Unfortunately, they took these wild sentences to mean that I would, in fact, do unpaid overtime to satisfy my workaholic boss. I blame myself.  After all, this foul misconception was based on my own little white lie.


My boss was a tiny lady of Asian extraction, and I believe also Jewish on her late father's side. She stood at around four and a half feet tall, in appearance, she was not unlike Kim Jong-un. Small, she may have been, but gentle, she was not.  She bore a distinctly ruthless streak, and her ego was larger than the Taj Mahal. It pains me even now to think about it, flying up-and-down that narrow corridor at the drop of a hat, completely at her beck and call. 


Her clinic rooms presented a stark contrast to the dingy den that served as the secretaries' quarters. It was very 'upstairs downstairs'. Each day, Esther greeted her 'clients' in a huge drawing room that looked down onto the street outside the hospital building. The building was architecturally speaking, of late Regency style. 


Into this building, the boss, Ms. Esther Rath climbed each day, and each day, she had a delivery of flowers, sent to her rooms - enormous blooms.  Usually, white lilies, of the very tallest variety, or the finest English roses, or orchids, or some other exotic cast of room floss. These flowers cost a small fortune, but Esther was not foolish. The posh fragrances coming from these floral arrangements impressed her patients no end, and I think enhanced Esther's strong sense of her own importance. 


Unfortunately for me and Angel, the temp, these copious flowers with their insane foliage meant nothing but hard work. Angel or I had to prepare the haughty blooms each day. This involved tearing away the crisp, cellophane wrapping, clipping and trimming the excess foliage and arranging the swines in a heavy glass vase to take to her room. Reams of wrapping paper, sellotape etc had then to be disposed of. The flowery remains took up most of the space in our boxlike quarters, but each day, the pesky flowers stood regally on her antique pedestal table at 10 am sharp. 


Esther relished her own regal bearing, albeit in miniature, and she behaved as if she were a queen or an empress of some sort. I suppose she had every reason to hold herself in such lofty esteem, being one of the most sought-after shrinks in Hourly Street. Her reputation was solid gold in the financial sector where all the broken children worked. 


In the houses of the city, those kids fresh out of college, who couldn't cut the mustard. came knocking on Esther's door.  They were dispatched by the cold company doctors at Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, and all those other big money places.  Angel and I would receive a referral letter in the post, then some kid would turn up in a designer suit whinging about his life.  Needless to say, they didn't last long in the city. Within a few months, their employers would have thrown them on the scrap heap but the smarter ones would have amassed enough dosh to keep going for a few more years. I envied them, with their fox-like madness. 


Meanwhile, I sat in my corner with an enormous filing cabinet behind my neck and my long skinny legs craned under a tiny desk. When Angel was in, we couldn't move around in the office at the same time.  One of us would have to wait until the other sat down, before proceeding hence. The coffee and tea things were kept in a corner hub above the small white company fridge, and next to Esther's huge black microwave.  Each day, Esther had her lunch delivered from a gourmet takeaway company in the neighbourhood. A courier chap, looking like he was about to embark on the tour-de-France would sweep into the office dressed head to foot in high-end bike sportswear.  With great delicacy, he handed the carrier bag to Angel, as though it were a PRADA handbag that needed security checking.  Angel's job was to remove the container from the brown paper bag with the thick cardboard handles, microwave the precious food for precisely one and a half minutes, and deliver the warmed up meal to Esther at exactly 1.30 pm each day, along with a glass of white wine.  Esther didn't always eat her food right away, often she would leave it sitting on her desk with the lingering aroma of Thai fish, or Gourmet chicken Massala getting up the nostrils of her clients.  I thought this was odd, considering how fussy she was about the flowers and all. 


Every morning, before going into work I would head for Regency Park and psych myself up for the ordeal ahead, smoking three or four cigarettes and gazing at the Canadian geese and the Ruddy ducks serenely going about their business.  How I longed to be one of those creatures, nothing to do except exist in their natural surroundings.  At lunchtime, when I could afford to take a lunch, I walked the arid streets, or hung around outside Marley's Bone railway station, studying the pictorial history of the railway mounted on the glazed tile walls.  


After a year of this torture, I was phoning around recruitment agencies asking for rescue. 

 

Then one day, I got a phone call from a lady called Madeline Jones of ‘Par Excellence' informing me about a tasty little job near to where I lived in Toddington, South West London

'You'll like this,' Madeline informed me, 'it's a sweet little hospital stretching back fifty or so years, situated in Kingstown.  That's near to you isn't it?'


'Indeed it is,' I replied, 'what does the job entail?'  And waited for the stock response. 


'Oh, it's a very nice easy job, typing mainly, maybe some call handling.  You’ll be working with a brilliant bunch of secretaries. They're all very nice and have been working there for years and years.  Mature ladies, I would say.' 


'It sounds wonderful.' 


'Want me to put you forward?'


'Please do.'


'The only thing is ...'  Madeline hesitated. 


'Yes?'


'Marguerite .. she's the line manager .. requests that you attend a supper evening with the ladies.  They'd like to meet you in advance if you see what I mean.' 


Inwardly, I balked.  I don't like socialising, and especially not with a bunch of 'mature ladies' .


But I let on to be pleased as punch.  The idea of a nice cushty job around the corner from where I lived was most appealing.  No more sweaty cattle wagon to Waterloo each day.  No more shuffling down flights of escalators on a daily descent into the nine circles of hell. 


'Oh that'd be fine,' I said. 'I'd love to meet the ladies, I'm sure I'll like them all, and I hope they will too.' 


After that, Madeline kept ringing me up and asking me weird questions like, 'Why do you want to leave your current position?' and 'Do you like working in a team?' I assured her that my reason for leaving was simply to eliminate the daily commute, and that yes, of course, I adored team-working and that, yes, the ladies in question sounded lovely, right up my street in fact. 


'If you're sure,' Madeline said. 


'Yes, I'm sure,' I said. 


'Ooo-kay, I'll put you forward then.' 


'Thank you.'


Looking back, I feel sure that Madeline was trying to warn me of the curious danger that lay ahead.  Little did I know it then, but I was about to go from the frying pan into the inferno. 






© 2017 Alice Frances



Author's Note

Alice Frances
please tell me about the voice of the character, mainly, but all comments welcome

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Featured Review

The voice is very well done. The way some things are decribed had me smiling
for example - No more shuffling down flights of escalators on a daily descent into the nine circles of hell.
or this nice little line-She stood at around four and a half feet tall, in appearance, she was not unlike Kim Jong-un.
Its sharp yet a little witty without being over the top. I dont think you need to worry about your voice as i found it fun to read. There were even times when I couldnt wait to see the next creative comment.
This was my favorite-No more sweaty cattle wagon to Waterloo each day.
all you need to do now is have a story to tell and time to write. As long as it is as good as above I think you will have a fine piece of work.

Posted 1 Month Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Alice Frances

1 Month Ago

SR Chaud, thank you so much for your lovely review of my writing, most encouraging,



Reviews

The voice is very well done. The way some things are decribed had me smiling
for example - No more shuffling down flights of escalators on a daily descent into the nine circles of hell.
or this nice little line-She stood at around four and a half feet tall, in appearance, she was not unlike Kim Jong-un.
Its sharp yet a little witty without being over the top. I dont think you need to worry about your voice as i found it fun to read. There were even times when I couldnt wait to see the next creative comment.
This was my favorite-No more sweaty cattle wagon to Waterloo each day.
all you need to do now is have a story to tell and time to write. As long as it is as good as above I think you will have a fine piece of work.

Posted 1 Month Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Alice Frances

1 Month Ago

SR Chaud, thank you so much for your lovely review of my writing, most encouraging,

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Added on October 13, 2017
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Author

Alice Frances
Alice Frances

London, United Kingdom



Writing
Mayhem Mayhem

A Book by Alice Frances