This chapter was written by my friend Sarah who is on my writing course and the exercise was to compose a story between us.
Suddenly, her phone blurted out, “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”. Why was her alarm assaulting her in the middle of the night? Disorientated, she fumbled the noise away and saw that she’d actually been asleep for three hours.
She frog-marched herself into the bijoux en suite, allowing no pity for the chalky face that blared out from the mirror. By the end of the shower, she almost felt able to move out of first gear. In the breakfast room, after orange juice, thin coffee, cardboard toast and paracetamol, she could definitely declare herself to be in second gear at the very least.
Her muscles strained as she pulled open the doors to the conference room and she joined her colleagues behind an ostentatious desk. Crumpled-Suit on her left and Pompous-Smirk on her right traded inanities over her head. She pulled out the relevant material from her briefcase and reminded herself of the requirements and specification for the Regional Manager vacancy.
She struggled to keep herself awake as a succession of forgettable candidates arrived, sold themselves, and left. At two o’clock, there was a single candidate left to grill and she was almost beyond caring if this one would do.
The door had swished and the chair legs scraped before she looked up at the last victim. She felt a whoosh of nausea as she realised that the Gary/Graham from last night was sitting in front of her. He was as cool as a truckload of cucumbers, she noticed, as her heart rate increased.
Fortunately, Crumpled-Suit and Pompous-Smirk were not aware of her silence as they ploughed through the opening questions.
“Mr Winston-Blaine, may we address you as Rupert…”
“Rupert’s perfectly acceptable,” answered Gary/Graham in the poshest English voice she had heard this side of Cambridge. From that moment on the interview felt more and more surreal. The men on either side of her gave satisfied grunts as her squeeze from last night ticked all their boxes.
The final question was hers. “Is there anything you feel we need to know about you which might adversely affect your performance?”
He looked directly into her eyes and replied, “I have an allergy to all nuts. Colleagues would need to be aware that I could go into anaphylactic shock and be instructed in the use of an EpiPen. Otherwise, there are no skeletons in my closet…”
There was nothing she could do. Rupert would be offered the job. She packed up and checked out. The memory of Rupert/Gary/Graham eating the almonds was still haunting her as the grime of Glasgow grew faint in the taxi’s rearview mirror.