(published 29th October 2018)
‘I’m not lost for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.’
A. A. Milne, Winnie The Pooh
Trevor watched as Chrissie went to make another cup of tea. Green tea with honey, always. He watched her squeak out a “Hhehh” when a colleague walked past, which he presumed was supposed to be the first syllable of “Hello”.
He scanned her over-crowded desk. Always too many pens. She regularly slowed down the pace of a meeting by not having a pen that worked – sucking on the nib, scribbling – but she had pots full of them. Was she clinging on to all those broken pens for sentimental reasons?
She routinely left a used teabag in a dirty mug on her desk overnight – yet another instance of absent-mindedness. He guessed that was the price she paid for having a head full of imagination – common sense squeezed out to make room for all those creative ideas. She was a peculiar girl, no doubt.
There were the new additions: a cuddly toy pig, and a plush grey donkey. “They’re my best childhood friends,” she said when he asked her about them, in an attempt at small talk. There had been a number of moments like this, fleeting glimpses into what was clearly a rich inner life; cracks of light shining through an otherwise impenetrable exterior. He often caught her gazing at the toys, with an expression on her face which was hard to translate.
There were times when Chrissie could feel his eyes burning into the back of her head. X-Ray vision perhaps, probing a torch into her darkest thoughts. He seemed to look up whenever she got up from her desk. He probably had a spreadsheet with columns and a running total for how many tea and toilet breaks she took each day.
It was partly his fault, anyway – she had only started drinking so much tea because he had suggested it would be a nice way for her to start mixing more with her colleagues. He liked to go for a latte each morning and a chinwag with the bigwigs.
Greasing the wheels, Trevor called it. It wasn’t going well for her. The wheels were on the verge of falling off.
Her whole life was on the verge of falling apart.
Chrissie exhaled slowly and put her head in her hands. It was happening again. The very
small animals were demanding her attention.
“Chrissie, look, an email!” Pig cried. “It’s from him!”
“Fuck, what is it now?” sighed Donkey.
“I knew he looked at you funny this morning Chrissie! I’m so scared!” Pig covered his face with his little trotters. “Is it about what you said to Nigel at the end of that meeting yesterday? Oh Chrissie, I really hope they don’t get rid of you!”
“Piggy, don’t be such a drama queen! You’re worrying me! Why would they get rid of me?” Chrissie said, rubbing her temples.
“Because, he’s an awful bastard and he doesn’t like you. None of them do. Why is it like this everywhere you work, Chrissie? I guess it’s just summat about you.” Donkey shrugged.
“It’s not her fault!” Pig had tears in his eyes. “They’re so mean to her! Why do they always make her do so much work? We never have time to play!”
“Please be quiet! I’m trying to concentrate.” Chrissie clicked on the email. She detested it from the very first word, and it was only her own name. Chrissie. Not Hi Chrissie, Hello Chrissie, Dear Chrissie. Just Chrissie (comma). She imagined him rolling his eyes and huffing as he typed it.
“What does it say, what does it say?! Oh, I can’t stand it!”
I had a catch-up this morning with Sheena about the Christmas catalogue. She’s very concerned to hear that we’ve missed some key deadlines, and we’re both worried that we won’t be able to go live for the launch date as planned.
I know you’ve not been very well recently, but I really need for you to start delivering.’
“Oh no! I should have known it would be about the Christmas catalogue! And now Sheena knows you missed those deadlines too!”
“It was good of Trevor to pull his hand out of Sheena’s arsehole for long enough to write you that email,” was the most helpful comment that Donkey had to add.
‘I hate to be so hard on you like this, but we’re all under an incredible amount of pressure here. Between you and me, I’ve been losing sleep worrying about this project.’
“He’s losing sleep?!” cried Pig, incredulously. “You haven’t a good night’s sleep since Easter!”
Chrissie’s whole body felt as though it was being poisoned by a prickly heat. “Piggy, Donkey, please! You’re not helping me right now.”
“But we are here to help you Chrissie! Always have been, always will be!”
“S’okay Pig, she doesn’t need us anymore. She’s a grown-up now.”
Pig was properly sobbing. “But how is she going to cope without us?” he squeaked. “We’re all she’s ever known!”
Chrissie looked as though she had fallen into a trance, with that characteristic dreamy look in her eyes.
“Are you free for a quick catch-up?” Trevor asked.
“Erm, no, not really. Now’s not a good time. I should be free later though.” She almost looked stressed, for once.
“I’m feeling a bit dizzy. I think I need some fresh air.”
Fresh air! We all need some fresh air, dear. He couldn’t believe the cheek of her sometimes. Trevor couldn’t remember the last time he had been running, which he used to love, or even enjoyed a walk that didn’t involve discussion of the next quarter’s projected sales figures.
She stood up suddenly and started putting on her coat.
“Where are you off to?” asked Donkey.
“I’m going for a walk.”
“Can we come with you?” Pig enquired hopefully.
Chrissie couldn’t carry on like this. Her only option was to jump off the carousel while it was still moving.
Hayley is currently studying for a master’s degree in Creative Writing at Univerity of Nottingham in the UK. She also works as a freelance marketing and communications consultant and copywriter. She has previously been published in The Fiction Pool, Literally Stories, Dear Damsels and others. You can find out more about her by visiting her website www.hayleysleigh.com