Perfect Life – Part 2

The next morning, I awoke with a small headache. It seemed years ago since I’d had my last hangover. I run my fingers through my hair and take a deep breath in, luckily, I took paracetamol before heading to bed as I could only imagine how worse the throbbing in my head if I hadn’t done so. I slowly get up recalling the events of the night before in my mind. The enchanted ebony that I’d had the pleasure of speaking with. I try to recall the last time my body felt so energised and smile remembering her in my arms. Just the thought of having her all night, rolling around in my sheets awakens my entire being. I try to convince myself that leaving her was the right thing to do – but struggle to find the sense behind my actions.

I get up feeling tense. The gym would be sure to help loosen me with all this pent-up energy I had built within. I start my morning regime, stepping into the shower and allowing the water to pour over my body. It was my own choice to turn her away, I think. She would have been willing (probably just like every other female I was with). And maybe the fact that I know she would have freely given herself to me, is what keeps the blood rushing straight towards my shaft. Why was I overthinking about a woman that I barely knew? It wasn’t like me to pine over a woman. By the afternoon, I’d be over my brief encounter with this unknown woman and I’d be back to my usual self.

***************

I sat leaned back in my office chair, an email opened, a response half written and all I can focus on is the number typed in my phone as ‘M’. As I rotate the phone in my hand, I let my mind wander over to the night before. The colleagues that were far too drunk, the way the women of J’J sat watching me, waiting for me to let loose. Who’d have thought it’d be a stranger that’d get me to enjoy myself? Throwing my phone behind me and onto my bed, I focus on answering some emails when my phone rings. Maybe she decided she was over waiting and thought to call me. I did save my number in her phone, right? I lift the phone to see Kurtis’ name flashing. Feeling surprisingly deflated, I answer.

“Kurtis, how’s it going?”

“Tanner – I feel like shit.”
Kurtis was my direct manager and the operational manager of J’J Business. He worked closely with the CEO of the company and was the reason I excelled faster than others, as it was him who I’d impressed so heavily. We’d managed to build a solid relationship together and have only gotten closer as colleagues and friends ever since.

I chuckle slightly, “Well you did knock back more than a few drinks yesterday.”

“I’m not even sure how much I drank and I woke up on my couch this morning! Honestly my head feels like it’s about to explode.” Kurtis moaned, groaning slightly as he inhaled deeply.

“Well, if you’re calling about the presentation and the brief – I’m typing them up as we speak. So, you can just recover today.”

“You’re a godsend! In fact, the reason why I called is because I’ll be off to Barcelona for a business summit next week, meaning I won’t be accessing my emails as frequently as I usually do. And seeing as I can completely trust you with my everything, I’ll be leaving you to oversee a few things I do. Give you the training to get you to that next step.”

“You know me Kurtis, I’m always ready for the next step.”

“That’s what I admire about you. Well you’ll be meeting with Jace Brennan on the 20th December.” I look at the calendar on my laptop – next week Monday. “He already knows you by name, but it’ll be good for you and him to meet face to face.”

Jace Brennan, the CEO of the entire company. This was definitely a big move for me, and I couldn’t mess this up as it could affect my entire career.

“Is it just an informal meeting?”

“Exactly that. Just a quick meeting, explaining what you’re currently working on and then lunch with him.”

As he runs through the meeting, I make a calendar entry on my phone as a reminder, ‘MEETING WITH JACE B’.

“I guess this is in the morning?”

“No, I think he’s got a family thing in the AM, so he’s asked for you to pop through around 1? Oh, and I didn’t mention the family thing.” I chuckle and make a mental note.

“Cool – I’ve got that all down.”

“Oh, and Tanna (!), I owe you.”

“You most definitely do!”

We both laugh and end the call. With M out of my mind (well not entirely), and Jace’s meeting taking the forefront of my thoughts, I complete my email and start working on the presentation and drafts for Kurtis.

Its hours after the call when I finally finish everything my phone begins to vibrate for another time today. I reach for it, lowering the volume of the television.

“Tantan!”

It was my older sister, we were five years apart, yet I felt I was ten years ahead of her. She was a ball of energy and followed her heart passionately. Which meant if her heart called her to a spontaneous visit in India, she’d go. The only downside was that she’d find her short of cash more often than so and would crash at my house until she was back on her feet.

“Emilia what’s up?”

“Nothing, I was hoping to ask you for a major favour?”

Everyone seemed to need something from me today. “Yes, you can crash here-”

“No that’s not it! It’s Christmas next weekend and I need you to make time to come through to dads.”

I rub my eyes and throw my head back. It’s not as though I don’t want to go my father’s for Christmas, it’s just we end up sharing memories of our mother and before you know it Emilia’s in tears and my father is on the verge of breaking down. It’s happened every year since her death and I was hoping to bypass the mourning party and send my wishes from a far.

“Em, we all know how it gets when we gather at dad’s for Christmas.”

“Oh, have a heart for crying out loud. It still hurts for some of us…”

Her voice trailed off making me feel guilty. It wasn’t as though I didn’t care or feel anything towards my mother’s passing. It was just… I wasn’t surrounded by tough people and who could I honestly rely on to share my grief without them unloading onto me? Losing my mother was the hardest thing I’d ever experienced. It broke me more than I let on and maybe that’s what made me stick to myself… I sigh feeling a wave of uninvited emotions rise to the surface.

“I know Em…”

“I’m sorry Tan, I shouldn’t have made it seem as though-”

“It’s fine.” I say interrupting her. She remains quiet for a while and then continues with her speech.

“Well… if you could come over and spend Christmas with dad and I, that’d be really great.”

“I’ll be there.”

Instantly the mood feels lighter as I feel her smile through the phone.

“Yay! Right, I’ll be in touch with times and what not – see you soon. Love you.”

I cringe but can’t help but smile. Emilia had made sure her love was evident whenever she had the chance since our mother passed. She denies all the emotions as a direct effect from the death of our mother, but I know she wished she confessed her love to our mother more often and now she didn’t have the chance, she made sure she never wasted the opportunity to her living family members. I look at my phone for what seems like the hundredth time today and think about M. Maybe I should leave her be, it was a good night, but maybe that’s all it was.

********************

All weekend I anticipate today’s meeting with Jace. Not as though I was worried, but it was a big career push if I impressed Jace himself. It was all good shining bright among other stars of the company, but if I shined big enough for the moon to notice me, who could tell what could happen?

I had put on the best navy suit I had in my wardrobe, selecting my cleanest brown brogues to accompany the look and a black trench coat. This wasn’t much of a different look to my everyday appearance. However, my step was with more reason that last week. I set my laptop on my desk and prepare for the working day, pushing my meeting with Jace to the back of my mind.

The time flies by quicker than I expect and I’m finding myself walking towards Jace’s office for our scheduled meeting. Kurtis had already called me twice with things he needed actioned before midday, so I didn’t have much time to fuss over the meeting, until now. I reach Jace’s office door and look at his name plaque on the door. The curtains to his office were drawn causing me to look at my watch to check on the time. 12:59 … I knocked on the door, despite the feeling that he didn’t want to be disturbed and waited.

“Come in!”

Turning the doorknob slowly, I enter confidently. Opposite me sat Jace, face hidden behind his laptop. He didn’t bother looking up from his screen until he heard the door close. He assessed me briefly then gestured for me to sit in the vacant leather seat opposite from him. I took a seat, waiting for him to finish whatever had his attention and found myself looking around his office. His curtains were drawn creating a dark atmosphere in his office. His table was almost spotless, apart from the laptop, a few pens and notebooks that lay on the desk.

Behind him was a small family portrait of what it seemed to be like him, his wife and a daughter laughing at an exotic holiday. My eyes drift towards the cabinets lined against the wall, all sealed and locked for confidential reasons. His sigh brought my attention back towards him. He rolled his eyes and then closed the laptop, folding his arms on top of the machine. He beamed a smile at me and spoke.

“Sorry about that Tanna, women eh?” Taken back, I smile – women? “Right, Kurtis was keen we meet up, speaks very highly of you.”

“I do what I can to impress Mr ­–”

“Jace… Jace is fine.” He said smiling again. “So, here’s the deal, Kurtis is away this week at a summit and before I consider doing anything, regarding your position, I need to see how you work.”

I nod, going over his words in my head. Kurtis made it seem as though we were just having a brief informal conversation, but this seems to be a discussion about my career at J’J and potentially receiving a promotion. I suppress my shock and decide acting surprised would only raise doubt.

“Totally understandable.”

“Great! With that in mind, I’ve got a task for you. I know it’s nearly Christmas but the amount of internal matters we go through would shock you.”

He slides back in his chair towards a small draw near the family photo and retrieves a folder. He returns to his position opposite me and gives me the folder.

“This is an account that have major potential of growing but just aren’t… I need you to work on them. Three weeks sound about reasonable?”

I open the folder and scan through the details. ‘Nexus Elite’, a media company that had been partnered with J’J since 2014, little to no revenue spent with us, yet continuously offered the best status as they have the “potential to grow”. Key contact assigned to this account was a woman called, Wynter Blaire. I look back at Jace and smile.

“Should be no problem!”

“Hey,” Jace says through chuckles. “Don’t think your good looks will get you past Wynter, she’s a tough woman. Gone through… how many has it been?” He says looking towards the ceiling. “Four account managers.” We laugh together and he shakes his head in disbelief.

“Four?”

“Yeah, she’s a wolf. But I have faith you’ll sweeten her.”

I smile, reviewing the account when there’s a soft knock at the door. I lift my eyes to Jace who’s quickly checked his watch and then the door.

“Apologies Tanna, I think I know who this is. This’ll only be brief… Come in!”

I return my gaze to the documents within the folder, not trying to intrude on any personal or business affairs. Nexus was worth 3.5 million and was predicted to make another profit in the new financial year. It seems like Miss Blaire was one of the main reasons for the uplift in profit for this media company. A challenge set by Jace himself, I thought. I was prepared to show him what I was capable of.

“Sorry to interrupt dad.” Dad? I stare at the papers before me, my attention slightly shifting to the voice behind me. Why did the voice seem familiar to my ears?

“No worries Maxine. Seeing as you’re here, Tanna meet my daughter, Maxine. Maxine meet Tanna.”

As I stood to turn to greet Maxine, my mouth instantly felt dry. It was her. My ebony enchantress from Friday. I stand in shock for a few seconds and she does the same. She looks different from the club. Her tight curls were pulled back into a low bun, bringing out the features of her face. Her eyes were kinder than when I last looked at them. She’d switched her body-hugging black dress, for a black leather trouser and a white shirt. Her once red lips were now a soft peachy colour. Noticing our awkward stare, I stretch my hand out to her, not sure whether now was the time to bring up our encounter from Friday night.

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun

Elliot & I [Part 3]

The drive back home was quiet. Fredrick focused on getting us home before my parents as I sat in silence replaying the scene I’d just witnessed over and over in my mind. Was I unfair to feel anything against Elliot when I know my parents have not made his life easy? I thought this question countless of times. A part of me wanted to demand Fredrick to drive me back so I could confront Elliot. But a deeper part of me kept me sat in my seat with my mouth shut.

When we’d arrived home, I got out the car and waited for Fredrick to escort me back to the house. He’d seen that something had gone wrong, but didn’t question it. Something in me respected Fredrick for his silence. There were times I caught his eye as he stole quick glances at me during our drive home and now as we walked towards the main door, but nevertheless no words left his lips. Once we were inside, I started making my way to my room when Fredrick called my name.

“Miss Alexandra, if this is any consolation, things will fall into place.” I manage to place a small smile on my face and made my way to my room just wishing I could erase the scene I’d just seen.

 

******************

 

The next few days following the Elliot incident I kept to myself. I played the role of the famous Harold’s daughter to the best of my abilities. Keeping quiet when I wasn’t spoken to, responding only when I was asked a question and casting my gaze towards the ground like the obedient daughter my father always wanted. Without consciously wanting to, my mind would drift to Elliot every few moments. Torturing me ever so slightly. I’d reminisce about the nights where we’d find ourselves speaking for hours upon hours, or how we’d steal kisses when we’d managed to find ourselves seated at the same event and that fateful night on the balcony… Then the memories would be burned out by the image of him laughing at the racial jokes against my father. My eyes watered slightly, I thought what we had was real? I close my eyes, trying to shut out reality when my mother’s voice pulled me out of m thoughts.

“Alexandra, did you hear what I said?”

My mother said across the dinner table. She always insisted we sat and ate dinner like a normal family, but these humans didn’t understand me and didn’t want to. Father was always first to excuse himself from the table and mother acted as though she wasn’t hurt however, her face spoke the words of pain and disappointment that her mouth failed to utter.

“Sorry.” I muttered, blinking the water away from my eyes that threatened to fall. “Could you repeat it please?”

With an exaggerated sigh she started again, “I was just saying to your father, Mrs Monroe from the ‘Give for All’s’ charity event we met two weeks ago, mentioned her son graduated from law and was single.”

She smirked at me as though I’d be jumping out of my dining chair with joy. I sat watching her blankly wondering who this Mrs Monroe was.
“Who’s Mrs Monroe?”
My mother looked irritated, probably at the fact that the only thing I managed to pick up from her statement was Mrs Monroe and not her single son, who she was clearly trying to partner me with.
“She was the one who spoke about hosting the dinner party for the wives and daughters of those within the charity club?” I nodded as though her sentence managed to put pieces to the puzzle, she so wanted me to see. She looked at my father who seemed less interested than I did. With a non-receptive crowd, my mother decided to continue on with her one-sided conversation.
“Well, we’ll meet him this Friday at the St. Augustine Ball. Kevin, I believed was his name.”

I looked to my mother this time. The ball… how could I forget the stupid ball? Elliot would be there. His father would shake my father’s hand smiling from ear to ear, when truly he wanted to see the downfall of my family. It’d be too much for me to bear with. Even as I sat frozen in the comfort of my own home, I couldn’t fathom how I was meant to deal with the inevitable that seemed to be fast approaching. I looked at my father and then back at my mother who gave me a quizzical stare.
“I don’t think I’ll be attending the St. Augustine Ball.”
“Excuse me?” My father was first to talk. Scowling as he watched me in disbelief.
“I think it’d be best if I don’t attend the ball.” My voice shaking slightly, sounding less confident the more I spoke.
“And why would that be?” My mother, now joining in on this war against me said.
“I’m aware the Winston family will be attending and for that reason alone, staying at home would be the best choice.”

My father looked shocked as I spoke. It was obvious that they hadn’t expected me to want to stay at home, let alone the reasoning behind this be because of Elliot and his family. I could almost see the smirk formulating on my father’s lips as I confessed why I wanted to stay behind. My mother still bewildered spoke,
“Well you’ll be attending as you’ll be meeting with Mrs Monroe’s son. There’s no question about that.” I looked at my mother as she spoke, wanting to scream at her but finding myself clutching tightly at the serviette that lay on lap.
“If you’re happy for me to see Elliot again ­­–”
“Don’t you dare mention his name.” My father said interrupting me. I looked between the both of them feeling like a cornered mouse. I just couldn’t win with them. It was always the way they wanted things done. If my actions swayed just slightly off course, I was dragged through hell for it. Feeling suffocated and angry, I rose from my chair, causing the chair to fall back creating a loud bang. My fists clenched in frustration as the serviette remained tightly held in my hand.

“Alexandra Bennett sit down!”  My father shouted, standing also. My anger seething as I stood meeting my father’s stare. I was tired of being who they wanted me to be, talking to who they wanted me to talk to and loving who they deemed acceptable. I wasn’t a child anymore and I was not going to be treated like one.
“I said, SIT DOWN!” He growled, causing my mother to stand. All three of us stood, chests heaving in anger towards each other. My eyes locked with my father’s, aiming not to fall under his scrutiny. Weakly, my mother spoke trying to regain some order during her precious dinner time.
“Harold please.”
She stretched her arm towards my father, trying to transfer some calming energy to him. But the very fact I remained standing was what kept the flame in his eyes alight.
“You’ll go Alexandra and that is it!

He turned to leave when something deep in my chest exploded. One moment I was meant to follow their rules and ignore Elliot and the first opportunity of me doing what they wanted, I still managed to be in the wrong?
“What do you want from me?! You want me to stay away from him, even took my bloody phone just so we didn’t speak…”
“Alexandra!” My mother shouted.
“And now when I don’t even want to see him, you’re forcing me to attend a ball where he’ll be? I can’t win with you both!” I threw the serviette on the table and left the dining room; walking passed my father as I did so. Our eyes never breaking apart until I was out of the room and pacing up the stairs towards my bedroom. Once I was back in my own domain, I slammed the door and laid face forward on my bed and allowed the emotions that had built within me to pour out into the pillow that cushioned my face. Feeling hopeless and powerless to the clutches of my family and to Elliot’s betrayal, I found myself crying until I lost consciousness.

 

***************

 

I was awoken by a knock on my door and then the noise of it opening. My eyes blinked slowly, adjusting to the light but also to the aftermath of crying for hours. I felt terrible and knew I looked worse. Still in my dinner clothes, I slowly sat up on my bed as my mother closed my bedroom door behind her.

“Alexandra…” I watched her, feeling defeated. She looked back at me and for just a second it seemed as though she genuinely felt upset at the sight before her. It looked as though she wanted to say something, anything that could smooth out the events of yesterday evening… “Get ready, we’re going out.”
With that she left and closed my door behind her. What was the point? Who could I turn to? Elliot was no longer my escapism and my parents caged me like a trapped bird. A bird was luckier than I was. My wings were clipped before I had a chance to fly. I sighed and walked into my bathroom, ready to live a life that clearly wasn’t meant for me.

Fredrick was ready in the car when both mother and I descended the steps just outside the main door. She entered at the left side of the car, whilst I took the right door, behind the driver. I wasn’t aware of where we were going, yet what was the point in asking? I sat silently watching the world go passed me, wondering what life would have been if I had been born into a normal family? I wouldn’t have met Elliot. My heart thumped as I thought of him. I missed him so much, there was something about his presence that parted all my problems away from my mind and heart. He was my Moses. I needed him, he was the only thing that made everything bearable, I couldn’t lose him yet.

I’d let him explain what happened last week. I needed him to explain, if I didn’t hear what he’d have to say who else did I hope would save me from this hell that I lived in constantly? I closed my eyes and remembered his breath against my skin, his voice in my ear, his touch… my thighs pressed tightly together remembering how he took me on the balcony. I couldn’t let my mind think about what more we could do, I couldn’t tease myself with the thought that would never come – not with the way my family were.

I bit my lip and took a deep breath. I had to decide what I wanted to do, stick with my family or follow my heart.

Rachel – Part 3(b)

The rays of dawn crept into the room pulling me from my dreamless sleep. It only took a few seconds for my brain, which was once dormant had begun working. Memories of Craig’s bear behind, clenching and tightening as he plunged deep into Camila was as clear as day. Her mouth, which hung in pleasure, produced no sound as they embraced each other’s love. My eyes welled up just remembering the events of last night. As I lay on my back staring blankly at the ceiling, I remembered being faced with going back to what I thought was my home or following Damion. I’d chosen Damion. I would have chosen anything that meant delaying the inevitable. Splitting from Craig was the next chronological step in this scenario, but what was I meant to do with my sister?

 

Abandoning her like I would with Craig isn’t possible – the same blood ran through our veins, we were forever connected… And to think she would have done something like this to me? Tears formulate in my eyes and I let gravity have hold of them as I feel the little power, I managed to regain through my sleep depart from me. What was I going to do next? The more I thought about the next page in this novel that I had no control over, I found myself crying harder. The emotions that arose in my chest wasn’t just sadness and anger from Craig and Camila, but fear.

 

I was a spectator in this. I was the victim. Yet it was my life that was going to be impacted the most. ‘God’ my lips tremble as I speak to myself. Myself… that was all I had now. Nine years of being known as Craig’s wife and now I was back to Rachel. No, I wasn’t returning to the Rachel before Craig, who I was going to become was far worse that the Rachel before him. Why did they do this to me? When did this even begin? How long had they been seeing each other behind my back? How many nights had he returned from just being with her? I shut my eyes tight at the thought of my oblivion. Just how…how many times had he entered me and shared my own fluids with my sister?

 

My heart breaks yet again at another thought of Craig and Camila and I can’t help but cry. Full tears now escape my shut eyes and sobs leave my lips as my entire life comes crashing down around me. The tears don’t stop and never does the sobs. The more the sound of my cries echo around the room, the more I weep. Look at what I had become, a wailing wife who had nothing. No husband, no family, no business, no home, nothing. I try to contain the cries, if I couldn’t hide the tears the most I could do was suppress my sorrow. But I had no strength left in me. My body was working without my control.

 

The bed shifted towards my right, dipping slightly as if someone had knelt on the bed. Maybe it was Craig coming to apologise for his wrongful ways? But when the hands of this visitor lifted me from my paralysis state, I knew it wasn’t Craig. His body was warm as he pressed me against his bare chest. I sat in his laps, still in my dress from the night before sobbing silently as he rocked me. I craved for some power to just hold everything together for when I was alone at least, but I knew that was only just a mere dream now. My soul was out for the world to see, I was vulnerable and trying to hide was as futile.

 

“Shh…” Damion cooed in my ear as the sobs quietened down to sniffles. I let myself be cradled by Damion as I had given up on fighting. If I couldn’t control my emotions let alone my thoughts, then what luck did I have?

Eventually the tears stopped and I sat in his laps staring at nothing for a while as my mind tortured me constantly. Reminding me of yesterday evening, highlighting the moments when I had chosen to ignore the red flags and just what caused me to get to where I was today. Damion’s rocking slowed and before I knew it, he was waiting for me to make the first move. He had already invaded the little privacy I had and I guess without wanting to push any further, would prefer I took the lead.

 

I pulled from his embrace, causing his arms to drop by his sides. If anyone had come across the both of us, me perched on his lap and he holding me, I’m sure they would have thought we were doing a Craig and Camila. I wipe the stubborn tears that refuse to fall and take a deep breath through quivering lips. Slowly I place my feet on the floor and just as I’m about to stand, Damion holds me on his lap.
“Rachel, you have to tell me what happened exactly.”
I shake my head, feeling the next wave of tears rushing towards the shore that I only just managed to control. Attempting to stand for a second time, Damion releases his hold of me and watches me as I stand up, my back towards him. I just needed to start thinking logically. I’d given too much room to my emotions, which had clearly made evident that was not to be trusted. Maybe if I gave room to some logic, I may be able to get over this hurdle. I turn to face Damion and put on the smallest smiles.

“Sorry for waking you.”
Damion looked at me, almost reading through me causing me to tremble. When was I so visible? He stood up, looking slightly frustrated and walked towards the guest room door. Closing it, with him still inside, he turns to face me. His back pressed against the door, his chest bare, he watches me in silence.

 

The air between us grows thick. The absence of noise giving my tears room to reappear. I watch him watch me as tears roll down my cheeks.
“I’m so…I’m so broken Damion.” I force the last words out of my mouth before the tears pour out faster. My face feels swollen from all the crying I’d done in the space of a few hours. He remains by the door, his expression pained. He looks to the floor for a split second the looks back at me, anger clearly visible in his eyes.
“Who was it Rachel?” His voice held strength that I needed more than anything. I could feel his anger radiating between us. I wasn’t entirely sure who Damion was angry with or even where his anger had come from. It seemed to have appeared between his walk from the bed to the door, either way I wasn’t going to ask. I wiped the tears off of my face with the back of my hand and took a deep breath. Not wanting to admit to Damion that not only had my husband cheated, but with my sister. However, with this morning’s events, what was the use in hiding anything from Damion? Soon people would know that Craig and Rachel had split due to a scandal affair with her sister and his whole circle would be whispering about it. I guess the only plus was that it was his circle, at least I didn’t need to be around it when things exploded.

“My sister Damion. Craig was sleeping with my sister.”

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun

Untitled – 08/01

Another body has be found by the Metropolitan police, a young woman who has not yet been named was found dead in her flat this morning. This is the second person this week found dead in London. With no comments from the police, we are yet to understand how far they are in their investigation and what the cause of both deaths are.

I can’t believe she sucked off Ron for that position!”
“Well, we don’t know how true that is Karen.”
“Of course we do! I mean,” Karen adjusts her focus to myself as she takes a swig of her cider. “She was nothing, nobody even noticed her during her internship. All of a sudden, there’s the Christmas party, her and Ron go missing and before you know it, she’s not only being hired, she’s in-line for the big job role?”
I look back at the screen where Celia had now began reporting another issue and looked back at Karen.
“I just don’t want to think of the worst.”
“Think what you want then, but after the Christmas party and Celia got all those fast tracked promotions, Ron and his wife got,” She placed her forefinger by her throat and slashed it as if to behead herself, “a divorce. You do the maths Taylor.”
She raises her eyebrow at me then makes her way into the kitchen. I watch Celia and can’t help envy her. Karen was talking about sucking, but what truly sucked was the fact that I had been studying almost my entire life to be where Celia was. Years upon years dedicated to being a journalist and yet all I had become was a measly receptionist for a low ranked radio station that no one had really heard of.

I take a sip of my strawberry and lime cider and change the channel. It was bad enough that Celia and I grew up in the same area together and even studied together, but somehow our worlds seemed light years far apart and watching her progression did nothing for my self-esteem. I settle on some late night talk show as Karen returned.
“You ever wonder how people like that go on with everyone knowing how you got to the top?” I ask her.
“Babe, when you’re at the top, do you really think you’ll care about those below?”
“I probably would!”
“Trust me Taylor, when you get high enough you don’t even hear the whispers of those below, let alone the gossip.”
“True.” I sigh as I roll my head back. What made our paths so different? Same age, same journey, practically same upbringing yet, she was Daisy Buchanan and I was Nick Carraway watching her from across the bay.
“What’s the time?” I tap my phone screen causing it to light up.
“Half past ten.”
“I’m off to my room, Damian is meant to call.”
“And off she goes!” She throws me a cheeky smirk and heads to her bedroom. I turn off the television calling it a night too. I didn’t expect any late night calls, but sleep was calling and I couldn’t afford to be late again this week. If I wanted to get to where Celia was, I had to make sure I made no mistakes on my journey in getting there and lateness was not going to be it.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Dammit! I’m going to be late. Bloody delays have now got me sweating as I run towards the office. Greg is going to kill me. I’ve been trying to impress Greg ever since I got the job. He’s not very known in the industry, but ever so often he gets invited to events and award shows that is basically an aspiring journalists wet dream. If I could get myself just included in the list of attendees, then I could network and who knows whom I could meet.

Yet without a doubt, every event, every award ceremony Greg invites the ‘more important’ employees. The radio hosts, his secretary, everyone known to man but me. Of course I know it’s a long shot, I’m just the receptionists, but I want to prove I can do much more and I can’t do that by taking calls and fetching refreshments.

I practically hurdle over people and push through the office doors when I notice that it’s still quiet. Without hesitation, I take off my jacket and bag, stuff them under my desk, neaten out the creases in my shirt and get to work. If he hasn’t noticed then it’s better to get my head down straight away than to apologise.

Time goes by, a few calls and emails come in that I attend to. Everyone upstairs is busying around as we have an ‘important’ guest arriving today for an exclusive interview – the only thing is what we classify as ‘important’, is far from that in reality. My telephone flashes as a call from upstairs reaches my line.

“Hi Bob.”
“Taylor, Aimee Lynn and her team will be arriving shortly – please ensure that they are offered refreshments before you send them up.”
“Sure thi-“
“Oh and another note,” He says cutting me off, “make sure you give Greg’s secretary a call when she arrives.”
“Will do.”
Before I could ask further questions the line cuts. I roll my eyes and put the receiver back on the phone. Bob wasn’t even ranked as anything, yet I got no respect from him. I roll my eyes again and checked my emails when I feel a breeze envelope me. I look up to expect Aimee and her entourage but instead see two men walking towards my desk.
“Hello, I’m DC Fletcher and this is my partner detective Williams, is Mr Evans available?”
Just as I am about to respond, Aimee Lynn walks through the office doors with her team. I look between the detectives and Aimee Lynn. Weighing which one I should respond to first. I excuse myself and rush towards Aimee.
“Miss Lynn –”
“Urgh, my mother is Miss Lynn.” With a nervous smile, I correct myself.
“Aimee, would you like to follow me and I will take you and your team to Greg Evans.” We walk pass the policemen and straight towards the elevator. It was then I was reminded that I was meant to call Greg’s secretary when Aimee arrived and offer beverages, but with the policemen catching me off guard, I’d failed to do any of what I was required to do. The elevator dings as the doors open and I’m left contemplating going in or running back to my desk to call Greg.

Before I have a chance to act, Aimee and her team walk through without my permission. I step inside with them, catching a glimpse of the officers who requested for Greg just only a few minutes ago and give them a nervous smile. Sort out Aimee then attend the officers, I chant to myself as the doors shut.
We reach the seventh floor and walk towards Kelly.
“Hi Kelly, could you let Mr Evans know Aimee Lynn is here.”
Her eyes flicker with confusion and anger for just a second before it’s gone.
“Sure Taylor, I won’t be a minute Miss Lynn.”
I hear Aimee groan behind me from what I can assume was due to being referred to as ‘Miss Lynn’. Kelly disappears into Greg’s office, returning with Greg closely behind her.
“Aimee, what a pleasure! Great to have you here, please follow me.”
He walks off with Aimee and her team, leaving me with Kelly.
“Wasn’t you meant to call me before she arrived?”
“I was caught up.” She chuckles and shrugs her shoulders.
“Have fun explaining that to Greg.”
I turn to walk back to the elevator when I remembered the two officers I left waiting for me.
“Well when he has a spare minute, there’s two policemen asking for him downstairs.”
“Pardon?” The confusion in her voice clearly showed she wasn’t paying attention to what I was saying up until ‘policemen’.
“Two policemen are asking to speak with Greg, I’ll have them up shortly.” The doors ping open.
“No! Have them wait downstairs, I’ll get Greg to come and see them.”
I nod my head and enter into the lift. By the time I’d reached the lobby, both officers were nose deep into the guest book I keep just in front of my monitor. The noise of my heels and the marble floor cause the men to look up from the book.
“Hi officers, my apologies that I left you so abruptly. Mr Evans is in a meeting –”
“With the girl you just took to him I presume?” The officer named Williams curtly said. Lost for words I nod and take my usual position around the desk.
“Yes, if you could give him a few minutes he should be with you shortly.”

The officers walk off talking to each other quietly. What were they looking for in the guest book? My curiosity gets the better of me, whilst still watching the men I grab the book and slide it to my keyboard. They’d left it on sign-ins from Monday this week. Looking for something I clearly had no idea what it was exactly I was looking for, my telephone rang, echoing around the lobby.
Hesitantly I pick up, knowing it could be Greg on the other line, “Hello?”
“I asked you to do two things Taylor, offer refreshments and call Greg’s secretary. You did none!” Bob shouts down the line.
“I was dealing with another issue for Greg, I was pressed for time.” I whisper, trying not to attract the attention of the officers, who were already making their way back to me.
“Clients are our priority, keeping them happy is our priority. Delivering outstanding service is just simple knowledge–” By now the officers stood before me.
“Bob I have a customer, I’ll call you back.” I drop the phone on him mid-sentence and address the officers.
“We don’t have all morning Miss?”
“Taylor.” I answer DC Fletcher.
“Taylor, we don’t have a lot of time. We have a serious investigation underway and need to speak with Greg Evans as quickly as possible. We don’t want to have to go up to meet him, but quite frankly, I don’t like waiting.”
Just as Fletcher finishes his sentence, Greg appears from the elevator, clearly confused by their visit.
“Officers I heard you were after me?”
“Mr Evans, I’m DC Fletcher and this is my partner detective Williams – do you have a spare moment, we have some questions we need to ask you?” DC Fletcher said addressing Greg.
“Of course, right this way.”

Greg and the officers take off as I’m left watching them walk away. I look back at the guest book remembering the officers mentioned they had an investigation underway and wonder what that had to do with who came to the office on Monday and Greg. I look back again and notice DC Fletcher staring at me. I wonder what Greg has gone and got himself involved in now?

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun

The Life of Kiana Young

“Morning Miss Young, how are you today?”
I watched the doctor take his usual seat in front of me. His pad of notes under his left arm and his glasses in his right hand. His white coat down to his shins, with his white shirt and black skinny tie underneath neatly pressed and ironed completing the doctor look that I’d grown so well to hate.
“The same as every day doctor.”
“Oh Miss Young,” He said sitting down whilst opening his pad on the table. “I told you that you could call me Lucas.” I looked at the doctor, watching him closely as he clicked his pen ready to start the 9’o’clock session.
“I prefer doctor.”
“Then doctor it is.”

He flicked through the pages of notes, skimming through what he’d written about me in the last few encounters we had. Trying to seem as though he was reminding himself where he left off, doing the occasional scratch on his chin or silent approval when he came across a key note. When in actual fact, he remembers exactly what we last spoke about and what he wanted to speak about this session.
He falls onto his most recent notes on myself and nods, then flicks onto a new sheet of white paper.
“Where did we finish last time?”
“I thought that was what you were doing just now?”
“What do you mean Miss Young?”
“All the flicking through your notes, nodding and humming to yourself – weren’t you doing all of that so we could skip all these niceties and get straight to the point?”

“Hmm, you seem a little tense today Miss Young?”
I look towards the two guards standing by the door, then at the two plain clothed guards that were acting as though they were watching the television when really, they were waiting for me to out of character so they could pin me down and sedate me. I rolled my eyes, trying to hide my annoyance, but failing to do so.
Ever since they put me here, classified me as crazy, I continuously failed to suppress my inner emotions. Maybe it’s due to the number of times I’ve been drugged, sometimes I don’t even know how I feel or think. But all I am aware of is that the more they pump these drugs into my system, the more I can feel my self-control slip.
“Doctor, how can one not be tense when they are in a stray jacket?”

I chuckled ever so lightly, trying to keep the sane image solid, even though I knew the doctor could see through it as clear as day.
“Well that is true, but I heard you got a little physical last night?”
“Doctor, I requested for different colour bed sheets. They bought me white… I refused to use it and here I sit today. With white bed sheets and strapped in a white stray jacket.” “Hmm,” He wrote a few notes in his now less empty pad and then looked back at me. “I want to talk about how you got here Miss Young, where this all started.”
With no response, he continued on with his plan of the day. “I want to know how Miss Young got in this seat, opposite me in a stray jacket – what triggered all of this?”

“Well I told you about how I’m in a stray jacket.”
“Miss Young…”
The doctor looked at me sternly, the two guards by the door turned their focus to me and the two plain guards had moved closer to my seat without my knowing. I swallowed my sarcasm and looked back at the doctor. I knew how this went, if I didn’t comply then I’d find myself laying in the room which was now my home. The four white walls taunting me, letting me know that no matter how much I tried, I was getting nowhere they didn’t want me to go.
Refocusing my attention back to the doctor, I sighed. “What do you want to know doctor?”
“I want to know what caused you to react the way you did that day. What went through your mind as you decided to change your life and commit that crime you did?”
With a sigh I look at the table. Where was I meant to begin? It’s clear to say the beginning, but every time I thought of the beginning I realised that the change happened within me long before I was aware. I looked at the doctor and then closed my eyes.
“I was sixteen and I’d just woken up to some tragic news.”

[Continuation of Kiana’s story next week- stay tuned]

Rachel – Part 3(a)

A gentle touch on my shoulder pulled me out of the sleep I’d managed to fall into. In a daze, I looked at my surroundings, confused with where I was and why I was with Damion, until the last few hours came rushing back to me. Remembering the images of Craig and my sister make intimate love was enough to wake me up completely. I sat up fully, looking passed Damion to see what I could only imagine was a mansion which stood firmly behind him. I looked back to Damion who was sat still watching me.
“I thought you was taking me to a hotel?”
“I was,” he said calmly, “But then you fell asleep and I did not want to wake you up to get you checked in to a hotel, so I bought you to my home.”
Instantly I coiled into myself, was he assuming I was going to sleep with him in exchange for a place to stay? I was about to voice my opinion when Damion raised his hand.
“It’s not like that Rachel, I have a guest room – where I would want you to sleep.
  I did not want you to be woken up early to check out of the hotel and also, I did not want to leave you alone tonight. I will give you all the space you require, but I have a perfectly good room here and it would be stupid to pay for a hotel room.”
With that, he got out of the car and held the door open for me, waiting for me to follow him. Reluctantly I exited the car. He shut the door and walked towards his house door, feeling his suit jacket for his keys. Once he located them, he opened the door giving me a full view of the grand stairs which were adjacent to the door. The stairs lead to a fork split, taking residents to hidden mysteries on the left or the right. I slowly walked in, admiring the chandelier that hung sophisticatedly in the middle of the foyer. I stood silently, feeling foreign in such a place like this. The golden aura created by the decretive jewels that hung loosely on the chandelier made me feel as though in here, anything was possible – it was almost like a fairy-tale. Damion stood beside me pulling me out of my trance.
“Want me to show you to the guest room?” I nodded with no words as Damion led the way. My heels echoed across the marble floor, causing the sound to ricochet across the walls and sing loudly around the house. We took a left when we came to the split in the stairs, which led us to a hall of closed doors. The corridor was dimly lit from the nightlight that shone through the windows, but that did not make the hall eerie, in fact it made it solemn. Behind each door lay a secret I wasn’t aware of, it gave me something to busy my mind with as my own issues were forcefully reappearing in my mind constantly. Images of myself proudly clinging onto Craig’s arm as he greeted his co-workers and potential prospects, made me feel foolish. I pushed those memories to the back of my mind and brought myself back to Damion’s home.
“The house where the party is, is that not yours?”
Damion looked back at me, a little surprised I spoke but hadn’t missed a stride in his step.
“My father left it for me and Chase but we decided that using it for business and meetings was better than us fighting over who should own it.”
“So, you decided on using your father’s house as a business location?”
“Well, even my father would hardly call that place a home. The number of events and meetings he hosted there barely made that place a home.”
“Makes sense.” He walked me to a door and opened it. Revealing a small room, with a double bed up against the wall. The room was completely dark, apart from the little light the thin curtains allowed through. Damion, turned on the light and gestured for me to enter.
“Behind that door to your right, is the bathroom. If you need any help, my room is the last door at the end of this corridor. Just call me and I’ll be happy to help.”
I walked over to the bed, feeling like an intruder in this unknown room. I turned to look at Damion and realised that he didn’t have to do what he done for me tonight. He could have let me run home crying, he could have even dropped me off to a hotel and left me for the night. Instead, he took me in when I was down and comforted me when I felt as though I had no one. I knew I owed him more than a simple thank you, but that was all I could offer him.
“Damion, I just want to thank-”
“Rachel,” He cut me off. “You don’t have to. Get some rest and I’ll see you in the morning.”
With that he closed the door and made his way to his room, his footsteps growing quieter as he moved further away from me. I looked around the room once more, admiring the simplicity of the interior design and the way in which the house in general was built and designed. I kicked off my heels, placed my clutch bag on a nearby drawer and crawled into bed, remembering once again that night why I found myself sleeping in Damion’s guest bedroom. I hadn’t thought to look at my phone since it had stopped vibrating in the car. I reached for my bag, opening the mouth of the bag and grabbed my phone, before returning the bag back onto the drawer. I pressed the home button and saw a number of missed calls and texts from both Craig and Camila. At one point, I found myself hovering over the reply button to one of Craig’s text messages, but in that same minute, I locked my phone and placed it beside my bag. There was nothing I had to say to either Craig or Camila tonight or for a very long time and if I could hide here in Damion’s guest room for tonight, then I was going to happily do so.
It didn’t take too long for me to fall asleep, allowing all my thoughts and worry to drown in a blissful abyss as I lost consciousness and allowed myself to be taken by the exhaustion that crept over me. Craig and Camila would be the issue of tomorrow, for now I slept.

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun

Rachel – Part 2

 For ages I sat in silence, remembering Craig and Camila being intimate with each other. Watching Craig throw away the nine hard years we built together, watching the marriage I thought was too strong to break, shatter to a million pieces with each stroke he penetrated into my sister. A tear escaped my left eye as I tried to erase the images that were now tattooed into my brain. How was I meant to move on from this? We all sit down every once in a while, with our friends and throw scenarios out, ‘what would you do if…’ – never do we think it would actually happen. Here I sit, dumbfounded in Damion’s car wondering what my next steps were. It wasn’t as though I had a full-time job, or I had any hobby of my own ­– maybe that’s what drew Craig to Camila. A woman with a purpose, whereas he married a woman who was a burden. A cry flew passed my lips as I thought of how better my sister was in comparison to myself. I held my mouth trying to contain my sorrow, but realised my sobs were stronger than my grip. Suddenly I felt Damion’s hand gently tug at my hand that was poorly sealing the sorrow that I failed to conceal. Once he had removed my hand, he pulled me over to him. Almost instantly did I find myself hunched in his chest crying harder than previously.
How could my whole life come shattering down around me in a matter of seconds, when it took more than double that to build? Through my sobs I felt my phone vibrate in my clutch bag. Without even reaching for my phone I knew who the caller was. Craig had only now finished making love with sister and had begun wondering where I had gotten to… I had gone through a state of shock and sadness and during that period Craig was still uniting with Camila. The phone began to vibrate violently as I failed to respond to it the first time. I wiped my tears from my cheeks, and looked at Damion’s chest which was yet again drenched with my tears. I reached for my phone when Damion held my hands.

“It’s probably Craig. Maybe you should let it ring out?”
“I’ll have to face him eventually.” I mumbled through sniffs.
“Yes, but now doesn’t have to be that time.”
With that I left the phone to ring and slid back into my seat. I felt the seat shuffle as Damion faced me.
“Who was it?”
“Who was what Damion?”
I responded still blindly looking out the window. Not taking anything in but the lights that zoomed passed me.
“Who was Craig with?”
Instantly water filled my eyes, whilst the images of Craig and Camila danced in my mind.
“It doesn’t matter.”
It was bad enough my husband had cheated on me, but to then announce it was with my own flesh and blood was a line I was not comfortable in admitting. Especially with someone who I barely knew. I wiped the remaining stray tears and shook my head, reiterating how irrelevant it was to know who Craig had slept with.
“Was it someone I know?”
I gave Damion a quizzical stare, confused with why he was so intrigued with who Craig had slept with.
“Why do you care? In fact, why are you even helping me? We don’t even know each other yet all of sudden you seem so interested in my life?”
All of sudden anger poured through my body, as I spoke to Damion. I knew he had done nothing wrong, but with tonight’s events, I could barely contain any of my emotions and knew that at times like this I was better off alone.
“Rachel, you’re right. I don’t know you and I don’t know why I am helping you, but…”
For a minute he paused, staring at me in the face as I frowned in annoyance. Was he eager to get some entertainment from my life, was he only sticking around so he could run back to his brother and share the gossip. I faced the window and remained silent as I heard him sigh.

The rest of the journey was filled with tense silence. Damion ensured he didn’t do anything that would cause me to lash out whilst I held my emotions together by a mere strand of thread. We came to a stop as his driver reached my home. The engine was cut off as everyone waited for me to exit the car, but I found myself frozen. Who was I lying too? This was no longer my home, this was just bricks put together in which I thought was a place I could return to every night. But here I sit, staring at the gold 67 that was placed just above the front windows – not moving at all.
“Rachel I can take you to a hotel?”
How was I now the other woman? Why did it feel as though I was intruding this building when I had lived there for nine years? Why did I have to leave my home and reside in a hotel because of the wrong doing of my husband? Besides, I couldn’t waste money on a hotel when I wasn’t sure when or where my next income would come from. I took a deep breath, my hands shaking as I pulled open the car door. The cold breeze from outside enveloped my body as I attempted to confidently get out the car and walk to where I thought was home.
“You don’t have to do this Rachel.”
I stopped in my tracks, my heart thumping hard against my chest. Was it worth it? Could I truly take anymore tonight? Craig would return, probably with Camila as they would worry where I had gotten to. Could I really endure seeing them concerned for me when they were the reason for my abrupt absence? In a flash, I re-entered the car slamming the door shut. Damion directed the driver where to go and the car took off.
I had no idea where Damion had planned to take me tonight, but I had little to no fight in me to protest. As I sat in silence, I wondered what must have been running through Craig’s mind. Was he worrying about me? Or had he used my disappearing act to get more alone time with Camila? Either way, he had not attempted to call again and that was enough to keep my blood boiling. I was playing myself if I thought I could handle a confrontation tonight – I was rapidly running out of energy and the more the energy was sapped out the more I felt my grasp on my emotions were slipping. I closed my eyes, allowing the motion of the car rock me to sleep like an infant child in their mother’s arms.

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun

 

The Grey Hairs of A Mother

“Mum!!!!” I rolled over slowly, still deep in sleep wondering when I set my alarm clock to six in the morning. I peel my right eyelid open, to see that my alarm hadn’t actually gone off.
“MUM, MICHELLE IS TAKING MY STUFF AGAIN!” No it wasn’t my alarm, it was just my kids that was waking me up more than an hour earlier than I needed to be. I rolled over again to check if Matt had heard the girls yelling, but either he did and was acting as though he heard nothing or he was still actually sleeping and had somehow grown immune to the noise of our kids and knew how to drown them out within his unconscious. With a headache creeping ever so slowly over my brain, I slowly sat up and took a deep breath in. It was times as such when I felt as though crying was the best thing to do. Had you ever been disturbed from your sleep that it almost brought you to tears? That feeling that you just so badly wanted to return to that peaceful unconscious you were in, but something constantly kept nagging at you, waking you up? That was how I felt now. With sleep slipping further away from my clutches, and annoyance taking its place rapidly, I slipped my feet into my brown fluffy slippers and went to go and check on my daughters who had decided to wake up the whole neighbourhood in the early hours of the morning.

Slowly trudging in the hallway, my matted hair in a messy bun, sleep still in my eyes and a headache, I get to Michelle’s room and see both her and Michelle conducting a violent tug of war on a black jumper. Each daughter tightly grabbing an arm of the jumper, whilst they both tested each strength by pulling the sleeve towards themselves, hoping that the other would fail to remain strong enough to hold onto the sleeve and let go. Taking yet another deep breath, I slowly stand between the girls, feeling sorrier for the knitted jumper that was sure to be slacker now than when it was originally purchased.
“Girls, it is only just gone past six. What are you doing fighting over a jumper?”
“Michelle stole my jumper!” Katy screamed, tugging at the right sleeve, hoping Michelle’s attention had diverted enough for her to win the war and get the prize. Michelle tugged back and looked at me.
“Mum it’s mine! Katy’s lying, she stomped in here this morning like some animal –”
“I AM NOT AN ANIMAL!”
“Well you’re yelling like one.” James, their younger brother said as he walked passed the open door rubbing sleep from his eyes. A small chuckle escaped my lips, making Katy throw an icy stare my way. Putting my mother cap back on, I sighed and rubbed my temple trying to decipher who I bought the bloody jumper for.
“Okay, well firstly, you both don’t wear the same size, so what size is it?”
“Medium mum! You know that’s my size!” Katy shouted to me, making me wince as her voice pierced my ears and ran straight to my brain.
“NO! I wear medium too. Check any of my jumpers, I get medium!” For crying out loud. I shifted my weight onto another leg, wishing Mike would pull the girls apart and let me get some more rest.
“Okay, Michelle, Katy – it’s too early for this. If you both aren’t going to settle this like grown ups then give me the jumper and I will hold it until further notice.”
“No…Katy get off the jumper!” Michelle tugged violently again, causing Katy to stumble forwards. Katy retaliated pulling the jumper just as hard, having the same result with Michelle as she stumbled forward. Tired of seeing my daughters ruin a perfectly good jumper, I get between them, releasing their grip on the sleeve and taking the jumper into my hands. I lifted the jumper, assessing the damages and grow even more annoyed. They had both been pulling on the jumper for so long, they could literally both fit inside the jumper or even cut it in half and get a tailor to knit another jumper. I raise my eyebrows and look at both Katy and Michelle who stood scowling at each other.
“Okay, you both have successfully ruined this jumper, so no one is getting it. Next time you sort it out like bloody adults, look at the size of this now, it looks like double XL, not a medium.”
Katy stormed out the room and went back to her own room, slamming the door – symbolically screaming that no one should disturb her and if anyone did so they were sure to feel her raft. I looked at Michelle who stood silently pouting, being the younger sister out of her and Katy, she tried to play the young card far more often than necessary. I shook my head, reiterating that she was not getting the jumper, causing her to frown. I left the room, far more awake than I should have been at six in the morning and made my way to the kitchen in order make myself a cup of coffee. There was no way I was going to get anymore sleep now, so I might as well have gotten my day started.
I walk into the kitchen to see James sitting by the dining table eating toast with a cup of orange juice.
“Why is everyone awake now?” I mumbled under my breathe, turning on the coffee machine.
“What d’you say mum?” James said, one toast in his hand and half another toast in his mouth. James was always a little creative. He was my only child that seemed to find humour in everything. I remembered when I had gone to his parents evening and his teacher was explaining ways in which James could be better behaved. When he was asked what he thought he could do to improve his constant chatter during the class, he shrugged and said, ‘I can try, but I am young miss, I am bound to talk, it’s in my blood’. I tried to suppress my laugh then, but when I saw the frown on his teachers face and the absolute truth on James’ – I couldn’t help but chuckle. No matter how much I tried to be strict and firm, James was my only child who could get a sly giggle out of me.
“I said James, why is everyone awake?”
“I don’t know. It was Michelle and Katy that woke me up.” I rolled my eyes and sighed.
“Your dad didn’t even hear any of that, he’s still sleeping.”
“I bet he did. He told me that he acts sometimes, acts like he can’t hear us winge so that you can sort it out.” Before I got to respond, Matt walked in rubbing his eyes and yawning.
“Don’t lie to your mother James.”
“That’s if I’m lying… and I’m not.” He said continuing to eat his breakfast. I look at Matt who’d grabbed a mug and started pouring coffee into it.

“Really Matt?” Matt looked at the mug and then back at me as if to say he was unaware of what he just did.
“What?”
“I didn’t get the coffee started for you to just come and take it.” He rolled his eyes and sat on by the dining table.
“Why you up so early?” He asked James, as I poured the rest of the coffee into my ‘favourite mum’ mug and took a seat beside James.
“Michelle and Katy were arguing…again.” He said looking as annoyed as I did a few minutes ago when I was called to haul them away from each other.
“Over what this time?” Matt asked me.
“A jumper…they both claimed it was theirs.”
“It was mine.” Michelle sang, bouncing into the kitchen, stealing one of James toasts whilst sitting on the seat next to Matt. “But we all know how Katy gets. So we both didn’t get it.”
“Watch it Michelle.” Matt warned her, getting up to make more coffee. The more years I racked up in my time as a mother, the better I was at telling when a day was going to be longer than necessary and then when it was just going to be a downright pain in the arse. That was today. These days I avoided like plague, the kids acted like they hated each other, Matt’s breathing would literally piss me off and to make everything worse, I would get a full-blown mummy headache throughout the day. It was just too much for me to deal with, yet something I had to deal with on a daily basis.
“James don’t you have history today?” Michelle asked chomping down on the toast.
“Yeah – Oh shoot! I forgot my homework!”
“Forgot it where?”
“At school.” And the miners in my head resumed their work by beating on my skull.
“Christ, that Miss Maple is going to call us in, again.” Matt moaned beside me.
“I know right, I won’t attend another meeting.” I whispered to Matt who had managed to sneak out of the last two meetings I was called into for James’ lack of homework.
“I don’t blame you, we’ve got to sit him down, he needs to start doing his homework.”
“I don’t even know when he gets homework.” I said softly as both Michelle and James had started talking, trying to conjure up a lie that he could tell his teacher.
“Neither do I.”
“Christ, we aren’t the greatest parents.” Matt chuckled, planting a kiss on my cheek. We tried as much as we could for our kids, but just like any other parent, things slipped through the cracks. It was tough being a superwoman, I wasn’t even half of that, so I couldn’t even imagine how others managed to do it all and still have time for themselves. That instantly reminded me of the roots that were now reappearing in my hair, or my nails that had outgrown its time period and needed to be seriously redone. Matt saw the way in which I had begun assessing myself and kissed me again on the cheek.
“You look beautiful.”
“Ew dad, that’s twice this morning, aka two too many times.”
“It’s love.” Michelle cooed, whilst James rolled his eyes.
“Alright guys, get ready for school and KATY, come down and have breakfast.” What I loved about Matt was that even though I was left to solve the arguments, the visits to school, the parenting (basically), when Matt decided to take charge, he did it so well that it made me wonder why I hadn’t asked him to do it earlier. The kids seemed to just listen well to Matt, whereas they knew how to sway me – I wasn’t proud but sometimes it just made things easier. After James had finished eating, he rushed upstairs into the bathroom, whilst Katy stomped downstairs and into the kitchen.
“Morning to you too.” Matt said smiling.
“I’m not in the mood dad.” She said looking down with a frown on her face.
“What’s up princess?” Matt sat beside her as I made her some toast, egg and bacon for breakfast. It was better if Matt handled Katy. It wasn’t like I couldn’t but I felt as though if there was one child I struggled to understand, it was Katy. Constantly blowing hot and cold with me, I never seemed to do things right with her. I couldn’t blame her, it was the same way I was with my own mother, but having it done to me just increases my sympathy to my mum. It must not have been easy with me being distant all the time, sometimes it feels as though there’s no bond.
“Helen!” I jump out of my thoughts and turn towards both Matt and Katy.
“See she wasn’t even listening.” Matt signalled me with his eyes as if to say that I had royally messed up again with Katy. Trying to play catch-up on whatever I had just missed out on, I turn my attention to Katy.
“I’m sorry Katy, what was you saying.”
“It’s not fair that Michelle gets away with acting like a brat. That was my jumper, I was going to wear it today as it’s mufti-day, but she’s ruined it!” Her eyes watered and I looked at Matt, who looked straight back at me. This was us, every single day. Buckling over parenthood, never truly getting it right, but managing to do just about a decent job. If I didn’t know something, I hoped Matt did, but in all honesty, we were both as unaware as each other. You don’t become an expert with more kids, you just learn more as more kids mean different behaviours, different feelings, different emotions. I lower the cooking gas and sit opposite Katy, who now had a stray tear down her cheek.
“I’m sorry Katy that you didn’t get to wear the jumper. But you and Michelle need to learn how to get on, how to share. I don’t know whose jumper that was and I don’t even care. You both should have solved that issue way before I had to come in and do it for you. Now –” I said interrupting her, as she looked ready to start speaking. “I know you wanted to wear that jumper, but for today, can you find something else and then on Saturday we can go shopping so I can buy both you and Michelle new clothes.”
After a few sniffs, Katy nodded her head. I gave Matt a quick look of reassurance, he returned my quizzical stare with a small smile and a brief nod. We had done it again, we’d somehow stumbled through parenting and managed to do it right. I smiled back at him and went back to making breakfast for Katy who had remained quiet, but had looked much more positive than when she stormed in.

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun

 

New Woman – Chapter 4

Throughout the journey home my mind constantly raced back to Vicky. I kept trying to rationalise my behaviour, why my body kept reacting to Vicky in ways that it shouldn’t. Images of our kiss continued to flash into my mind and with every image and every thought of her lips on my own, a foreign tingle runs through my body. My head was clustered with so much confusion, so many emotions running through that I wasn’t too sure how I was meant to react or even feel. I’d only moved here for the job a month ago and look who I’d become – a stranger to myself. It was coming to a point where I couldn’t even understand why my body was reacting and behaving the way it was. Tears welled up in my eyes as I felt my self-control slipping away from my fragile grasp. Having these feelings towards Vicky rattled me, it made no sense, how could I go from being in a serious long-term relationship with Jonathan, to now being single and having feelings towards Vicky. It was obvious that Vicky had strong feelings for me, the way in which she stared at me after she shut down my PC, the way in which she came closer to me to kiss me, was enough to tell me that she had been suppressing her feelings towards me for some time. I rested my head against the window of the taxi and closed my eyes. I tried with all my might to rationalise my emotions, trying to find reasoning as to why I felt different whenever I was around Vicky. I didn’t think I was attracted to her, neither did I believe I fancied her, there must be more behind why my body continued to disobey me when she was in close proximity to me.

After the taxi driver dropped me home, I paid him and made my way inside, feeling more drained than I did before. I made some spaghetti for dinner and sat down in front of the TV, watching the images flash across my screen, but not really taking anything in. Eating silently, still in deep thought, I felt my phone vibrate. I picked up the call, happy to see my mother on the caller ID.

“Mum!”
“Rebecca, how are you my love?”
Just hearing her voice had caused me to get emotional. Whenever things were getting tough, I could always rely on my mum to make things better, however moving so far from my parents has made things difficult. It was tough enough to leave a relationship for the job, but to leave my family behind, was heart wrenching. I wiped a stray tear away from my eyes and took a deep breath, trying to calm the quiver in my voice.
“I miss you mum.”
“Is everything alright? Are they treating you good up there? I could come up in a heartbeat Becca, you know I would.”
“No,” I said sniffing. “I just missed your voice, that’s all.”
“Ah baby, it’s okay. Just remember you’re making the right choice. This experience, this job is just the beginning for you – there is so much more for you after this.”
I smiled, hearing my mum’s words always made me calmer.
“Thanks mum, I wish everyone saw it in that way.”
“Oh forget about him Becca. How is work going, let me know everything? Written anything yet?”

 

For a split second, I saw myself telling my mum everything that was going on between me and Vicky. Asking for her advice and hoping that she would share some words of wisdom, but as quick as the thought came, is how quickly it went. There was no way I was going to let my mum know that as soon as I left her house I turned into a woman even I wasn’t familiar of. I could imagine hearing the sheer shock in her voice and her demanding to come up to help me pack and come back home. I instantly threw the thought away and smiled again.
“It’s going okay. I’ve got the opportunity to write my first article for next week’s issue.”
“Oh my gosh! I’m so proud of you Becca, look at you, writing in the most famous magazine known to women. What’s it about?”
“Well I didn’t get to choose the topic, but it’s about the portrayal of women in today’s society. I discuss jobs, relationships and family – it’s not a bad topic in all honesty.”
“Oh Becca, as soon as the issue is out let me know. I’ll buy all the copies!”
“Mum, you only need to buy one.” I said chuckling.
“I always knew you’d be special and make me proud. Have you finished the article?”
“Not yet, I’m struggling on how to finish it. I want it to summarise what I’ve spoken about, but leave my readers with something to think about.”
For hours, both my mum and I spoke about ways in which I could complete my article. Throwing ideas back and forth, we finally came to an idea that we both agreed on and thought would have the best impact on my readers.
“Look at me helping you with your article – I better get credit for that.” I rolled my eyes smiling.
“Nice try mum, how’s Dad by the way?”
“Oh he’s alright, working later shifts so he’s always tired.”
“Send him my love.”
“I will, I should let you get on. It’s late and I don’t want to keep you up. But darling remember, if you need me I am just a call away okay?”
I nodded, feeling myself get emotional. Once we said our goodbyes I almost felt ten times more worse than when I had taken the call. I wished I could confide in my mum, it would have made things much more easy and bearable. But, if I barely understood what I was feeling and matter if fact, why I was even feeling this way, how could I expect my mum to be of any help? Getting her involved would have further confused the situation which I definitely didn’t need. What I did need was things to go back to how they were last week, Vicky barely noticing me and me trying to blend in with the others. I wiped a stray tear from my cheek, speaking with my mum was a huge help, but it was bitter sweet. There was so much I wanted to speak to her about but only managed to glaze the top of the icing. After a heavy sigh, I clear my dinner and make my way to my bedroom.

This unknown thing between me and Vicky had to take a backseat. I was going to get this article complete and then I was going to have to approach Vicky. There was no way I was going to work with this constant confusion between the two of us. Neither was I going to pursue that tiny little voice in my head that always wanted to know how Vicky tasted, wanted to know how soft she felt and how she would gently caress me. I was also not going to notice how every time I thought about Vicky and the kiss in her car that my heart beat just a tad bit harder than before, or even how my insides coiled and tightened in pleasure. If I gave room to these anonymous thoughts and feelings then everything would get messy and I didn’t just lose my long-term boyfriend and move away from my family home to ruin an opportunity of life. Making my way to bed I think about how I plan to gently tell Vicky that a platonic relationship is better than whatever we had managed to get ourselves into. However, she decided to take it was up to her, I just hoped this talk didn’t cause her to rethink my position at work.

 

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun

New Woman – Chapter 3

Vicky didn’t get to work that day until midday. Every time the office door opened, my chest tightened. Just the thought of Vicky got me feeling nervous. It wasn’t even the kiss we shared…well in fact that was the major part of the anxiety I felt every time I heard someone mention her name or if I heard high-heels clicking on the marble floor. What I think was causing my nerves to be all other place was the first contact we would have to share in front of everyone, knowing what we did and trying to act as though it didn’t happen. I tried to focus on the article I was meant to be writing for next week’s issue, however every once in a while, I’d get an email from Eileen asking me whether I’d seen Vicky enter her office.
*Rebecca@NW.com – I haven’t seen her come in yet.*
*Eileen@NW.com – Is anyone taking her emails?*
*Rebecca@NW.com – I’m sure she’s got her email connected to her phone or something?*
*Eileen@NW.com – not her internal emails, I’ll ask the tech guy to get her emails forwarded on to someone.*

I hoped I didn’t see any of Vicky’s emails pop up in my inbox. Even though I may be seen as her personal assistant, that was not my job and I didn’t intend on being anymore involved with Vicky than necessary. Just as I tried to focus back on my article, the office door swung open and in came Vicky. With sun glasses covering her eyes, she walked straight to her office without greeting anyone, without even acknowledging me. Not to say I was upset, I should have expected Vicky to blow hot and cold – that was the way she functioned. With the awkward phase out of the way, I focused back on the article, noticing it was coming up to lunch and I had only managed to get 500 words written. Sooner or later I found myself engulfed with work, almost forgetting that Vicky was sat opposite me in her office. The article was coming together and I needed to make sure this was ready by today to have it double checked by the sub-editor so that I could get it published in next week’s article. Just as lunch was creeping ahead, Eileen came to my desk.

“You going out for lunch?” She said swinging her handbag on her shoulder. I looked at my article and realised it was best to keep writing, when a writer was in their zone, it was almost suicidal to take a break.
“You know what, I’m currently in my zone right now. I’ll catch up with you later on.”
“Make sure you eat; all that drinking yesterday needs to get soaked up by something.” I smiled as she waved goodbye and got back to the words before me. This was the first opportunity Vicky had given me to actually be part of the team and write content for the publication. When I first arrived, I was doing the meaningless jobs, proof-reading, getting coffee, setting up meeting rooms, but finally I was given the chance to write up my own article. I was given a topic, ‘Women in today’s Society’. It wasn’t a topic to go crazy other, but nevertheless I counted my blessings and made sure I wrote the best article I could. And to finally find my zone, after my thoughts had been drowned by last night’s event was great! I hadn’t noticed Vicky step out of her office until I heard heels click on the ground just in front of my desk. Not trying to make things anymore awkward than necessary, I slowly looked at her, ready to put that façade on and be cordial.
“No lunch today?” She said barely looking at me, but more around me. I guess she was just as embarrassed as I was.
“Just working on the article.”
“Make sure it’s in my inbox by 9AM sharp tomorrow morning. We’ll be holding a meeting on the content and marketing and I need all articles ready for then.” In a clipped tone, she walked back into her office and gently shut the door. Taking a deep breath, I tried not to get annoyed, knowing this was how Vicky was and that I literally had to take her for how she was. I could work to a deadline, it wasn’t impossible, whether or not Vicky thought it was possible for me was another question. I saved the document and then put my computer on sleep, grabbing my bag, I walked out the office knowing it’d be best to get lunch now as I knew it’d be a long evening for me.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Writer’s block they call it – well that’s what I’d hit. Nothing innovative was coming to mind, in fact I was now repeating myself, waffling like I was back in high school. For ages, I stared at the last sentence I typed, hoping the words would spark an idea, another point, but nothing. It was getting close to the end of the day and here I sat still struggling how to complete this bloody paragraph. I had done everything I could, I’d gotten up to take a break, drank coffee, went outside for fresh air and nothing. Everyone had begun gathering their belongings getting ready to leave. Eileen came to my desk, noticing that I hadn’t grabbed my stuff, ready to rush out of here and get back into bed (even though that’s exactly what I wanted to do).
“You not leaving now?”
“I’m struggling to get the end of this article written up. Nothing is coming to me.”
“I don’t blame you, we’re suffering from a massive hangover, maybe you just need some rest and then something might spring to mind. Why don’t you take it home, get some rest then get back at it again?” The idea was more than gold. However, I wasn’t too sure that I’d wake up after my head hit my pillow. My headache that had disappeared for a few hours had crept back slowly, gently tapping on my brain to warn me that I was overworking myself. I rubbed my forehead, trying to ignore the pain and looked at Eileen.
“I’d rather get it done now, so that when I get home I can just sleep and not wake up until tomorrow.”
Eileen chuckled, put her handbag on her shoulder and for the second time today waved goodbye to me. I kicked my heels off, feeling more relaxed hearing silence and knowing it was just me in the office, this way I could focus on the article and get home before it was too late.

An hour went by and I had only managed to produce 200 words. I rested my head on the desk, the headache now in full swing and took a deep breath. I needed to focus, if I kept trying nothing was going to happen. I closed my eyes, allowing the silence to envelope me, when I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. Waking up suddenly, I shot up.
“You was sleeping.”
I looked around me and remembered I had put my head on the desk to calm the headache and also in hope to gain an idea of how to complete the document on my PC screen. But without my knowledge I must have slept and was woke up by Vicky.
“Oh, sorry. I was just trying to get rid of this headache and finish this off.”
“No need to be sorry, I think you should go home. It’s late and the meeting isn’t until 10:30AM tomorrow. So, you still have time –”
“No,” I said cutting her off. “I can get this done.” She looked at me and then walked around the desk, once she got behind me, she leaned forward, giving me a brief sense of her perfume. The sweet scent played around in my nostril, as she proceeded to save the document and shut down the PC. Trying with difficulty to not let her being this close have an effect on me, I scooted back in my seat slightly giving her as much room as possible. What was wrong with me? I was letting this woman affect me, it was bad enough that every time I thought about the kiss it made me heat up, but to even feel tempted to reach out to her as she’s stood a few inches away from me made no sense. Was I beginning to react to Vicky in a way that I would with a man that I had an interest in? This was how I began behaving with Jonathan at first, however this time it was different. Almost as though the more time I tried to ignore the kiss we shared, the more my body decided to react harder and stronger than necessary. Vicky looked at me over her shoulder, a stray hair falling to her face, giving her a more feminine edge than normal. The electricity that was once present in our journey home the night before had returned. A million thoughts ran through my mind, one being the fact that we were stone cold sober. I couldn’t blame the alcohol if I proceeded with the inevitable, because we’d had none to drink. Secondly, could I truly help myself? Even though every muscle and fibre in my body wanted me to rush out of the office, I somehow found myself staring back her. My heart pounding in my chest as she came closer to me. The closer she came to me, the more I felt myself hold my breath, waiting for her to make the first move. It was only when she was a few inches away from my face is when we heard the sound of the cleaners just outside the office doors. Instantly we repelled away from each other, our breathing both ragged and out of place. Before she spoke, I had already gathered my belongings and was rushing to leave. I didn’t know what I was doing, my feelings were everywhere. One minute I thought I knew what I wanted but then the next, I’d find myself doing things that was so foreign it didn’t make sense. Before Vicky chased after me like yesterday, I made sure I got out of the building and into a taxi before she could catch up to me.

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun