The money was rubbish, but I did very little work.
I spent my mornings sleeping in the storeroom or browsing the internet. There was no dress code and I got cheap beer on a Friday. It was a cushy number. I did a bit of proofreading now and again and basically, got away with it.
My colleagues and I would scrunch up rolls of packaging tape into balls and play cricket in the underground loading bay after the deliveries were done for the day. If it hadn’t have been a government job, we would have been laid off. Then, when threatened with budget cuts, management decided we needed more resources and hired another admin assistant.
My partner in crime and I returned from doing a stocktake in the storage room (having a nice doze) and were met by one of the personal assistants.
“You boys are in for a treat. Wait until you meet the new girl!” she said.
We went inside, where we saw this absolute vision of beauty. She was tallish with long straight blonde hair. She was perfect. She looked like a full-sized Barbie doll.
I was actually taken aback when she spoke.
We mumbled introductions and exchanged incredulous looks. Her name was Ann. She asked where she could smoke. She didn’t appear to be that interested in doing any work or impressing management. Ann would fit right in.
I walked her outside; she laughed at my jokes and smiled a lot. She came along to Friday drinks with the rest of the team, dressing in skin-tight jeans, a scoop neck t-shirt and a denim jacket.
She drank beers with the guys and generally ignored the middle-aged managers hitting on her. She mentioned she lived with a guy, but said they didn’t get on, and was thinking of ending it.
The Christmas party was approaching. Ann said she was a bit nervous about it. She didn’t know many people yet and didn’t want to get really drunk and make a fool of herself. I said I would look after her. She put her arm around me and hugged me. I grinned like an idiot.
The big night came.
We ate the standard Christmas dinner and drank cheap house wine. Then, we went to the bar while waiting staff moved tables off the dance floor and a mobile DJ turned up with his equipment and multicoloured spotlights. It was horrible.
It got worse when he started playing. We had all the usuals: ABBA, the theme from Grease. Evenings like this make you jealous of Helen Keller.
Our entertainment was watching the once-a-year drinkers falling over in their paper party hats.
Towards the end of the night the slow tunes came on. Ann pulled me up for a dance. I held her at a distance and made an attempt at some basic dance steps. She leant in close. I could smell her perfume. I blew a couple of tickly strands of hair away from my nose and pulled her in tight. We danced in silence then she kissed me. I stared at her. She told me that it was Christmas. That was what happened at Christmas parties.
Then her boyfriend arrived.
She was furious.
He had got a taxi and was convinced she was cheating on him. They went outside and she came back in tears before returning to collect her bag to leave in the taxi.
She fell pregnant a while later, but lost the baby.
After a couple of months, she came back to work: older, battle scarred and shocked. She had really been through it. Then she had to take a month off work to look after her boyfriend who had broken both his wrists playing football. A very odd injury, although it came out later that this was a cover story and he had owed a gangster drug money and hadn’t paid up. The boyfriend eventually went to jail for aggravated assault. She used his sentence as an opportunity to get out and planned to move to Chicago, where she had some family.
It was the early hours of Sunday morning on her last weekend in town.
I fell through my front door after a heavy night and was just getting into bed when my phone rang.
“Ann” flashed up on the caller ID. I slurred a drunken greeting. I could hear heavy breathing, then giggling. Ann was on the line with another girl and they wanted me to come round. I was tired and emotional after a long evening on the squirt. I was going to bed.
She stayed on the line, talking about how things could have been different; maybe if she hadn’t have been in a relationship and how I was really sweet. Then her friend grabbed the phone.
“Are you hung like a horse,” she said.
I smirked and hung up.