A Widowâs First
By R L Stephens
25 May 2012
A Widowâs First Love by R L Stephens
Copyright 2012 Smashwords Edition
Acknowledgment â book cover image
Black widow skull Victor Habbick
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All characters appearing in this work are
fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is
Out of adversity sprout the strangest of
flowers and on the stoniest of grounds the most radiant of roses
flourish. As such this was written during one of the most difficult
times of my life and when things seemed the darkest, and certainly
the most frustrating.
There are those in our lives that help us in
spite of ourselves and to whom we all owe an unrepayable debt. This
book is dedicated to all those people without who life would not be
possible and the inspiration and example that they provide for the
rest of us mere mortals
âSheâs a real predator,â said Agent Taylor as the
younger man reached the elevator where he was waiting. âShe toyed
with our shrink for about 3 days, and then asked for you.â
âShould I be worried?â The younger man asked as he
stopped and waited for the elevator to arrive.
âUsually only if youâre rich,â Agent Taylor replied.
âOr if youâve pissed her off,â he then added more under his breath
than anything else.
âI imagine Iâve interviewed a lot worse,â the younger
man who was in his mid- thirties. âI take if youâre Agent Taylor,â
he then added extending his hand.
âAnd youâre James Powell, the reporter,â Agent Taylor
said in reply.
James Powell was indeed a reporter working for the
New York Times and usually covered major political stories, but had
recently written a couple of pieces on inmates facing life on death
row and as a result had spoken to a number of people who were
considered to be the most dangerous felons in the country. So when
he had gotten this assignment he wasnât fazed by it, more curious
as the subject of the story had asked for him by name.
When the elevator arrived, the two men entered and
Agent Powell pressed the button for the penthouse level, where the
woman in question was currently being housed. While this wasnât by
any means a high security building as it was no different from
almost any other skyscraper in New York, it had seemed to James
that it was a strange choice as a kind of safe house to keep for a
key witness in a Federal trial. However, the more James had looked
into this case, the more his interest was piqued.
âAs we discussed on the phone,â Agent Taylor was
saying as the elevator began to rise, âthe rules are very
âI didnât think that she under arrest,â James said,
âNo she isnât, but sheâs still dangerous,â the other
man then said, as seriously as he could. And I very much doubt
sheâs here by choice. As I understand it, it was this was or
âOk, so what do I need to know?â
âFirst, donât trust her,â he said in the same tone as
before. âA few years ago, NYPD had her in custody, and the DA cut
her a deal. She then disappeared for almost 14 months.â
âOk, so what happened?â James
âShe was allowed home apparently to pick something
up, and wasnât seen again for almost a decade. During which time
she killed a man. While sheâs not under arrest, doesnât mean weâre
not trying to find something to charge her with,â Agent Taylor
sounded all too frustrated as he said this.
âI thought she had some kind of immunity?â James
asked with a puzzled look on his face as he tried to recall the
exactly details from the file he had been sent.
âOnly for crimes sheâs admitted to, âAgent Taylor
replied abruptly and sincerely as if he had to defend an unpopular
and controversial decision or policy. âSecondly, donât believe
her,â then added continuing his explanation of the rules.
âShe lies then? Hardly the sort of person youâd want
to have as a key witness,â James said. âOh believe me, since weâve
been dealing with her, sheâs sent us on a dozen or so false leads,â
he said sounding ever more annoyed. âItâs as if she enjoys playing
games, but the evidence we have been able to corroborate has been
very high quality.â As he heard this James was starting to wonder
whether this would turn out to be to the career defining story he
had been lead to believe it would be, or whether it would be just
one long wild goose chase. However, what he had been able to dig up
so far was intriguing to say the least.
âWe havenât been able to work whether sheâs some kind
of psychopath, sociopath or just plain evil,â Agent Taylor then
said, as the elevator was just about to reach its destination. âBut
in any case, donât tell her anything personal.â
âWhy not?â James, not as if it were the case that he
would tell anyone he interviewed his life story anyway.
âBecause,â Agent Taylor said as the elevator
âOh come in, itâs not as if sheâs Hannibal Lecter or
anything,â James said interrupting the FBI agent.
âNo,â Agent Taylor said, âbut whatever game she is
playing, itâs one that benefits only her, and one that only she
knows the rules to.â
âWhat makes you think sheâs playing a game?â Again
James felt rather puzzled by what was being said.
âBecause, it wasnât some great leap of law
enforcement investigative inspiration, or because of some tip off
that sheâs here,â Agent Taylor said as he held the elevator doors
shut, âshe just walked into a field office one day and handed
âTired of running perhaps?â
âI doubt it,â Agent Taylor said as he released the
elevator doors, âif so she got tired of splitting her time between
the Cayman Islands and Switzerland.â
With that the doors opened and Agent Taylor led James
out of the elevator and to a door a female uniformed police officer
on each side. He then opened the door and walked in. James Powell
then followed the FBI man into the room and at the far side, her
saw a slender, youngish woman who was perhaps in her mind to later
thirties, but could have passed for several years younger. She was
sitting on the window ledge, with her legs hugged to her chest.
âIâll leave to it, but if you need any help just call
and one of the officers outside will come,â Agent Taylor said as he
moved towards the door.
âHello James,â the woman said staring out of the
window at nothing in particular. âThat is if I may I call you
âJust remember what I told you,â Agent Taylor said
just before he left the room.
âSure, I guess,â he said as his gaze moved back from
the door to the woman. He then made his way to the coach in the
middle of the room and placed his brief case on the coffee table
that was in front of it. It was an old style leather case that had
a certain battered or used look to it that James had always thought
that had given the case a character to it that these laptop type
cases that people seemed to prefer these days didnât.
The bag had also been a gift from his parents he had
graduated from college and had told them he had an entry level job
on a big paper and even though he was no more than an office junior
and basically did all the dirty jobs no one else wanted to do, he
loved every minute of it. In fact it was then that a true passion
for journalism had been ignited in him.
âSo, youâre Rebecca Stoddard then?â He asked as he
started to take out various folders, note pads and a mini tape
recorder from the case and laid them out on the table.
âYes and youâre James Powell,â Rebecca said as she
watched intently from where she was sitting as James prepared
himself for the interview. âThe famous reporter,â she then added
with a lopsided smile and a mildly sarcastic tone to her voice.
âYouâre then one who asked for me, remember,â he said
not rising to her.
âYes, I suppose I did,â she said with a any hint of
sarcasm gone from her tone, which now sounded more fed up than
âYou could have been interviewed by any one of a
number of reporters, you know,â he said almost absentmindedly as he
tried to think if there was anything that he had forgotten, and
remembering the envious looks he had gotten from just about
everyone else in the office. âI know,â she said turning to gaze out
of the window again, but looking at nothing specifically. âSo, how
do you want to do this?â She then asked after a couple of minutes
âWell it would probably be easier if you came over
here,â James said as he indicated the easy chair that had been
placed on the other side of the coffee table and would allow them
to be able to sit directly opposite each other. She then looked
James up and down in such a way that it reminded him of a tiger or
some other big cat eying up its prey. Then it he couldnât help
think of a documentary that said that in a pride of lions it was
typically the lionesses that did the hunting.
Rebecca then got up from where she was sitting and
crossed the room, and in Jamesâ mind, as she walked towards him,
she even had the swagger of a lioness casually strutting across the
Serengeti, safe in the knowledge that he couldnât do her any harm
an almost as if she were showing off a little for his benefit. She
then sat down on the chair just as casually, with her right leg
looped under her left.
âOk, so youâre Rebecca Stoddard and were born on 16
April 1976 in England?â He asked as he also sat down, directly
facing the woman.
âIsnât that in your file?â She asked, arching her
neck as if to serendipitously get a look at what was recorded there
âYes, but I like to make sure of my facts,â he
replied smiling in order diffuse the seriousness that he felt in
the atmosphere. After all someone is hardly going to open up if
there are tense and on edge, a more relaxed subject is more likely
to trust you and then, hopefully, reveal something previously
unknown when their guard is down.
âYes, I am and I was,â she said answering his
previous question. âBefore we start, can I just clarify something?â
âSure, I guess,â she said nonchalantly.
âOk, so why are you here?â He asked. âI mean, why
arenât you under arrest? After all youâve accused in various media
of several different crimes,â he then added for clarification.
âHonestly?â She asked with a slight twinkle in her
eye and made of gesture of openness with her arms.
âYes,â he replied with sincerity.
âI made a deal with the Feds,â she said in a tone
that was almost mockingly similar to something you might have heard
in an old gangster film.
âWhat sort of deal?â He then asked hoping she would
âImmunity, in return for evidence and testimony,â she
then paused in a rare moment of hesitation. âThis article, youâre
going to write,â she said with an even rarer hint of nervousness in
her tone, âitâs not going to come out until after the trial,
âTo be honest,â he said learning forward in such a
way that was designed to elicit trust in the other person, âI have
to keep my editor up to date, but other than that weâve agreed that
itâs up to you.â
In the past James had found that being as honest and
sincere as possibly with his subjects at the outset often put them
at ease and, in many cases, disarmed them somewhat so that they
would open up to him more than perhaps they had intended. Over the
course of several years many years he had found a kind of âlittle
boy lostâ tone of voice often helped to convey to his subjects an
almost false sense of naivety that made people think that they had
the upper hand over him. They would then reveal tidbits of
information to him as if they were doing him a favor by letting him
into their own private little world and sharing their inner most
secrets more as coconspirators than interviewer and interviewee. It
was this kind of tone that James affected toward Rebecca as leaned
forward conspiratorially toward her.
âGood,â Rebecca said with her usual confidence now
returning to her one of voice, but not before James had started to
wonder whether there wasnât something of vulnerability about this
woman that hadnât previously been mentioned.
âAs Iâm sure you already know, Iâm about to give
evidence in the trial of a senior member of the Mob,â she said as
she leaned back in the chair ever so slightly. This wasnât exactly
a revelation to James as he had heard rumors of such a deal being
struck and it was an open secret that the prosecutors had some
mystery star witness in the trial of the Mafia boss Sonny Menendez.
But none of Jamesâ colleagues or any of his usual contacts had an
idea of who it was, or what they were going to say and here this
person had fallen right into his lap.
âOk, I can keep your identity confidential, if that
is what you want,â he said as he throat went a little dry,
âNo, Iâm going to testify in open court any way,â she
said, âbut I just wanted to tell my side of the story.â
James had already pretty much guessed this much, as
there had been enough written about her and her various aliases
over the years for anyone to form an idea of who this woman was.
But knowing how much journalists and writers can embellish and
sensationalize a story in order to make it more attractive to their
readers. James also knew that a great deal of what was written
would be at best be little more than supposition and conjecture
based on rumors.
For a brief moment James could have sworn there was a
glint in her eye and a flash of wicked smile that made James wonder
if there wasnât something else going on here that he wasnât aware
of. James wondered whether this whole thing wasnât part of some
larger plot that only Rebecca knew the details of and that he was
no more than a mere pawn in her plans.
On the other hand James thought that she could just
be toying with him for her own amusement while she waited for her
star turn in the witness box. In any case James didnât think it
really mattered which scenario was true as he would later be able
to sort out the truth that she wove in with the lies and
misdirection that she would provide for him and be able to weave
together a fascinating story of his own. After all he had always
been told not to take the word of anyone source at face value and
he always tried to make sure that he corroborated any story with
his own research.
âAh yes, I believe thatâs what you told my editor,â
James said now flicking through his notebook for a new, clean page
and just flicking through some previous notes he had made about
Rebecca. âWhere would you like to start?â
âHow about at the beginning?â Rebecca asked
âThat would be good,â James said as he found a new
page on his notebook and switched on the tape recorder that he
fished out of his bag a few moments ago. âOh, you donât mind if I
record this interview?â He asked almost nonchalantly as if he were
asking more out of politeness than actually asking for her
âWhy not?â Rebecca replied almost casually as the
question had been asked. âIâd hate to be misquoted later,â she then
added in such a way that James couldnât decide whether she was
being serious, and was that it was said as some kind of barely
concealed threat, or whether she had meant it jokingly.
âNow I understand that your first husband was
killed,â James started to ask, but stopped mid question as he
noticed a look of what seemed to be genuine sadness come over
Rebeccaâs face. âSorry, I didnât mean to,â he then started to add
in order to offer his sympathy to her.
âNo, no it's ok,â she said blinking her eyes tightly
closed as for moment as if she were forcing back the long
suppressed memory of a traumatic event that had happened long ago,
but hadnât been properly dealt with, that was now rushing to the
surface and threatening to overcome her like flood waters crashing
against a dam. For moment the vulnerability that James thought he
had seen in her face earlier was, but it was only for moment.
âYes, thatâs right,â she then said with all traces of
emotion, difficult or otherwise, now washed from her face. âHe was
killed after weâd been married for little over two years,â she then
âBut then there is so much more to the story than
that,â she said intriguingly after a few minutes of thought. âAnd
Iâd rather tell it my way if you donât mind. After all this is my
story and these are my rules,â she said with a wicked grin.
âOk, why donât you start then,â James said
âThank you,â she said flashing him with her most
disarming of smiles. âFirst I a little introduction,â she then
They say that itâs the âcurrent economic climateâ
when they call into their office to make you redundant or to give
the sack. That is the current way of putting it, but it has always
been the case that there are times when people are let go from jobs
by employers regardless of how much you yourself may need the job.
But then itâs always the same, those who have been there the
longest are the most expensive to keep and those at the bottom of
the time served ladder are the cheapest to get rid of and are
certainly the first be ushered out of the door.
Then of course, when you start to apply for new jobs
itâs always the same, the jobs you really want to get are those you
just donât have the experience. Then there are those you donât
want, but feel like you have to apply for anyway as you may just be
able to get them, are just so uninteresting or unsuitable that you
should have listened to your instinct the first time and not
I was a fairly decent student, always getting good
enough grades and made my at the age of 18 to university with my
heart full of optimism and hope; little did I know that this would
soon be crushed out of me and replaced with cynicism and narrow
minded self-interest. Even though my parents were what you might
call middle class or even upper middle class I always worked
through university, usually in various crappy waitressing jobs or
occasional temporary office jobs in order to keep debts down and my
work experience up.
You see I had had started university in 1995 just
when student loans were overtaking grants that seemed to be eroded
every year. I guess you would have to say that we were always
comfortable for money, not rich, but just comfortable and my
parents always drilled it in to me about the virtues of hard work
Then there was the hard-hitting reality when my
father was made redundant from the bank where he worked as a broker
or analyst or some such other terribly boring sounding job. My
parentsâ savings and the like soon got used and there came a point
where they had to sell their house for a lot less than it was worth
for a quick a sale as there was no chance they could keep up the
mortgage payment on my motherâs salary.
And so when I left University I had to get a job as
quickly as possible as they few pounds I had left as savings
wouldnât last long either.
Sorry but I missed out a step that just after
Christmas 1997 my then employer also let me go, so to speak, which
wasnât too bad as I had maintained some money in the bank to see me
through until the end of the year, well certainly with a little
prudent budgeting on my part anyway. But, this did have the up side
that I could concentrate fully on my final exams and
However, there was something of a sinking feeling
every time I looked at my bank balance and saw the numbers always
going down. Not a pleasant experience I can tell, not to mention
the rising panic I felt in the final term after Easter 1998. Mind
you, I suppose I should say that this was countered somewhat by the
sinking feeling I had at the same time as the realization set in
that I would soon run out of money and all that that meant.
Now this not to say that I was entirely ideal during
all this time, and in fact over the Easter period alone I must have
sent out dozens of CVâs, covering letters and other miscellaneous
job applications of one sort of another. Itâs just that I didnât
manage to even get anywhere near a job interviews and in most cases
I never heard back the prospective employers. I suppose thatâs fair
enough considering how many applications they must receive per
vacancy, but even those did respond werenât particularly
Such replies would normally be of the âwe have
checked your details and unfortunately there are other candidates
whose skills and experience better matched our detailed job
specifications. We are therefore unable to take your application
any further on this occasionâ. While I realize that this is
something of stock reply, it really is must unhelpful for the job
applicant, as it doesnât really tell me, or others, whether itâs
just plain down to lack of experience or whether it is in the
wording of said application.
I suppose in hindsight it really doesnât matter now
as I made a go of things anyway and, at least from a materialistic
point of view anyway, I would consider myself to have had a rather
successful life. But I suppose it could have been oh so different
if certain events hadnât occurred. I have no wish to give things
away at this point, as I am sure that would spoil things for anyway
one lucky enough to be reading these pages.
Equally, I donât right these words as a way of
engendering sympathy for myself as I am more than aware that at
times I have not been a nice person and have acted at times out of
pure self-interest, regardless of the effect that this might have
had on others at the time. And I certainly donât want people to
think that I blundered my way in to certain situations unaware of
what effect my actions would have, because at times, as I have just
said, I knew exactly what I was doing. I merely make this few notes
as a way of introduction and, purpose if anything, explanation but
certainly not by of excuse. On a further introductory note I
suppose I should introduce myself.
Whatever name or names I may have gone by over the
years, or whatever names you may have known me by, my name was, and
probably should still be, Rebecca Stoddard and I was born in 1976.
I was mostly brought up in Nottingham, but we did have a spell of
living in New York when I was around 10, that is my parents and me
of course. Then when we returned to Nottingham when I was 11 and I
started secondary school.
The question now of course is where it starts and I
would normally say to start at the beginning, but that would be far
too early a place to begin. Besides I have already given something
of an introduction that covers most of my life up to when I left
University, and while this does leave some gaps anything of
particular interest to this story while be mentioned as and
âThatâs all well and good Rebecca,â James said when
Rebecca had paused to collect her thoughts. âBut my readers would
really like to know whyâ¦.â James didnât get to finish that sentence
as Rebecca cut him with a cold look that sent a cold chill running
down his spine.
âWell then they are entitled to hear the whole
story,â she said. âOnce you have the whole story on tape you edit
it however you wish, my dear,â she then added and James couldnât
decide with he noted a touch of cynicism in her voice or something
far more sinister. He then shrugged his shoulders in in a gesture
of faux surrender and indicated to Rebecca that she should
Unfortunately, at the time I was living in a shared
student house and, as such, would have to find a new place to live
once the course was up. As such this meant that I would have to
find a new place to live once the lease expired in late summer of
that year. Almost as soon as my dissertation was handed in in later
May or early June I started to look for a new place to live. This
was naturally hindered by the fact that I still had no job and my
prospects of finding one anytime soon didnât look too good at the
âAny joy?â Louise said as she sauntered into the
kitchen on a bright and sunny Monday morning in early June
Louise was a close friend I had met in my first year
at university and we had lived in the same student houses since the
end of our first year. I guess we had just naturally drifted
together while in halls, even though we werenât the same course or
anything. In the summer of 1995 when we were both looking for a
place to live after halls neither of us need to make any kind of
conscious decision to move in together, with a couple of other
mutual friends of course, but it was just one of the those things
that you do unconsciously.
She always seemed a rather jolly sort of person who
was just naturally happy and cheerful, being too saccharine about
it or naÃ¯ve about the hardships of life. Some people, those who
didnât; know her well of course, thought she could be a little bit
flighty due to her cheerful outgoing personality that always seemed
to see the positive in any situation and her always sparkling
blonde hair that perfectly matched her natural bubbliness.
Once you got to know Louise you couldnât help be
drawn in the by the hidden depths of her affectionate sincerity. Of
course she could be a little bit gullible at times, but only
because she always saw the best in people, and once she had had
time to consider a situation or person she was soon able to get the
measure of them.
âNo same thing as always,â I said letting out a more
than frustrated sigh as I flicked through the places for rent ads
in the Nottingham Evening Post. âEither they are looking for
professionals or the place sounds a right dump.â
Well that was based on our joint experience of
viewing three or four flats for rent that werenât asking for
employer references or who would consider DHSS. Which was a common
short hand for those on housing benefit, and probably is but these
days I wouldnât be even looking in the same wanted ads as such
people. But these kinds of places turned out to be the worst
possible dives you could imagine, In fact considering the last
place we looked, it would have to come up at least a couple of
places to be considered a dive.
âSo what you going to do?â she asked.
âI donât know, moving back home isnât really an
option,â which was true as my parents had just moved into a small 2
bedroomed place that was only just big enough for the two of them
and they really couldnât have managed the extra mouth to feed any
way. That is even though they did offer me room on several
occasions, but the last time I had spoken to them before this I
could sense the tension coming down the phone line. âWhat about
you?â I asked as Louise was in a similar position but at least had
the promise of a job of from an old family friend, but that
wouldnât start until September.
âSame as you I guess,â she replied in same wistful
tone that seemed to be as close to sadness as Louise ever got.
âJust keep going in the hope that something comes up.â
âSo, what are you doing later?â Louise asked, even
though I think she already knew the answer.
âNot sure,â I replied not really wanting to face the
fact the that I should probably head down to the local Jobcentre
and see what jobs, if any they have listed there. âHead down to
Jobcentre, I guess,â I then added not too sure if I
would actually go and wondering if I could put it off for a few
more days or weeks.
"Are you going to sign on?â Louise asked, meaning if
I was going to sign on for unemployment benefits probably wondering
that she should do the same thing considering she was in the same
situation as me.
âI guess I should,â I replied, but then no one in my
family had ever really claimed benefits in almost out entire
history. Except of course for child benefits, but then at the time
this was available as a universal benefit. Mind you there was Uncle
Jason who had been off work for years with a bad back, but then we
never really much to do with him anyway and besides we always
assumed that he was faking it anyway.
In any case itâs not as if I had anything better to
do that day except laze about at home and watch daytime TV. I
always thought something that dire would encourage people to go out
and do something productive with their lives or you would literally
sit there and feel your IQ melt away as each hour of dross sucked
the life out of you.
Anyway, Louise had something else to do and I soon
heard her leaving the house as the front door clicked shut. I then
made myself something to eat and in no time found myself lounging
on our sitting room sofa, flicking through the mind numbing dross
that seemed to infect each and every channel. After I had finished
eating, and had enough of whatever was being broadcast at the time
I dragged myself off the sofa and practically forced myself out of
Outside it was a lovely sunny June day or at least
thatâs how I remember it as it was so long ago now and there has
been so much that has happened over the last several years. Far too
many than I care to remember, that as it may be I cannot deny that
the time has passed and that is has seemed to have flown by.
The good times and the bad have both passed into the
illusion that is memory all too soon and both with the speed of a
humming birdâs wings. But I cannot say that I have many regrets and
I always thought that to say that one has none, is just being
dishonest with oneself. This is because there are always things
that people could, and perhaps should, have done differently or
perhaps opportunities that they should have taken and didnât.
There isnât much that I regret doing over the years
and even some the less reputable acts I have done donât twinge on
my conscious as much as you might think. If I were being honest
with myself I might say that I regret having to have done them, but
I donât regret the acts themselves. Now, though, I am again getting
ahead of myself and, as I said in the introduction earlier, I donât
want to give the story away too much, too early. Now, getting away
from my musings and back to that warm and sunny June day and I must
admit itâs funny now the things that people remember, or rather
what sticks in their mind many years later.
I clearly remember being slouched on the seat of the
bus stop waiting for a bus to take me into the town center from
Sherwood (a locale of Nottingham) and feeling the sun warming my
face as I looked up the road. I if I remember rightly and you have
to consider that this was number of years ago now and my memory may
not be as accurate as it once was; I was wearing that day some
light colored t-shirt, jeans and an oldish pay of 5â heeled pumps.
I'm not entirely sure why I mention this now, but I just thought of
it and it seemed relevant. In any case what I do remember is that
while it was warm it was overly hot.
I wasnât there long and as I recall the busses, where
something like every 15 or 20 minutes at the time, and when the
next one arrived I simply paid the requisite fare and got on. The
journey couldnât have taken more than about 15 minutes and I soon
found myself getting off at the Victoria Centre in the city
I really canât remember how busy the bus was, but
considering it was early afternoon I really couldnât imagine that
it was all that busy. The city center itself was a mass of people
all mingling their way in to and out of the crowd as they made
their way to wherever it was they were going. Myself I sort of
sauntered my way to the nearest Jobcentre and, as you tend to in
these places, took a number and sat down waiting.
Of course this was the days before mobiles had
seriously caught on and I naturally hadnât got one yet, so instead
of habitually texting a friend, tweeting, updating Facebook or any
of the thousands of different tasks we now take for granted in
relation to these palm sized electronic devils, I sat there trying
not to look at my fellow jobseekers. Well I assumed that everyone
else who was waiting their turn was also jobseeker and not one of
these mythical benefits scroungers you constantly read about in the
gutter and right wing press. Mind you looking around me it did seem
as this was more of a cesspool of human detritus than somewhere a
normal human being would seek employment.
For example a few feet, and I am certain to this day
that there was not enough distance between us, was some vagabond
who looked and smelt like he hadnât washed in weeks, or perhaps
even months. The first thought I had upon noticing this walking, or
in this case sitting, compost heap of a person was who exactly he
expected would give him a job? Perhaps there would suddenly become
available to him some sort of job working down the sewers. The
second thing that occurred to me was, just who exactly would lack
the basic self-respect to leave the house, assuming he had a home
of course, in such a rotten state.
And for the relatively short time that we were
sitting in the same vicinity as each other I suddenly had the
twinge of sympathy for the poor sod who would have to sit opposite
this gentleman, separated by only a desk and without the aid of a
gasmask or some other device that could filter out the malodorous
stench. But then this only lasted for the few minutes that I was
unfortunate enough to spend being interviewed by the individual
behind said desk, but then again I do get ahead of myself and I
Mind you had it has been commented on several
occasions that I am not the most tolerant of people and if I were
being honest of course, I would probably agree. But then, as I hope
you too will come to find out in these pages, that for those I care
about, I really do feel genuine affection towards and will do
almost anything for them. However, this is not the point in the
story at which I wish such traits to come across and fir the time
being a less tolerant and unfeeling me is more than suitable.
Anyway as people came and went there were those who
looked like normal human beings, and even a middle-aged guy who
spookily reminded me of my Dad as he trundled away from his mini
interrogation. I am certain even to this day that this guy was one
of the few people I saw that day who looked genuinely distraught at
his circumstances. I can only imagine that he was, considering the
suite he was wearing, once and had been for quite some time an
office working and I would even go so far as to say middle
Itâs probably just the illusion of memory over time,
but as think back, it this guy seemed to walk past me as some kind
of living spirit of my own father who I understand broke down and
cried when he was let go, and this passing stranger seemed to have
a tear forming in his eyes as he passed.
From what I could see and hear, most of the rest were
more miffed about having to come to this place once a fortnight in
order to sign a formality that they are âlooking for workâ and have
been applying for the bare minimum over the previous 14 days. Then
again there were those who complained about the pittance that they
were receiving for being unemployed and you could every so often
hear something along the lines of âHow am I supposed to feed my
kids on that?â If that were their main concern, then perhaps they
should get a job, any job and actually earn it. As I said before I
never was very tolerant.
After a suitably long, or seemingly long, period of
time it came to be my turn. As my number was called I wondered over
to the appropriate desk and sat down. Opposite me was a rotund
woman in, what appeared to me at the time anyway, her mid 40âs and
clearly hadnât worked anywhere else but this lounge of the assorted
dregs of society; well except for me of course.
âHello and how can I help you?â She asked as I sat
down, in a clearly over rehearsed and rather tired faux polite
manner that was obviously originally meant to put people at their
To me though it just reminded me of someone who
really needed a change in career, but couldnât be bothered to do
anything about it.
âMy names Rebecca Stoddard,â I explained, âand I'm a
student due to finish anytime now, and havenât found work yet.â As
the woman, who did introduce herself but I for the life of me I
canât remember her name, explained the various benefits and
procedures and the like I thought I could hear a tone of
exasperation in her voice.
It was as if she had been explaining the same thing
over and over again to countless others who had sat in my seat and
had finally turned into a looped recording message that repeated
itself over and over, but with a person with feelings behind it who
was just as stuck as the message. To be honest as I recall she
wasnât that much help as much of what she had said I could probably
have gleamed from one of the multitude of leaflets that seemed to
the litter the walls and notice boards.
Once the preordained 15 minute consultation was up I
then got up from my seat and, armed with the plethora of leaflets
and the required claim form I headed out of the Jobcentre. I found
myself aimless wandering around town, pondering what I would do
next as I peeked in at some of the shop windows as I went. I
suppose at the time this was more in the vain hope that one or more
them would be advertising for help wanted. I know I should have
stayed longer at the job center and browsed the jobs there, but I
just had to get out of there as quickly as I could.
âOh sorry,â I muttered as I bumped into some guy
coming out of WH Smith and knocking his bags out of his hands.
âThatâs ok,â he said as he scrambled to pick them up
again. As I handed him the last carrier I couldnât help but be
drawn into those big hazel eyes of his. Now I've never been one for
love at first sight and would normally deride anyone who claimed
that they did fall in love with someone at first, but I suppose
this was my one and only exception. Now, these days I am far too
cynical for such things and never let my head rule my heart, but
back then I suppose my heart was still open to such things and was
struck the moment our eyes met.
I know itâs such a clichÃ©, but he was quite literally
the tall dark handsome stranger most of the girls that I knew at
school would day dream over. I guess he was tad over 6 feet tall
and had jet black hair. His hazel eyes stood out, or rather called
out to me and I was caught in their event horizon. I had no idea at
the time how this one chance meeting would change my life or how
much an effect it would have on later events. But for now I was
standing there like a dippy schoolgirl who was smitten by her first
âThatâs ok, thereâs nothing fragile,â he said
reassuringly, but not knowing how fragile his gaze made my heart.
It was almost as if he had sprayed liquid nitrogen out of them and
all of my heart. I guess I must have squeaked another apology
without knowing it for him to have to have said it such a cooing
tone of voice and all I could was giggle back at him in reply, just
like the schoolgirl I had just thought of. And too be honest I must
of looked sight just standing there staring at this handsome
stranger, all but refusing to let go of the last bag as that would
mean our encounter would be over.
âTell you what,â he started to say as his newfound
stalker wouldnât let him have his shopping back, âIâll buy you a
coffee if you let me have that bag.â
âOk,â I sort of half giggled, still in schoolgirl
mode, as I let go of the plastic handle. Like a puppy dog with its
new master I followed him to a nearby Waterstones that also had a
coffee shop on the third floor. I barely spoke as we rode the lift
up to the third floor, as all I could manage was to look deep into
those hazel colored dream pools that I was in danger of drowning
I am sure that if I had actually listened to what he
was saying I would have heard all about what he did for living
whether he was single or otherwise; I was fairly confident that he
wasnât married as I couldnât see a ring. When we got to the coffee
shop I managed to focus my attention on what he was saying long
enough for him to ask me what I wanted and for me to reply.
Itâs not that I donât like coffee, itâs just that at
that moment I just really fancied a hot chocolate with lots of
cream and I guess I had just slipped way too deep into dippy
schoolgirl mode to ask for anything more grown up and conventional.
I then sat down at a table while he went to order and all the while
I waiting I could think of nothing else, but his dreamy hazel
Maybe thatâs why I ordered the hot chocolate as I
associated his eyes with the hazelnuts they sometimes put in
chocolate bars, but then who knows why as the exact reasons are no
lost in the distant mists of time and memory. I do, however, get
the impression that while I waited I rested my elbows on the table
and my chin on my hands like you see love struck teenagers in old
American movies. Yes, thatâs right I was smitten alight.
âI didnât know whether you wanted chocolate sprinkles
or not, but you looked like someone who does,â he said about 10
minutes later when he finally put the mugs down at our table. I
mumbled something unintelligible that was supposed to be some kind
of thank, but just came out as what sounded like a burbled attempt
âYou still havenât told me your name,â he said as a
statement rather than actually asking a question, but l liked the
firm authority in his voice.
Now I am not usually, not even at that period in my
life, someone who would normally gush over a man, but there was
just something about that made me go weak at the knees and
disorientate my speech in to something a kin to speaking in
tongues, or even something less understandable than that. I very
doubt that any man since then has had any kind of effect on me as
much as he did, and for the most part itâs been very much the other
âRebecca,â I managed to mumble before I brought the
mug up to my mouths and scold my tongue on the hot brown liquid
under the cold frothy foam on top. I then put the mug back down the
table and stirred the luxurious, if a little synthetic, cream into
the boiling hot liquid and blew on it in order to cool it down. He
then brought a napkin up to my mouth and gently wiped away the
white moustache I had acquired from the cream as a parent might a
âSorry you had a little,â he said wiping his index
finger across his top lip to indicate the cream I had on mine
âThanks,â was all I could manage as I continued to be
fully absorbed in him. He then went on to talk about his life,
while I listened, trying to look interested as if I was hanging on
his every word. But in reality I was now being drawn into the
singularity that was those irresistible eyes. I am sorry to say
that I have no real clue as to what he said during that first
encounter, I hesitate to use the word âdateâ as it didnât really
seem like that at the time.
I guess it was more of a get to you know you sort of
thing, even though I was just sitting there occasionally sipping
the now cooling liquid and nodding in seemingly appropriate places.
I am sure that anyone who would have been watching me at the time
would have probably even seen me drooling at some point or think I
was several years younger than my, should have been more mature,
22. Looking back, I hardly recognize the girl I was then, and if I
could speak to myself back then I would severely admonish my
younger self for so easily losing my heart over a man, no matter
how dreamy he seemed at the time.
Mind you, if indeed the older me had encountered the
younger me, and had persuaded her not to be so foolish, then I
would have deprived myself so many wonderful times that followed.
But then on the other hand, if I were to follow the same
speculation, I suppose I would also save myself all the pain and
sad times that followed to.
But then I am getting ahead of myself again. I full
well know followed, but of course anyone reading these words does
not, and in such narrative one event naturally follows another and
cannot flit recklessly from one point in the story to another, in
non-linear fashion. Suffice to say that I already to be losing my
heart to this complete stranger who was regaling me with his life
story, and I could barely return the common courtesy by actually
listening to what he was saying
âIs all of this really relevant?â James asked more
playing Devilâs advocate than anything else.
âYes,â Rebecca said after shooting James a dirty, but
harmless, look. âYou do want to get the whole story donât you?â She
then added rhetorically as she had no intention of changing
âYes, of course,â James said smiling as charmingly as
Times arrow flew by and soon enough both of us had
empty mugs and other things to do. Well the stranger sitting across
the table from me did, I suppose, and I had little to do but go
home and contemplate more job applications. Stranger, ah yes,
thatâs anything, he had told me his name a couple of times already
and it had either slipped my mind altogether or it simply hadnât
registered on my love addled mind.
âWell, itâs been really nice meeting you Rebecca,â he
said an indeterminate period of time after we had sat down. âIâm
sorry to say that I really have to be going, but Iâd love to see
you again sometime,â he said in a sincere tone of voice, but all
that I got from that sentence was that he now had to leave and my
eyes must have looked forlorn and pleading as I hoped we could
spend eternity together and never be parted. Oh the foolishness of
âMust you?â I then more pleaded than asked.
âYes, I have quite a lot to do over the next few
days,â he said as my heart sank and the remorseless world closed in
crushing my young heart. âBut, if you give me your number I call
you, and we can meet up again,â he said as my heart sang again with
what seemed like false hope as when guys usually say that, they
never do. With springs renewed hope after the darkness of winter
fluttering in my heart I gave him my number and we departed to go
our separate ways. Parted but not for long, I hoped back then as I
floated with joyful enthusiasm from the coffee shop to my bus
I barely noticed the bus journey home as I stared out
of the window, but not seeing the shops and people go past. Even
when the bus stopped for traffic lights or to pick up and drop off
other passengers I didnât notice and I even almost missed my own
stop. I was that enamored by the man I had met not more than a
couple of hours ago. I had even, just about, forgotten about the
dire time I had spent in the Jobcentre, so lost was I in his hazel
eyes. But there was always more than a distinct possibility that I
would never see him again.
To be honest, at the time it felt more than a
distinct possibility and I had push back the growing feeling of
dread that filled my previously overjoyed heart that I felt from
the thought of not seeing him again. For the life of me, I still
couldnât remember his name, despite the fact that he had told me it
at least twice. I didnât care though as those big brown eyes had
trapped me ever so completely, mind body and soul. All he had to do
was to call, or even snap his fingers and I would come running.
As that thought, or so I remember anyway, ran through
my barely functioning brain I just happened to notice that my stop
was just ahead and in the nick of time, I managed to push the
button in order to get off the bus. Mind you as I recall where I
was living at the time there wasnât much distance between my stop
and the next one and I could have easily walked back down the road
to where I lived. I then stumbled off the bus, itâs not like I was
drunk or anything except perhaps intoxicated by the sickly sweet
nectar of love, and started to make my way across the road to where
I lived. As I did so I distinctly remember that my legs felt weak
and rubbery, and I seems to wobble back to my house.
My legs then barely carried me back to my front door
and I just about managed to put the key in the door, turn it and
then push the door open. I then managed to wobble into the sitting
room and then just flopped on the sofa. Fortunately no one, not
even Louise, was there at the time to see my ungainly entrance and
landing. There I lay looking dreamily up at the ceiling for I have
no idea how long until I was pulled back to reality by the sound of
the door being closed behind someone.
As the door to the sitting room, creaked open I
wondered who it would be was relieved as Louiseâs family figure
glided around the door. Relived that is because itâs not as if we
didnât get on with our other three housemates, itâs just that we
werenât exactly friendly. I mean we all get on well enough, but
Louise and I are without doubt close friends and the other three
are more people we knew and who seemed decent enough to share with.
However, you can never really know anyone until you have lived with
them. Itâs all those annoying little habits that you donât really
notice until youâve lived together for a couple of months and that
seem rather innocuous at first, but can build up to petty
annoyances and then to things that make you mad.
I guess Iâm realty talking about the little things
like the way some people leave towels on the bathroom floor, or use
the last of your body wash before youâve had a chance to buy some
more. Or the way that some people just never to seem to wash up
their dirty dishes after themselves and just leave them there all
day, thinking that itâs not really that important and theyâll just
get around to it when they feel like it. These small petty things
can build up over time until, one day, youâre standing there with
the person in question bent backwards over the kitchen unit holding
a sharp carving to their neck and youâre moments away from facing a
charge of manslaughter or worse.
These petty little grievances are much worse, in my
opinion, than the bigger things like playing music at full blast at
3am while youâre trying to get to sleep. I say this because it is a
case of, as I have just said, that they build up over time and that
the person in question doesnât really know that what they are doing
annoys others. Besides, youâre supposed to forgive these little
minor transgressions, as itâs the little flaws in peopleâs
character that makes them interesting.
But as I have said I never was a very tolerant
person, the Great Bath Towel Incident of â97 is now a distant
memory; I really should learn not to hold grudges, and the person
in question did learn their lesson after I added just a tad extra
curry powder to a chicken curry she was making. Yes, I know very
childish and I really shouldnât digress.
âHowâd it go?â Louise asked as she saw me flopped on
âPretty much as I expected,â I said as I wondered
what I had done with the forms and leaflets that I had left the
Jobcentre with and then seeing them on the floor by the sofa where
I had dropped them, all but amazed that I had remembered to bring
them home with me after my encounter with Hazel Eyes. âThey gave me
a load of stuff to read about claiming benefits and the forms to
fill in. But basically thatâs about all,â I said probably sounding
âOh,â Louise more expelled than said, âno job hunting
âNot really,â I said, as I really hadnât taken in
anything that woman had said, âI guess must have phased out at one
âOh that interesting was it?â She said as more of a
statement than a question. âSo, come on,â she said trying to coax
the rest out of me as she could probably tell by my soppy
expression something else had happened.
âOh nothing,â I said with bit of a wistful sigh as I
thought of the ideal man who had probably slipped through my
fingers. There was no way I could have known at that time that only
a few days later I would run into him again.
âOh come on, something must have happened,â she said
perching herself down on the edge of the sofa. âDo tell,â she then
added gleefully as though I was about to impart some snippet of
âWell, I did kind of bump into this guy,â I said
suddenly feeling very shy and embarrassed about the whole
âOh, come one dear, donât hold back on me now,â she
âNo I mean I literally bumped into this guy coming
out of WH Smith,â I said as my cheeks started to glow red and a
huge smile started to spread across Louiseâs face.
âOh dear,â she said âWhat happened then?â
âHe took me for a coffee,â I said honestly.
âOh really,â she said. âSo whatâs he like? â
âTall, dark and very handsome,â I said in a way that
sounded rather more naughty than I had intended.
âDid you really?â She then replied as her smile grew
âWith the most gorgeous hazel eyes,â I said in the
same tone as I felt my embarrassment of a few moments ago
âWhatâs his name?â She then asked, as she continued
the interrogation and as her eyes light up with delight.
âI have err no idea,â I said rather gingerly.
âRebecca, how can you now know his name?â She asked
as the light in her eyes dimmed a little and they seemed to form a
more questioning expression, Louise always did have the most
expressive eyes. âHe did tell you his name, didnât he?â She then
added with a touch of exasperation in her voice.
âErr yes,â I said as my cheeks started to burn red
again. I have no idea what this guy had done to me, as never before
meeting him, or since, had I ever been that easily embarrassed
about anything. But somehow he had, using some mystic dark arts, he
had enchanted me.
âI donât know, I guess I just didnât pay attention,â
I then added as if that was sufficient explanation, even though
knew it wasnât.
âJeez,â she said, âsmitten after one meeting. You do
have it bad,â she said with just a hint of sympathy in her voice.
âSo are you going to see him again?â
âI donât know,â I said, âI did give him my number he
said that he would call.â The words fell out of my mouth and I
couldnât believe how much like a teenager I sounded. One brief
encounter with a man and I had regressed almost 6 years in age in
only a few hours. Now in later years I would have considered anyone
behaving in such a way as being rather pathetic and that they
should get on with their lives and not hang around on the off
chance that some stranger would just happen to call. If I had been
able to walk in on my younger self, I would have slapped her in the
face and told her so in no uncertain terms. I guess itâs no wonder
that some people who know me now, but donât know me that well,
consider me to be a cold and unfeeling kind of person. And believe
me I have been called much worse.
Louise, the considerate person that she always was,
left it at that and, for my sake, didnât mention the obvious
conclusion that he wouldnât call. In any case the way my heart
fluttered that evening I donât think I would have listened to her
even if I had wanted to. Such was the way I felt that even doing
the dishes after supper didnât, for just about the only time, seem
like a chore and afterwards I floated up to my room and lay on my
bed and dreamt of him, like only a teenage girl could.
Around 8.30 pm my heart missed several beats when I
heard the phone ringing down stairs and, even though I normally
donât answer it myself as I tend to leave that to others, I almost
jumped off my bed and was just about to open my door when it was
answered. I could hear one of my housemates doing the usual âhi who
is it?â as they found out who was on the other end of the line. Oh
how times have changed now that virtually everyone has their own
individual phone. Anyway after a few minutes of hopefully listening
my heart sank as I realized it wasnât going to be for me and them I
flopped back on to my bed.
Actually, I can just about remember thinking that
whoever was on the phone had better get off it quickly as they were
preventing my dream love from contacting me and whisking me away to
some far away land or some such thing. How perfectly silly I feel
now as I remember feeling relived when my strained ear caught the
sound of the receiver being replaced and I readied myself to make
the dash downstairs to answer the phone when, not if, it would ring
again. But of course it didnât and after what seemed like an age of
waiting I settled down to do whatever it was reading or watching at
The next morning I woke early around 6 or 7 am, or so
I remember, and I felt almost hung- over. It was as if the
withdrawal from the drug of love was just kicking and I was coming
down from the massive dose of the narcotic called infatuation that
I been forced to take the day before. Not that I would know from
personal experience of course, but thatâs what I imagined it was
like. In other words I felt very low, tired and just unable to face
the world. Ok so it probably wasnât as bad as all that, but the
upshot was that I just didnât feel like getting up and turned over
to go back sleep. I did the exact same thing when 9.30 and 10.30 am
Some undetermined period of time, or at least thatâs
how it felt when I pulled my face away from my pillow again and
gazed bleary eyed at my alarm clock. And to my annoyance it was now
12.30, or even getting on towards to 1pm, and half the day had
already gone by before I had even gotten and had breakfast. I then
pulled myself; well more like dragged myself, out of bed and away
from my comforting duvet. Almost zombie like I made my way
downstairs to the kitchen and, with an effort that felt like
someone climbing the heights of Everest without oxygen, I made
poured some cereal in to a bowl and topped it off with some cold
milk. At the time I assumed that it was my milk and not of my
housemates, as I just grabbed the first one that came to hand, and
didnât even think about the heinous crime of milk pilfering that I
could have been guilty of.
With each soggy mouthful of whatever the cereal was
meant to be, I felt in such a state at the time that I didnât even
notice what cereal it was I that had just decanted into my bowl, I
took a step closer to the world of the fully awake and away from
the mindless undead. Rather like someone who might now see on the
Jeremy Kyle Show turning into a normal human being. As the sleep
fell away from me, and some of the withdrawal eased, my thoughts
turned to what I should do that day.
As it was Tuesday, there wouldnât be a full jobs
issue of the Nottingham Evening Post until the following day, but I
did think though that as it was just June that I might still have
access to the Universityâs IT system and might be able to access
the internet from there. Yes thatâs right even in the late Dark
Ages that was 1998 we did still have access to the internet, even
though if you tried to access it from home would only have an
achingly slow dial up service.
Still with the thought of at least doing something
vaguely productive I finished my soggy cereal, washed my bowl and
headed for the shower. After I had showered, dressed and whatever
else a girl may do in the morning, in my case the afternoon, before
getting ready I then headed into town.
Getting in the computer center was no problem as my
ID must have still been valid and I had no problem logging on to
the computers either. Then there was the ordeal of trawling through
all the job advertisement and job agency sites not only for a job
that I thought I could get, but also for one that I thought I might
enjoy or, better still, offered some kind of prospects. Not much
jumped out at me on any site that I visited that day, a few
waitressing jobs in the area I did end up sending off CVâs or
phoning up about, but not real luck.
After a couple of hours of searching I decided that I
had had enough and would go for a wonder around town as the weather
was still quite nice. Of course, there was no question that I would
again bump into Hazel Eyes, but then my heart wouldnât give up the
possibility. And despite wondering in and out of the same WH Smith
4 or 5 times in the space of a couple of hours, there was no sign
of him. Why I ever thought there would be I have no idea, but then
I was being led by my over active heart and not my head.
The next few days seemed to fly by, and I very much
settled into the same routine of getting up late and wondering down
to use the Universityâs computers in the afternoon to search for
jobs with a bout as much luck as I had previously. The days then
seemed to be blend in to each other and these soon became weeks,
and the end of July started to loom large, as thatâs when we were
supposed to move out.
However, I guess it was a case of after my large
overdose on love that that meeting had given me, over the next few
days and weeks my withdrawal became worse and I just lost interest
in life a bit. I just wanted to hide away from the world under my
duvet as my heart ached for the man I had known for less than a
couple of hours. As each job application rejection came it was as
if he were rejected me again and again.
Looking back, I really canât abide the maudlin
self-pity that I seem to remember to have felt at the time. There
are times, when I think back to this period in my life, that I
really wish that I could go back and shake some sense into
My heart did sing a little again towards the end of
June when I was chatting with Louise in the sitting one afternoon
when the phone rang. Louise answered it and my heart literally
skipped a beat when I heard her say, âYes, sheâs here,â in the vain
hope that it would be him, my Hazel Eyes, finally getting round to
call me. I the perched on the edge of the sofa in anticipation as
Louise wondered back in to the room.
âItâs for you,â she said calm as you like as I sprang
out of my seat in keenly hoping that it was indeed him.
âHello,â I said eagerly waiting for the sound of his
âHello,â an unfamiliar replied. âIs that Rebecca
Stoddard?â My heart sank in to my boots as I heard the distinctly
female voice on the other end of the phone.
âYes,â I replied tentatively.
âMy name is Amy Smith and Iâm calling in relation to
your application for an admin assistant job,â my heart sank even
deeper as she said these words and went to explain that it was with
some government department that I wonât mention. Apparently, a few
weeks I had applied for this job, and completely forgot about it,
and now they were calling to invite me to interview.
Normally such news would make someone extremely
happy, and under normal circumstances that would have been the case
with me, but I felt such a case of anti-climax that I must have
sounded the least enthusiastic job applicant they had ever spoken
âOk, so weâll see you next Wednesday at 10am,â she
said, âand thereâll be a letter sent out in the post today to
confirm the details.â
âOk,â I said in reply, my voice barely getting above
a squeak as I put the phone down.
âSo who was it?â Louise asked with more enthusiasm
than I felt.
âOh, Iâve got a job interview next week,â I said
probably sounding rather glum as I sat crossed legged on the
âWell, thatâs good news?â She asked querying my sad
âI guess so, yes,â I said in reply.
âSo, whoâs it with and whatâs the salary?â She asked
understandably curious and I told her all the details that I could
remember. As we spoke about the prospects of me becoming one of
those faceless bureaucrats that youâre always reading about in some
paper or other, I couldnât but help think that I would never my
Hazel Eyes again.
A couple of days later the letter duly arrived and I
started to think about what to wear for the interview. I thought
that I had a skirt suit somewhere that my parents had bought me for
just such an occasion, while it was rather bland and plain, it
would probably be suitable, along with a plain white blouse. Then,
of course, there was the matter of what to say at such things. On
the Monday, I believe, I printed off a copy of my CV and started to
think about what I could possibly say to impress the interviewing
At first glance, waitressing isnât the ideal
preparation for shuffling around papers for a large bureaucracy,
and initially I was slightly down hearted, as there would no doubt
be candidates more appropriate experience. Then I started to think
of all the times that I had had to plan and prepare various essays
and the like for my degree and of course there was my dissertation
that was almost 10,000 words long. Well there was plenty of time
management stuff. Early last a group of 4 or 5 of us had to make a
presentation on some topic or other; yes I know I should the
details but now itâs a long time ago and I have long forgotten the
details. In any case as we had to work together in order to pull
this thing together I thought that might do some sort of team
It was somewhere in-between jotting this down and
going to the bathroom for a little comfort break that I suddenly
remembered that just before Christmas I had been serving this guy
who kept complaining. His soup was too cold, his steak was under
cooked, or his steak was over cooked (right now I couldnât care
either way), and so on. Despite the distinct and more almost
irresistible temptation of it, I managed somehow to resist pouring
a boiling hot bowl of soup over his annoying head.
And of course any of the other less obvious things
that you hear about restaurant staff doing to customersâ food
and/or drink when they become irritatingly demanding, or even just
plain obnoxious. Not that I would do anything of the sort of
course, no I always have preferred the more direct approach; not
including the curry powder after the Great Bath Towel Incident of
â97 that is (which occurred in November 1997).
Mind you, during exams in the summer of 1997 I did go
rather over the top. One of the people I was sharing at the time
had a penchant for playing loud music, and especially before in to
the early hours. The morning after the night in question I had an
exam at 9 am in a subject that was giving me quite a lot of trouble
and, unlike a lot of students who tend to pull all-nigthers, I had
decided to get an early as I felt it would be better to be well
rested than try and cram in to my head anything I may not already
know. And besides if I didnât understand it by then, a later night
Eureka moment was highly unlikely.
Anyway 11pm came around and as predictable as the sun
rising in the morning, there was a sudden and sustained full blast
of some heavy metal band came blasting down through my celling. I
then, more politely than I felt like, wondered upstairs and tapped
on his door. After a few minutes the oily irk in question answered
âWhat?â He more grunted than said.
âCould you please turn the music down?â I asked, as
nice as pie, and yes I am aware that many who know me wouldnât
believe me when I say that.
âUh?â He then communicated, in almost fluent caveman,
his non-understanding of a simple request made in plain English. It
would appear that such a recent development as spoken language
hadnât quite reached whichever remote part of the country he had
âCould you please turn the music down?â I asked
âOh ok,â he replied in the affirmative, or at least
thatâs how it seemed to me at time, as whatever part of his brain
managed to translate my words into whatever primitive method of
communication that they used in the Neolithic era.
12.30 then soon snuck its weary head in my direction
and there was still the pounding of some experimental sonic weapon,
or some other such device, being tested over above my head. I then
stomped, in a rather unladylike, but tired fashion back up to the
living space this troglodyte inhabited and pounded on the door. He
then, eventually, opened the door and greeted me in the same
fashion. We went through the same verbal dance as before, except
that I tried to plead to his better nature. To this day, I am still
not sure that he had the least bit civility in him.
Two horrendous, ear drum popping hours later and the
noise, I hesitant to call it music as that would imply some kind of
tune or rhythm to it whereas this was just a continuous series of
thumps, was still going on. By this time I was about to explode I
was so furious, but instead of the famed red mist coming down I
just calmly got out of bed. I then made my way into the kitchen,
retrieved a rolling pin from the drawer where I knew it would be,
and calmly walked up the stairs. I then pounded on the door to the
troglodyteâs and when he opened the door, and with no thought for
my own safety or what other prehistoric creatures may lay therein I
entered the troglodyteâs dwelling place.
Not more than a couple of minutes later, with a flash
of rolling pin and the crashing sound of said item colliding with
plastic, where the stereo was there was now an unrecognizable pile
of pile of rubble. A shocked looking troglodyte was also standing
at the opening to his lair, whose face communicated quite plainly
the shock and sadness the he must have felt with the destruction of
his prized possession. I then trundled off back downstairs, slipped
into bed and quietly off to sleep. While I felt exhausted during
the exam the next morning, this was nothing to self-satisfied smile
that must have been evident on my lips as I fell asleep.
Now there werenât quite no consequences for my
actions that night, but these only amounted to a final and stern
warning from the landlord and the handing of over of some shiny
rocks to the troglodyte as by way of compensating. However, this
didnât take away from the fact that I have no remorse for what I
did that night, and would probably do it again, should the need
arise. But the troglodyte in question wasnât heard too much of for
the rest of the contract.
Back to the point in hand, and after I had noted down
about the rather trying customer mentioned above I then had another
thought. As a waitress, you constantly have to juggle the various
demands and priorities of different people, mostly customers and
the occasional difficult or even drunk, chef. And as such you would
have to keep then updated and, somehow, manage their expectations,
which sounded pretty good so I made a note of that. Then my mind
turned to the always-tricky question of what to say when they turn
around and ask if you have any questions.
Thinking about it at the time, and again now, it
seems rather presumptuous to ask about things like pay and career
progression as you could come across as assuming that you have the
job already. Then again those are things that one would always want
to know from a prospective employer and it could show that you are
both confident in your own abilities and are ambitious as you are
wanting to know if I join this employer am I going to be able to
advance my career with them. Both questions I noted down as
possibles in case I couldnât think of anything else by
The morning of the interview came rather too quickly
for my liking and, waking early after an inconsistent nightâs
sleep, I managed to get to the bathroom just in time before being
sick in the toilet. After several minute of retching, I then faced
the unsavory task of cleaning up after myself. I can distinct
remember the smell alone made me want to retch again, but I managed
not to and to control myself. I guess that itâs rather unfortunate
that it often takes longer to clean up after oneself than it does
being sick in the first place. At the time, I just hoped that it
was just a matter of nerves and not food poisoning, or the onset of
Once I had gotten rid of the smell with copious
amounts of air freshener, I then showered and did various other
ablutions before getting dressed. Fortunately, I had ironed a
suitable blouse the night before and everything was already hanging
in closet ready. I then dressed and left the house in more than
forty-five minutes. As I waited for the bus, I checked the time on
my watch and realized that I still had over ninety minutes to get
to the interview, which was at 10am, and it was no later than 8.30
Finding the place where the interview was to be held
wasnât hard, but as I was a good three quarters of an hour early
the hard part was not turning up too early. I even tried walking a
good bit slower than I would normally in to order to waste time and
to gather my thoughts. But it was no good as I still arrived far
too early and, spotting a cafÃ© nearby, decided to have a drink
before the interview. As I sat there, sipping the hot liquid I did
try to read the notes that I had brought with me, but it was no
good as I felt rather too nervous to actually focus on the words
and at that moment I just wanted to get this over with.
By the time I had finished the drink there was about
15 minutes to go before my allotted and I decided that I really
couldnât wait any longer and made my way to the interview. I
arrived at reception as I had been requested to do in the letter
and introduced myself. The lady on reception told me to take a seat
and I sat down, feeling my legs wobble with nerves. I never was a
particularly susceptible to nerves, but this was one of those
situations that would make anyone nervous. Especially with the
prospect of more waiting and having to sit there contemplating all
the possible scenarios and questions that could arise.
As I sat there, I could distinctly feel my stomach
flutter, like being queasy without actually being sick or perhaps
just a tad below that. Simultaneously my right leg started to
tremble, almost in rhythm with my stomach. This then started to
shiver up my right side and I was sure that I could feel my right
arm start to shake to the same rhythm. At the same time, the
uneasiness in my stomach started to swell up until I could feel a
combination of bile and panic catch somewhere in my throat.
Now calm down girl, I told myself in no uncertain
terms as I tried to force a feeling of relaxation to flow throw my
body, which was of little use as the feeling of panic started to
win. At that moment I knew I should have taken more time that
morning and, at least, had something to eat. Maybe it was just my
stomach starting to growl, through lack of food, that I was
feeling. As I thought that I sincerely hoped that this was the case
a female voice from my left called my name and I stood bolt upright
as if I were a soldier coming to attention.
âMiss Stoddard,â the unknown female said, âwill you
come this way?â Silently I then followed her like the condemned man
following a guard to the gallows. I was then led into a room with a
table at one end of it and a chair placed just in front of it,
obviously intended for the interrogation subject to seat in while
the interrogators were safely seated behind their table. There were
three people sat behind the table, a man and two women. I was
introduced to all three, but I soon forgot their names and