Sunday, 29 April 2012

10. The closest thing I have had to sex for quite some time

Chris is kissing me hard. He has his arms round my waist, and he's pressing into me. I can feel the whole length of his body against mine. He's holding me so tight, he really wants to do this, I run my hands over the smooth skin of his upper arms. I'm so turned on I feel like I'm going to faint. I vaguely wonder where the yowling cat is.

I - I -


I roll over in bed. Rammstein is howling plaintively outside the door. I check the clock. It is 5.45am. My alarm is not due to go off until 7.30am. Rammstein knows he does not get his breakfast until after the alarm. That’s his usual cue, but today he has spontaneously decided to wake me up early and disturb the closest thing I have had to sex for quite some time.

"My BOWL'S empty! My BOWL'S empty!"

Bugger off!” I shout and throw the nearest available hard object (a shoe) at the door. I hear a scrambling thud as he runs away. I lie in bed, thoroughly awake and extremely pissed off. Get up and feed him? No. If I feed Rammstein even one time before the alarm goes off, he’ll do this every single morning for the rest of eternity. Masturbate? No. Now I've woken up properly, I violently need a wee. Pretty much a guaranteed mood-killer.

I lie in bed and stare at the cracks on the ceiling. “Fucking cat,” I say out loud.

I'm still in a bad mood four hours later. I'm preparing for an initial meeting with the new manager in the Boring Department.

I go to the printer at the end of the corridor to collect my notes, and just as they come out Chris walks into the room. In the light of my dream last night, this is highly, highly embarrassing.

Chris started as a researcher in the Department of Doing Things Especially Slowly three weeks ago. He has brown eyes, which I've always liked for some reason, and hair which he dyes blond. It is growing out an inch of black roots at the bottom. His tie is crooked. And yes, at this point, I am going to have to admit I fancy him. Awkward.

He smells good. Kind of like coffee and shower gel, but everyone smells like that in the morning. So clearly the nice bit is just...him.

"Morning," he says.

"Uhmorn," I mutter, with my eyes on my notes. And then leave as fast as I can.

I'm still cursing myself for my cowardice as I knock on the new manager's door and he asks me to come in. I push the door open. He is sitting behind his desk. He is fiftyish, overweight, balding. His eyes -

He's one of them.

I feel my whole body stiffen with fright.

Werewolves, real werewolves - as I think of human predators - are vanishingly rare. You might ask how I know, and the truth is - I don't. 

I could be wrong. This man in front of me might be a fine, upstanding example of a human being. He might give generously to charity and treat everyone he meets with humility and respect. But there's something, the luminous, amused certainty in his eyes, that I recognise. The first time I saw that look I was eight years old. The last time I saw that look, it was in the eyes of a man who locked on to me in a club. He wouldn't leave me alone and he scared me to the point I needed to leave. He followed me out and cornered me and began grabbing my breasts. Fortunately I'd already rung a cab from inside and it arrived almost straight away.

You see, just as I recognise the predators, they recognise me as prey. I get...targeted. They sense my low self esteem, my vulnerability to manipulation, that I already know the drill. This is why I know that I cannot, must not allow him to recognise me. This is at work. This is right where I live.

He shakes my hand.

"Hi, I'm Derek," he says.

I sit down opposite him. I see his eyes check my breasts and where the hem of my skirt ends and I wish I'd worn something more professional today. I hope he doesn't recognise what I am. God I hope I'm wrong. I hope I hope I hope I'm wrong.

"Do you want a Rolo?" he asks. He has a packet on his desk.

"No, thank you," I say.

"One won't hurt," he says.

"Really, I don't want any chocolate," I say. "Shall we begin? I have a schedule here."

He smiles, spreads his hands.

"Let's do this, Alice," he says.

The meeting lasts half an hour, as short as I can make it, and afterwards I go to the canteen and buy myself some coffee and a Danish. I sit and pick at the Danish and stare into the coffee, imagining a protective shell around myself. It's silver, my shell. Nothing can get through it. No-one is in it but me.

I return to my desk. Nina says: "That new guy, he came in and dropped some papers off for you. He left them on your desk."

There is a neat pile of paper beside my keyboard. On top is a twist of silver paper wrapped round a small round object. My heart sinks. I unwrap it.

A Rolo.

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