Now that Nanowrimo is behind me, I thought I’d post an excerpt before I put it on the back burner to stew until the new year. Trainee lawyer Georgie is about to meet her mentor:
It was less a question than a command. I nearly stood and saluted the woman who I assumed was Cynthia, my mentor for the next year. Except I was a bit dizzy from spinning in my chair. I shook my head to re-orient myself then said,
Her short spiky hair was jet black, with a slash of white across the fringe. On me it would’ve screamed skunk, on Cynthia it purred sophistication. She was wearing a black jacket sculpted so closely over her lithe body that I wondered where lunch would fit. The pleat in her pants was sharp enough to cause bodily harm. I too was wearing a black pant suit but colour was where any similarity ended. I felt gauche and ungainly next to her.
She took me to her club for lunch where the wait staff seemed better dressed and more confident than me. I ordered a diet Coke and a club sandwich, regretting my choice when I saw the height of the food. How would I cram that in my mouth? Cynthia sipped her mineral water and pecked at her salad. She briefed me on the firm, the expectations of first year associates, my probable workload and the other lawyers.
“Watch out for Bernie,” she concluded. “It’s best if you find your own way to deal with it, but come see me if it gets too intense.”
I was about to ask her what “it” was when an angular man with black glasses stopped at our table. He leaned over and whispered in her ear and they both laughed. Probably at me.
Cynthia introduced him as Alain Moureau, a lawyer she knew from a case. He wished me luck in my career, made Cynthia promise they would do lunch soon and headed over to join a large table by the window.
On the way back to the office, we passed one of those chic intimidating boutiques that I avoid. “Let’s have a peek in here,” said Cynthia.
The saleswoman greeted her warmly. “Darling, it’s been ages,” and they fake kissed each other on the cheek. Then she held Cynthia at arm’s length and cooed at her. “You are owning that suit,” she said. “I told you.”
Cynthia fake brushed away the compliments and then gestured at me. “Can you do something with Georgie?” she said. “She’s new.”
With Georgie ? Doesn’t she mean for Georgie?
The saleswoman raked her carefully made up eyes over my suit. The corners of her glossy red lips descended ever so slightly for a second. With one glance she had sussed the fabric (cotton/poly), price (bargain basement) and brand (Fairweather) of my suit. All had been found wanting.
She stepped briskly over to the rack of clothes to her left and began scraping the hangers past her, muttering to herself. “Wouldn’t suit her,”… scrape, scrape, “She couldn’t pull it off” scrape scrape.
Then she stopped, lifted a hanger and thrust it at me. “Try this,” she barked. The dress was exquisitely cut, with lapels and dummy buttons down the front to mimic a suit. It was a beautiful burgundy and I knew I could never pull it off.
“Thanks, but, I’m not buying clothes today,” I demurred. I hadn’t received a pay cheque yet and my credit card was maxed out.
But I was propelled to the back of the store and into a changing room whose gilt mirror and brocade chair put my bedroom to shame. The saleswoman whisked the curtain shut behind me.
I grabbed the label and began hyperventilating. The dress was over three hundred dollars. There was no way I was buying it.
I stepped into it and began sliding it around my body. I was half-dressed when the saleswoman barged in, taking the zip and tugging it up. She prodded me back out into the store and over to a triple mirror where I gazed at me, myself and I. None of us looked like we were owning the dress.
“It’s perfect,” said Cynthia. She grabbed the tag and looked at the price. “A steal. I mean that’s no more than dinner out these days, am I right?”
Yeah, for me and fifty of my closest friends.
“She’ll take it.”
“In fact,” said Cynthia, “why don’t you keep it on? We can chuck that old suit you were wearing.”
You mean the old suit that’s brand new? And besides if I wear this dress how am I going to get a refund later?
“I uhm… My shoes don’t go with it.”
Cynthia and the saleswoman looked down at my flats.
Oh God, please don’t let this boutique sell shoes.
Back in the changing room, I tried to figure out how to avoid buying the dress. I imagined the look on the saleswoman’s face when the transaction was declined. But when I reached the till, Cynthia was handing over her credit card. “I’ll get it,” she said. “You can pay me back when you get your first pay cheque.”
For a moment I was relieved. But as the saleswoman wrapped the dress in tissue paper and slid it into a bag I realised with horror that since Cynthia had paid for the dress, I would not be able to return it.