Into the Unknown
Narrow stairs lead me to the first floor where I am greeted by a receptionist with dyed purple hair, pink painted nails and a cheeky smile. I wait, flicking through a glossy magazine. The floors are dark wood, the walls are natural brick and two giant potted palms are like bookends at the vast window with views overlooking the road below and the park opposite.
“Cranmore Park.” Simon says, appearing beside me. He shakes my hand then takes my arm and guides me through an adjoining door into a spacious room with rows of worktops where six young people are slumped gazing at screens.
“This is the tekkie lab where the geeks hang out,” he explains. “Stuart and his team are the programmers who write and develop software. Then there’s Liam and his team who update, manage and create web sites. They look after the hosting and data storage.” He points everyone out with a nod of his head.
Stuart is tall and lanky like a basketball player. He wears a Snow Patrol T-shirt and his face flushes red. Liam has cheek bones like Johnny Depp. He wears a beige suit and gives me a flirtatious smile.
Simon guides me into a small office to meet John McCarthy, the sales manager, a stocky fifty year old with a dour expression, a grey moustache and a damp handshake.
Who would buy from him?
I am introduced as Elly Bravo, marketing expert from Gower and Proctor, London.
He shuffles papers on his desk and barely looks up.
Simon says to me.
“John has done a great job but we really need to start marketing ourselves and getting in new business. The recession is kicking us hard and the banks are knocking on the door.”
“We’re on track to get that new account.” John speaks quickly, his accent is strong and I struggle to understand him.
“With ZenFitness?” Simon says.
John tucks his shirt into the back of his trousers. “It's in the bag. I'm sure of it. Our marketing hasn’t been that bad.”
“We need to look at the greater picture,” Simon says. “Elly has a wealth of experience and she has personally won awards for marketing and innovation. She will be a great asset to the company.”
“A hotshot from London.” John looks at me. “It's a different ball-game over here.”
“I’m sure I’ll manage.” I stand straighter so he has to look up to meet my gaze.
“I'll arrange a strategy meeting with Maria, she’s our accounts and administration manager.” Simon turns to John. “We'll need to sort out some computer training for Elly and some product knowledge.”
“Stuart’s too busy to take training classes,” John replies.
Will I last two days here?
On the floor above there’s a kitchen, boardroom and three offices. My office consists of a pine table, a black leather chair, two smaller chairs for visitors and a filing cabinet. On the desk is a Mac. I try not to think about my last job; the luxury office in Canary Wharf with views over London and the River Thames.
Simon goes to see if Maria is free to meet me. When he closes the door I flop into a chair and cover my face with my hands. I push my fingers into my eyes to quell the tears.
What am I doing here? How has my life gone so wrong?
I barely have time to wipe my cheek when the door opens.
I recognise her immediately and instinctively I clutch my red leather jacket to my chest.
Maria is tall with short blond hair and brown chestnut eyes. Simon introduces us and we shake hands.
“My husband almost knocked you off your motorbike.” Her voice is a soft lilting Irish brogue.
“He drives like a bloody idiot,” I say quickly. The words are out. It’s too late to pull them back.
“You should be more careful,” she replies icily, “you were going too fast.”