Situation vacant - Chapter Two
Posted: 08 August 2004
Word Count: 1728
Richmond. Friday 18th December Tempus Terra
The trip home to Richmond was uneventful, and allowed her to consider her options. She had one more interview to go to in the New Year and was waiting for replies to about fifteen other applications.. But there was nothing definite and she had promised herself that she would have a job lined up by Christmas – six days away.
What she dreaded was having to answer the inevitable question from her son when he came home from school. He was a child who loved his home and the familiar things that surrounded him. She smiled as she pictured his mousy head bent over his latest set of Warhammer or Lego. He was a clever but not one of nature’s great scholars. There were so many other things he liked to do.
At Richmond, Ruth walked around to the car park to pick up her battered VW Golf. She had bought this car a couple of weeks ago to replace the company Audi that was now a distant and luxurious memory.
Will clattered at the door at about five fifteen. The doorbell was broken and Ruth hadn’t got around to fixing it so he had developed this nasty habit of rattling the letterbox flap. It made a horrible noise and she jumped. She was still feeling edgy.
“How was school today?”
She knew she wouldn’t get any more clarification. It wasn’t done to discuss what went on at school and she had come to accept this need for a separate, private world for her son.
She was making supper, when Will suddenly looked up from the magazine he was reading at the kitchen table. “We are going to the school Carol Service on Saturday, aren’t we? I need to swap a computer game with David before the holidays start.”
“Yes, of course we are – you have to go – it’s a three line whip on you boys, isn’t it?
“Yes, but it’s so boring – I’m not in the choir or anything. I’ve just got these stupid Da Da Dum words to do.
“ Well we are going – and you had better make sure your Da Da Dums are properly done.”
She was saved from any more explanations by the slamming of the front door as her current au pair, Sofia, arrived back from her language class
The girl put her head around the kitchen door. “What time will our dinner be, please?”
“About forty five minutes Sofia. Do you want to come to the carol service at Will’s school tomorrow? It’s usually very lovely and you might find it a good experience of the English way of life.”
“No thank you, Ruth. I am meeting my boyfriend and we are going out. You will call me when the food is ready, yes?”
“Yes,” Ruth sighed. She supposed that she would have to let Sofia go soon. She wasn’t a lot of help and it was an expense she could do without.
“How were the interviews today?”
She had thought that he had forgotten. And she paused to decide how to phrase her answer.
“Mum?” he asked again.
“Not brilliant – the first one was with some people who I didn’t really like too much and the second was... not the right sort of job for me.” She had almost said ‘strange’ but that would have fired his ten-year-old curiosity.
She hoped he would leave it at that because she didn’t think she could explain how she had run out of an interview when the man on the other side of the desk was about to offer her a job with more money than she had asked for. She was regretting her rash action. She couldn’t understand what had made her rush out like that. She would dearly love to go back to Mr Thomas Dextermann and ask for a second chance, but her embarrassment and complete lack of a good reason for her actions stopped her.
“Oh, so that means you still haven’t got something lined up for the New Year.” It was a statement not a question and the disappointment was clear in his voice.
“No, not yet, but I’ve got lots of applications out, and I know I’ll get something soon.”
She tried to sound confident and walked around the table to give him a quick hug, which he returned.
Richmond. Saturday 19th December Tempus Terra
Saturday dawned cold and clear but clouded over during the day, so that by the time they set out for the small church near Will’s prep school, the first flakes of snow were starting to fall.
“Great, I’ve been dying for it to snow for ages. I hope it stays. Do you think we will have a white Christmas? If we do, can I have a sled and can we go sledding in the park?” Will rattled on with all the innocent enthusiasm of a child who had never had to shovel snow off the path or try to drive along ungritted roads.
Ruth was grateful for the chance to be a ‘normal’ mother for a while and
Will was seated with the ‘school’ and had no major part to play in the proceedings, so Ruth was able to sit back and look around her without any distraction. The church was so beautiful she thought, as she took in the flickering candles and the evergreens that decorated every available space. Her mind kept drifting to the previous day’s interview. Why had she run out? The more she thought about it the more she knew something very odd had happened. The sense of panic she had felt was not natural. She was woken from her reverie by the announcement of the final item in the service.
It was billed in the programme as ‘The two shepherds’. The Angel Gabriel ascended to the pulpit wearing the obligatory, wobbling, tinsel halo balanced on a piece of wire. while two tea towel-clad shepherds came up the aisle counting sheep, only to find they were two short when they got to the front. Nice touch, she thought.
Shepherd number one turned to the bearer of the glad tidings and asked if he had seen their two missing sheep. Gabriel was clearly having an off because he stood as if baffled by the question, and in dire need of a prompt. After about thirty seconds of unplanned silence, shepherd number one improvided with the immortal line “Parlez-vous Francais?”
After the congregation had calmed down, Gabriel managed to tell the shepherds what was going on in Bethlehem, at which point he departed in high dudgeon down the aisle with a dangerously swaying halo.
Ruth hadn’t laughed so much in a long time and kept breaking out in snorts and giggles through the rest of the service. So much so that Will, when he finally found her after the end of the service, was furious.
“How could you do that mum? Everyone was staring at you.”
“I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it. It was so funny.”
“I know, but did you have to laugh so loud?”
The whole experience had lightened her mood as if by magic and she was feeling more like her old self than she had in months.
Will joined his friends for a computer game swapping session and once this had been completed to the satisfaction of all parties they drove home in a mellower mood.
She was walking down the stairs having just turned Will’s light out at about nine thirty when there was a knock at the door.
Feeling suddenly apprehensive she opened the door on the safety chain. She could see a dark figure dressed in leathers and a helmet.
“Courier” came the muffled reply. After years of using couriers, she automatically opened the door and reached for clipboard that would be waiting with the pen attached to the grubby string.
A black-gloved hand reached forward and proffered a cream envelope.
“Thanks. Don’t you want me to sign for it?”
“No, it’s OK,” and with that the black clad figure turned and walked down the path.
She closed the door and was halfway down the hall before it occurred to her that it was very unusual for a courier to deliver something at this time on a Saturday evening. It was even odder that she hadn’t had to sign for it.
She listened for the sound of the courier’s motorbike but the street was silent.
Shrugging to herself, she refused to let the lighter mood she was in vanish. It was such a change to feel some of the weight of the last few weeks lifted from her shoulders, even if it was temporary.
At the kitchen table with a glass of Rioja, she looked at the envelope. Her name and address were typed on it but there was nothing else. No company name or logo.
The signature on the letter inside made her pause in lifting her wine glass. It was from Thomas Dextermann.
Dear Mrs Watson,
I am writing to you to ask you to return to our offices for a second interview. The results of your questionnaire indicate that you are an ideal candidate for the position we are looking to fill.
I was concerned that you had to leave our meeting last week so quickly and felt that something had caused you undue concern. I sensed that you were fearful about taking matters any further.
Please believe me when I say that you have nothing to fear from us. We are very anxious for you to join our client’s organisation and assure you that the rewards will more than meet your expectations.
I would be grateful if you would call me on the number below where I will be available this weekend. I would like to meet on Monday afternoon if convenient.
It sounded sincere, and while the memory of the overwhelming urge to flee from his office was still clear in her mind, she did not feel any immediate panic at the thought of going to see him again. It seemed as though her guardian angel was looking after her. She had been given her second chance.
She would sleep on it and call him in the morning if it still seemed like a good idea.
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