Chapter Three

Next day I felt lonely and wondered if I’d been stupid. A bird in the hand – and all that. But it was back to work. Dad had this idea that I should see every aspect of his business as he imagined, I suppose, that eventually I’d be one of the Directors. I arrived just after 9 o’clock and the manager, called Tom, who’d been expecting me showed me to the back. It was a big outlet – I think it had previously been a Comet store – and already there were a few customers in. I couldn’t help noticing the pet rabbits in their cages, their little noses twitching. I’ve always loved rabbits and when I was little I had one as a pet. Unfortunately it was always escaping and eventually it escaped completely.

Tom, the manager, introduced me to the two lads, another Tom and Geoff, who I would be working with. The space was quite cramped and there were boxes piled high. Here goods were booked in and priced up. The warehouse had already accepted them from the suppliers and then the unopened boxes were forwarded on to us. Some of the items were already barcoded but for those that weren’t we printed out our own barcodes and stuck them on the items. Once the items had been checked and, if necessary bar-coded, they were returned to the boxes they came in and put ready for the store staff to take into the store and place on the shelves. The work was quite interesting, unpacking the boxes and handling the goods. Dad had said that the work would increase my product knowledge, essential if I was to be any use to the business. The two lads worked hard and were good fun and didn’t suck up to me so I felt comfortable working with them. Geoff was a Pet Shop Boys fan and we had his music blaring out most of the time. He said his choice of music was nothing to do with the fact he worked in Pet Supplies Ltd.

After a couple of hours I took a coffee break. Coffee breaks and lunches could be challenging as I never knew who I’d be sharing the staff room with. The staff room in this store was adjacent to where I’d been working and was more of a passageway to the loo than a room. There were two girls off the shop floor and one of them showed me where the stuff was to make a coffee. They then ignored me and carried on as if I wasn’t there. I got to meet more of the shop store staff over the next few days. Obviously they all knew I was the bosses daughter. Some of them were subservient and sickly sweet and others who were aggressive, in a sort of subtle way, putting me down, completely ignoring me or just cutting me out of the conversation. So I didn’t think I’d make much headway with friendships there. Still I was enjoying Tom and Geoff’s company so work wasn’t as bad as I’d feared.

Amazingly one lunchtime though I did meet someone. Actually I’d seen him before I actually met him. He was a student working as a shelf stacker, often out of hours when the store was closed. He was tall and gangly with shoulder length hair and was very positive about everything. He’d popped in the back where we were working a couple of times just to get the stock we’d checked in and I took a shine to him immediately. It wasn’t just his looks, it was his confident manner and the matter-of-fact way he went about what he had to do. So I couldn’t believe my luck that we were both on our lunch breaks at the same time and that the others on their break had gone out. We had three quarters of an hour together in the little staff room to get to know one another. His home-made sandwiches looked better than the ones I had picked up from Boots on the way in. I discovered he’s studying horticulture and is in his final year and his name is Tim. His parents live in North Wales and are into self-sufficiency, whatever that means. He’d been taken on as a temporary staff member to cover staff holidays and was earning as much as he could to pay back money he’d borrowed from his parents for his education. I had to tell him I was the bosses daughter just there to learn about the business from the bottom up.

“Funny,” he said, “I didn’t think you were permanent staff.”

I think he already knew who I was and was just being polite. Anyway we got on so well I was on a high all afternoon and found it difficult to concentrate. I was so distracted, Tom, one of thei lads I was working with wondered if I was feeling all right!

That evening I was feeling positive, pleased I’d had the nerve to finish with Rob. I was footloose and fancy free. So I rang up one of my girl friends from school days, Sarah. Although she was surprised to hear from me after such a long time she was obviously pleased and suggested we meet up that same evening. She wanted to see a play at the New Vic and suggested we have a meal there before the performance. Sarah had been one of my school friends that I hadn’t kept up with because she had a man and wasn’t interested in much else. It turned out that her long term relationship with Clive, a chap we’d both met years ago at a Tennis Club Dinner, had finally broken down just a few days earlier. She didn’t seem that upset about it, in fact rather the opposite. She explained that really she’d known for some time that she didn’t love him but just hadn’t had the courage to do anything about it.

“I am a bit worried about him though,” she said, “he’s a moody bugger and can get very depressed. I hope he doesn’t do anything stupid.”

“I’m sure he’ll Be OK.” I said. “Guess what, I finished with Rob yesterday, so I’m in the same boat as you. Oh, you probably didn’t know Rob did you? Well he’s in television and we’d been together for about 10 months.”

“OK. So how did he take it?”

“Don’t know, don’t care. He’ll get over it. I don’t think there was ever much between us. He just liked going out with me because I’m rich and my Dad’s famous and I liked the way he fawned over me, always sending me flowers and buying me stuff.”

“So we can start going out clubbing together eh? See who’s out there. Exciting eh?”

“Maybe,” I said doubtfully, thinking that I knew the type of men we might have to put up with if we resorted to that line of action.

“Anyway I met someone today and well, early days, but, to tell the truth, I really liked him. So if all goes to plan well who knows.”

I hadn’t really formulated this thought properly and surprised myself by saying this.

“Tell me more.”

“Well he’s tall and slim with long hair, blue eyes and wears sort of hippyish clothes. And we just clicked, somehow. He’s a student working at one of our stores as a vac job.”

“Oh! Doesn’t really sound your type.”

I could see where Sarah was coming from and sensed also that she was disappointed. I think she had hopes for us as pulling partners.

“Anyway,” I said, “I’ll see you at the theatre about half six.”

I enjoyed the New Vic. It was a welcoming place even though it was quite brutal architecture – all brick, rough concrete and glass. The food was good too, almost like home cooking. Sarah hadn’t changed and we chatted amicably until the three minute call for the theatre performance was announced giving us just time to visit the loo before finding our seats.

The play was really good and afterwards we sat in the bar. Sarah fancied one of the actors and we knew the cast came for an after-performance drink most times. We were there a while and when they did appear they came in in dribs and drabs and then gathered together in a huddle. It soon became obvious that the guy she was interested in was gay. He kept touching one of the other male members of cast and his body language made his inclination obvious.

It had been a good night out and I was pleased when Sarah suggested we repeat the performance when the next play was on.

“And don’t forget, if you fancy a debauched night out sometime, we could troll the clubs.”

“OK thanks, I’m not sure that’s my scene anymore, but I’ll think about it.”

“Good luck with Tim. I hope he’s all you want him to be.”

“Thanks, bye.”

That night I couldn’t get to sleep for ages. I felt guilty about how I’d treated Rob. I knew I’d made the right decision but I just wondered if I’d been a bit brutal, if I could have let him down more gently.

Then I was worried about Dad. I’d eavesdropped on him talking on the phone and was sure he was arranging a romantic meeting for his scheduled trip to New York next week. He was awful like that, always had to have a secret liaison in his life. It was like an addictive drug. Much as I despised my step-mother I hated the thought of my father cheating on her. He’d cheated on Mum so many times. I think Tracey was the only serious affair though. I suppose she must know what he’s like and how to deal with it. I knew how much this cloak and dagger stuff took out of him. He always got wound up and drank more than his normal amount. At times he embarrassed me. Not that he often appeared drunk but his breath smelled of alcohol and people must have put two and two together. Fortunately Pets Supplies was too important to him so he was never drunk at work.

Then I was thinking of Tim, wondering if I’d imagined the chemistry I’d felt, wondering how to progress the relationship. I knew I could be a bit forward and I didn’t want to show him that side of my character. But he might not think he had a chance with me – a student asking the bosses daughter out.

Eventually I dozed off and next morning was in a deep sleep when the alarm went off.

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