I was euphoric when I got back home. It was an idyllic evening. The trees on the drive had turned into wonderful shades of brown, red and yellow and the lake looked lovely with swan families and duck and geese dotted about on its silvery surface. Surprisingly Dad was there and he offered to make me a cup of tea. He wanted to know how I was getting on at Festival Park. I told him I was enjoying working with Tom and Geoff and was learning a lot. He wanted to know what I thought of the rest of the staff and the store layout. I said it was too early for me to have an opinion. I was bursting to change the subject so I could tell him about Rob and Tim.
“Yes you need to get on the shop floor and see how everything works before you join the management team. Next week I want you to work as a salesperson now you’ve a bit of product knowledge. You’ve been at the Festival Branch this week haven’t you? I think a change of scenery wouldn’t hurt so I’ll let the manager at the Crewe branch know to expect you on Monday morning. When it’s quiet just watch how the sales staff operate and listen and learn from them so that when it gets busy you’re confident on your own. Look at what we sell, go round all the shelves, pick stuff up, make sure you understand what it’s for, how it works. Think of what would sell with each item so that you can increase what each customer spends. Product knowledge, that’s the key!”
“Yes, Dad. Thanks for the lecture. I know what you expect. I’ll do my best, but you know I’m not sure my hearts in it. Actually I thought I was to be at each place for two weeks, not just one?”
I knew I was very fortunate, steady job, huge salary, lovely company car, seat on the Board but I hated being steamrollered. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life but I hadn’t been given the opportunity or the time to think about it. My life was mapped out for me by my Dad. I know he was doing it because he thought it was for the best but sometimes I wanted to scream at him – stop bossing me around, stop controlling my life, let me decide – but I never did. I was the dutiful daughter.
“Anyway, Dad, what are you up to this weekend?”
“Well there’s the opening of our new Stafford branch tomorrow. In fact I asked Tracy if she’d see if you were prepared to come to that. I don’t suppose she has?”
“No Dad, I’ve not seen her for ages.”
“Oh yes, she’s been away visiting her parents. Her Mum’s not well. In fact, not well at all.”
“Oh dear. I knew she had Dementia. Is she a lot worse?”
“Yes it’s so sad. They’ve been married for over 50 years and poor Joe, that’s her Dad, has lost his life-long partner and gained a blooming headache. Tracy says she doesn’t know her anymore and spends most of her time, when she’s awake, terrified. She doesn’t know where she is, doesn’t recognise anybody.”
“That’s awful. There should be some way of dealing with it. I don’t know, a pill you could take or something.”
“Well she’s not in a fit state to do anything like that. She couldn’t decide to do herself in.”
“No Dad I suppose not. And the relatives couldn’t be given the responsibility. They might be just after her money. Only I wouldn’t want to live like that. It’s so undignified. I mean some of them are incontinent. It’s awful. I’d like to write a living will that allows doctors to sort me out if I get into that kind of state.”
“Well, love, it’s easy to say that whilst you’re young. You might look at it differently when you’re old.
“Anyway about tomorrow. We’re having a grand opening. Tracy has hired some models and she and I hope you are going to join them. Dressed up to the nines. Each of you will have a different pet on a lead. You’ll be there to look glamorous and attract the crowds. I’ve tipped the Press off too so you might be in the local paper or on the box.”
My heart sank at the mention of Press, glamour, models. I hated putting myself of show. But I didn’t do much for Dad and having something to do would make the waiting till Sunday go quicker.
“OK Dad, I’ll come. Will you ask Tracy to tell me what sort of clothes I should wear please?”
“Well why don’t you eat with us tonight. We’d decided to have a night in and it would be lovely if you’d join us.”
It may have been because of my success earlier but I really enjoyed the meal in with Tracey and Dad. Tracey was an excellent hostess and cook and all three of us seemed to get on as we’d never done before. I think they were both pleased that I wasn’t my usual aggressive self and that I was joining in the event they’d planned for Saturday.
Tim phoned that evening, just as I was cleaning my teeth, so I asked him to phone back in ten minutes. I was tucked up in bed with the light off when he called again. It was a wonderful phone call, lasted for two hours. I told him about what I planned to do tomorrow – dressed up in a mini skirt, high heels and a low cut blouse, like a tart as he put it. I told him about the trip to the nightclub – also dressed like a tart he said. No different to all the other women, was my retort. I told him about Tracy’s Mum and he agreed something needed to be done. The National Health Service is struggling for money and is spending half of it keeping half-corpses alive, is how he put it. Yet no-one’s doing anything about it. We don’t even talk about it – might reek of euthanasia, the holocaust. I did let him get the odd word in and he told me more about his parent’s home. It sounded idyllic, if a trifle too rural and isolated for my taste. And his family sounds nice. He’s a younger brother, still at school, and a married sister, who is pregnant. And they were all there for the solstice weekend, which involved getting up before dawn so they could see the sun rise and having a BBQ in the evening so they could watch the sun set. Unfortunately it was cloudy in the evening but that didn’t seem to matter that much as they all sang songs round the fire apparently.
Next morning I had a long luxurious bath, did my nails, spent ages applying my make-up and chose my clothes carefully. If I was going to be parading around next to professional models and Tracy, an ex- model I didn’t want them showing me up. I was enough of a girlie girl to know 90% of a girls attraction is the add ons. Men are such suckers – with the odd exception, of course. Long blond hair, short skirts or skin-tight trousers, a bit of cleavage, red lippy, heavy eye make-up – all tricks to turn them on.
Dad drove Tracy and me in his Roller. Tracy looked the part. She knew what she was doing, short skirt, plenty of cleavage, yet somehow she managed to look classy, not at all tarty. She complimented me, which was nice, but I wasn’t sure I’d achieved the same effect. The two models were already there, inside the shop, coming to grips with the dogs they were trying to control. They looked plain tarty and they were very young. Apparently we were working in pairs, one model for me and one for Tracy. They had a dog each, nice looking Old English Sheepdogs, apparently brothers, so they didn’t have issues with one another. Tracy and I were giving out leaflets with money off coupons inside. We all stood outside the entrance doors and luckily it was sunny and warm. The dogs were a big attraction. Punters seemed to want to talk to them, pat them and so on. Then the inevitable happened and there was a warm pile to attend to. I had to go into the store and pick up a pack of black bags. Luckily the girl modelling with Tracy had a dog at home and didn’t mind dealing with it. I couldn’t stand the smell and the thought of getting close and handling it….
At about 12.30 Tracy and her model had a half-hour break for lunch and we were on our own. I couldn’t wait for them to come back. I was starving and we were swamped with customers. My model, Veronique, was a bit forward with the young lads and I had to tell her that this was a job, not a chance to pull. At last it was our turn for a break. The staff room was very nice, by far the nicest of any I’d seen in any of the other branches and there was a good choice of sandwiches and crisps to eat. Veronique wanted to know what it was like being famous. I told her I wasn’t but that I hated the attention I did get.
“Do ya?” she asked, “I really wanna be famous. I wanna mix wiv all the celebrities I read about in OK magazine. I fink that’d be great.”
“Well good luck to you if that’s what you want. You’ve got the looks but are you pushy enough? The Press is interested in me because of my Dad, so I’ve a head’s start. Same for all the film stars sons and daughters. It’s not so easy for the likes of you. You’ve got to do something to stand out. That’s why people do Big Brother, gives them a leg up.”
“Yeah, I can see that.”
“And once you’ve made it you have to fight to stay there. It’s a competitive world. That’s why celebrities go into the jungle and eat maggots, or whatever they’re made to do. They don’t like eating maggots they just want the exposure so they can stay as celebrities.” I was on a roll. This was one of my pet subjects. “I’m only telling you so you can decide if that kind of life is what you really want. I mean have you seen how all the celebrities keep changing partners? It may seem glamorous to date some famous footballer but he’s probably only with you for your looks and he’d go off with somebody else at a drop of a hat. You must see that if you read OK magazine. I don’t want that kind of life. I want something more normal, out of the public eye.”
Dad appeared and suggested if we’d finished we should get back outside. He handed the dog back to Veronique and out we went. It quietened down a bit later and Tracy had managed to persuade Dad to take us home. He seemed pleased as apparently the takings were way above his most optimistic estimate. He was on a high and wanted to take us all out for a posh meal but both Tracy and I were bushed so we ended up eating fish and chips together in front of the telly. Dad didn’t stop for long as he wasn’t keen on the sort of programme they dished out on a Saturday evening. He thought it was for the brain dead. It was just what Tracy and I wanted and we chatted amicably until bedtime while watching. I warmed to her that evening. I suppose because of the shared experience.
Tim phoned again that night too and wanted to hear about my day. He said my description of my appearance at the store opening really turned him on and made me promise I’d dress up like that for him next night. He said he was really looking forward to seeing me again. Also that his parents had been thrilled to hear about me. I wonder how he’d described me. I bet rich came into it. Not sure about good-looking. Bossy perhaps?
I had to confess I hadn’t told my folks about him or even that I’d finished with Rob as we’d been so busy with Pet Supplies business.