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Archive for April, 2008

“There we are, Miss Thorpe,” said the clerk as he stamped the bottom of the last page of the application. “All done.  Now just go down the passage, take a right turn at the end, up the stairs and then straight ahead.  Go into the third door on the right – that’s where they’ll give you your permit.” 

Amy thanked him and made her way across the room towards where he pointed.  She grimaced at the cream and green enamel on the walls, so typical of government departments.  She glanced at the faux marble floor and noticed the wax build-up on the edges next to the peeling black plastic skirting, where the polisher couldn’t quite reach the accumulated grime of years of human traffic.  There was the obligatory flickering fluorescent light ahead of her, adding at least some form of life to the otherwise sterile corridor.  As she climbed the stairs she instinctively reached for the handrail, then recoiled.  The rubbery plastic covering was sticky from age, countless dirty hands and unsuitable detergents.  She wiped her hand on her jeans and carried on up the stairs.

 What had he said?  Third door on the left. That’s it, yes.  She glanced behind her to check how many doors she had passed.  Two.  So this next one must be it.  There’s no sign on the door.  Nor is there a number.  Amy knocked, pushed open the door tentatively, and peered inside. It was a large room, seemingly empty of people, but crowded with desks overflowing with papers, filing trays and the odd, neglected pot plant.  The drab brown carpet seemed to absorb the light, giving the room an even tattier appearance.  A telephone rang plaintively in a far corner, ignored.  Amy glanced at her watch. 12.30. Lunch time.  Now what?

 Just then, a cheery voice from her left startled her.  “Hello, may I help you?”

“Oh.  Gosh.  Yes please.  I’m here for my permit.  The cashier said I must come here.”

“This isn’t the right place; you’re looking for the room across the passage.  Don’t worry, lots of people make the same mistake.  Here, let me show you where to go.”  A woman, about the same age as Amy, came forward, past two empty desks, smiling as she approached.

 “Amy?  Amy Thorpe?  Is that really you?”

 “Yes, I’m Amy Thorpe.  Sorry, do I know you?”

 “Oh my word, Amy, it’s me, Leigh!  Leigh Andrews.  Well, Leigh Bugler now, but remember, we were at Settlers together, in the 90’s? Gosh, look at you!  You haven’t changed a bit in all these years.”

“Oh wow! Leigh.  Leigh Andrews. Of course I remember you.  I mean, how could I forget you?  You look absolutely gorgeous.  You’re so slim…and so beautiful.  What are you doing here?”

“I’m a forensic auditor, and I‘m here on assignment.  There have been reports of misappropriation of funds, and our firm has been called in to do an urgent investigation.  But what about you, Amy, what are you doing?”

“Ag Leigh, I’m just a rep, but I love it.  I get to meet so many people, and I enjoy the travelling.  I work for a great company, and they really look after me.  So I’m happy, and I see no need to change anything, even though I get bored occasionally. 

‘And you, what about you?  Where do you live? Are you married?  Kids?  Do you see anyone else from school?”

 “Yup, I’m married.  Very happily too.  Do you remember Richard Bugler?  Oh yes, of course you do…”

 Leigh laughed a little too loudly, and continued quietly, “I’ll never forget how you stole him from me in Standard Nine.  Gee, Amy, I was heartbroken.  And how I hated you for that.  But then you dumped him for John Stone, and he came back to me.  It took a while, but eventually I forgave him.  We got married after he graduated, and we’ve been living in Edgemead for the last nine years.  We’re trying to have kids, and I’ve been for all the tests and what-have-you.  I’m going for my fourth IVF next week.  Those injections are hell, and it’s costing us a fortune.  But we’re going to keep trying, for the meantime anyway.  It’s not easy for Richard though, he’s away such a lot.  He has to reschedule his trips when I’m ready, if you know what I mean.

 “And you, Amy?  Are you married?  Any kids?”

 “No,” replied Amy.  “I’m not married.  I’ve had a couple of relationships, but nothing that’s really worked out.  I just can’t seem to settle.  My job doesn’t help matters, but I’m cool with it.

 ‘Anyway, I must go.  Got to get this permit sorted.  It’s been really great seeing you, Leigh.  We must get together and do lunch sometime.  Catch up, and all that, you know.  It’s been good to see you.  Here’s my card.  Give me a ring, okay?”

 Amy turned around and left Leigh standing in the middle of the room, wondering what had just happened.  She shrugged, and returned to her desk and the amortisation reconciliation.

 


 It was 7pm when Amy got home.  Thank heavens she was still living with her parents, who could pick up the pieces when she was overloaded.

 “Hi Mum,” she called quietly into the kitchen, from where delicious cooking smells were emanating, “How’s Ricky?”

 “He’s already in bed.  He was so sad today – he noticed you didn’t come to his gala.”

Oh hell, thought Amy.  I completely forgot about that.

Her cell phone rang.  It was Richard.

 “Hi darling, what are you doing?  I missed you today. Leigh’s working late on some project, and I’ve got a few hours.  Want to meet for a drink at Dambo’s?”

 “Hi sweetie, good to hear your voice.  It’s been a bugger of a day.  If you don’t mind, I’ll give it a miss, OK?  Speak soon. Love you.”

 Amy pushed the red button on her cell phone, sighed and made her way up the stairs.  She opened the third door on the left, tiptoed across the room, and kissed her son on the forehead.  He smelt so good.  Little Richard stirred, and opened his eyes.  “Hi Mommy.  What have you been doing? I missed you today.  I came second in the backstroke.”  He smiled and closed his eyes again. 

 You sound just like your dad, thought Amy.

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It’s a long time since I’ve gone ‘for a drive’.  Saturday morning saw us doing just that.  We started by making our way to Signal Hill, and I was rather impressed how it has been upgraded.  There is a proper lookout deck, a manned information kiosk, and toilets (seriously stinky, but toilets nonetheless). 

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I had a ‘piphany. It was like one of those 3 a.m. ones, except that it was closer to 3 p.m. On Sunday.

We had escaped to Betty’s Bay for a weekend of slouching around in our comfies, with no cellphones or television. Just books* and copious amounts of dark chocolate and red wine.

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