Penny Hoskins

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A new life

She lay still under the cold sheets, listening to the sounds of the early dawn, trying to recapture the remnants of the dream which she could not recall but which had left her feeling vaguely happy. She was wistful for a sense of contentment that now eluded her. She tried to curl back into a foetal ball drawing the covers round her, Barry seemed to have wrapped himself into the blankets more than ever this morning, holding on even more tightly than usual, to his share of the communal warmth.

She turned her back on him and closed her eyes, seeing in her head the pictures of the previous evening. Barry, his dark grey suit, stretched and shiny across the mound of his stomach with that horrible pink shirt, which he insisted made him trendy. He was fawning on the Chief Exec. as though it still mattered what he thought, as though Mr Bradshaw could still advance his career or still grant him the key to the Senior Management restroom, which he had always coveted.

She saw too the limp and boring buffet: over spiced and greasy chicken wings, egg and tuna sandwiches, soggy mushroom vol-au-vents and cold sausage rolls. Bitter black and green olives (‘sophisticated,’ claimed Barry) and over-sweet coleslaw and potato salad which nobody could eat; standing up, with thin paper plates and plastic forks.

She saw too the fixed smiles on his colleagues’ faces, as they made insincere comments about how much Barry would be missed. What a valued team member he had been! How hard it would be to run the department without him! How lucky he was to have been given such a generous redundancy package and an enhanced pension! Nobody mentioned how glad they were to see the back of this parsimonious little man, nit picking every decision, criticising his colleagues at every opportunity, constantly moaning, never part of the team and always right. Taking credit for everything that went well and no responsibility for errors or mistakes. She smiled to herself, knowing that he had no idea how he was seen by the rest of his team. ‘They will find it so hard to replace me.’

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