Lucy’s Secret

At the end of the day she would turn off her computer and get up from her chair. She would say goodbye to Ben – she liked Ben – and leave, with a quick wave to a few people who looked up on her way out. It wasn’t a big thing when she left, just as it wasn’t a big thing when she arrived for the day, and since she had stopped telling people when she was going on leave it wasn’t a big thing when she returned from that, either. All she could really expect was a half-puzzled, “Oh, welcome back, Lucy” from a few people, sometimes up to a week after she had in fact returned to the office.

But that didn’t bother her. Ben knew if she was there or not. He was always glad she had returned. And while he was quite good looking, Ben was also a bit clumsy, in an endearing sense, and being younger Lucy thought of him as a kind of little brother rather than a potential conquest. That wasn’t the point. She liked him too much for that anyway. She wanted to protect him.

He didn’t realise that this was her special day, but that didn’t bother her. It was private.

He thought she was cool, even if he didn’t quite understand what she was on about sometimes, because their interests weren’t the same, and she could remember the 80s – which was an era he had only laughed at on TV documentaries. They weren’t demonstrative with each other or with anyone else much, but their goodbye routine said a lot more than the actual words which the spoke:

Lucy: That’s it for me today.

Ben: OK. Remember to look both ways. Have you got clean underwear on?

Lucy: Yes, I’ve got clean underwear on. Thank you for asking.

Ben: Just looking out for ya.

Lucy: Cool. Bye.

Ben: Bye.

And she was gone. Outside the building in under five minutes, in her small but sporty car, and cutting through the narrow streets. She drove impatiently, but there never was an accident, for one thing because she lived only a few streets away from where she worked. On a good day she could discuss her underwear with Ben and be taking it off to get into a bath twenty minutes later. Baths kept Lucy going. They were the best part of the day.

The soaps and bath salts which are given to women in little present packs were never wasted on Lucy. She used them all. She loved them. There was nothing like a soak and she would first dip her toe in the water and if the temperature was right she would slide in and be covered by the curtain of bubbles on the surface of the bath. And she would listen to classic hits radio and close her eyes allow her mind to wander and slow. She would occasionally open them and look out the window, but then she would close them again. The bubbles would start to die away and the water would cool and Lucy would get out of the bath to towel off before she turned into a prune. She would sit in one of her window seats and drink a glass of wine and think about dinner. She would sit in her stripey, silky pyjamas, with fluffy bunny slippers up on some cushions and she would look down and think about all the people in all the other buildings who were also twelve storeys up, and what they were all doing, and whether they were working in an office or had just got out of a shower, and what they were wearing, and what sort of music they liked. So many people. And then there were the people below, on the ground, scurrying, unseen, going places and doing things, and she wondered about their lives and felt a mild sense of pity for them that they weren’t also enjoying a 98/100 sauvignon blanc and listening to Tears For Fears.

On her bed lay a selection of frocks and the heels that went with them sat on the floor in front. Lucy had an important choice in front of her.

Sometimes she played in the kitchen – it was fun – but she would often have food brought in. They knew her at the Mexican place just down the street and when she rang they would quickly send up her food and she would be eating a burrito in front of the TV only minutes later.

Lucy loved Hollywood gossip and entertainment news. Celebrity magazines and all the big TV shows were a part of her life, and she regularly watched DVDs. She would watch a movie every day. On weekends she might get through a full series of a show on DVD and watch a few movies too. And she made sure she saw all the films nominated at Oscars time and would always watch the awards too. On the day of the awards she refused to be told any of the news, the unfolding winners, as it happened, so she could go home and be in a state of childlike unawareness when the delayed coverage began and the host performed his tightly planned and choreographed opening routine and monologue. Most years Lucy dressed up for the coverage, but she didn’t tell anyone else that. It was hers. She shared it with the other Hollywood types on the TV and she felt their nerves and occasionally their outrage as awards were won snubs felt and everyone kept smiling.

In the office there was always talk of footy tipping, and more recently of betting on sport, and Lucy keenly felt that this was irrelevant and closed her mind to it. Ben had told her that you could bet on more than just mindless sport, and in fact you could bet on best actor or best picture or whatever Academy Awards category most interested you. Lucy considered. She still thought this wasn’t for her, but she considered some more. And she opened an account with an online betting agency with the intention of having a bit of fun on Oscars night (what she told herself she would do) and of cashing in big time on her Hollywood knowledge (what she really wanted to do).

And so she sat there, in her heels and spangly frock, as the joy and heartache unfolded on the screen, wondering as each category was announced whether the bets she had put on hours ago had come out right or wrong. And she leant forward as the envelopes were opened, made a fist and called out, “Yes!” when she got one, or collapsed back onto the sofa when she got one wrong, and the heartache wasn’t as aching and the joy was more fleeting the jokes seemed less funny, and she decided that she wouldn’t bet on the Oscars again. The night was less enjoyable, not more, and afterwards she had forgotten who won but could only remember that she had lost money.

And this was yet another thing she would never tell Ben. But she looked forward to seeing him again.

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Published in: on February 1, 2012 at 7:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

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