No faded circle of skin

It felt as if he was going nowhere, sitting at the bottom of the stairs waiting to go into the boss’ office. Why old Tom Butcher didn’t have seats outside no-one knew, asked, or at least had explained to Shaun.

He looked up as Tracey from Accounts opened the door and burst into tears. Shaun reached into his trouser pocket to retrieve a tissue but then remembered he’d given it to the receptionist, whose name he could never remember, when she’d spilled her tea while he’d been clocking in that morning. He thought she was Russian; Ivana, Ivanka, or something equally exotic. She looked the part too; firm hands gripping the telephone and transferring calls vigorously as others flooded in. The two women couldn’t be more different and it was the weaker one who stood in front of him now. She looked left then right, as if unsure where to go – one direction for her desk, the other the exit.

“I have a daughter,” Tracey sobbed as Shaun got to his feet.

“You do?” he said, not realising that she was even married. She nodded then wiped away a tear, long enough to see there was no ring, no faded circle of skin that implied there’d been one once.

“Tom’s not just fired you, has he?” he asked a little too eagerly, not knowing why he’d been called there.

Tracey shook her head.

“So it’s not that bad.” Shaun replied, trying to look cheerful.

“Redundant,” she whispered.

“Oh dear. I’m sorry… but you’ll get some money?”

“Not much. I’m only part-time.”

Working in Research and Development, Shaun didn’t have much to do with the Accounts Department, but she’d always been there whenever he’d visited. A stroke of luck, he thought, but then suspected that his luck was about to change.

“Can I help?” he asked, not sure what else to say.

Tracey shook her head then plodded towards her office, Shaun watching her as she looked down at her feet as if she’d forgotten how to put one in front of the other.

Assuming no-one else was in Tom’s office, Shaun was about knock when he heard Tom speak.

“Come!” he bellowed, and Shaun took a deep breath as he opened the door.

***

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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

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