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When I work in the office all day, I drink coffee as if it were the nectar of life. It keeps me going. Keeps me motivated. An antidote for the previous evening.
That's what I used to tell myself, day after day, week after week. I think I must have been hyper all the time. Functioning on adrenaline. It was bound to be my downfall in the end.
Today, I've been running on empty. The coffee machine has broken down, and there isn't even a jar of instant in the small kitchen at the back of the office. I have a deadline to keep. Month-end accounts have to be finished by noon on the first day of the following month. It's July 1st, 9am, and the sun is already burning through the glass window. It's been hot and sultry for days. I set about drawing together the final draft of figures for the board meeting. My head's buzzing. I had a couple of glasses of wine last night. Well—maybe three. It helps me sleep. I'm always so revved up when I get home, and now Paul's no longer there to take care of me after a hard day.

He'd been my rock. Happy to stay home and look after the apartment. I mean, really look after things. Cook, shop, clean, wash, even run me a bath and have it waiting as I walked through the door. He'd sit on the side and pour the wine as I soaked in bubbles up to my chin. It was always a small glass to start the evening.
'Don't want you falling asleep in there,' he’d say. There was no chance of that with the amount of caffeine I poured down my throat during the day.
He'd ask about my day, wanting to know everything. He'd listen attentively, making me feel that what I was doing was so worthwhile. He said the company was lucky to have me. I felt like a queen. He made it easy to forget the past. At least until he realised I wasn't as loaded as he thought. Just because I wore designer suits didn't mean my bank account was a bottomless pit. I had to wear designer suits to talk to wealthy clients when representing the high-profile company I worked for. Paul wanted designer outfits too, and because he was looking after me so well, I took him to the best shops in London.
It wasn't long before I had to tell him we couldn't afford to go shopping every week. My salary was good, but it wasn't that good. Before long, I was coming home to an empty apartment, no smell of supper in the kitchen, no warm bath waiting, no Paul. He would saunter in very late and ask what I'd had to eat. Had I made him anything? He was always a little drunk by the time he came home. I was a lot drunk, having almost finished a whole bottle of wine, worrying about where he was, who he was with.
He'd make me a strong black coffee and tell me not to be so stupid. He was entitled to a life too. He'd been out with friends. Didn't I know how boring it was to be alone all day with no one to talk to? Didn't I care about him? Why couldn't I take him out for a meal once in a while? It was alright for me. I saw people all day, every day. He saw no one.
He went on and on until I snatched the cup of coffee out of his hand and threw it at the wall. The dark brown liquid spread over the stark white walls and ran down in rivulets.
'I drink coffee all bloody day just to get through it,' I yelled. 'So I can keep you in the lap of luxury and designer clothes. And this is the thanks I get.' My head was pounding as I screamed for him to get out and never come back.
He did as I asked. That was six months ago, and I missed him so much. Things began to fall apart at work. I couldn't concentrate no matter how many cups of coffee I drank—no matter how many glasses of wine I nursed in the evening. Nothing worked. After several weeks of warnings and ultimatums, the company asked me to clear my desk.
Last week, I saw him. He was with another woman. She was smartly dressed, and they linked arms. He was wearing an Armani suit, and he was smiling. She was laughing at something he'd said. He didn't see me. He was too busy pointing at some item in the window of Harrods.

Now I have a job in a small clothing company in the East end. It just about pays the rent on my flat if I shop frugally. I don't need fancy meals and champagne. Beans on toast or pizza are pretty underrated, and the bargain bottles of wine you can get at Tesco is incredible. Three for ten pounds sometimes.
I finalise the accounts at 11.55am and make my way to the board room. My hands are shaking; I need a coffee. It's the only way I can get through the day.
I drop the accounts file on the board room table. The small group look up at me. My hands are shaking, and my body joins in, jerking convulsively.
'Ex—Excuse me,' I say and put a hand over my mouth. I struggle to the door and run to the unisex toilet outside the boardroom, putting my head over the bowl just in time. The walls are pretty thin, and I'm sure they can hear me. When I'm done, I go to my desk, pick up my coat and walk out of the building. It's raining at last, and I lift my face up to the cool relief of it on my face.

I'm not sure how long it's taken me to get home. I remember calling at a little café for a double espresso, but I don't remember getting on the bus. My hair drips onto the coffee table as I pour myself a large red. The rain and thunder clatter and clap outside. I raise my glass, looking up at the picture of Paul on the wall. The large photo lights up with every flash of lightning through the apartment window. It's the one I took on our first holiday together in the south of France. He was standing on the beach, muscled, tanned and beautiful, the azure sea behind him. He was my perfect man. I've had the photo blown up and framed, and it almost covers the coffee stain on the wall, apart from the faint streaks that run down to the skirting board. I’m not sure I’ve still got a job and this apartment’s way too expensive without one. I pick up the phone and key in a number I haven’t used in years.
‘Hello? Jessica Darling. Is that you? It’s Mum—What? Oh nothing. Just wanted to hear your voice. No. No I’m not drunk. A cold that’s all.’

Another Cup of Coffee

Short Stories

Read more . . .

Another Cup of Coffee

When I work in the office all day, I drink coffee as if it were the nectar of life. It keeps me going. Keeps me motivated. An antidote for the previous evening.
That's what I used to tell myself, day after day, week after week. I think I must have been hyper all the time. Functioning on adrenaline. It was bound to be my downfall in the end.

Read more . . .

A Sense of Taste

He certainly isn’t to my usual taste; I’m usually attracted to the lean and wiry type. What was Sue thinking when she set me up? That said, for a first look on a blind date, he’ll do. He’s better than the last two she swore were perfect for me. Big brown eyes. Bit older than I’d expected. The touch of grey at the temples is nice. He’s so tall I have to tip my head back. I’ll get a crick in my neck if we don’t sit down soon.

Read more . . .

Pouring Down

The rain starts off light, a fine drizzle making Lily’s hair sparkle as if thousands of diamonds have been weaved through her golden crown of curls. I smile and squeeze her hand.
‘Not far,’ I say.

Read more . . .

Safety in Numbers by Carole Richardson

I put the mobile back in my apron pocket. I should know better. No matter what time Andrew says he will be here, he’s always late. Now everything’s spoiled, and I’m ravenous.

Read more . . .

The Big Show by Carole Richardson

‘Let’s do a show’ yelled Judith.
‘Oh No,’ moaned Malcolm as he sat on the edge of the kerb dragging a stick through the rubbish in the gutter, trying to poke it down...

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A Dog of a Day by Carole Richardson

Liv had forgotten her umbrella and was valiantly trying to hold off some rain with her handbag. It was coming down in sheets. She nearly missed seeing the heap lying on the pavement under a lamppost.

Read more . . .

Monday, Monday - by Carole Richardson

Monday, Monday.

Linda is cutting vegetables as she stands at the granite-topped island in the centre of the kitchen. Thirty years of marriage means order and routine for Linda.

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