A sneak peek...

London, UK

‘Where are the penis balloons? You said you were going to get penis balloons!’
‘I thought you meant condoms… are penis balloons even a real thing?’
‘You bought condoms. Really?’
‘I’ll take the condoms off your hands, Mikey.’
‘Ha… the condoms aren’t on my hands, Dave.’
Beth Martin smiled from outside the room, two inches of bent blind allowing her a view. Her Mountbatten Global colleagues were getting all hot and melty in her office, seemingly decorating the space with all kinds of workplace-inappropriate items. She fanned the collar of her corporate blouse away from her skin and pushed a sheaf of her was-perfectly-straight-this-morning, light-brown hair behind her ear. The air-conditioning was broken – for two whole hours now – and everyone was finally finding out what it was like to work in an English heatwave without the state-of-the-art temperature control. Beth guessed she might soon find that out for herself on a more permanent footing, if she went through with leaving her job… like she had finally left her marriage. Only four first interviews in the past eight months, only two going to the second stage and no job offers despite her wealth of experience. Now she was hanging in limbo. Leave? Remain? It was Brexit all over again.
‘Now, I am going to say this just one more time, to be absolutely, 200 per cent, completely, profoundly, all the other words ending in “ly” sure… Charles is in France today, isn’t he? For the whole of the day. As in, there’s not even the slightest chance he’s going to walk in here, see all this and sack each and every one of us. Especially me, who’s dressed for a party, not a firing.’ It was Heidi, Beth’s best friend making this sweeping statement. Blonde-haired, willowy Heidi, dressed today in a loose and ethically-sourced, statement cotton summer dress with PBA-free non-leather sandals, winding laces travelling halfway up her shin. She was coordinating everyone in the room like a cross between a shepherd and an overprotective mother. This was Heidi looking her best, in Beth’s opinion – genuine, not try-hard, or corporate and stiff. Professional steel was the attire they both usually wore on a daily basis when Charles was around. Charles Mountbatten, CEO of the company and Beth’s ex-husband.
‘South of France,’ Tilly piped up. ‘Ryanair flight from Marseille doesn’t leave until 5.20 p.m.’
‘And what if he gets an earlier flight?’ Heidi asked. ‘You know, change his plans at the last minute like he did last year when he turned up unannounced and caught us cheering on England in the World Cup.’ She took another breath and went wide-eyed. ‘Or drones! Have you allowed for the chance of illegal drone action?’
‘The other flight is at 2.30 p.m.,’ Tilly said, smiling. ‘With the time difference, and a car from Stansted, I calculate it’d be five o’clock before he made it here.’
‘Shall I blow some of these condoms up?’ Dave asked. ‘They’re basically balloons anyway, aren’t they?’
‘The way you use them,’ Mikey remarked. ‘You know, the really, really, super-small ones. The ones they put behind the counter for really, really, tiny, weeny, babies of baby mice…’
‘Boys, boys, penis-envy conversation isn’t going to get this room decorated, is it?’ Heidi asked. She checked her watch. ‘Where’s the bloody cake? Beth is never going to be in with Zara Newton for more than thirty minutes and we have… fifteen minutes left. Shit!’
Beth carried on watching secretary Tilly balancing on a chair on top of a table and looping bunting with ‘Kiss the Mrs Goodbye’ written on it over the cabinets, Dave blowing up condoms and turning the colour of a Comic Relief nose, Mikey putting Kettle Chips into containers she was sure usually housed her paperclips and rubber bands, and Heidi, in the centre, the orchestrator of this… divorce party. An official untying of the knot.
‘Right!’ Heidi announced. ‘I’m going to get the other nibbles from the kitchen and the plastic cups and the expensive champagne – which I’ve charged to Charles’s expense account!’


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