Read by Susan Moisan
Friday: lunchtime. In the pub, getting drunk. Goodbye drink - have another - leaving work.
Sitting crushed into the corner of a table-for-ten at the Tiger. Feeling slightly sick. Always hated leaving dos. Two too many gins.
Been here over an hour already, the others come and go in shifts - someone has to keep the office open. We'll all be ill by half past three.
Not really listening to their chatter; no need, they aren't talking to me, as though I'd already gone. Anticipating freedom, my pulse is racing, waiting to be on the train, waiting to go home, waiting to leave.
Won't work this afternoon, just sit and listen to them talk -
“All the best Allie darling,” (I bet) - and how much they'll miss me (not much). At least they’ll be talking to me, not like now.
Jane said she'd come over for a quick one. Knew she wouldn't though. Saving her strength for the goodbye speech. Hope it's not a cut glass fruit bowl. That's what they gave the last person who left.
They don't know what my new job is yet. Tell them just before I go, when I've got the cut glass fruit bowl - or maybe not.
I'm wearing my pink jacket with the triangles woven into it.
“That's a pretty colour Allie darling, I must get one like that: Isn't it a pretty pattern, don't you think so Sue? Where d'you get it?”
Gary's got me another drink - if I swallow it I'll throw up. Give it to Jenny. She, the responsible one, looks at her watch - what a relief, it's time we all went back - but she has to justify breaking up the party:
“Her upstairs will be complaining.” (Jane she means.)
Jane knows about the job, she wrote the reference, after all. Bet that's why she didn't come to the pub. She's been a bit standoffish since. Thought she'd understand… thought she understood.
We stagger back to the office, a giggling straggling gaggle.
Gary nearly got run over - dead funny that. Won't miss that road.
The office is stuffy with illicit cigarette smoke; the heating is up too high. The phone rings unanswered while they eat the cream cakes, supplied by me.
Suddenly feel very sick.
Hiding in the ladies, I rest my head on the ice-cold tiles, wishing it were over, wishing I didn't have to go back into that noisy drunken crowd.
I hate them. Can afford to admit it, now I don't have to be with them day in, day out.
Go back to find them waiting in proper groups for me to arrive.
“The queen is on her way downstairs,” says Jenny, “I hope you remember to curtsy.”
Used to like Jenny. Might even miss her a little, but not her constant sniping.
Sit down in my corner, trying not to laugh; it must be all those gins ... Jane pretends she hasn't noticed, gives us all her mechanical smile.
“Are we all ready?” she asks, obliging. Confidence oozes from every clean-cut line of her, success from every stitch. (Sue got a jacket just like that one - up the market, fifty quid.)
I stand next to her, both with practised smiles - she makes occasional jokes - no one laughs. They all hate her anyway.
“I'm sure we all wish Allie the best of luck at...”
I crush her toe with a weighty heel; No, suddenly I really don't want her to tell them. She gets the message.
“...Her new place of work,” through gritted teeth. I move my foot.
She thrusts a small parcel into my hand, doesn't quite let go, so her fingers press mine in passing.
“Thank you, at least it's not a fruit bowl”; they laugh uncertainly.
“Go on open it - no one's seen it 'cept Jane,” Sue demands, all impatient curiosity.
“I chose it,” Jane explains, catching my eye.
Open the box, look inside, shut it quick. They look expectant, but I'm not going to satisfy their curiosity.
Silence. Jane shakes my hand, and goes.
Watch her retreating, shoulders slumping. Oh God.
“What is it then?”
“Where are you going, Allie?”
Ignore their starling like clamour, grab my coat.
“Home,” I say fiercely indifferent. They scatter before me, confused, surprised.
Catch her in the corridor.
She turns and smiles. A real smile; just for me.
“Quite a leap of faith,” she says.
I stare blankly.
“The job,” she says impatient, “I wish I had your nerve. It’s really taking being out at work to extremes.”
Almost sounds like criticism. Could be jealousy. Try my best not-a-care-in-the world grin. (Actually, terrified; this hated, despised place actually looks safe right now… hey, she doesn’t need to know).
“I’ll be right at home.”
Nooo, did that sound aggressive? Didn’t mean… Shouldn’t drink gin at lunchtime.
“I hope you like it,” she says cheerfully. Wonder if she means the job or the small silver symbol still clutched in my hand, wrapped in a bit of paper.
“I hope you'll use it,” she says, less sure of herself this time. Wonder if she means the pendant or the phone number that encloses it.
“Oh ... yes,” ...calculating the time of the next train, suddenly embarrassed, feeling I have, after all, mistaken her. If I run, I'll just catch it and be home in…
Her voice wobbles, even on that short word - she's staring hard at the wall.
Honestly, I despair of her.
Why does she think I'm leaving?
Take her hand; let the train go without me.
Leaving by Cherry Potts was read by Susan Moisan at the Liars' League Sex & The City event at The Wheatsheaf in London on 10 November 2009
Cherry Potts is the author of two collections of short stories, Mosaic of Air and Tales told before Cockcrow, published by Onlywomen Press. She will shortly be looking for a publisher for a ridiculously long lesbian fantasy epic.
Susan Moisan graduated this year from Drama Studio London. Credits: We Are Gods (Rehearsed Reading - White Bear Theatre); Hatchepsut in Zipporah (George Wood Theatre, Goldsmiths); and in Central Film School's short film The Factory. Credits while training include Juliet (Romeo & Juliet), Gwendolyn (The Importance of Being Earnest), and Helena (Look Back in Anger).