Denise had called.
But let’s start at the beginning.
The cardboard skeletons rattled against the windows in the draft and the rain bounced off the yellowing windowsill. The bony creatures had been there since Halloween a year ago and he’d never bothered to take them down.
Dave shivered and looked forlornly at his inbox once more. He was miserable.
But it hadn’t always been like this.
Just over a year ago, the office had been a place of happiness, where he and Denise used to laugh and joke and generally keep each others’ spirits up, often in the face of adversity.
They worked as the two-person outpost of a French engineering firm, fielding sales leads and fulfilling the admin function. They rarely had visitors and worked happily in a little bubble.
But then, just over a year ago, she left to chase her dream. It wasn’t a surprise, as a year before that she told him she had saved up enough money to take a Pitman Training Executive PA course in Holborn, half a kilometre from their Bloomsbury office.
He had known then that she would leave, but he was in some sort of state of denial until the day she gave in her notice and from that moment on, he had missed her terribly.
She had left be the personal assistant to the Managing Director of a software company in Canary Wharf. He couldn’t blame her really. At 20 years his junior, she had the rest of her career to enjoy while he was in the last years of his own.
The Executive PA course had opened her eyes to what was possible and her new office was nearer to her home in Walthamstow.
As she was taking the course he could see her confidence and her ability growing and she revolutionised the office, which made her departure even harder.
He remembered her farewell drink at the Red Lion on Holborn, where she’d had a Babycham and he’d had a pint of Abbot Ale, which made his cheeks go red. He’d hoped she wouldn’t notice.
An hour later, he gave her a peck on the cheek and she walked out of his life.
It was Friday, so it didn’t him too hard but Monday morning was a killer! He went into work with such a heavy heart.
He avoided the temptation to call her mobile to make sure she was OK but in the second week he caved in. She sounded so busy, he was a bit embarrassed to have called and resisted the temptation to call again for another week until he could hold off no more.
Again he felt he was intruding, so he kept it short. And over time, the phone calls withered away.
Although Head Office said he had the budget to hire another secretary, he thought he’d try temps to see what was the best way forward, but none of them worked out, and with the economic downturn, he thought he’d try to save the company money by taking a touch typing course himself, so he went to Pitman Training too.
It was a bit weird walking into the place where Denise had done her Executive PA course but he knuckled down and did his best, although even he didn’t know why he was trying to save the company money. Did they ever think about him?
Dave soldiered on for another couple of months and then started to think about early retirement.
Sixty-one was a bit early, but what did he have to continue for? He wasn’t enjoying it and he reckoned with a bit of handyman work and his reduced pension, he could just about survive.
It was on one of those gloomy, reflective afternoons that she phoned.
“Dave?” She asked. “It’s Denise. Listen. I need to ask you something. I’ve just been made redundant. The company is closing down in the UK. I know this is awkward, but is my old job still available? I’d love to come back, even though the salary is lower. I was so happy working with you. And since I took my Executive PA course, I’m miles better at my job!”
What did Dave think? He though she should start at 09:00 the next morning!
He left the office early that night, his heat as light as a teenager’s and his head swimming.
His life would start again tomorrow!