She was a perfect silhouette standing there, framed by the doorway with the morning sunlight behind her. There was a fleck of red in her black fringe.

‘May I come in?’

The question was posed to everyone and no one in particular in the staffroom. Glances were exchanged, as well as a smirk. Denise was the only one to jump up and direct the newcomer.

‘Come and sit yourself down! We don’t stand on ceremony here!’

The slight stranger flashed an appreciative smile and approached Denise with an outstretched hand.

‘I’m Kamiko. I’m very happy to meet you.’

With hesitation, Denise shook the small hand. ‘Come on, love. Sit yourself down.’

But the stranger stood in front of Carol with an outstretched hand and repeated, ‘I’m very happy to meet you.’

Carol stared back at Kamiko, totally at a loss for what to say or do. In turn, Kamiko awkwardly withdrew her hand and bit her lip. Somewhere in the room, someone whispered, ‘Oh. My Gooooooooood!’ There were titters.

The morning light was shut out by the bounding, rotund-bellied figure of Mr Matthews. He burst through the door. ‘Ah!’ Perpetual perspiration clung to his brown and the seams of his shirt. One of those sweaty patches hit Kamiko’s shoulder as he threw an arm around her, almost pushing her over with his weight. ‘You’ve all met Angela,’ he boomed, looking around at his underlings. ‘Well, obviously, she’s not really called Angela, but I thought it’d be easier for us all to call her Angela than, well, you know what I mean.’

He gave his newest recruit a tight squeeze on the arm. She gave a nervous giggle and stared at the floor. Mr Matthews gave her another squeeze and declared, ‘You’re going to be a great addition to this company, Angela. I just know it.’ He left abruptly, almost breathless, wiping his sweaty brow with the back of his hand.

Carol threw down her magazine, got up and left, muttering, ‘I’ve been here for five years and he ain’t said nothing like that about me.’

The woman who had been sat next to her also got up and said as she left, ‘You’re the wrong colour, Carol love.’ She turned back to Kamiko and said, ‘No offense to you, love, but he likes ‘em dark.’

Kamiko’s shoulder’s tensed, but she did not dare move. Denise said to her, ‘Chin up, love. It’s nothing to do with you. The last girl we got, he took a shine to her, and well, it ended badly. Really pretty Paki girl, and nice with it. HR are only supposed to send old white folk to “avoid any further embarrassment to the company” so I’ve no idea how you’ve got through.’

‘I don’t understand,’ Kamiko said. ‘Mr Matthews is the boss?’

‘Sort of,’ Denise replied. ‘Matthews sorts the day-to-day running of things but it’s his dad who runs the company.’

‘Oh,’ Kamiko said with realisation.

Denise laughed. ‘You don’t think a plum like him would get a job without it being in the family do you?’

Kamiko, shaking, sat down. ‘I came long way,’ she explained. ‘I wanted to go away from the man have a job because of his father boss. I wanted a job for me and my life.’

‘I think I know what you mean, love,’ Denise nodded. ‘There’s a saying; “Wherever you are, there you are.”’

Kamiko nodded. ‘Same shit, different town.’

This was written for a writing course I have been doing for YEARS now!  I took some inspiration from a woman I met who worked for a large PR company in London.  Some of the workers had found “amputee porn” in the boss’ desk drawer, so kept any disabled work experience students well away from him.  I also met a man called Amir who was called “John” by his UK college because “Amir” was too difficult for the teacher to pronounce. 


About catherinehume

Catherine Hume: Writer, social care worker and a liver of a life less ordinary.
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