I wrote this very brief introduction almost four years ago, at a time when I felt brave enough to see if I could try to write fiction. I admit that I’ve tidied it up a little, but when I read it last night, I felt very proud of myself for having tried, which as many writers know, is quite literally half the battle.
Anyway, I thought I’d share it here, and who knows, maybe one day I might breathe life into it enough to see where it takes me.
With blue skies you can see for miles, life in the English broker belt was financially enviable, but today was proving different. The rolling grey clouds were mirroring Jack Enroy’s persistent misery, and so the enveloping countryside instead felt claustrophobic and oppressive.
With his childhood dream firmly eclipsed, Jack had become a wealthy business magnate wanting for little, yet demanding everything, both from himself and anyone foolish or brave enough to occupy the space around him.
With heavy breath, Jack monitored his slowing heart rate and put his daily morning run behind him.
“Twelve seconds slower today. Not good enough Jack, and don’t even try to bullshit me with your age.” He berated himself with a self-loathing he’d always confused for discipline, and now it was just a short walk back to his palatial family home nestled in the Surrey countryside, where he would shower in a bathroom worthy of a mortgage.
As the steady hum of rush-hour traffic interrupted his dream, Alex Jones reluctantly raised his pale frame from a poorly constructed IKEA bed and meandered into his dishevelled squat bathroom, unsure why he ever bothered to groom himself when it seemed that nobody really noticed his boyish good looks.
As the head of an expansive I.T. department, it was a long-held fantasy that his technically brilliant mind would one day afford him a huge salary and a sense of command, particularly within a leading financial institution like the IBF. Unfortunately, it seemed that life always had other ideas, and so at twenty-three, his ambition was slowly dying with every rejection, and despite a hard-wired optimism, the glass was now beginning to appear very much half empty.
Making coffee and listening to the bleary moans of a self-righteous and sexist managing director does not a happy girl make, and Valerie Smytheson could tell you exactly why, if you’d only give her a couple of martini’s and an hour of your time.
The lure of a well paid personal assistant role seemed to offer great opportunity in the jet-set world of corporate banking, but had she known the price her self-esteem would pay, things would have been markedly different. Now she would happily trade business suits for jogging pants and the domestic joy of motherhood, but hindsight is often a romantically depressing experience, and so with a deep breath and her best foot still foraging for happiness, she entered the lift, silently preparing herself for another day of verbal abuse.
“For Christ’s sake, use your fucking mirrors you prick!” cursed cycle courier and accident escape artiste Derek Zimmerman, as he narrowly avoided the ineptitude of yet another faceless cab driver.
Having scraped through university with a business degree, Derek still retained a false enough sense of security to imagine his career would begin immediately after his finals, yet a year and a half of daily internal confusion and countless flustered interviews, he was still pedalling across London just to pay the rent.
The thirteenth floor of IBF House was home to more workstations than you could shake a stick at, and with young and seemingly unbreakable bank staff working sixteen-hour days, and snorting most bonuses up their noses, Farris Stein considered himself a key player in the power game, and so loss of face was never an option. His grand design was to retire before thirty and invest hard, because he genuinely believed that failure to secure himself financially would leave him homeless and alcoholic.
The facade of IBF headquarters shone like a new penny, and with acres of reflective glass walls, it was almost impossible to avoid critiquing one’s appearance as you travelled the miles of corridors, and as the latest face of modern finance, no expense had been spared to convey an image of utter superiority and swarthy affluence, and if fortunate to receive special invitation, your arrival would always be greeted with the finest coffee, enjoyed in hand-stitched leather chair with a copy of the Financial Times and an array of biscuits exquisite enough to make a vicar blush.
Central to the reception area sat two spacious lifts powered by the best technology available, because after all, time is most definitely always money, and with the one of lift doors about to close, Derek Zimmerman thrust his hand between them, nodding brusquely as he made his entrance. The scent of Starbucks lingered, and as he looked about he felt distinctly separate from the suits encircling him.
“Why do I have to share the lift with these fucking losers?” thought Farris resentfully, as he propped his ego against the previous night’s coke binge. “One fucking day, I’ll have my own fucking lift, or better still I’ll fly to work in a fucking chopper” he sniggered to himself.
“Yeah, a fucking gold-plated whirly bird that will show everyone just how fucking minted I am”. No sir, Farris Stein was not one to think small.
Valerie Smytheson’s nerves overtook her caffeine rush as she questioned whether she still looked attractive, or if she’d gained weight over the weekend. “Damn my bloody hormones” she thought, “chocolate and chips will sit on your hips.” This was her new mantra, and once again she began beating herself over the head with it.
“I need to get a personal trainer, because let’s face it, I suck at this diet lark, and I’m too bloody tired to lie to myself any longer”. It was a vicious cycle of self-examination and resignation that had driven her this far, and the only peace she found was in her hope a better day would come.
The presence of women always proved unnerving for Alex, and yet the familiar shape of Valerie Smytheson always lifted him from his quiet reflection, reminding him he was still very much alive.
“It’s crazy” he thought, “I know her password, I can check her emails, see what she looks at on the internet, but I just can’t talk to her.” That painful truth caused his shoulders to slump, and yet Alex knew that he would trade all of that unrestricted access for the chance to actually talk to her face-to-face.
Standing quietly at the back of the lift to avoid unnecessary attention, Jack Enroy wondered if the other four strangers knew how miserable wealth could really make you. “What would happen” he thought “if I just turned around, right now, and gave each of these people a million pounds sterling? Would they take it, or would they laugh at me? I’ll wager they would laugh, after all, nobody does that kind of thing do they?”
Suddenly he felt like his day might be somehow different. Suddenly, he was tingling with a power he had never experienced before, an almost god-like and yet humble sense of compassion, and yet was also crippled with the shame of knowing how he had made his money.
“Get hold of yourself Jack, you can’t trust these clowns with money like that, they’ll just piss it away and leave you humiliated.” His fear reminded him that whatever impulses triggered his sense of humanity, they were to remain just that.
And with his seemingly ‘wild’ idea now back in its box, the lift announced its arrival, as everybody adjusted themselves before going about their mundanely painful existences.