…a mysterious double of a person, possibly an apparition, but definitely with something of the supernatural about it      

“Well,” he said. “Well.” His red face and fixed grin would certainly be problematic for Helen over the longer term. “So how are we settling in?”

Helen adopted the look of someone who was settling in just fine. Such was the placidity, the contentedness, the complete at-ease-ness which she emanated, that she knew it wouldn’t be requisite of her to answer this question just posed by her manger; such was the level of comfort she was portraying, so settled must she have seemed, so completely in her element in her new job must she have looked, that it was as though she had been working there forever and the whole question of her settling in wasn’t worth broaching. A broad smile was all that was necessary.

“Well here’s the Bananahol file to keep you busy.”

“Great!” Helen was clearly feeling great about everything – about her new job, her new office, the thought of coming up with an advertising strategy for alcohol laced banana juice, the probability of none of her references checking out whenever the company got around to checking them, the likelihood of her being frogmarched off the premises as soon as her deception was discovered, and the realisation that she was unlikely to make it to the end of the month before her complete inability in putting together an advertising campaign for the most unlikely drink ever invented was uncovered by any of the multitude of people she had of necessity to work closely with.

“This is a big client Helen. Don’t drop the ball.” The manager, whose name escaped Helen at the moment, as it would do at every other moment she came across him and was forced to speak to him, mimed what appeared to be a juggling act and adopted an inordinately comic look, arching his eyebrows excessively and opening his mouth wide, in order to hint at his levity, lest there be any confusion on Helen’s part.

“I got you!” Helen forced herself to sound enthusiastic, which, she felt, would be the dominant feeling of someone who just landed a very good job and who hadn’t completely misled everyone in order to get it.

Helen toyed with the idea of feigning illness for the next three weeks – it was the only way she could be sure of actually reaching the end of the month without being uncovered as the real Helen, nothing like the other Helen who worked in advertising, the Helen who had spent the last six years working for a large firm in Canada, the Helen who laughed at everyone’s jokes regardless how funny they were, the Helen who smiled and smiled and smiled, the Helen who had worked hard all her life and never dropped the ball, the Helen who was just like Mary, Susan or Jane or whatever their names were, who were working in the other offices along this corridor, the Helen whose life was filled with anecdotes which began with such phrases as “Last Summer in the Caribbean…” or “It was whilst working on the Anderson account…” or “In my final year up at Durham…”, the Helen who would never dream of picking up the waste bin which was sitting in the corner of her office and throwing it through the window in order to let some god damn air into this stifling, mind numbing, light buzzing, telephone-ringing, Mary-Susan-or-Jane-laughing hole in the fucking ground.

After the morning debrief; when the real Helen was introduced as the other Helen, where the other Helen smiled and nodded and shook hands and laughed and made some comment about how she’d like nothing more right now than a nice cool glass of Bananahol; when the real Helen caught the eye of this other Helen in the reflection of the window, surreptitiously nodding a quick nod of acknowledgement, before enthusiastically joining in the forced hilarity of everyone else, just as everyone else was breaking up to head off to their offices to do whatever the hell they did all day every day; the other Helen caught the eye of the manager’s manager, the big boss, the one who mattered above everyone else, and smiled, she smiled the smile of the other Helen, the smile which could have meant anything and which she hoped meant everything, because you never know what one will have to resort to when the shit hits the fan.

“So you were up at Durham,” someone of seemingly little importance, a young man with the nasal hair of a man of sixty, asked, or maybe challenged, the real Helen as she walked back to her new office.

“Oh isn’t Durham just grand!” the other Helen replied, before turning sharply and closing her door behind her.

But of course the real Helen must at some point come out of her hiding place to face the world she now occupied and which she had to conquer. So emerge she did, swinging the Bananahol file in her right hand, twirling a pencil in her left hand, her glasses sitting low on her nose, a strand of hair playfully dangling about her forehead, a look of assurance, head held high, gaze straight ahead, stride firm and steady and her voice was sharp as she confronted someone who had all the symptoms of the lower ranks of employment and demanded instant directions to the water cooler, implied the necessity of their accompanying her, and plied this random person with one question after another about the way-things-work-around-here.

Her secretary, who seemed a little in awe of the other Helen, seemed extremely competent and knowledgeable, filling her in on the intricacies of selling banana flavoured alcohol to the lower levels of society.

However, Helen’s colleague, a John or Joe or James seemed to be a little on the suspicious side when confronted with the other Helen’s bluster and was soon asking as many questions as she was.

Of course, this kind of behaviour had to be discouraged, so the other Helen was quick to invent too-amazing-to-be-lies details of her life to entertain him and lead him astray and have him wondering how come this other Helen, who has had such an unbelievable life, has ended up in such a run of the mill job as this.


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