One Day 4
Chapter four A Career Opportunity Monday, 15th July 1991
Camden Town and Primrose Hill, London
'Listen to me, please, everyone,' Scott McKenzie shouted.
'The restaurant opens in ten minutes and I have some things to tell you. First, these are the special dishes for this lunchtime.' Scott stopped, looked around him and then went on when his staff had stopped talking. 'Today's special soup is corn chowder. And the special burrito is turkey.'
'Turkey's not a good idea in July,' said Ian Whitehead wearily. 'Turkey's really for Christmas.' He shook his head in despair. This made Emma Morley laugh. Ian was now Emma's best friend, but she rarely laughed at what he said. Scott looked at the two of them.
'Ian, you can clean the toilets today,' Scott said. 'Emma, I need to talk to you in my office.'
Emma followed the manager into his office and sat down. 'I'll come straight to the point,' Scott said. 'I'm leaving Loco Caliente soon. I'm going to be the manager of a big, new restaurant in West London. Do you want to be the manager here when I go? It's a good career opportunity. Head office wants someone who isn't going anywhere. Someone who won't go away travelling or leave suddenly to start a more exciting job.'
And suddenly, Emma was crying.
'What's wrong, Emma?' Scott asked. 'Has somebody upset you?'
'No, it's all right, Scott. It's really nothing,' Emma told him. 'Don't worry, I'll be fine in a minute.'
'Go and rest in the staffroom,' said Scott kindly. 'Give me your answer about the job tomorrow.' A few minutes later Emma was alone in the staffroom. She looked around her in despair. She knew that she couldn't leave her job. She had to spend all her money on rent, so she needed to take the manager's job. But she didn't want to be a restaurant manager all her life. She still wanted to be a writer, or perhaps a film-maker, or a painter. She wanted to be something in the arts. She spent lots of time writing - she mostly wrote poems these days. But nothing was working well for her. Nobody wanted to publish her poems. Emma knew that her mother was still trying to find jobs for her in Yorkshire. Some days, she thought she would go back there. 'I've had a battle with London and London has won,' she told herself. But she wasn't ready to stop fighting yet. She needed to be in London.
Emma opened her handbag and took out her special notebook. The book had a beautiful cover and lovely, thick, white paper. It was where Emma wrote her poems. Now she took out her best pen. She thought for minute, then she started to write a new poem about how she felt. The poem she wrote was quite short and she knew it was really bad. She turned back through the pages of the book and found an earlier poem called Daybreak in Edinburgh. She read it.
We lie here in the
Narrow bed and talk
About the future. I Look at him and think 'Handsome' - stupid word - and I
Ask myself the
'Might it be the real
Thing, this time? Outside the birds begin to sing and
Sunlight warms the curtain.
Emma looked carefully at what she had written. 'Can I really make the bad things in my life seem better by writing about them?' she wondered. She had just decided that she could not do that because that poem was rubbish too, when Ian came into the staffroom. Ian looked angry and unhappy.
'Emma,' he said, 'your friend is in the restaurant again the handsome one. He wants to see you. He's with a girl a different one this time.' Ian had seen several of Dexter's girlfriends. Dexter obviously liked to show them to Emma and this clearly upset her. It upset Ian too.
'He's a monster, Emma,' Ian said.
'No, he's not a monster, he's just an idiot.' Emma sighed and went out into the restaurant.
Dexter was with a tall, thin girl with black hair and expensive black clothes. They were reading the menu aloud to each other and laughing about it.
'Hello, Emma!' Dexter said when he saw her. 'This is Naomi. Will you have a drink with us?' His voice told Emma that he was drunk.
'I can't do that, Dex, I'm working,' Emma replied. 'Goodbye.' She turned away and walked back to the staffroom. Later, before leaving the restaurant, Dexter left a handwritten note on his table.
Later in the day, after Emma had finished work, she found Dexter lying on the grass on Primrose Hill, a mile away. The evening sun was warm and he was almost asleep. A half-empty wine bottle told her the reason. Emma kicked his leg. 'Don't do that to me, Dexter,' she said angrily. 'Don't bring people into the restaurant to laugh at me. If you ever do that again, it's the end of our friendship.'
'I'm sorry, Em,' Dexter said. 'I'm really sorry. I apologize.' Emma looked at him and decided that he meant what he said - for now. She sat down beside him.
'Won't your girlfriend be angry if she finds out that you left a note asking me to meet you?' she asked.
'Oh, Naomi isn't really my girlfriend,' Dexter replied happily. 'She's just someone I go out with sometimes.'
'I'm sorry, then,' said Emma. 'Clearly, I don't mean girlfriend, I mean victim.' She spoke sadly. And she thought, 'Em and Dex, Dex and Em. No, it's never going to happen now.'
She picked up the bottle of wine and drank from it. Dexter looked at her and he felt warm inside. He often thought that Emma Morley was the best person he'd ever known. But he'd never really told her that. And he didn't tell her that now. For some reason, he couldn't make himself tell her that.