The Stuck in the Middle Intern

Yesterday, right before I left the office to go to Conspiracy’s event, AdminAssist rang to see when I was going to put in my travel expenses. I said that I’d do it by the end of the month, and I thought that would be the end of the conversation. But she lingered.

‘So? How are things inDundee?’ ‘Much going on?’ ‘Loraine in the office much?’

It wasn’t actually what she said as how she said it. Like she was digging for information. As I have no information to give, and I’m pretty damn loyal to Loraine, I just answered politely. I hung up and sprinted out the office and to my flat where Fife was picking me up, but the conversation nagged me. I really like my job. No, I love my job, and I do not want it ruined with office politics. So, I think I might steer clear of AdminAssist for a while.

I was waiting on the pavement in front of my flat, when Fife came to collect me in his old Citroen. Pete and S where nowhere to be found, so I was quite relieved when Fife helped me load Conspiracy’s books into his car. Once we settled in he said, ‘Chicken salad or egg and mayo?’

I was completely confused, and it showed on my face. He asked again, ‘Chicken salad or egg and mayo?’, but this time he handed me a Tescos bag and said, ‘I assume you didn’t have time to grab your tea. We can eat on the way.’

In the bag was also a couple of juices. I picked the chicken salad and an apple juice and thanked him for dinner and the ride. To which he said, ‘Packaged sandwiches and a trip in a 25 year old car. I know how to treat a lady.’

I asked him what he was doing in Dundee and he said that he’d inherited a cottage in Perthshire from his father, and he had to sort stuff out with the solicitor. I suddenly felt really bad for asking, I had no idea his father died, so I apologised for bringing it up. He was really nice and said that his mother died nearly ten years ago, and his father’s been gone for two. It’s just that it takes ages for things to go through probate (I have no idea what that means), inheritance tax is problematic, and he doesn’t want his ex-wife to get the family cottage.

Yup. EX-wife. Not current wife. Not his wife. But his EX-wife!

I tried to hide my smile, so I attempted to cover my tracks with ‘So, you’re from Perthshire then?’

The answer was ‘No’, he’s from just outside Fort Williams. (I knew there was a reason I originally thought he lived in the Highlands. When we were in Greece he must have told me he was from there.) But his parents retired to this cabin. They thought Perthshire was as scenic as the north of Scotland but less cut off. Fife now lets out the cottage as a holiday rental. His sister inherited the family home near Fort William, because his parents never sold it and just let it out. But she lives down in Oxfordshire, and has just continued to let out the house in the Highlands.

Yeah, not terribly interesting, but the conversation kept us going until we were across the Tay Bridge and on into the Kingdom of Fife. Plus, I was certainly glad of this conversation because all I could think about was ‘EX-wife’ ,and I didn’t want to let on that I was obsessing. (In fact, I know nothing about divorce law, and I was listening intently to the story of his family’s property hoping he’d drop a hint regarding how long he’s been divorced. I’m assuming it’s recent if he’s worried she’ll get his cottage, or part of it. But I really have no idea.)

There was a bit of a silence when Fife said, ‘I can’t take it anymore. I need to ask.’

Holy crap. I thought. What is he going to ask me? Do I have a boyfriend? Am I seeing anyone? Do I live with a pandhandling jobless dipshit?

Nope. He asked if I’d had a chance to read his manuscript. I was really bummed that I had to tell him I was too busy with work, but I added that I’d read it by the end of the week. He was completely gracious about it, and I think a little embarrassed for asking, so we let the matter drop.

We got to the event, which was a book club held in a small town hall. We were the last one’s to arrive, and I’ll just say it here. It was not a good night. I lugged Conspiracy’s books with me, but as it was a Book Club, they’d already either bought the book or gotten it from the library. Then someone asked where the coffee and biscuits were. I said that I hadn’t brought refreshments to the other events, to which there was a loud uproar of disappointment. Fife, the beautiful man that he is, went out and fetched some instant coffee, tea bags and biscuits from the store, then came back and found the centre’s kitchen and put out the snacks while the book group started.

After he put the stuff out, he came and sat at the edge of the circle, when one of the women asked, ‘Who’s he. We aren’t taking new members to our Book Group. Why’s he here?’

To be honest, she had a good point. Why was Fife there? This wasn’t a reading, so showing any support for Conspiracy was a bit out of place. But I was glad he was there all the same, as he’s been such an immense help to me. I told the lady he was my ‘Assistant’ and gave Fife a little wink. The woman huffed and settled back in.

The group consisted of six women and two men, all around the age of retirement. And they ripped poor Conspiracy’s book to shreds. They didn’t ask questions, they just chastised. When Conspiracy tried to defend himself, they weren’t having it, and they’d launch in with another criticism. Fife tried to help by suggesting some positive aspects to Conspiracy’s book, but this was an even worse tactic, as one of the men in the group realised that he recognised Fife as a famous author. And, as it turns out, the Book Group was quite the fan of his, and they spent the rest of the evening asking Fife questions instead of Conspiracy. One of them even asked if Fife would sign Conspiracy’s novel.

Saint showed up just as it ended, and Conspiracy wizzed past her heading straight to the car. She stopped me to ask if everything was okay, and I had to answer honestly. The evening did not go well. Unfortunately, I am the world’s worst secret keeper, and because I wasn’t thinking I added, ‘Not a good situation since we can’t find a publisher for his second book.’

Either Saint didn’t know this, or Loraine has yet to tell Conspiracy exactly how dire things are, or Conspiracy is in denial, or he didn’t believe me when I told him, or a combination of all four, because Saint was quite taken back. She said she knew it wasn’t going well, but she had no idea how bad the situation was. I decided it was time to be completely upfront. That unless Conspiracy gets his arse in gear, and helps us get him some publicity and some subsequent sales his writing career is over. I told him that his second book is a solid piece of work, but we just can’t find a publisher for it.

She seemed exasperated and mumbled, ‘If he’d spend more time on this instead of that stupid blog…’

‘What blog I asked?’

After a bit of stammering, she confessed to an anonymous blog that Conspiracy keeps. She seemed annoyed about this blog, but I was curious all the same, and after much cajoling she told me the URL. She said she’d have a word with Conspiracy, but he’s a hard man to ‘get through to’.

Saint left to take Conspiracy home, and Fife and I followed her out the door. The ride back to Dundee was nice, and we talked about his minor fame as an author. He said that rarely does anyone recognise him (even the most famous authors in the world rarely get recognised), but when it does happen it’s a weird feeling. He said he doesn’t think he could ever be a proper celebrity, because he feels quite awkward in interviews and such.

Fife pulled up across the street from my flat just as Pete, S, and PoshPhD came out to meet CoolTrous. PoshPhD jumped on Pete’s back, and started slapping his arse and pretending to ride him. I was furious but stayed seated in the car for a moment. S then stood in front of Pete so he couldn’t move and gave him the dirtiest look I’ve seen her give anyone…ever. Pete stopped in his tracks and PoshPhD slid down. CoolTrous said something and they walked on. Good old S, looking out for me even when I’m not there. None of them saw me in the car.

Fife noticed I’d gone quiet and was eyeing the group outside the car. He asked if I knew them, so I lied and said ‘no’.

As they tripped off down the street, I turned and looked at Fife. I don’t think I’ve ever described him. He’s quite tall and has really broad shoulders, plus he’s quite in shape for a guy his age (he’s 40) – no gut yet. He’s got dark wavy hair with specs of grey in it, and it’s slightly receding at the temples, but otherwise quite thick. He keeps a bit of stubble on his face, which is good because he’d probably look quite boyish otherwise as he has these lovely little round cheeks when he smiles. He also has dark blue eyes, and wears wire-rimmed glasses when he drives, which slip down to the end of his nose. Fife wears a bit of a uniform: baggy jeans with either Doc Martins or trainers, and an untucked dress shirt that’s rolled up at the sleeves. He wears coloured t-shirts underneath, and in Greece he wore the same thing but without the dress shirt. There’s something so casual but also professional about him. Like his car, he’s vintage but also chic and modern. He’s got this deep voice but he giggles when he laughs, and he laughs at his own jokes, which is quite cute. And he’s…

I’m going off track here. My whole point in this description was to say that last night I realised that I didn’t don’t have a crush on Fife. I have a crush on who he is. He’s a successful author making a living off his writing. He travels for his books, has a nice house and kids. I’m sure things aren’t always easy for him (he does have an ex-wife, and I’m sure divorce is difficult), but compared to everyone else around me at the moment he’s got his shit together. I realised that the reason I haven’t told Fife about Pete isn’t because of some sort of lusty feelings for Fife, but because I’m embarrassed. I live in a one-bedroom flat with three people, that seems more like a squat than a place to live. (Yet, it’s not a squat because I pay rent and Council tax. I’d probably be better off in a squat.) I’ve got a great job, but I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve got a boyfriend who prefers to panhandle than work, and there’s a girl across the hall who rarely wears trousers trying to steel him away from me.

As I sat in the car with Fife, I realised that I’m an intern of life. Stuck in the middle neither grown-up nor still a kid. I may have a big girl job, and big girl bills, but that’s about it. The whole situation made me really quite depressed.

Fife asked if he could help me bring my books upstairs, but I declined his offer. I certainly didn’t want him to see where I live. Suitcases, clothes, dirty dishes and other people’s fag ends everywhere. And the only furnishings are two mattresses. I thanked him for the offer and bid him good night. I also promised that I’d have his novel read by the end of the week.

He said that would be good, and maybe we could get together for coffee to talk about it. I agreed, and we decided to text a time and a place.

In the flat on the telly was a note from Pete. It said they were all going to the Globe and that I should come meet them. I had every intention to do so, but I wanted to have a quick look at Conspiracy’s secret blog first. I’d only planned on having a glance but was immediately engrossed.

I love Conspiracy’s blog! It’s witty and smart, but still quick paced with the voice he uses in his novels. The blog is completely anonymous and focuses on his life…sort of. Well, he talks about a lot of personal things: when he was unemployed, he wants children but his wife doesn’t, when his dog died. Really emotional stuff, but he does it with such sincerity and humour that it all seems really hopeful. Oh, and here’s the unique part, even though it’s based on his life (or I assume it is) he’s set it in his favourite place – a dystopian future. For example, he was writing about an argument he and his wife were having over whether or not they should have children. In his list of reasons FOR having children: more man power to fight the zombie apocalypse. In another post he talks about being unemployed and having to go sign on, and he describes the whole scene as if he were infiltrating a government agency that conspires to literally suck the life from each of its citizens so it would be easier to turn them into drones. In another blog he talks about starting his own business, but calls himself a Commander of the Revolution.

I stayed up all night reading his blog. Pete and S came in at about 1am, and as Pete lay beside me snoring I continued to read. Conspiracy’s been writing it for about four years, and I got through two years of posts. I plan on finishing the rest this afternoon. I was knackered this morning. Unbelievably knackered. LadyBohemia caught me nodding off through the conservatory windows and called me into the sunshine. We sat for a while and chatted over a very strong cup of tea.

I told her that I was a bit bummed about thing. That I don’t want to be in this inbetween phase of life any longer. I want to have a house, and furniture. She said that I was typical of the modern generation. She said that we didn’t want to grow up, we wanted to perpetually run around like kids, but we also wanted the rewards of adulthood. She then pulled a ‘In my day’ story. LadyBohemia argued that when she was growing up you were an adult by 16, and you were expected to act like one. Planning on children and finding employment in something that would last a lifetime – and for women there were only three options: teaching, nursing and working in a factory. She said she’s envious of today’s youth, that even into your thirties and forties you can take gap years, change careers and have kids later in life. But she added that with that extension of youth, the deferment of adult niceties, such as a house and security, was a fact. She said that once my generation realised that you couldn’t have both, we’d be much more content.

And you know what, I think she’s right. But now I just need to decide, do I want to be an adult or do I want to be a kid for just a little longer? Well, no time to ponder this just now, I have to go back to work. Oh, how adult of me.

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