Friday, 10 June 2011

An Experience Vicky Needed Like A Hole In The Head, And One That Greg Really Deserved.

"So have you missed me this week?" says The Boss, when he arrives this morning.

There's an uncomfortable silence while Greg and I try to work out if he's joking or not.

"After having me around to help out during Recess, I mean," says Andrew, as if to clarify.

"Oh," says Greg, at the same time as I say, "Ah."

This seems to be all that is required, so I make a run for it into the kitchen, where I spend as long as possible washing up and making coffee.

Which turns out to be a mistake as, by the time I get back to my office, I can't see my desk for the debris Andrew has piled on top of it, though I do note the mysterious disappearance of my sandwich.

"Where's my lunch gone?" I say, walking back out into the outer office, but The Boss pretends not to hear. He's busy inspecting his phone.

"Got my phone fixed, then, did you?" he says. "What was wrong with it, anyway?"

"Um," I say, glaring at Greg, who is pulling one of those I'll kill you if you tell him faces. The one where he juts out his chin, and makes his eyes look as if they're popping out of their sockets.

"Well?" says Andrew. "Why did that lead keep coming out of the receiver every time I picked it up?"

"Faulty adaptor," says Greg, as if his having pulled it out every time we had to leave Andrew alone in the office had nothing to do with it. (These things are justifiable, if you consider the damage an MP let loose to answer calls from constituents without supervision can cause. "Pre-emptive action" is how Greg describes it.)

Luckily, Vicky arrives at that moment, and The Boss seems so pleased to see her, that he forgets to pursue the issue of the inexplicably self-disconnecting phone lead any further.

"There'll be three of us in surgery today, Molly," he says. "Vicky's going to come in with us, to observe."

"Why?" I say, before I can stop myself.

"It'll be useful experience for her," says Andrew - as if that explains everything.

Greg seems to think it does, judging by the I told you so face he's pulling now. Unless that's his latest way to stop himself sneezing. He's only got hay fever, but you'd swear it was pneumonia at the very least, the fuss he's been making for the last few days.

He scribbles something on a piece of paper, then shoves it into my hand as I pass.

"Here's that number you wanted, Mol," he says, pulling his meaningful face. "Put it somewhere safe so you don't lose it again."

I glare at him, but open it as soon as I get back to my desk.

"Told you," it says. "Vicky's after one of our jobs now."

She might have been this morning, but I don't think she is now. Not after she encountered Mrs Watts during surgery.

That poor, poor woman. Though I do wish people wouldn't keep coming to tell us they've got holes in their heads. Anyone would think they'd got the wrong end of the stick where MPs' surgeries are concerned.

Now I'm getting distracted, which is what Fridays always do to me, and the subject of holes in the head. Where was I? Oh, yes - Mrs Watts.

Some people are astonishingly brave, aren't they? And utterly selfless, too. Mrs Watts has a brain tumour, and only has weeks to live.

She's angry, you can tell, but she controls it; or rather, she reserves her anger for things she thinks she can actually do something about. Which means that she doesn't want us to do anything at all for her, but what she does want is our help to get her nineteen-year-old daughter what she needs.

"She's pregnant, and her bloke's just buggered off," says Mrs Watts. "I need to make sure that, when the baby comes, and I go, she's not left without any money. So I want to make sure she's got all her benefits sorted out before that happens."

Vicky doesn't say a word during the ensuing conversation. She just sits there, staring at the top of Mrs Watt's head, as if trying to see the hole where the ultimately unsuccessful surgery was carried out.

Her face is unusually pale, even through all that foundation she wears, and she's chewing the side of one of her precious nails.

"You all right, Vicky?" I say, as we walk back upstairs after Mrs Watts has left.

"Of course she is," says Andrew, opening the door to the office and ushering us in with a rather excessive flourish. "Cope with anything, can't you, Vicks? We see life in all its forms here, don't we, Mol?"

"And death," I say, but Andrew can't hear me. Greg's sneezing so loudly, he's drowned my voice out completely.

"God," he says. "I hate this fucking hay fever. It must be the most miserable thing in the world."

Vicky stops halfway across the room, and stares at him for what feels like ages, before she says,

"Well, at least it's not life-threatening, is it, Greg?"

It's a very odd feeling to agree with something that Vicky says, for once.

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