‘Thank you SO much for wasting the last three years of my life’, Dara stabbed her keyboard, each letter threatening her perfect manicure. ‘It’s been SUCH a pleasure working for a bunch of ungrateful, self-absorbed wankers like Morgan, Corbett and Shaw.
She leaned back in her chair and swivelled towards the large window. She was so over the view. The sun was out in full force, glinting on tourists in their river cruises, taunting her with the incredible Singapore life she never got to enjoy.
“You’re so lucky!!”, her friends back in London scrawled below her Facebook photos, envying her languid rooftop poses, sixth cocktail in hand, Pi-shaped Marina Bay Sands perfectly placed behind her. If they had any idea how truly miserable she was, they wouldn’t be so impressed.
She worked nonstop, dealing with difficult clients, and networking like a madwoman to bring in new cases. Her weekends were even worse. It was a rare Saturday when she wasn’t on a plane to Perth with her boss Ian, elbow-deep in their massive mining dispute, so she’d barely enjoyed her shiny condo overlooking Robertson Quay or the nearby river cafes and restaurants.
How did they thank her for three years of service, five including the two in the London office? They passed her up for promotion again and again. Five years post qualification and still just a junior associate?
To make matters worse, they’d emailed last week that a new senior associate would be joining her team from the Geneva office. Tired and hungover, she’d seen the internal email at Hong Kong International Airport and nearly flung her special edition Iphone 6 across the terminal. She still couldn’t bring herself to read the offending message. All she knew was there’d be one more WeColonisedTheWorldSoOfCourseWeOwnIt-Wanker walking round Raffles.
She deleted the last two sentences and pressed send.
Less than a minute later, a reply popped up on her computer screen.
‘Are you insane? WAY too strong. Unless you never want to practice law again, you’re going to need a reference. Calm the heck down, take your meds or horomone pills or whatever’
A second email appeared, still steaming.
‘Take all the emotion out of it. Thank them for the last few years. Think like a man, how would a guy react in this situation? You better believe he’d have something lined up before he jumps ship, and he won’t be crying back home to mummy like a little b****’
A third email.
‘Has the headhunter found you something yet? If no, what the heck are you doing??’
Dara snatched her phone, speed-dialling Amaka. Her best friend just didn’t get it. She was sick of being treated like a dead weight.
Not everyone can be as cold and calculating, some of us have feelings, Dara kicked off her Louboutin Hot Chicks under her desk, crossing her tall, toned legs. I’m tired of waiting for them to promote me, waiting for a guy to ask me out, waiting for my life to fall into place. Just once I want to take charge and DO something…
She frowned at her phone. She cut me off!
‘In a meeting. No sugar to coat the medecine. Swallow!”
She smiled despite herself. Amaka was a bullet. Or an injection to continue the metaphor. Fast, painful but good for your health.
Was Amaka right? Was her emotion the reason she kept getting overlooked?
She knew she was good at her job, she could take one look at a case and summarise its merits in half an hour. She’d seen some of her colleagues’ work and was certain none of them could draft advice as sharply or succinctly as her. But when it came to putting herself forward, making others look bad, using people to her advantage she just couldn’t do it. She just wasn’t shrewd enough, Ian had made it clear in her last appraisal. He wanted to get rid of her, she just knew it.
She ran her fingers through her blowdried bob and tugged the ends down. The fight against frizz was very real and never ending, especially after a lunchtime workout. Her hair had thinned so much, she really needed to deal with all this anxiety.
She heard Lucy’s clunky footsteps long before the strawberry-blonde entered. Nature had been overgenerous with the young associate. Her apple figure and round buttocks would have been revered in Nigeria, but outside Africa it was a plain nuisance. She didn’t help matters by pouring herself into those tight shift dresses from the Citylink boutiques the skinny Singaporean girls loved to wear.
Today being Friday, and Friday standing for pub lunch, her dress was a black and red sleeveless number that stretched across her bloated stomach.
“Dara!”, Lucy whispered, closing the door behind and practically leaping into her chair. “You won’t believe it!”.
“Why are you whispering?”, Dara tutted, turning back to her screen and opening another tab. Lucy was so excitable, she made them both look bad just when Dara needed to be taken seriously. Dara had hoped her smart, albeit traditional Massimo Dutti suits would rub off on Lucy, but so far no luck.
“The new senior associate is here!” Lucy pulled herself across so the chairs were side by side. Another unruly curl escaped from her chignon.
Whoop-di-doo, Dara rolled her eyes but kept silent. She liked Lucy even though she hated sharing an office. Lucy had actually been quite sensitive lately, picking up on Dara’s disappointment when she’d been overlooked and thoughtfully saying nothing. Still, everyone gossiped so the less said the better.
“Weeee-eeell…”, Lucy sing-songed. “Remember that conversation we had at last year’s Christmas party, when I made that joke about kissing someone being part of tradition?”
“That was a joke?”, Dara faced Lucy.
“Yes, silly, it was”, Lucy pinched her arm. “Anyway, remember you said you’d be happy to if I passed round a tin of brown paint or some sunbed vouchers?”
“Yes, Lucy, I remember what I said”.
“And it took me ages to get the joke?”
Dara couldn’t be bothered to reply.
“Weeee-eeell, you don’t have to anymore”, Lucy smacked the table.
“What on earth are you talking about?”
“You won’t need that tin of brown paint…”, she raised an eyebrow.
Dara felt a warm flush and a cold chill. At the same time. “What?”
“Shhh!”, Dara had to think.
She shoved her feet back into her heels and hurried to the door, Lucy right beside her.
Across the secretaries’ desks, she could see Ian’s bald head, fidgety hands in pockets, his back to her. And next to him, smiling, nodding, turning to shake the hand of another approaching partner, was a tall glass of water. Dressed in a grey pinstriped suit, checked shirt and dark blue tie, he towered over the two men. His broad shoulders tapered to a slim waist, and his trousers were perfectly tailored to his long legs.
She couldn’t see his eyes behind the square, retro glasses but it was his smile – white pearls flashed in deep chocolate – that did her in.
She held onto the door frame.
“I told you….”, Lucy buzzed in her ear. “I think he’s even Nigerian too, isn’t that funny?”
She watched Ian raise an arm and gesture toward their office.
“Oh shit…”, Lucy read her mind.
She stood transfixed, as the two men started to approach. It was too late to hide so she and Lucy just stood there with stretched smiles.
“Lucy, Dara”, Ian’s loud voice made the moment even more awkward. “This is Lanre, our new Senior Associate”.
As she fell for his soft brown eyes, the warm tingle of his palm, the spicy waft of Givenchy heaven, she realised that as the only black lawyers in this magic circle firm, her future husband was also now her number one competitor….
More next week!