January 1st, 2013 and I woke up feeling positive and optimistic. Usually my resolutions fizzle out by 1pm, but this year my resolution (since LOTR has been re-energised by The Hobbit) is to complete Golden Obsession – which I have been working on for a year! I am so close to finishing it is embarrassing. For encouragement I have decided to post teasers. Here is the first – the Prologue, no less:
‘Stop overthinking it!’
Jeshree’s falsely calm but authoritative voice sliced at the turmoil churning Rachel’s brain cells yet failed to achieve its objective.
Overthinking – Jeshree maintained it led to depression, lethargy and a complete lack of humour which in turn made her own life miserable. The problem, of course, is that it is impossible to stop thinking about something that’s bugging you. Jeshree’s solution: make Rachel indulge in some frivolous activity or other that was so outrageous it was guaranteed to shock her into a Good Sense of Humour. Like skiing at the dry slopes (result: one sprained ankle and a seriously bruised bottom); or paintballing; or kick-boxing lessons; or, her fail-safe Friday night special, hit six bars/nightclubs beginning with a ‘C’ or ‘H’ or whatever initial her latest boyfriend possessed.
From the very first day Jeshree had jumped into her life – which also happened to be the day her mother had slipped out of it – she’d been telling Rachel to ‘stop overthinking’ life. Her timing had been uncanny. The doors to the ambulance had slammed shut, the engine started up and the driver had begun to pull away from the kerb…then there she was with a nervous grin, two fat pigtails, and lacking the conscience that would prevent any other stranger from bounding right in. Introducing herself in a rushed Mancunian dialect and asking Rachel if was still going to go in to take her final A2 exam she’d blithely ignored the shock crossing the other girl’s face and taken control, hauling Rachel along the road, into school, into the exam and through the next few days leading up to the funeral. Jeshree possessed very few of the more delicate senses, a sense of impropriety being one, and so, seemingly oblivious to Rachel’s continued stunned silence, had nudged her on the path into independence. She’d been marching her along ever since.
Shaking out the imaginary wrinkles in a pair of pleat-front trousers Jeshree expertly folded them and placed them neatly into their allotted place in Rachel’s already overflowing suitcase.
‘This is it, Duck. Today you’re gonna meet the Maitlands and who knows what it could lead to.’
Her gleeful friend was right, Rachel had to admit and sighed. This was it; today was the day; the culmination of over a year of anguish. Apprehension tightened the muscles in her stomach.
Twisting closed the stretchy bands holding down the clothes within the case, Jeshree uttered a mumble of satisfaction before securing the lid. She had to lean quite heavily on the top to get it to shut.
‘I am capable of packing my own case, you know,’ mock-grumbled Rachel.
‘Yeah,’ Jeshree rolled her eyes. ‘But this way I know you aren’t taking that icky green tramp-jumper, or those tartan flats.’
‘I love those shoes.’
‘Duck, only you could love a pair of shoes that were rejected at the height of their popularity and sit on the shelf alongside Prince’s raspberry beret.’
‘They’re comfortable,’ she persisted.
‘And when you’re eighty, with a dozen grandchildren and super-rich enough for your insanity to be considered eccentricity I’ll give them back to you.’ Jeshree was grunting the words out by this point as she attempted to hold the lid closed.
Rachel abandoned her last-minute polishing and helped push down the lid.
‘There!’ Her friend announced with a beaming smile. ‘Your new wardrobe awaits its new home, as do you.’
Rachel picked up the case. It was heavier than she’d expected and she huffed with the effort, hoping the old locks were sturdy. ‘Are you sure I need all of –’
‘Yes!’ Jeshree had softly bullied her into not only purchasing a new wardrobe more suited to her new position as assistant-cum-companion to Mrs Maitland, wife to the CEO of the Maitland Corporation, but also dragged her into a salon to have her hair and nails done. ‘You are not wandering into that place looking like Miss Jean bloody Brodie, all tight-knickered and spinsterish.’
Jeshree’s expressions never failed to bring a smile to her lips and they twitched now. ‘Tight-knickered? Are you casting aspersions on my Sloggis? I’ll have you know they are extremely comfortable.’
‘Duckie, men don’t appreciate comfortable, they want hot and steamy.’
‘I’m going there to work, not-not-.’
‘Where there’s work, there’re men and you, my little mallard, are going to find one that rocks your world and when you do you are going to let him have his wicked way with you.’
‘I’m not going there to be picked up!’
Half amused and half irritated with her friend’s inappropriate ideas, Rachel decided to let the matter drop. But, of course, that didn’t mean Jeshree would and she had to listen to her friend’s sexpert advice all the way down the stairs, out to the car and during the ride to the train station.
‘Call me when you’re settled in,’ Jeshree muttered urgent last-minute instructions while they hugged across the small space in the front of her Fiat. ‘Anything goes wrong, you get unhappy, things not working out – call me, or Mam, and we’ll talk. But you are not, I repeat NOT, to run back without discussing it first.’
Rachel squeezed back in acknowledgment. Her friend knew her so well.
‘Da sent some Barm cake with bacon,’ they both laughed; her Da couldn’t get over the idea that anyone would voluntarily be vegetarian when there was bacon in the world. ‘I ate it for you – and our Raf snuck me a bag of maltesers from his stash,’ she whispered conspiratorially, even though her health-conscious mum was nowhere near. ‘I popped it in your bag.’
The thought of Jeshree’s little brother offering some of his precious hoard brought a tender smile to Rachel’s face. ‘Tell them thanks.’ With a last squeeze she pulled away to drag her overstuffed case from the boot.
With a toot of her horn and a flicker of fingers Jeshree pulled away into the streaming traffic, taking away the excited energy that had buoyed Rachel throughout the morning. Dropping her waving hand she turned away and, sucking in a deep breath, cut her way through the river of commuting pedestrians to the station entrance and the train that would take her away from London, away from her work, away from her friends, to work at a house she’d never heard of, with a family she wasn’t sure she wanted to meet and, most importantly, to a woman who had the power to obliterate her completely.