Part One of Making
CAREER MOVES: Part Two
Margaret spent her lunch hours patrolling the red light district of
Soho, in order to pick up tips. It was a far cry from the confines of
the convent; she felt freedom flood through her veins, and made businesslike
comments in the reporters notebook that she carried in her handbag.
She was filled with a sense of purpose, of promise on the horizon, and
had no doubt that her ultimate future as madam of a (high class) brothel
Leaving the convent had caused a certain hue and cry amongst the nuns,
who had Margaret labelled as a highly useful asset to their community.
Her parents were equally perturbed, because they presumed she would
return to live with them. Much though they loved their daughter, they
felt it would now be a mistake to share the same roof: she had changed
more than ever. But Margaret was determined to be independent, and stayed
a dutiful week with her parents before finding rooms in a somewhat run
down boarding house in Notting Hill Gate. The rent was cheap, however,
and Margaret knew this was important. On advice from her friend Julia,
she then registered with an employment agency near the tube station.
The interview was not an experience Margaret wanted to repeat; she had
never been so humiliated. She was treated as an absolute imbecile and
by some stupid brazen hussy with painted fingernails.(Margaret made
a note of the hue of those nails,just in case.) "What are your
skills?" the girl had asked her and Margaret wasnt sure how
to answer. Did praying count as a skill? She decided not,but embellished
her achievements at turning the convent school around, making it profitable.
Blue Nails looked at her for a moment and said "you can do filing
then?" before making notes on her card.
By the end of the week, Margaret had a temporary booking in the library
of a publishing company near Piccadilly Circus. She was to help the
librarian with filing, press cuttings and general duties. It sounded
so glamorous, Margaret felt quite a thrill. With money that her parents
had insisted on giving her, she purchased a smart royal blue suit, several
cream blouses with important frills at the front,and a black handbag
large enough to carry her notebook. She then purchased two pairs of
black court shoes with discreet heels and made an appointment with a
hairdresser recommended by the lady in the shoe shop. This lady spoke
with a rich, plummy voice that Margaret determined, one day,to emulate.
Flicking through the pages of Hair Monthly, Margaret was appalled at
some of the hairstyles dyed, highlights, lowlights (whatever they were)
all looked extraordinary. She disliked them allbut eventually decided
on a bob. It would look smart and be easy to keep, she was assured.
By the time she left, Margaret was surprised but pleased. She liked
the way her hair emphasised the nape of her neck, gave an autocratic
shape to her head. As she walked down the street, Margaret admired her
sleek new look in every shop window. She was filled with an infinite
wisdom way beyond her years as, smugly, she made her way home.
The temporary job involved sorting endless newspaper cuttings and filing
them in the haphazard system set up in the tiny office. Margarets
colleague, Joan, was overworked and subsequently bad-tempered, her mood
only lifting after several drinks at lunchtime. Margaret was unused
to the smell of alcohol on anyones breath and suffered the afternoons
in silence. She was not asked to join the drinkers, instead she conducted
her own research, observed the doorways of Soho with interest and sometimes
bought a few bargain vegetables at Berwick Street Market.
By the end of the first week, Margaret had completely reorganised the
office filing system. Joan was initially cross and surprised but soon
realised the improvement. Margaret was therefore invited to the Friday
evening drink after work, which she cautiously accepted and found herself
in a dark, crowded pub off Shaftesbury Avenue. Not knowing what to drink,
she ordered a gin, and found herself with a bitter tasting double portion
which she drowned with tonic. Surreptitiously she glanced around to
see what the journalists drank, and made a mental note: red wine, beer,
lager and vodka.
The alcohol made her head spin a little, but lifted her spirits. The
conversation revolved around work; Margaret was not expected to contribute.
Instead she listened, answered the single question aimed at her, revealed
nothing personal and at 7.30 she left the pub with Joan. The air outside
was warm and muggy, the bright light confused her while her feet floated
an inch above the pavement. She made her way home on the tube and lay
on her bed with a growing sense of achievement. The temporary position,
once she had proved herself to be capable, was "ongoing" according
to her employment agency. Margaret decided that it suited her current
circumstances, and from then on, every Friday she accompanied her colleagues
to the pub where she increased her alcohol intake to three double vodkas
per evening, but was careful not to say much about herself. By watching
the other women in the office, she also revised her clothes a little,
relaxed the starched shirts with softer, lower cut blouses, and sometimes
omitted the suit jacket in favour of an M&S navy blue cardigan.
Every now and then, as she lay in bed, she contemplated the idea of
sex. In the office she found her gaze inevitably drawn to mens
crotches, felt a pink flush stain her cheeks and quickly looked down
at her desk. As a nun she had been familiar with "the body of Christ",
but no-one had prepared her for the body of man. She wondered how other
people managed and what exactly they did. Margarets human biology
was hazy, bordering on non-existent as she rummaged in her brain for
school descriptions of the sexual act. In the end she found a copy of
"The Joy of Sex" in a charity shop, paid the £2.50 required
with a burning face and took it home hidden inside two Superdrug carrier
bags. In the safety of her room she studied it carefully, telling herself
it was necessary research, but her brain struggled with the fact that
people apparently performed such strange actions, often in excruciatingly
uncomfortable positions, for enjoyment. And it must be so messy. She
comforted herself that in her forthcoming business she wouldnt
actually have to take part, but would supervise, when the time came.Margaret
kept a close eye on her bank balance, and hoarded her pay checks jealously.
She didnt smoke, drank her three vodkas on Friday evenings only,
and spent the weekends reading and discovering London, particularly
Soho, on foot. Sometimes she would visit a museum and treat herself
to tea and cakes in the museum tea shop, where she would fantasise about
her future. Her knowledge of the doorways selling sex was growing and
she memorised the girls faces carefully. She made no friends, but was
content by herself and usually preferred her own company.When she had
amassed the princely sum of one hundred pounds, Margaret felt it was
time to set the wheels in motion. She had seen a notice in the library
about a company that gave free advice on setting up in business, so
she made an appointment with an advisor in her lunch hour one day.
The Small Business Unit consisted of a tiny top floor office containing
sparse furniture and a thin, young grey bearded man with an earnest
expression. He had a nervous twitch in his left eye which Margaret found
disconcerting, but she sat, straight-backed and listened while he talked.
He introduced himself as Jeremy, and outlined what the Small Business
Unit could offer those wanting to set up on their own. He could help
with a business plan, Jeremy told her, would advise on advertising and
marketing, and would help with a budget for the first year. They would
work out what rent she could afford on a property, whether Margaret
would be eligible for any grants, and whether she was thinking of employing
any staff. Perhaps she would benefit from computer training?
Margaret listened, her heart sinking slowly. She hadnt thought
about advertising and marketing, the tax man and computers. She tried
not to look at the long grey sinewy hairs protruding from Jeremys
nose and ears, and itched to twitch them out. She pulled herself together
was word of mouth not good enough for her business? As for business
cards, the payphone in Soho Square was covered in them.
"What sort of business are you considering?" Jeremy leaned
towards her, exuding a faint but definite smell of stale sweat.
"Id rather not say at the moment." Margarets reply
was prim as she gave a brisk smile, edged her chair backwards. "Thank
you so much for your help" she took the proffered leaflets, Jeremys
business card and promised to be in touch, then walked down the narrow
stairs, her head full of conflicting ideas. Disgruntled, she made her
way back to work, and that evening accompanied the others to the pub
with a brewing fit of pique. She now knew that her dream would take
longer to realise than she had hoped, and for the first time in her
life she set out to seek comfort in the demon drink.By Margarets
fourth double vodka, her disappointment at the afternoons interview
had sailed away amongst bubbles of tonic. Richard, the deputy editor
of the magazine was being pleasantly attentive and her self esteem soared.
By 8pm the other journalists and Joan had departed, leaving Margaret
and Richard sitting thigh-to-thigh on a small window seat in the pub.
Margaret enjoyed the floaty feeling, even though something had happened
to her eyesight; she couldnt focus properly. Richards hand
strayed up the outside of her blue skirt, dallied around where her knickers
began, and Margaret froze. He turned her face towards his so she could
smell his pungent scent of Bass mixed with twenty Marlboro. His eyes
were bloodshot beams zooming into her soul. She closed her eyes and
waited. Nothing happened. She opened one eye to see Richard stumbling
towards the telephone at the back of the pub. He returned, a few minutes
later, and smiled. "How about dinner?" he asked with a slight
slur. "Nice Italian round the corner", and pulled Margaret
towards him. This time he kissed her wetly, she felt a dribble run down
her chin and wondered what to do. His left hand had somehow nipped inside
her blouse and was squeezing her lacy cupped bra with great enthusiasm.
Margaret pulled back suddenly, horrified at the explosion of strange
sensations erupting in her body.
"Er no, thank you," she gasped, scrabbling for her bag. "I
think Id better go now" and, trying to tuck in her blouse,
she staggered out of the pub and into the evening sunlight.
The weekend dragged in an agony of embarrassment, shame and indignation.
She had never consumed so much alcohol in her life: never again would
she let herself lose control. And to think that she had let a man kiss
her! She shuddered, her vodka headache crashing between her eyes. By
Saturday evening, however, she was aware of a sneaking feeling that
she tried hard to suppress. Part of her had shamefully enjoyed the terrifying
emotions brought about by Richards persistent hands. She opened
"The Joy of Sex" and pored over it for several hours, exploring
the idea that parachuted into her thoughts. That night she lay in bed
thinking of Richards smoky stubble pressed against her face, thought
evil thoughts, and delighted in them.
By Monday morning, Margaret was filled with her usual resolve. She had
purchased two short skirts on Sunday, a selection of clinging t-shirts
and a pair of strappy sandals that showed off her slender ankles and
gave her more height. She would have her own business, but if she could
use men to get there quicker, she would. Why climb the ladder of success
when you can just open your legs? Margaret stood admiring herself in
the ladies toilet, practised a wink at herself in the mirror and set
forth to do business.
© Sue Jackson 2000
This is trhe second part on a new novel in the making by Sue Jackson.
if you'd like to read about Margaret's first steps, go