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••• The International Writers Magazine - 23 Years on-line - Extract from 'We Feel Your Pain'

Asha & Zuki
• Sam Hawksmoor

Asha opened her eyes.  Her tongue felt thick and she had a mild headache.  Zuki lay beside her, her mouth agape.  Still wearing her clothes and make up.  They’d both drunk too much and she couldn’t let her drive home. 

Pain Cover

“Hey wake up, slug.  I’ve got a job to go to.”
            Zuki pretended not to hear as Asha headed to the bathroom.  “I can’t move my head,” Zuki protested.
            “I’m sorry girl, but you’re out of here.  Breakfast at Harry’s OK?  They make magic smoothies and there’s fresh sourdough.”
            “Only if you’re paying, I’m broke till I get a new job,” Zuki drawled, struggling to open her mascara caked eyes.  “God, what did we drink?  I feel like death.”

            “I think you drank most of it.”

            “Shit.  Why did you let me drink Tequila?  I can’t handle that stuff.”

            “You need coffee.”

            “I need a job.”

             “Harry’s are hiring.”

            Zuki exhaled. “So that’s why I have a degree in Applied Artificial Intelligence.”

            “AI isn’t hiring humans these days; they don’t need us anymore.  Come on.  Get up.  I’m late.”

            Zuki reluctantly surfaced, shaking her hair loose as Asha reappeared.

             “Go pee.  Your toothbrush is where you left it.  No time to shower.  We got to go.”

            Zuki headed towards the bathroom, eyes barely open.

 Asha opened her closet and sighed, wondering what to wear.  She normally had everything decided the night before.  Making a choice in a hurry wasn’t her way.

            “You take your job way too seriously, Ash.”  Zuki announced on her return, squinting at her phone.  “Hell, man, it’s only seven.”

            Asha frowned.  “I start early.  If you had a job, you might notice the traffic in the morning.  No one uses the bus anymore since the virus.  Reality check, girl.  If we don’t leave now it will take an hour or more.”

Zuki struggled with her shoes. “You just got lucky.  All you had to do was that little thing you do with your nose and he was toast.  Older men are such suckers.”

            Asha shook her head.  She remembered the interview well.  It had been a disaster.  She’d turned up late. Got lost navigating the back corridors of the old office block.  Got his name wrong.  Told him she didn’t like dogs and she’d spilled coffee on his shoes.  Working for a small agency surviving on outsourced work from City Hall meant the salary wasn’t great, not everyone would put up with that.  But it was a job and she had desperately needed it.  Mostly it had been his gentle smile that had made her accept the role when he called up with the offer.  That and how he obviously needed someone to take care of his office.  If there was one thing, she was good at, ‘focusing’ was it.  Others might call it obsessing, but in the right circumstances it could work.  Luckily Rufus had made it easy for her to overcome her antipathy of dogs and he provided enough distraction for her not to become too focused.

            “I’m going to start my own agency one day.”  Asha told Zuki as they went down in the elevator. “I’m probably doing at least three people’s job now.”

            Zuki smiled and rooted in her bag for her car keys.  “You will.  If anyone will, it’s you.  Don’t you have to take exams and stuff to be a detective?”

            “We’re not detectives.  We’re representing the Office of City Oversight.  We investigate anything the City might be involved with, scams, illegal permits, disputes with contractors, stuff like that.  Mayor wants an ‘independent’ eye on City business.”

            “As long as you don’t look at what he’s doing, right?”

            Asha shrugged.  “So far he’s proven to be pretty legit.  But I guess we’ll find something embarrassing one day.  Delaney reminds me of that every day.”

            “You’ll be sorry,” Zuki said, rolling her eyes.  “Politicians can’t help themselves.  Your boss is ‘Delaney’ now?  What happened to Mister Delaney?”

            Asha didn’t register the sarcasm.  “He doesn’t like being called Mr Delaney.  Anyway, he can teach me a lot.  He’s got years of experience and …”

            “He hasn’t tried to get into your panties?  Single, lonely guy with a cute dog?  Bet he hired you to get into your panties.  It’s a #metoo minefield, Ash.”

            The doors slid open and they walked into the apartment lobby.

            ‘He’s not like that.  Besides he’s in pain most of the time.  You can see from the way he moves.  I keep thinking he’s going to have a heart attack, but he says his heart’s fine.”

            Zuki adjusted her hair in the lobby mirror.  “It’s a weird job and a weird situation.”

            Asha was looking at the glistening streets.  Her heart leapt.  It had finally rained.  She loved the rain.  Living in the sunniest city on the coast was great most of the time, but every year the rain seemed to come later and later, or sometimes not at all.  This would clean the air and fill the reservoirs.  She felt happy all of a sudden.

            “Shit, rain.” Zuki complained.

            Asha sighed.  She and Zuki were such opposites.  They didn’t seem to agree on anything.  “I’ll ride with you.  I can walk to work from Harry’s.”

            “You’ll get wet.”

            Asha grinned.  “I know.”

© Sam Hawksmoor 2022
Review: a captivating adventure that ...could be compared to a Roald Dahl tale filmed by Wes Anderson ... with irrepressible, warm sentiment ...

'We Feel Your Pain'
by Sam Hawksmoor

ISBN-13: 979-8699087693
Published by Hammer & Tong
Print or Kindle from Amazon


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