The Author

Hi there; I'm Danielle – the author of the 'Change?' short story featured this week. I'm a 27-year-young (that's right!) girl, currently living on the French/Swiss/German border after relocating to Basel, Switzerland, for an editorial-based job in a pharmaceutical company. I'm unfortunately one of those that corrects incorrect grammar and punctuation when I spot it; I know, I know, it's a tad annoying but being grammatically anal pretty much got me my job so I can't really forget the rules governing our beautful language can I?

 

I'm actually a publishing with english graduate, having graduated with a degree (1st class honours – yup, I'm still loud n' proud I'm afraid) from the amazing Loughborough back in 2009. I absolutely loved the university and still return every May for a charity 'old boy' event with my old hall...it's carnage but amazing fun to be a student again for a weekend!

 

I have always loved writing but haven't quite managed to find the right outlet to relieve my cravings, so this short story opportunity was a good way to start. I have also recently started a lifestyle blog, where I blog about all things that I find interesting (in the hope others might too) – this includes posts on travel, health, beauty and fashion, along with much more still planned. I prefer to write informally, frankly and showcase as much personality as possible, as it helps to engage with those nice enough to take the time to read. If you can't be yourself in your own blog, when can you?

 

Anyway, I've talked far too much about myself, so all that's left to say is I hope to continue writing for as long as it makes me happy, so do feel free to join me. I'd especially love to hear your feedback on my short story; constructive criticism always welcome (but do be gentle!). You can follow me on Twitter (@Frontiere_Girl) or via my blog (frontiere-girl.blogspot.com). 

 

Twitter: @Frontiere_Girl 

Email: frontiere_girl@hotmail.co.uk/ 

Blog: frontiere-girl.blogspot.com

Change By Danielle Hunter.

“I haven't done this in ages,” she thought, reclining back into the soothing hot water: the type that leaves your skin cherry red but the type you could sit in for an hour, long enough to wrinkle like a raisin. “Such a nice change,” she sighed resting her eyes momentarily. The water enveloped her like a cocoon, and the bubbles sat atop it, steadfast, trying to adapt to its inevitable company. As she let her skin get used to the heat, she reached for a sip of chilled Rosé and thought about her day.

 

Eve was 26 and a zoology graduate with a passion for animals – particularly primates, finding their similarity to humans fascinating while being wholly charmed by their endearing nature, not to mention their intelligence. With strong intent on pursuing a career with them, she often joked to herself that she had achieved that dream to an extent, albeit as a junior practice manager at a local veterinary practice. Slowly working her way up from administrative assistant, it was a role with a love/hate ring to it – being surrounded by animals was perfect but it teased her longing to interact and work with them hands‑on in their natural environments. She knew people that planned their lives to a tee, knowing exactly what they wanted and when they wanted it. Her colleague Cara was getting married in September, and – just like you might mention in passing that you're popping to the shop for a Pot Noodle (the green one, obviously) – she’d nonchalantly mentioned to Eve that December onwards were going to be her magic baby-making months. “Charming. Errr, thanks for that.” She’d thought at the time. “Do people really pick baby-making months so precisely...let alone call them that?” She rarely had time to think about her own ‘life-plan’ in such detail, but today had been difficult. One of the vets was off ill with a sickness bug, caught from the still-absent head vet, and the lack of resources had played havoc on appointment times and availability. This, coupled with the disgruntled – and somewhat vocal – pet owners, understandably eager to have their ‘babies’ seen to, didn’t help. Yes, today was one of those days that reminded her she had ‘settled’ in life. Simple as that. Her hot bath and cold Rosé was helping to ease this realisation.

 

A ‘ding dong’ ringtone interrupted her thoughts, and she reached for her towel before picking up her iPhone. “Eve...gotta be quick otherwise it'll cost a fortune...Skype...it’s 8.15!” her best friend scolded. “Shit, sorry, long day, thought it was Wednesday. I'll be on in 10!” Eve replied, preparing to stand and desert her liquid heaven.

 

Lou had moved to Barcelona for her dream editorial role, and she was absolutely loving it, dealing with the transition of a new country better than Eve imagined she could. She embraced her new life well, learning Spanish (and snippets of Catalan), appreciating the art and, of course, closely following the construction of the famous Sagrada Família. She sent progress photos monthly, poring over the details that little bit too much for Eve’s liking (she may have accidentally nodded off on occasion). Lou had been gone 5 months, but they stuck to their weekly Skype dates like clockwork – they’d choose a film on Netflix, rarely watching it properly, each open a bottle of wine and proceed to sink most of it while gossiping late into the night. Dissecting the film’s meaning and what the characters really should have done was often part of the weekly appointment (“Why the feck did she go in the cellar and follow the noise? Jesus woman...run!”; “Just bloody tell him you love him already!”; “Do not wear THAT...ever.”; “But you did let go, didn't you Rose? Jack would have definitely fit on that tacky door with you if you had shuffled your ass over. Be-atch.” …and so on). That evening, they talked for hours as usual, with the classic Groundhog Day playing in the background. Eve watched Lou take a sip of her wine and ask, rhetorically, with a hint of a slur, “Ugh, imagine living the same day, over and over. No change. Where’s the fun in that?”

 

* * *

 

Feeling worse for wear, Eve headed straight to Starbucks on her way to work the following morning. Handing her money to the cashier and stuffing the double-choc chip muffin in her bag guiltily, knowing it would be her breakfast, she grasped the piping hot macchiato and inhaled its caramel scent before turning to leave. “Want the change?” the young barista asked, raising her pencilled-in eyebrows with one hand on the open till and one hand holding her 3p. Without hesitation, Eve replied “No thanks, keep it. I don't do too much change. Too heavy,” holding up her purse with a mimed strain on her face. The barista smiled and tossed her change in the tip jar for keeps. Change gone.

 

* * *

 

When Eve arrived to work, she knew something was different almost immediately. The faint sound of the radio was playing its usual Monday morning pick‑me-up tunes, but where were the communal dunking Rich Teas, laid out religiously by big boss Claire? Where was the standard morning banter? Something wasn’t quite right. Was she being paranoid? Claire wasn’t her chirpy self either, and she avoided Eve like the plague, that is until she asked her into her office. Precisely 43 minutes later, and Eve’s feelings were confirmed. She had been made redundant! Of course, the changing economic climate was to blame, and there was apparently no room left for a junior practice manager – in effect, they had been left with no choice but to cope with just the one practice manager, a decision taken with a “very heavy heart”, though clearly not quite heavy enough. She tossed the words around in her head as Claire had said them…“Changing. Economic. Climate. Climate. Economic. Changing…”, only to randomly realize ‘hanging’ made up the word ‘changing’; not only was she severely hanging in an alcoholic sense (nothing a caramel macchiato could fix this time), but she felt like she’d been hung out to dry after three loyal years. As much as her thoughts had gone off on a complete tangent, ‘changing’ really wasn’t a great word right now.

 

While her colleagues were equally as sad to hear she was leaving, saying goodbye to some went hand-in-hand with the awkward underlying assumptions of misconduct, and she almost felt like she’d been sacked. She felt like she’d failed. Was this how Robbie felt when he got booted out of Take That? The situation was made only slightly bearable when she was afforded the opportunity to make fun of the moment, when D-Reem’s classic words of wisdom began playing softly as she headed for the door surrounded by her sympathetic colleagues. “Really?” she quipped with a forced smile. The perfectly timed, utterly patronizing lyrics prompted awkward laughter as she headed for the door. “Things can only get better, my arse,” she muttered as the door closed behind her.

 

* * *

 

That evening called for an emergency Skype with Lou to discuss her nightmare-come-true day. Eve had returned straight home, scurrying through town as if she shouldn’t be there; out of place and out of her routine. She spent the day wallowing in her sadness, feeling sorry for herself and wondering what on earth she should do next, bar joining the dole queue. She couldn’t quite believe that she wouldn’t be ironing her work clothes for the next day, or even getting up the next day for work, or popping to the coffee shop for a morning pick-me-up, or dunking the Rich Teas with everyone else at work; the list was endless. Everything was going to change, and she was powerless to it...or so she felt. She browsed the internet while waiting for Lou to log on; jobsite after jobsite advertised the mundane to her and she couldn’t help but feel uninspired by each new, jargon-filled ad trying its best to attract her ‘apply now’ click. “There has to be more than life to this. I need to sort my life out,” she mumbled while scrolling through the administrative vacancies. She reluctantly submitted her CV for a couple of positions, but a nagging feeling tugged away at her and she knew she needed a change. It was then that she thought about her dream job of working hands-on with animals in their natural habitat. After some research into the options, she registered for updates from an international rehabilitation centre in Indonesia, as well as emailing them directly with her CV and aspirations of working with primates. She did the same for two other centres, in Africa and India. As much as she realised her emails may not lead anywhere, she felt some relief in making an effort to change her situation.

 

The Skype ringtone interrupted her research and she promptly shut the pages down and sighed in relief as she saw Lou’s familiar face flash up her screen. “Get your arse on a flight over to me, and we’ll sort you out,” Lou demanded as Eve answered the call.

 

* * *

 

The following Thursday evening’s Skype chat was cancelled, for Eve arrived in Barcelona to spend some much-needed time with Lou. The long weekend away was not a disappointment; Lou guided Eve around the stunning Gaudi sights, picnicking in the mosaic-infused Parc Güell and wandering in awe around the playfully designed Casa Batlló, before seeing some of the 1992 Olympic venues, taking in the pool and diving boards situated on the Montjuïc hill that overlooked the city. They strolled through the different historical quarters in the city’s centre and even managed to fit in some beach sunbathing to boot. They sat outside often, eating paella until ‘food babies’ formed and drinking sangria until they slurred, discussing anything and everything, with the odd figuring‑out-what-Eve-could-do-next conversation.

 

On Eve’s final day in Barcelona, they visited the Sagrada Família like Eve knew they would, and they stood outside simply appreciating it for a long time as they took in the numerous spires and intricate carvings adorning the exterior. “It changes each time I come to visit it you know. S’meant to be finished in 2026, 100 years after Gaudi died.” Lou educated Eve as they started to wander around the Nativity façade past the endless queues of people waiting to enter. “Imagine how much it’s changed since he last saw it!” Eve replied contemplating its transformation through the years.

 

Following a delicious tapas dinner near the beachfront, they strolled back to Lou’s apartment at sunset and planned to spend the evening relaxing the only way they knew how – with a film and some wine – before an early night ready for an early start.

 

* * *

 

Logging on to her emails, Eve double-checked for any updates to her flight the following morning before printing her boarding pass. Before logging off to join Lou and her bottle of wine in the kitchen, she scanned through her inbox, rolling her eyes at the standard ‘extend your penis’ emails, still wondering how they managed to get her email address and still quietly annoyed that they continued to assume she had a penis, and an apparently small one at that, day in, day out. She smiled at her trivial thoughts, but then something caught her eye, and she held her breath. “Surely not…” she whispered, hoping the contents of this unexpected email were positive. She shrieked in shock as she read through the invitation from the Indonesian rehabilitation centre she’d contacted the previous week. “Oh no! Has the spider resurfaced?” Lou shouted with obvious feigned concern, strolling in expecting to see Eve stood on her chest of drawers again, attempting to escape the ‘biggest spider ever’ when it was actually a minute money one the last time it surfaced (it still surprised Lou that Eve – the all-round animal lover – could have such an irrational fear).

 

Ignoring Lou’s dig, Eve retorted: “It totally skipped my mind but I sent my CV off to this primate rehab centre last week just before we Skyped…and...”, she took a breath not quite believing it, “they’ve invited me to work with them!” Her eyes were wide as she spoke. “Oh my God Eve, that’s frigging brilliant! When? Where? What did they say?” Lou replied, hugging  her tightly. “Well they’ve said it’s a voluntary position to start with but I’m likely to be offered a paid position if all goes well. It’s in Indonesia, and they want me as soon as I can get there by the looks of it.” Eve explained while scanning through the email once more. “They want to speak with me first and discuss it further, but it says here that the voluntary work will effectively be my interview and trial period.” Lou read the email over her shoulder while she spoke. “Wow Eve, this is just what you’ve been waiting for. Your dream job. You have to go for it.” Eve nodded slowly in agreement, still trying to take in the words in front of her.

 

She knew it wasn’t a full-paying job to begin with and she knew she wouldn’t be a millionaire, but she also knew without a doubt that this kind of experience and opportunity was one she’d been waiting for all this time, without fully realising  it. As awful and rejected as being made redundant had made her feel, she was coming to terms with the fact that this change might be the best thing that could have ever happened to her. She was going to Indonesia, no question about it. Lou gestured for Eve to get up; she followed her excitedly to the kitchen and to their wine glasses, they clinked, and Lou toasted “What a way to embrace redundancy eh?”

 

* * *

 

Just over a month later after a manic few weeks of packing, hosting car-boot sales, organizing storage for her belongings, and saying her goodbyes to various friends and family, Eve leant into her giant traveller’s backpack, using it as a pillow-like buffer between her and the bus shelter as she waited for her airport ride. Taking a deep life-affirming breath inwards, she stared pensively at the ladybird crawling slowly along her arm and thought about how quick the past couple of months had gone and how much change had come about – and how excited she was about her impending one-way flight to Indonesia.

 

The bus rounded the corner and Eve took another deep breath before gently prompting the ladybird to fly away to a new host. She hoisted her backpack fully upon her shoulders and took a step forward to subtly let the bus driver know she was intending to hop on. Taking her coin purse from her handbag, she was ready to go!

 

“One way to the airport please,” Eve said triumphantly, handing her coins over and waiting for her ticket to dispense from the machine. Taking the ticket a moment later, Eve started towards the closest seat. “Change?” the rotund bus driver asked after her uninspiringly, holding out his hand with the two shiny, new 5p coins in it. She stopped in her tracks in a moment of realisation and looked up at the bearded old man who had just uttered the one word that meant everything to her in that moment. “Why not?” she replied whole-heartedly meaning it, and she took the coins and walked with new-found realisation to her seat. From now on, she’d embrace every piece of change life had to throw at her.