This is not me - Part 2

[The three friends are meeting up once again in London]

The girls laughed themselves silly when Phoebe said that she was not going to go on any more blind dates but that she’d signed up to a speed dating evening.

“But Pheebs…?” exclaimed Lana.

“But what?”

“But… you are just putting yourself… out there.”

“Isn’t that the aim of the game? To go out with some men in the hope that I find someone for a long-term relationship?”

“She’s right Lana,” said the third member of the trio, Sky.

“The more men that she meets outside of work the better. Even if ninety nine percent of them are complete jerks or morons or even worse, married men out for a bit on the side, she’ll get an idea about who she really wants to date.”

Lana shut up for the time being.

“When and where is this going to happen then Pheebs?” asked Sky.

“Thursday Evening in Brighton,” replied Phoebe.

“Then we will expect a full report on Friday won’t we Lana?”

“I can’t,” said Lana.

They both turned to look at Lana.

“Have you forgotten it is a bank holiday weekend? That means the in-laws will be visiting so Friday evening I’ll be knee deep in ironing and cleaning. His mother has a nose that sniffs out dust the moment she steps foot inside the house.”

“Tuesday then?” suggested Sky.

“Tuesday is fine. It is my last week at the Chambers.”

“No change on that front?” asked Lana.

“None at all. The head of chambers is away in the Med on his Yacht until next week. Everyone is keeping their heads down and saying nothing. I’m leaving no matter what.”

“You sound very sure about that?”

“It is time for a change. Where and what that is, I don’t know at the moment but I’m done getting the 07:04 train to London in the morning and more often than not, not getting home until midnight. The law sucks at least it does from where I sit. Fourteen-hour days! I’m done with that.”

“I’ll drink to that!” said Lana.

The three of them toasted the event.


[The following Thursday at the Speed Dating Event]

Phoebe arrived early and took up a position in the bar where she could see the others attending the event arriving. She still had some pride and was not going to put herself out there if they people on the other side of the table were in her words, ‘total tossers’ or married men out for a bit on the side.

A few men arrived and things didn’t look very promising. Phoebe bought herself another drink as solace. When she did so, she noticed another woman. You could hardly miss her because of her bright blue hair. From the direction of her gaze, she was ‘man watching’ as well. Phoebe turned back to watching the men.

More arrived and none of them were remotely interesting to Phoebe.

After a minute or so, she noticed a perfume in the air around her.

She turned to find the woman with the blue hair standing beside her.

“Doesn’t look too promising does it?” remarked the woman.

“Eh?”

“The quality of the men going into the Speed Dating event. I assume that is what you are here for isn’t it?”

“Y… Yes I am,” stuttered Phoebe.

“Same here. I try to size them up before going in. If there aren’t any possible then I don’t bother. These evenings can be incredibly frustrating don’t you agree?”

“It is the first time for me and yes the men for tonight are a bit iffy to say the least. Did you see the man in the Black Leather Jacket remove his wedding ring before going in?”

The woman smiled.

“I can see that you are a smart person. Very observant.”

The woman looked at her watch.

“It is time. Shall we go?” she said smiling.

“I’m not sure.”

“Why not give it a try. There is a break at eight. If it is hopeless we can do a runner.”

“We?”

“Sorry. I’ve done a few of these events and it is very noticeable that quite a few women go to the loo and don’t come back if the quality of the men is… well questionable.”

Phoebe shrugged her shoulders.
“I’ve paid for it so I might as well see what it is all about.”

“Lets’ go then…”

Together they walked into the room. All the men were grouped together on one side of the room and all the women on the other. People were eyeing each other up.

[one hour later]

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we will be taking a short break. Please be back in fifteen minutes,” said the woman who was the organiser.

There was a general dash to the toilets for the women and the bar for the men.

Phoebe walked out of the room and dithered. She couldn’t decide to just leg it or to go to the loo and suffer another hour of men trying to get her into bed on a first date. Only one man had been not like that but he was so boring that Phoebe even doubted that he’d even say ‘boo to a goose’ if his life depended on it.

“Going to leg it?” said a voice.

It was the woman with the coloured hair.

“I think so. That was a total disaster. A complete waste of twenty quid if you ask me.”

“I agree. I only came to this one as it is a new company running the show but most of the men I’ve seen before at other events like this.”

Then the woman said,
“Fancy legging it to a pub down the road? I could do with a drink after all that talking about nothing much at all?”

Phoebe thought for a moment. She didn’t have anything else to do.

“Yeah. Same here.”

Phoebe was surprised when the woman offered to buy her a drink.

“Thanks. I’ll have a pint of Harvey’s please.”

The woman grinned.

“Same here. I live only a few miles downwind from the brewery. I can smell it when they have a brew going.”

That told Phoebe that the woman lived in Lewes or just outside it. She immediately assumed that she worked in Brighton.

They found a quiet table and sat down.

The woman raised her glass and said,
“To better times ahead.”

Phoebe couldn’t disagree with that so she raised hers as well.

The woman put down her drink and said,

“I’m Samantha Mason.”

“Phoebe Russell.”

Samantha smiled.
“Nice to meet you Phoebe.”

[two hours and two pints later]

“I must be going. I have an early train to catch in the morning,” said Phoebe.

“Commuter then?”

“Yeah but not for much longer. One more week and that’s it.”

“What do you do?” asked Samantha.

“I’m a newly qualified Barrister but there is no room at my chambers so I’m taking a break. I’m not sure if I want to carry on with the law or at least carry on working in London.”

Samantha smiled.

“Good for you. I got out of the rat race more than five years ago. Now I work most of the time from home. Far better for the body and the bank balance.”

Phoebe finished her drink and stood up.

“It has been nice meeting you Samantha. It rescued what was turning out to be an awful evening.”

“Same here. Are you going my way?”

“I need to get the bus to Withdean.”

“Then we can walk together towards the bus stop in Old Stein if that is ok with you? I have to go past it on my way to the station.”
Then she added,
“If you don’t mind that is?”

When they reached the bus stop, they saw Phoebe’s bus disappearing into the night.

“Twenty minutes before the next one,” remarked Phoebe.

Samantha didn’t say anything right away.

“Phoebe, I rather like you. Can we do this again?”

This took Phoebe by surprise.

That level of surprise went through the roof as Samantha kissed her full on the lips.

For an instant Phoebe thought about breaking apart but didn’t. The kiss turned into a full-on snog.

When they broke apart Samantha said,

“Sorry about that. My mind went a bit crazy.”

“Same here.”
There was silence between the two of them for almost a minute.

“Yes,” said Phoebe finally.

“Yes, I’d like to do it again.”

They kissed again and Phoebe found herself enjoying it even more.

“I’ve never kissed a woman before,” she said when they broke apart.

“Same here,” replied Samantha.

“I never thought of myself to be a lesbian,” said Phoebe softly.

Samantha just smiled as she opened her purse and fished out a business card.

“That’s me. Give me a call when you get your mind back in gear. I’d like to really get to know you.”

“Same here,” muttered Phoebe as she took the card from Samantha.

Before they could say much more a load of people arrived to wait for the bus. Samantha hugged Phoebe and said quietly…

“Perhaps you aren’t a lesbian after all.”

With a final hug, Samantha disappeared in the direction of the Railway Station.

Phoebe was so engrossed in her thoughts that she almost missed her stop but somehow her subconscious made her press the button to stop the bus at the right place. She was still in a daze when she got home.

The next day was no better. As it was a holiday weekend the courts normally rose at midday so many of the staff were let go just after lunch. By three in the afternoon, the Chambers were strangely quiet. Phoebe sat at her desk and started putting her meagre belongings into a bag. She’d been very distant all day. The events of the previous night were still uppermost in her mind.

She was so engrossed in what she was doing that she didn’t notice that her head of Chambers, Malcolm Edwards standing looking at her.

Eventually, she noticed him and she recoiled in surprise.

“Oh! Mr Edwards, I didn’t see you there. I thought that you were on holiday until the end of next week?” exclaimed Phoebe.

He smiled. His white teeth would not look out of place in a Hollywood Movie.

“That’s all right Phoebe. I also thought everyone had gone home for the weekend.”

“I’ll be gone in a few minutes. I was just packing up some of my things so that I don’t have to worry about them next Friday.”

“So, you are leaving us then?”

This threw Phoebe.

“Apparently so. No one has said anything about a position here and my pupil-ship ends next week. Besides, I was under the impression that your granddaughter was taking the spare room in Chambers? At least that’s what she told everyone when she came to measure up my desk space.”

The smile disappeared from his face in an instant.

“That is certainly not the case. Someone tipped me a nod to say that you were thinking of leaving us. That’s why I cut short my Holiday.”

“Oh!”

“Exactly, Oh!”
Then he added,
“Come into my office and let us discuss this like two adults eh?”

Reluctantly, Phoebe followed him into his office. She’d never been in there before. The walls were as she expected lined with law books but to her surprise, there was what was an original Picasso sketch on the wall near a very unused fireplace. Phoebe had heard rumours about the Picasso. Even though it was a sketch, it seemed very beautiful.

“Please sit down,” he said softly pointing at a large leather covered sofa.

Phoebe sat down. Malcom sat opposite her.

“There has obviously been a failure to communicate.”

Then he chuckled.

He saw Phoebe looking concerned.

“Sorry. I just remember that I watch the movie where that line came from on the flight home last night. I do apologise but it is true. I left instructions with my Clerk that you were to be offered the position in Chambers. My Granddaughter would have had it but was stupidly arrested for hitting a policeman when she was celebrating her passing the Bar exam. As you well know, we do not employ anyone with a criminal record or even if they have just been arrested and not charged. She’s gone home with her tail between her legs. She might, if she grovels enough she may be able to get a job doing mortgage conveyancing but I don’t hold out much hope for her. My son is livid as you’d expect.”

Phoebe was rather startled.

“No one has said anything about it at all. I just assumed that once my Pupilship was over that was it. I would be out of a job.”

“That is not what we want. You have been a real asset to Chambers and we want you to carry on that way.”

Phoebe was not going to be brushed off like that.

“I have been giving what I do next a good deal of thought.”

Malcolm smiled.

“I’m basically done with catching the train at seven in the morning and at least three nights a week, not getting home until close to midnight. And before you ask, I like living in Brighton and can’t afford anything more than a closet here in London. With the hit and miss of a Barristers income, getting a mortgage on anywhere decent for a few years is also out of the question.”

Malcolm nodded.

“I understand. I was pretty well broke by the time that I passed my Bar exam.”

It was Phoebe’s turn to nod.

“You didn’t have more than forty grand of student debt hanging over you though.”

“I didn’t, that is very true.”

“To be honest Mr Edwards, I have no idea what I’m going to do next. I may well take a year away from the Law and do something totally different. I need a break. If you recall, I started here a week after I graduated from University. Since then I’ve forgone six weeks of my statutory vacation because of the case load we had on at the time.”

“Oh! I didn’t know that.”

“Well, if you took the time to look at my timesheets over the past three years you will see that I’ve even worked on many public holidays because the lead Barristers decide at the last moment that they need more precedents dragged out of the archives before they can go to trial. I vowed never to work that way and the two cases that I have led which we won by the way, didn’t involve any burning of the candle at both ends and in the middle.”

Phoebe stood up.

“Thanks for finally taking an interest in me Mr Edwards but from where I’m standing, it is a case of too little too late so I respectfully decline the offer.”

Phoebe’s abruptness clearly rattled her boss.

“I’ll wish you a good night and I’ll see you after the holiday weekend.”

Without waiting for a reply, she left him alone.

Phoebe hurried back to her desk and gathered her things and headed for the exit. She’d almost reached it when she said ‘fuck!’. She turned around and went back to her desk. She had left her laptop on her desk. It needed to be locked away.

With that done, she made it out into the street and almost ran towards the station. The last thing she needed was her boss coming after her in the street.

Fifteen minutes later she got onto her train. She even managed to find a seat not that that was much relief. The seats on these new trains were as hard as rock.

Phoebe had stopped shaking by the time the train had stopped at Gatwick Airport. The farther they’d gotten from London the calmer she became.

By the time that she alighted from the train at Preston Park, Phoebe was actually starting to look forward to the weekend. She fully intended to sleep as much as possible and then perhaps, just perhaps go for a walk across the racecourse to a pub that was on the coast road for a late lunch on either Sunday or Monday.


That night, Phoebe slept like a log. All the tensions of the past month seemed to drain away in a hot bath fuelled by a nice bottle of wine. She rose to find a sea mist covering the whole town.

Phoebe knew that the mist would not stretch that far inland but was unsure about going inland or just getting something to eat and going back to bed.

A stifled yawn made the decision very easy.

The only trouble was that there was very little food in her flat. Normally on a Saturday, she’d have done her shopping for the week ahead and had cleaned the flat by midday. It was already past eleven and she had no determination to do anything normal at all.

She found some cheese in the fridge and coupled with a bit of pickle, it would keep the hunger pangs at bay for a while.

After eating it and drinking some water, she went back to bed. The months of working long hours was at and end for at least the time being.

It was getting dark by the time Phoebe woke up again. This time, she felt refreshed.

As she laid in bed, she started thinking about her encounter with Samantha Mason.

After a bit, Samantha’s parting words came back to her.

“Perhaps you aren’t a lesbian after all.”

Phoebe thought about it for a bit and then laughed.

“I’m not a lesbian but those kisses were really nice.”


[The following Tuesday]

A much-refreshed Phoebe arrived for work just before nine. The atmosphere in the Chambers Offices immediately told her that something was wrong. Everyone looked at her but didn’t say anything.

She reached her desk and found that the pile of work in progress ‘briefs’ that had been there before the weekend had been removed. She took this as a sign. A sign that she wasn’t welcome any longer.

After an hour, no one had spoken to her so she went in search of the chief clerk, Danny Swayne. He basically ran the chambers.

“Hi Danny,” said Phoebe, as she poked her head around his office door.

“Ah Miss Phoebe. I was wondering when I’d be seeing you.”
“Come on in and shut the door behind you.”

Phoebe sat down and didn’t wait for Danny to say anything.

“I guess I’m persona non grata around here now?”

Danny looked at her and nodded.

“Orders from above. I hear you told the boss that you were leaving.”

“Funny that Danny. He said that he’d told you to offer me a room here but I heard nothing from your direction…”

“Miss Phoebe, what you say is very true. One hundred percent true.”

“Why? We all know that you are a conniving devious SOB so?”

Danny smiled.

“I confess that it is all my doing.”

“But why?”

Danny sat back in his chair.

“It is well known that you are fed up commuting so I put some feelers out with an old Pupil of mine who just happens to be based in Brighton.”

“Eh?”

“For a job Phoebe, for a job.”

“I’m not sure.”

Danny laughed.

“The boss said that you were fed up with the law and might want to take a break. That’s good. This old pupil sat right where you are and said much the same thing. He took some time off and came back to the law. His chambers are different to the ones here in London. Why not setup a meeting and see what he has to offer eh? What have you got to lose?”

Phoebe didn’t answer so Danny answered for her.

“Nothing. You have nothing to lose.”

She knew that he was right.

“Ok. I’ll give him a call.”

Danny smiled.

“I’ll send you all his details to your phone.”

“Thanks Danny.”

“Now get yourself out of here and there is no need to come back. I’ll be sending you your P-45 and if I know the boss, an excellent reference. Officially, we will be making you redundant so that you can sign on if you want to and the boss says that there will be a nice settlement for your redundancy.”

“Redundant?”

“Redundancy pay is tax free for the first thirty grand.”

Phoebe twigged what was going on.

“I think I understand.”

Danny stood up and gave Phoebe a big hug.
“My door is always open to you. Don’t be a total stranger eh?”

Phoebe didn’t know what was really happening but before she really got her wits about herself, she was walking towards the Station and her train home.


Phoebe spent a couple of days moping around at home. Suddenly not having to get up at the crack of dawn was slightly unnerving at first but a few walks over the downs between the showers got her brain working again.

It turned first towards finding another job but soon the memory of the meeting with Samantha pushed it to one side. There was no doubt that Samantha had made a huge impression on Phoebe. She’d never met anyone remotely like her and that was part of the problem. She could not put her finger on what it was but it would not go away.

Was it the hair? Was it her clothes? Was it the kisses? Was it something she’d said? Phoebe began to get frustrated at not being able to pin what ‘it’ was down. Her otherwise perfectly logical mind had been thrown by that evening. The evening at the speed dating event that she didn’t go to but instead she’d met Samantha and suddenly her whole world had been turned upside down.

In the end, Phoebe could not shake off the image of Samantha so one evening, she called her.

“Samantha, its Phoebe…”

[to be continued]



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