Deidre wasn’t hungry in the morning and had avoided breakfast until she hit her mid-thirties. By then, the jury had returned and judgment was regularly dispensed from all angles: If you had to skip a meal, make it lunch or dinner, breakfast was the most important meal of the day.
These days, in a nod to science, Deidre enjoyed a full breakfast at the weekend and on workdays grabbed a tub of porridge with honey at the station. She ate it with a brown plastic spoon on her commute to Central London whilst scrolling for news on her iPhone.
At London Bridge Station, she followed the commuter trail into Pret a Manger where she picked up a tea and a chocolate croissant. She would rather use her calorie allowance on solids than on a hot drink she wasn’t that bothered about.
She brought the Pret bag to her glass-walled cubicle and got annoyed with Mr. Payne from the Scotland office when he rang just as she was pulling out the buttery middle bit of the croissant, rolling it in the soggy chocolate paste on her paper plate. She could almost feel its softness in her mouth as she sat and stared at it whilst trying to get Mr. Payne off the phone. When she finally got to gulp down the croissant centre, expectations fell flat. Somehow the delay had destroyed the sensation.
Luckily, it was Anthea from reception’s fortieth and she had left her birthday cake on the counter. Deidre could see the top of the icing through her glass wall and walked out with the paper plate, helping herself to a slice. There was something about the combination of marzipan, Chantilly and white sugar that always triggered a sense of wellbeing in Deidre. Memories of childhood birthday parties, probably. As she pressed her finger into the paper plate to pick up the last crumbs of sugar she could almost hear shouting from the pleasure centres of her brain. ‘More, more, have some more’.
But Deidre was no pig and certainly not when people were looking. Especially not Peter Foy-Smith, the thirty-something associate who was now making his way across the office floor.
There had been a time, thought Deidre, when someone like Peter had been an option. Not only that, obligatory. The only obstacle having been the time between now and the next office-night out.
Nowadays, Peter and his ilk smiled politely at Deidre who at fifty-one was a partner and deserved their respect.
Just as her assistant Helen dumped the latest Asfar planning report on Deidre’s desk, Oluf, the Swedish chap from the canteen, came around with the eleven o’clock trolley. Deidre waived him in so she could buy a Diet Fanta. She needed something to wash down all the sugar. Perhaps also something salty to even things out, she thought, grabbing a bag of nuts. She had fancied the hand-cut crisps, but a woman – a solicitor for God’s sake – had to demonstrate some level of self-control and the cashews were the healthier option as theirs were not trans fats but natural fats essential to her bones.
Later, Gerald, her partner on the Asfar case, suggested they have lunch out because it was such a pleasant day. As always, they ended up at The Duck and Waffle because Gerald, such a big child, loved going up and down in the glass lift. Deidre, feeling guilty about the birthday cake, decided on the Puy Lentils, a decision that allowed for a plate of bacon-wrapped dates on the side. She didn’t order pudding just a large cappuccino to keep Gerald company.
The rest of the day was packed with back-to-back meetings and around four pm Deidre got a headache, which she cleared with a real Coca Cola. ‘There’s nothing like it,’ she told Gerald, ‘especially not when you only have one very rarely.’
Her last meeting finished at seven and Deidre rushed off to London Bridge, feeling a little constipated from the custard creams that Helen insisted on leaving in the meeting room together with a selection of M&S crudities that nobody ever touched. Deidre suspected this was for hygiene reasons. The custard creams, on the other hand, were individually packaged in plastic.
At London Bridge, Deidre was disappointed to learn that the 7.28 was delayed. She bought an egg sandwich to replace supper and a large bag of M&Ms for the train journey, eating the sandwich on the platform next to other tired snackers. Etiquette dictated discretion and non-communication.
Despite Deidre pacing herself, the M&Ms only lasted until Clapham Junction, evidence, she thought, that like the Magnums, M&M bags had shrunk.
She nodded off somewhere around Croydon with the heavy Asfar file on her knees but woke, as always, as the train rolled into the station. ‘My body knows when it’s home,’ she thought.
The sun had gone in and there was a chill in her Range Rover. Deidre dumped her handbag and the file in the passenger seat, opening the glove compartment relieved to find a package of Starbursts.
She unwrapped each sweet (except then green ones, which she discarded), lined them up on top of her handbag and set off for home, arriving just in time to see a scooter exit the drive.
‘Chicken Korma,’ Richard smiled from the porch, holding out the white plastic bag whilst pulling up his trousers with his free hand.
‘And there I was, planning to skip supper,’ said Deidre, taking in the sensational aroma of warm poppadoms.
Rebecca Taylor is a pseudonym