Her alarm had been buzzing for an hour. The morning sun was in her face. She was hot, sweaty, sick. Jodie had slept with the curtains open, a tactic that she employed when she went to bed in the wee hours, after a night like last night. It always seemed like a good idea. This next time would be the one that would work, when she’d not get up late. Sleeping through her alarm, even as it continued its attempt to startle her sluggish neurons to life, was a given. Lately, Jodie had been sleeping with the curtains open more frequently.
The phone slipped from Jodie’s hand. On the floor it still shrieked like an angry mother. Reaching over the edge of the mattress was a painful struggle. From where it lay, Jodie swiped the screen and silence brought new pain to her head, as if the alarm had at least been shocking her senses numb. There was a new message on the screen, sent by Amanda at one o’clock that morning, already home after leaving Jodie and the others in the bar. With her hair trailing onto the carpet, one hand on the floor to stop her from falling out of bed, Jodie read it.
Don’t be late tomorrow, hun. Again. Xx
Well, tomorrow was actually today. And Jodie was going to vomit if she made the slightest movement. If she was to avoid receiving her third and final warning, she had half an hour to get to work. Closing her eyes, the thought of pulling a sicky crossed her mind. She knew how another one would be received: the end of her time in the advertising department of the local paper. She liked her job, loved the people. She was having fun. Just a little too much of it, too often.
Waking again in a panic, she swiped the screen. She’d fallen asleep for five minutes more, phone in hand. Jodie threw the covers back and ran naked through to the bathroom. In another five minutes she was out of the shower: sick rinsed down the drain; the urinary smell of booze still seeping through her pores. A glance at her phone told her that it was nearly quarter past. At twenty past, stomach and head in a twirl, she closed the door to her flat.
She glanced at Gordon’s door, opposite hers. Any excuse to sneak a peek at her, the creepy, baldy bastard would open his door with fabricated salutations. Jodie sprung a finger in the direction of the spyhole, in case he was watching. The thought of him in such close to proximity to where she slept made her skin crawl.
She’d said it before, but this really was the last time. It was time to grow up; to leave the late nights / early mornings behind. Her standing in the office as the party girl was not who she was at all; not who she wanted be portrayed as. She’d decided that she would talk to Richard and apologise for her recent unreliability. If, by chance, she made it in to work on time today. She might have done if there wasn’t a huge branch fallen across the driveway.
Hand to her head, Jodie walked towards it. There was no way that she could move it; it was half a foot thick. There was no other way that she could get her car out of the communal parking area. A five minute drive, but a fifteen minute walk. Through standing tears, she sent Amanda a picture of the branch with a message:
Bit stuck here. Bloody massive branch blocking car in. Please show Rich. Be in soon. X
Just as Jodie was about to turn to walk up the driveway, she saw something beneath the side shoots coming off the branch. A camera, an expensive-looking professional one with an adjustable lens. ‘What the –’ she began to say when she noticed the body of a man slumped on top of the beech hedge. She reached up, and then decided not to touch him. She didn’t know if he was dead or alive. And then she noticed the baldy head. She looked up at her second floor window, curtains open. She looked up at the sycamore that the branch had fallen from, the fresh scar from where it had broken from the tree. Two storeys up.
‘You creepy old bastard,’ she said, smashing the camera against the top of Gordon’s head. ‘You dirty old sod.’