It took her all afternoon to test various eyecare products and write 1000 words on “Eye strain and how to avoid it’. Thankfully Sam accepted it without demur. Another Sixer. She longed to be at home, cheese on toast, Brad, perhaps a glass of wine.

“Isn’t anyone here?” The voice sounded weary.

Cariad [photo: David Austin Roses]

Cariad [photo: David Austin Roses]

Rose peered around her computer screen and looked straight at May Magdalene, the Herald’s managing editor, and definitely someone to be avoided if you wanted to get away before midnight. May was revolving on the spot as she looked around the sea of empty desks. Rose ducked and immediately felt nine years old again, attempting to avoid the attention of Duckie the maths teacher – Mr Duckworth, who did look rather like a duck – when he wanted an answer to 1,783 ÷ 21.

“Ah, Rose, I suppose the rest have sneaked off early. Well,” May looked down at Rose, “you’ll do. Read these, will you.”

Rose sat up straight, clenching her lips together to trap the “No!” that crunched between her tongue and her teeth. Damn, the new series of The Killing started tonight. She reached with one hand for the pile of page proofs which May was shoving at her while in the ball of the other fist she concealed the tiny bottle of eye drops. Why am I hiding this? Because I don’t want May to shout at me like she shouted at that travel journalist yesterday, that’s why. The poor guy had gone to lie down in the sick room for an hour with a migraine, only for May to drag him out shouting ‘Don’t be so weak! You can work with a headache.’

“Sure, May, no problem.” The large type of the headlines swum in front of her eyes, the smaller typeface of the features disappeared into a blur. She put down the bottle and rubbed her eyes.

“Not tired I hope? When I was your age I’d be interviewing all day and writing all night. Typewriters mind you, no clip and paste then. Had nothing but fags and whisky to keep us going.” She turned quickly, wobbled slightly on her 4in heels, then turned back. “I’ll have those, if you’re finished with them.” She gestured towards the tiny blue bottle. “Please.”

Rose handed them over. When May was out of sight she fished out of the bin the screwed-up eye pads she’d tested two hours earlier, perhaps they might work better if she dampened them with water.

By 8pm she’d read four of the ten proofs when the phone rang. It was an external ringtone so she ignored it. May had already walked past her desk twice and huffed that she was a slow reader. Rose tried again to concentrate on the diagrams of DNA which were twisting in and out of focus. She had to get this right or May would shout “Weak!” at her too.

“The human genome has around 3,000 genes,” she read. The answerphone clicked on and Rose heard her own voice asking the caller to leave a message.

“This is Nick Maddox.”

Rose’s pen stopped in mid-air.

“Are you there Rose?”  Rose shrank back in her chair. Does he know I’m sitting here?

“Oh well, I guess you’ve gone home early.” Ouch.

“I’ve received your e-mail. You don’t say how urgent this is so I’m assuming it is. I’ll get my PR to draft the answers.”

That’s right, thought Rose, fob me off.

“I’ll be in Brussels tomorrow, ring me. Anytime.” His voice dipped low on the last word. He left his number and rung off.

© Sandra Danby

…in IGNORING GRAVITY #11: Rose’s ex arrives on her doorstep.

This is the 10th instalment of ‘Ignoring Gravity’ about identity detective Rose Haldane. To start reading from the beginning, please click on the category ‘My Novel: Ignoring Gravity’ in the right hand menu.