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Jenni Hutchinson is a Christian socialist Arsenal fan from Chandlers Ford in Hampshire.

She is currently living in Bradford and training to be a Citizenship teacher. Just my Job was written during a stint volunteering in alawi with !ipple Africa.

"edication
#han$s to %od for my life and talent& my family& friends and football for supporting and inspiring me& and alawi for giving me the space and time to finally finish a boo$.

Jenni Hutchinson

JUST MY JOB

Copyright © Jenni Hutchinson #he right of Jenni Hutchinson to be identified as author of this wor$ has been asserted by her in accordance with section '' and '( of the Copyright& "esigns and )atents Act *+((. All rights reserved. ,o part of this publication may be reproduced& stored in a retrieval system& or transmitted in any form or by any means& electronic& mechanical& photocopying& recording& or otherwise& without the prior permission of the publishers. Any person who commits any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages. A C-) catalogue record for this title is available from the British .ibrary. -SB, +'( *(/+01 10+ ' www.austinmacauley.com First )ublished 234*/5 Austin acauley )ublishers .td. 36 Canada S7uare Canary 8harf .ondon 9*/ 6.B

)rinted and bound in %reat Britain

Prologue
:;our mother gave you a name today& although she doesn<t realise it&= %reat Father says to me& not long after -<ve finished my brea$fast. :How can she do it without realising it>= - as$. #here are a lot of things - don<t yet understand. :-t was related to something her friend r Bar$ley said. He planted the idea of giving this name to a child in her head& but - $now she will never do it. She loves this name& and she loves you& so it is yours.= %reat Father tells me the name. -t<s smooth& with a wave in it& li$e the sea& and reminds me of music. At once& - feel new life in me& because he has called me by name. He had told me that this would happen. Before now& everybody called me sweet names that weren<t only mine ? darling& dear& pump$in and my favourite& kochanie. -t<s my favourite because it ma$es the best sound. :,ow& what shall we play>= he as$s. :Can we play any game in the world>= :@f course. ;ou $now that.= :Can we play chess>= - as$. %reat Father loo$s surprised& but is still smiling. :#he last time we played chess& you gave up& and told me that it was too old for you.= :)radziade$ taught me.= )radziade$ was the first family member that - met& and he loo$s li$e an old man. %reat Father says that he doesn<t ever want me to loo$ li$e an old woman. He says that when my mother arrives& she<ll loo$ about twenty two& and that it will be nice if - loo$ around fourteen then& so that she can see me grow. After that& - can also stop at twenty two eventually.

)radziade$ doesn<t spea$ 9nglish& but he sat me down and wor$ed out a chess game on his own& and - watched and learned. )radziade$ didn<t always live here. .i$e most people here& he had a different $ind of life somewhere else once& which - didn<t. - don<t yet $now why. #he easiest way to eAplain it is that - wo$e up here& in my own bed& but didn<t remember going to bed ? either here& or anywhere else. %reat Father was by my side when - awo$e. He gave me brea$fast& and then we played .udo& because he said - was 9nglish& and that 9nglish children seemed to learn the colours red& blue& yellow and green before all the others. #hen he started reading boo$s with me. From the picture boo$s that he showed me at first& - $now that - loo$ about five years old right now. %reat Father told me that - haven<t been here as long as five years& but that bringing years into the world we $now was a difficult thing to do. He tried to eAplain to me how a year wor$ed& but it made my brain go funny& and he said that when people in other places try and imagine how our time wor$s& that ma$es their brains go funny& too. Soon - learned to read. - learned about mothers and fathers. He told me that - had one of each& but that they would have to Boin me later. - sort of $now that what happens to me here with %reat Father is important now& and that what my mother and father are doing elsewhere is what the grownCups here call Da distraction<. - still li$e to as$ about them& though& and %reat Father doesn<t mind. :8ill r Bar$ley Boin us one day too>= - as$ %reat Father as he sets up the chessboard. :;es. 8hy do you $eep as$ing me if people will come> ;ou $now they will.= He loo$s over at his stac$ of boo$s. #he boo$ he wrote is the most important of all& with its list of coCauthors ? as long as my wavy& messy& blonde hair ? embossed on the front in gold. -t always sits on top of the pile& but today& he selects another. :;ou<re a little young for Revelations of Divine Love& aren<t you> -<ll give it to youE= He loo$s at me& and puts it away again. :-<ll give it to you Bust before your mother comes. ;ou will be able to teach her about it. She has some very

uninspired views&= he says& in the same voice that he uses when - ma$e a mista$e ? full of love and care. - move my pawn to "/& and %reat Father chuc$les. :)radziade$ is good at this& isn<t he>= he says& stro$ing his famous beard.

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Hi& -<m Fate. @h& don<t worry. ;ou don<t need to $now about me for a long time. -n fact& depending on whether you<re eAperiencing this before or after the *3th ay 34*6& - may not even have been born yet. How am - telling you this> ,o idea really& but believe it has something to do with %od. ;ou may have other ideas. All - $now is that at my fortieth birthday party& my mum got a little drun$ and started telling all these wonderful old stories. At the end of a particularly emotive and important one& we were all wideCeyed with astonishment. :;ou have to ma$e that story $nown& um&= - said& still trying to drag myself bac$ into the present. :-t<s li$e the greatest story ever told or something.= :"o you thin$ so>= she faltered& ever amazed to hear that she was capable of the eAtraordinary& in spite of the siAty four years of eAtraordinary life she has lived so far. :8ell& if anyone writes it down& it should be you& Fate. ;ou<re the one who<s good with stories.= - started off writing stories for my $ids ? ,aomi& .ouise and Adam ? before setting up a website dedicated to creating literacy resources for primary schools. y granddad started to ma$e all these conservative noises about how somebody could get hurt. :-<m writing down um<s story& %ramp& not felling giant !edwoods&= - retorted& but we all love him& and are happy that he can still ma$e coherent noises at ninety. Anyway& - went away and spent the neAt siA wee$s writing it all down& but changed all the names& so that nobody could get hurt. However& one night when - unusually couldn<t sleep& - got this sense that there were people who could learn the full details without anyone getting hurt. #hat if - Bust sat in my dar$ room and tal$ed into the night& somebody would hear& and the

greatest story ever told would reach a generation that might otherwise never hear it. #hat somebody there might love it as much as - do& and decide that this story should never be lostE - felt li$e - should do it& because it would cause me no harm and cause others great good& but there was no pain in the obligation. #he last time - had felt li$e this was when - was siAteen and gave my life to Jesus. -t was easy& and - $new& straightaway& that %od had come into my life and would not let me go& so - wanted to serve Him. Gntil now& everything -<ve felt li$e - ought to do for %od has been met with stubbornness and frustration inside me. ,ow& comfortable in the natural $nowledge that what - am about to do is right before %od& wonder if everything else - was feeling had anything to do with him at all& but - push this thought aside for later& because have a story to tell. And so& we begin. eet .ily c%oldric$. She comes from !yde on the -sle of 8ight& and goes to Southampton Gniversity& right across the water. She reads surprisingly little for an 9nglish .iterature maBor& and wishes she had ta$en something else. She fills her time with friends& sports& drin$ing and student activism ? socialising and socialism. She is smart enough to do this& and also to pass her course ? and pass it well. #he government<s constant variation of fees& grants and loans mean that this year& .ily has decided to sacrifice some of her social life in order to be able to eat enough to live. )reviously& she relied on seasonal wor$ at home for eAtra income& but most of that was swallowed up by her summer holiday. 8e therefore meet .ily c%oldric$ as she trudges into Hope Stores on a onday morning. She is Boining the everCincreasing brigade of students who wor$ partCtime during term time. Hope Stores is a local& familyCrun cash and carry that has been catapulted into uneApected greatness by the recession. .ily wonders if it is called Hope because Hua$ers or an e7ually hopeful religious organisation founded it& but actually& one ,orman Hope was responsible. His son "avid now runs

the business& but the person .ily needs to spea$ to is the personnel manager& Sue Hill. : orning&= .ily says to the rotund security guard she encounters as soon as she enters. :-t<s my first day& and - need to see Sue Hill.= D-nsecure Jim< is the cruel nic$name of Jim #rollope& the security man. #he employee who named him thus had little faith in the large& middleCaged Jim<s ability to apprehend thieves. -n actual fact& he is surprisingly fast over short distances& and when was the last time anyone saw a guard pursue an offender beyond about four rows of the store car par$> Jim also happens to be emotionally insecureI he is forever fretting over what his wife Jeronica sees in him& and is troubled by her seAual and racial stereotyping of his deputy& Fran$ ,wachu$wu. He is also very& very good at his Bob. -t is astonishing what an eye with twenty years of eAperience can see that the most athletic bouncer<s eye misses. :;es& Sue<s upstairs&= says Jim& shifting in his seat to hand .ily a visitor<s pass. :First on the right. Hope it goes well for you today& love.= Sue turns out to be a small& smiley and elegant woman in her midCthirties. She Boined the staff of Hope<s& where her mother wor$ed& aged siAteen& and has never regretted her decision ? it was that or an office Bob with the local underta$er& which didn<t really float her boat. :,ice to meet you& .ily. 8e were eApecting you yesterday& but - see you<re not down to wor$ Sundays& so that can<t be right& can it>= She sha$es her head at the inaccurate rota before her. :)eople don<t thin$ before they type around this place. -<m Bust as guilty& but then the reason - wor$ in a place li$e Hope<s is because - can<t spell& so why do they give me all the sign writing to do>= Sue was one of the many victims of undiagnosed dysleAia at schoolI she still doesn<t $now that this is behind her literacy problems. Sue chatters away as she finds .ily a size *4 shirt& long length trousers and an accurate name badge ? :-t was a close run thing& you were nearly Bob= ? before concluding& :!ight&

so& if you Bust cloc$ in li$e this& -<ll ta$e you to meet Jace$& and he can show you the ropes.= Jace$ is stac$ing biscuits with his a7uiline side profile to .ily as she approaches. He is wor$ing in a silent& determined manner that is imperious and thoroughly masculine. He is fair& and although he has neither $iller chee$bones nor a slightly receding hairline& it wouldn<t be any more obvious that he was )olish if he was playing in goal and drin$ing '6K proof vod$a at the same time. 8hat Jace$ doesn<t $now is that the characteristics he is displaying at this moment in time& limited though they are& are beginning to do things to .ily<s pulse rate. :Jace$& this is our new little star& .ily.= He turns to greet Sue and ta$es in .ilyI five foot siA& slim& small but firm bosoms& unusually long legs. Her straightened and layered brown hair falls to Bust below her shoulders. Her eyes are piAie green. Jace$ brea$s into his natural& welcoming smile. -t is finished. :%ood morning.= A deep& gravelly voice with a strong enough )olish accent to give our .ily deep shoc$s& yet with the clear confidence of a good 9nglish spea$er& and a hint of 7uestion intonation that betrays that Jace$ is chee$y. .ily gathers all her courage& than$s the .ord in heaven for her old flatmate Fasia& smiles bac$& offers her hand and shyly says& :"zien dobry.= Jace$ leans bac$ in surprise& ta$es her hand& and says& :.ily& that was brilliant.= A friendship that will endure several thousand uninteresting hours of wor$ ? and an awful lot else ? has been cemented. But Jace$ and .ily don<t $now about the awful lot else yet.

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:So& how<s your first day going>= as$s Sue& when she and .ily catch up in the staff canteen four hours later. :Fine& than$s&= says .ily breezily. :- was hoping to go on the chec$outs& and thought shelf stac$ing would be really boring& but it<s fine.= -t would be a bit boring if .ily had to stac$ shelves on her own. #he Hope<s management have realised this& and usually as$ colleagues to wor$ in twos or threes. .ily is getting used to some of the 7uir$ier re7uirements of the Bob ? things that she never would have eApected to have to do. For eAample& if a customer as$s her where something is& she has to ta$e them to the product& even if it<s at the other end of the store. -f anybody than$s her for her efforts& she is supposed to say& :,o problem ? it<s Bust my Bob&= although different words with similar sentiment are tolerated. #he phrase has become something of a Bo$e at Hope<s. )eople say it when they are than$ed for holding the cloa$room door open& for eAample& and Jace$ has an amusing way of ma$ing the phrase as dar$ as an epitaph when he really doesn<t want to do something. :-t<s fine& or Jace$<s fine> "on<t worry&= Sue interBects as she sees .ily blush. :8e all thin$ he<s a dish ? well& it<s not really arguable& is it> ;ou really impressed him with that bit of )olish& - can tell.= : y roomCmate at uni taught it to me&= eAplains .ily. :He did seem very pleased.= She has a 7uestion that she really ought to as$ Sue& but something stops her. She needs to find out& at some stage& whether the game she plans to play is futile. However& now is not the time. She wants that period of wondering& dreaming& scheming. She<s 7uite prepared to be brought down to earth eventually& but Jace$ hasn<t said anything about :my wife= yet. .ily isn<t wor$ing with Jace$ in the afternoon ? he has supervisory stuff to do ? but she meets two friendly coC

wor$ers named Janet and .ynn. Janet is middleCclass& and married to an ageing )9 teacher who she<s trying to convince to switch to his second subBect ? )hysics ? before the neAt torn ligament. .ynn& five years younger& is a single mother of three grownCup children and loo$ing forward to spending her middle years doing all the things she never got to do as a young woman& because she fell pregnant at seventeen. Janet and .ynn each have a child at Southampton Gniversity& although .ily doesn<t $now either of them& probably because they ta$e such alien subBects 2 athematics and 9ngineering5. .ily is very pleased to discover that .ynn<s engineer is a girl& as the faculty has traditionally been maleCdominated. Both women find .ily to be polite& funny and a fast learner ? a perfect new colleague. .ily would never consider the idea that she is perfect ? well& not seriously. @nly in the way that everyone does ? that innate sense of righteousness that few can claim to have truly defeated. .ily is confident& not arrogant& and tries to be honestI she is aware of some of her flaws. ,one of those that she $nows about would be immediately apparent to a pair of middleCaged women& since .ily is twenty and heteroseAual& and every selfCinflicted problem she has ever had has been grounded in unre7uited love. #hat night& .ily performs a verbal postCmortem of her first day with flatmate Coral. :A man>= as$s Coral straightaway when .ily returns from wor$& singing& and brighter than usual in the face. :;ou<ve no idea&= breathes .ily. : The man. Jace$ Bogdanows$i. #his is the one. - can feel it.= :;eah& but how many times have you said that>= :9very time. #hat<s what you do. ;ou give it a few wee$s& or a month& and if you don<t feel that innate safety and confidence& the $nowledge that you could spend the rest of your life with this guy and it would be o$ay& then it<s time to end the relationship.= :;eah& but they always dump you. 8hen have you ever ended a relationship>= :,ot always. - dumped Arthur.=

:Huite right& too. He was a dic$.= :,ot alwaysE= Coral prevents a circular discussion. :So& describe this Jace$ Bogdanows$i& then.= :About siA feet tall& blond& late twenties& not particularly remar$able in loo$s alone& but he<s got this thing about him. He<s charismatic. He has the hottest )olish accent -<ve ever heard& and his smile would melt the polar ice caps. And he<s really funny and nice.= :Sounds promising&= says Coral. L L L

:Ggh&= says #onia later. :- don<t thin$ - could fancy a )olish guy.= :;eah& but if you got to $now himE= :- bet he would say he couldn<t fancy a blac$ girl&= says #onia& who is half %hanaian and half alawian. :,ot necessarily& although a lot of people seem to say that&= admits .ily. : ost of the )oles -<ve met are racist&= interBects Heidi. #he four .iterature students are at their favourite table in the local student pub& the Stile& drin$ing San iguel as it<s the beginning of term and they are feeling flush. #hey will be on strict rations of one Carling a wee$ by "ecember. :#hey<ll tell you they<re not& but my )olish eACboyfriend called the Cameroon football team Dmon$eys<& tried to pretend he was Bo$ing& and seemed embarrassed whenever we ended up in the same room as somebody blac$ or Asian.= :-t<s more socially acceptable to be racist over there than over here&= says .ily& who went to )oland to visit Fasia the previous summer and tried her best to engage with the culture. :-t<s because there are hardly any blac$ or Asian people over there& and all attempts to prevent racism come from the %overnment down& not from ordinary people. So young people rebel against it by using all these stupid racist words& and if you try and tell politicians that social attitudes can only change

if ordinary people accept that the status 7uo is wrong& they<ll call you an anarchist or Communist.= :8hich you are&= says Coral. :-rrelevantM Social change from the bottom up wor$s. -t<s empirically proven. .oo$ at the nearCeradication of racist chanting from 9nglish football stadiumsE= :,o& - don<t want to&= teases #onia. :Assuming your new man won<t be embarrassed to be in the same room as me& when do we get to meet him>=

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As .ily gets to $now Jace$& she increasingly li$es what she sees. #onia most certainly has nothing to fear from a man whose social intercourse is so fluid and easy. #he only person Jace$ seems to have an irrational problem with is Jim. :Jim and - are going to watch the football later on& Jace$. "o you want to come>= invites .ily& a wee$ or so after her first day at Hope<s. .ily supports Arsenal& and they are opening their 34**C*3 Champions .eague campaign that night& against Borussia "ortmund. :Jim>= says Jace$ incredulously. :8hy do you want to drin$ with him>= :He<s my friend&= says .ily& confused. :As long as you are only friends.= :He<s married. Anyway& what if - did have a thing for older men> Jim<s friendly and funny. - could do a lot worse.= Jace$ draws Jim<s corpulent figure with his hands. :;ou deserve someone more handsome.= -t is Jace$<s first indication that he is possessed of flawsI also& the first sign that he finds .ily attractive. L L L

:So stay slim& #onia& and you<ll be fine in his eyes&= .ily giggles that night in the bar. Jim hasn<t arrived yet& and .ily needs to get the Jace$ obsessing out of the way before another Hope<s colleague is present. :;ou still thin$ he<s wonderful>= as$s Coral& pushing away her chips. Coral is a size *3 to */ and perfectly proportioned& but weight tal$ always says Ddiet time< to her.

:He<s an idiot sometimes& but nobody<s perfect& and he<s still perfect to me. 8e Bust clic$. Spar$s fly when we<re together.= :;ou can<t deny the facts of liiiiiifeE= sings Heidi& and everybody laughs. #he girls turn their attention to the #J& where Arsenal and their %erman opponents have Bust ta$en to the field. :"o you $now what -<m going to do>= says .ily& suddenly and eAcitedly. :-<m going to find out what football team Jace$ supporters& and get Fasia to send me their shirt or something. don<t have a )olish team yet.= :@r you could support their deadly rivals ? that might ma$e it more fun&= observes Heidi. :;ou $now what would suc$>= as$s Coral. :-f he doesn<t support )olish football at all and prefers Spurs or Chelsea.= :#hat would be weird&= giggles #onia. :#hat would be li$e me supporting "inamo Nagreb or something.= :#hey say that in !ussia& supporting your local first division team can be as remote as living in .ondon and supporting Sparta )rague&= observes .ilyI and then the match starts& and the women temporarily shut up. L L L

: an Gnited are short sighted& tra la la la la la la la la&= sings .ily. She has Bust seen Jace$<s $eyring. -t seems Coral was rightM :Behave. 8ho do you support>= :Arsenal& Arsenal& ArsenalE= sings .ily. :8hat> 8hat happened the wee$end before last>= :An aberrationM= says .ily dramatically& flinging out her arms. :A horrible thing that happens once every ten years. y brother and - theorised that it was part of the -lluminati conspiracy or something. #hat AleA Ferguson heads along to that owlCburning ritual in America once a decade to wrea$ havoc on us.= #he previous Sunday& anchester Gnited had beaten Arsenal by ( goals to 3. -t had been 0C* in 344* and 0C3 in the

late D(4s or early D+4s ? .ily can never 7uite remember& and since she possibly wasn<t born& nobody can really blame her. :8hatCburning>= :@wl. Bird that flies at night and goes DtwitCtwoo<. "elivers Harry )otter<s mail and can spell his own name 8C@C ..= :- have never read any Harry )otter boo$ or seen any film.= )robably the most intelligent available response to the last minute<s conversation. "id - mention that .ily is odd> "elightfully so& in many opinions ? including Jace$<s ? but undeniably so. #he day continues fairly normally. .ily finds out that Jace$<s relatives have lived in 9sseA since the Second 8orld 8ar. :So they bought you a an G shirt& obviously&= 7uips .ily. ,o& he and his parents came to visit them for a whole month in *+++ and an Gnited won the treble while they were there. Jace$ was fifteen. :.uc$y you ? it<s not your first football memory&= says .ily dolefully. :- started supporting Arsenal when we lost the FA Cup semiCfinal to you guys. Just missed two trophies& and had to wait three years for another two.= She simultaneously loves and despises that Jace$ finds this hilarious ? another spar$ in their incendiary friendship. Suddenly& all is 7uiet. A booming female voice can be heard over the gentle babble of colleague banter and 8ave *46& the varied yet inoffensive local radio station. :#his shelf should have been full and free of rubbish by (am& .ydia. -t<s +.14. 8hy are there still cardboard boAes everywhere>= .ydia& an eighteenCyearCold grocery colleague& hangs her head& and doubles the speed of her wor$. #he booming voice belongs to Sally Hill& Sue<s very different older sister. Sally did very well at school& went to university& and got a good Bob at an insurance firmI then& two years later& came home and started being nasty to everybody. ,obody has ever got to the bottom of Sally<s abrupt career and personality change. She

has never married. She and her sister still share the same name because Sue married someone called "ere$ Hill& which was handy in a noCnewCche7ueboo$ $ind of way. Sally<s reign of terror is due to last all day& Jace$ and .ily note dispiritedly& and .ily feels both relieved and guilty when she leaves for class at noon& leaving Jace$ to put up with it alone. #he neAt day& .ily has another (am to *3 noon shift. She hasn<t had much sleep& having prioritised a fantasy about giving Jace$ a long massage to soothe away the stress of having to wor$ with horrible managers. She loves how such fantasies ma$e her feelI so much better than the purely seAual ones. #he pleasure seems to be centred on midCoesophagus& shortening the breath and complementing Jace$Cinduced $nots in the stomach. #he sensation is both relaAing and stimulating ? $ind of li$e the eAperience she was dreaming about would be ? and .ily slept incredibly well once the daydream had run its course. -t<s Bust that this didn<t happen until at about one o< cloc$ in the morning. .ily has been having issues with her phone since she set the default language to )olish& with the intent to learn some. Jace$ never saw her phone before she did it ? or& for that matter& since she did it ? so he incorrectly assumes she<s had it li$e this for longer than the last two wee$s. :-t<s doing odd& Anglicised things&= .ily says& as she opens yet another boA with a Stanley $nife and pulls hot chocolate sachets onto the shelf before her. :@bviously& - usually teAt in 9nglish& but when - teAt in )olish& it remembers that -<m 9nglish. -t says Dsang< instead of D)ani<. -t says Dpilla< when -<m trying to write about pil$a nozna& and honestly& - can<t thin$ of anything - write more oftenE= D)il$a nozna< means football. :8ill you stop tal$ing and do some wor$& please>= bar$s Sally from the end of the aisle. .ily is sensitive to criticism& and hypersensitive to unBust criticism& but old enough not to shout bac$& or burst into tears. However& she cannot let unfair accusations goI she feels she should not& or other people could

suffer the same unfairness. She has a boA and a $nife in her hand. -t ought to be perfectly obvious that she is multiCtas$ing. :- am tal$ing and wor$ing at the same time& Sally&= .ily said& straightforwardly and mildly. Sally is not in a rational mood. Sally is rarely in a rational mood. :,o& you weren<tM ;ou were tal$ing to Jace$& and it<s all you ever doM And youE= she says& rounding on Jace$& :;our Bob as a supervisor is to stop people tal$ing so that the wor$ gets done. -f it doesn<t& you<ll be staying on to finish it.= .ily is wounded ? she doesn<t yet $now the eAtent of Sally<s misanthropy& doesn<t $now that no one can wor$ at Hope<s without falling victim to it. -s she& .ily& really letting her wor$ suffer> -s she really ma$ing more wor$ for the person she cares about more than anyone else> She turns ashamedly away from Jace$ and cuts into a boA firmly& dispelling the tension through her fingers. Jace$ is appalled by Sally<s behaviour. He wal$s up behind .ily& gently tic$les her elbow and intones& :"on<t worry about it&= in her ear ? gravelly as ever& but soft. He then goes for an emergency cigarette& hoping to ta$e the edge off his frustration with Sally. ,ot for Jace$& the sadistic pleasure of nurturing a bad mood and eAploding randomly in the face of innocent parties. A pac$age has arrived& addressed to Jace$ Bogdanows$i& signed& sealed and delivered. -t is .ily c%oldric$<s heart& and he had better be careful what he does with it. Jace$ is unaware of this new responsibility& and although every encounter with .ily seems to lighten his spirit& his emotional response to her cannot go any further. ;et.

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.ily is nothing if not charismatic. #he only person who would ever describe her as Dboring< is #onia& and this is part teasing and part a reflection of their entirely different interests. As well as her encyclopaedic $nowledge of a diverse range of subBects& .ily holds people<s attention through her brightness& enthusiasm& Bo$es and sense of drama. She can turn an everyday irrelevance into the conversational e7uivalent of a Boo$er )rize winner. She isn<t bad loo$ing& but is no model& and it is her personality that attracts men ? an increasing number of men& in fact. #he following onday& .ily goes to wor$ after a normal wee$end. .ily and her friends obsessed about the fate of their various football teams over a Saturday pub lunch in front of S$y Sports ,ews& then spent the evening arguing over which bar to go to. .ily won ? .ily does not usually win ? and her reward was a trip to Firehouse& a roc$ club. Coral surprised herself by having a good time& .ily and Heidi braved the mosh pit& and #onia went home with the phone number of a much older& heavily pierced& but undeniably attractive man called Simon. :He almost had a Jace$ air about him&= admits .ily on the way home. :,o ? don<t Bump down my throatM -t<s trueM= .ily eApects a groaning chorus of re7uests to stop bringing Jace$ into every conversation& and heads it off by 7uic$ly continuing& :#hey have an identical manner& similar sense of humourE - thin$ Simon seems nicer& though. Softer round the edges.= :So Jace$ isn<t nice>= #onia dares to suggest. :,ot always ? but when it countsE= breathes .ily. #he girls have all heard the story of how Jace$ rescued .ily<s day& and her selfCesteem& after Sally behaved so malevolently. #hey all agree that such a rescue would have made each of them go wobbly too.

Sunday always begins with church for .ily and #onia& although they go to very different churches ? #onia<s is fairly eAclusively African& doesn<t teach Scripture very intelligently in .ily<s opinion& and the service sometimes lasts four hours. #onia isn<t stupid& or especially fundamentalist& but church has always been this way for her& and she has friends there from the African Society at university. .ily plays semiCsafeO she goes to the local Anglican Church<s student service. #he leaders present challenging messages about how students should live their lives& and .ily doesn<t always agree with their slightly simplistic teachings& but she tries to put them whatever she feels she can into practice& and sometimes& usually when sad or lonely& she feels very close to %od there. After all& He was meant to whisper in pleasure and shout in pain and whatever the middle& spea$ing one was. #hese last few wee$s& .ily has been floating on air& but there is no guilt in her pleasure. She therefore finds it easy to worship %od and give than$s for how good she is feeling& and get a feeling of engagement with Him from this $ind of worship& too ? the @hC.ordCyou<reCgreat $ind& rather than the @C.ordCtheCcloudsCareCgathering $ind. -n the afternoon& first .ily& then #onia& return home and drag first Coral& then Heidi& out of bed. .ily lives with Coral and #onia lives with Heidi& at opposite ends of )ortswood ? a part of Southampton $nown to be cheap and full of students and immigrants. )erfect for .ily& the young Aenophile. #he girls tidy their houses and do undone wor$& then settle down to 7uiet pleasures. .ily practices )olish and Coral ba$es a ca$e& which the pair then eat with tea in front of Anti7ues !oadshow& because students are permitted to gee$ out in front of the programmes their parents watch& without shame. #onia goes swimming while Heidi continues to ma$e herself a fashionable Bumpsuit& a proBect she fears will ta$e Bust enough time for them to become unfashionable. #onia then does her best to reverse the good she has done by buying chips on the way home& and she and Heidi eat them in front of #op %ear. Sundays in Studentdom& all in all& are the perfect bliss that %od

intended them to be& even if you weren<t meant to iron or finish assignments on them& and the pool staff shouldn<t have been wor$ing. 2#hat is& you were neither meant to iron nor finish assignments. -<m sure nobody irons their assignments anyway& unless the cat sleeps on them. But still& - apologise. .i$e .ily& was a .iterature maBor ? 9uropean& not Bust 9nglish ? and ambiguity deserves no place in the greatest story ever told. But - digress5. So& it<s onday again& and .ily is at wor$ at (am. She wal$s into the warehouse. Jace$ is standing by a computer with a very attractive woman& which doesn<t bother .ily at all. #here is a wonderful lac$ of fear or Bealousy in her current infatuationO miraculously& given how these things usually turn out& it has been good for her. :"zien dobry& Jace$.= :"zien dobryE @h& .ily& - would li$e you to meet my girlfriend& %abriela. She starts here today.= )unched in the stomach& in the eAact same place where on #hursday she<d felt the warmth of Jace$<s comfort& .ily still manages to say :Bardzo mi milo& Bestem .ily.= 2Jery nice to meet you& -<m .ily.5 She gets a good loo$ at %abriela& and realises she was wrong. %abriela is not attractive. She is beautiful& stunning. She has a sheet of epically long straight whiteCblonde hair& and honeyCcoloured eyes. She is taller than .ily& with the same amount of chest and less waist. Her nails are filed and painted& and her teeth gleam white. She wears Bust a tiny amount of ma$eCup& covering imperfections that aren<t there in order to be seen to be using ma$eCup& in .ily<s opinion ? unless she is incredibly insecure& which would be weird& considering she loo$s li$e Barbie and is going out with Jace$. :@h& you spea$ )olish&= says %abriela& smiling. :#hat<s nice. 8here did you learn>= .ily eAplains about Fasia. #he punched stomach is beginning to feel more li$e emptiness& the empty place where her dreams once lay& but the pain has not really started in

earnest. A familiar feeling& later softened a little by the realisation that it could have been worse ? she could have been his wifeM :@h& that is nice&= says %abriela again& displaying the descriptive vocabulary of an infant school child& before returning to spea$ing fullCon )olish with Jace$. @ver the neAt few wee$s& .ily ends up wor$ing alongside %abriela& and tries to bring her out a little. .ily tries to challenge her first impression of people& rather than reinforce it& with limited success. She seems to have been right about %abriela&. #he nineteenCyearCold beauty<s conversation revolves around her appearance& trying to lose weight 2she is a size 05& being tired& eating chocolate& shopping. #here seems to be nothing uni7ue about %abriela. ,o special interests and no personality 7uir$s that ma$e people want to tal$ to her. ,o sense of humour of her own ? she laughs at other people<s Bo$es& but does not ma$e them. -n short& %abriela is nice& but boring. 8hat is going on here> ,ice ?But boring girls do not usually end up with guys li$e Jace$ ? charismatic& confident& funny and flirty. #hey end up with nice ?But boring guys. ;ou $now the typeO he spends Saturday afternoon waiting for the football scores& and Sunday either playing football or round his mum<s for Sunday lunch. He wor$s in a shop or an office& or studies Sports Science or Business Studies. He indulges in the occasional round of golf or game of darts. He buys eApensive trainers& and loves his dog and his mum. He wears a Help for Heroes wristbandE Come to thin$ of it& this is r ,ice ?But Boring 9nglish style& and .ily has no idea how a similar )olish guy would behave. But still. How can Jace$ live with someone who doesn<t return the spar$s that he generates> For live with her he does. : aybe he needs his spar$s earthed&= says Heidi wisely as the four girls dissect the situation in the pub for the umpteenth time. :Gp to a point& - agree&= admits .ily& :but - $now relationships li$e that& where he<s eAcessive& $ind of simple and a bit hedonistic& and she<s reining him in in an assertive

way ? Bo$ing with him& telling him she doesn<t love him anymore because her shift finishes two hours later& thoroughly enBoying dragging him round the shops on her birthday. %abriela absorbs rather than earths& -<d say. -<m surprised she doesn<t get electrocuted and run away or something.= :He<s not a live rail&= says #onia condescendingly& but she<s smiling. She<s not being mean ? she<s Bust being #onia. :He is a livewire& and she<s a damp s7uib. - have no idea how it wor$s.= :So steal him&= encourages Coral. :,o&= sighs .ily& :that wouldn<t be fair. -f it really wor$s& good luc$ to them both. -f it doesn<t ? well& then -<ll be waiting.=