I purposely made all of today’s appointments within walking distance of the office, that way I wouldn’t have to worry about what to do with my car after I’d had a few glasses of champagne at lunch. Unfortunately, I didn’t remember this when I was picking out what to wear today and that is why I now have red raw toes from wearing my sky high Kurt Geiger heels on the walk to work. I remember finding these shoes in John Lewis’s end of season sale last week and just managing to squish my feet into them then but I was convinced that it was because my feet were swollen from the 10 viewings I had carried out that morning. I had also convinced myself that if I lost the stone I had planned to lose last year, then my feet would be slimmer and they would definitely fit. I don’t know what happens to me when I am shoe shopping it’s like all common sense leaves my brain as soon as I enter the shop door.
I make my way into the walk in wardrobe and brush my hand across the silk of my evening gowns. I head towards the shelves of beautifully paired shoes and carefully select my black Christian Louboutins. My recently pedicured feet gratefully slip into them and I stand in front on my full-length mirror analysing my completed outfit. My red Stella McCartney evening dress is figure-hugging in all the right places, accentuating my recent weight loss and my heels help to show off my toned calves. I stare at my reflection and can’t help but thank my recently installed home gym for my new found self-confidence.
I’m suddenly in a black cab being whisked at high speed through the traffic of London, we speed past the red blur of the double decker buses but I fear that we are still going to be late. I swing open the car door and run along the narrow streets, my heels clicking on the cobbles. Finally, I spot the marble entrance of the Lancaster London Hotel and my speed increases, I’m not sweaty or out of breath due to my recent gym visits and my hair and makeup remain perfectly in place.
As I enter the main hall, I swim through the sea of cheap suits and apathy and straight to my colleagues, Les and James. We share a kiss and the mandatory smalltalk but as I turn to the main stage their faces blur into the background. The trophy glimmers in the hand of the speaker and as it catches the light I am blinded by it.
“And the award for Estate Agent of the year goes to…”
I smooth down the expensive fabric of my dress and make my way towards the front of the crowd. I am already half way up the stage stairs when I hear my name called. I realise that I finally have everything I ever wanted and I beam at the speaker as I take the award from him. The trophy fits in my hand perfectly and I wrap my fingers around it to feel the chill of the metal but I feel nothing. The speaker guides me to the pulpit and I lean towards the microphone, this is my moment.
‘Thank you, I would just like to thank…’
My mouth goes dry and I clear my throat to start my speech again.
‘Sorry. I would just like to thank…’
My mind goes blank, I know this is how I am meant to start my speech by acknowledging those who have contributed to my success; parents, siblings, significant others etc. but I cannot think of anyone to thank. The fabric of my dress begins to cling uncomfortably and my feet sting with pain from the height of my heels. As I look out into the crowd for reassurance, I notice that everyone has left even Les and James and I am standing on the stage alone with just the award for company. The truth suddenly hits me, in actual fact I have nothing.
- Daily Prompt: I’d Like to Thank My Cats (dailypost.wordpress.com)
My stomach begins to churn as I pull into Kings Drive, the last time I was here I met with… Daniel. The closer I get to the drive of number four, the slower I drive. I don’t want to be here, I should have taken Les up on his offer to show the decorator round himself but it’s my first day back in the office since… then. I didn’t want to let Les down any further.
As my car rolls onto the drive, I hold back the tears in my eyes and take a deep breath. I need to remind myself that this isn’t about Daniel, Daniel won’t even be here. This viewing is purely professional; this is just another day at the office.
I collect my handbag and the property keys from the passenger seat and open the car door. As I make my way to the front door, I see an old white van with ‘SS Decorators’ written on the side, pull up outside the front garden. The wheels scratch along the kerb as the tyres mount the pavement, I wave at the gentleman behind the wheel and manage to force out a smile.
I make my way to the front door and start fumbling around with the keys. I can hear the gentleman’s footsteps pat up the drive behind me and I turn to face him. I hold my hand out in front of me and he shakes it with an extremely firm grip. I feel the roughness of his hands and the power behind the shake, which pulls my arm at an awkward angle.
‘Hi, Katrina Hunter.’ I pull my hand back out of his grip and continue with my search for the correct key.
I would imagine that Steve Smith would describe himself as ‘a bit of a geezer’. He is rather short and must be in his late forties. He has a large pot belly hanging over his low waisted jeans and has paint and grease splatters covering his entire outfit. He smells like a mix of cigarettes, petrol and sweat; it’s not a pleasant concoction, especially after my recent 24 hour ice cream binge.
‘Shall we?’ I point towards the door and realise that I sound exactly like Daniel. I recall the first time I visited the property with Daniel but quickly snap out of my daydream when I catch another whiff of Mr Smith’s odour. I finally find the correct key and push open the front door.
‘Right love, I need about ‘alf an hour. Gotta get some quotes over to Mr Knight like yesterday. He’s quite a slave driver innit ‘e?’
‘I’m sure he has his reasons.’ I have to defend Daniel’s actions, he is doing this out of the kindness of his heart and it’s all for his lovely sister. This man has no idea; he doesn’t know Daniel at all.
‘I’ll do the downstairs first then we’ll go upstairs, eh?’ Mr Smith winks at me and I turn away pretending I didn’t see. What a repulsive man.
‘Ok I am just going to make a phone call, I won’t be long.’ I head out to the kitchen and place my handbag on the worktop. I don’t really have anyone to call, I need some time by myself and this way I won’t have to converse with Mr Smith any more than I have to.
As I remove my phone from my bag, I scroll through my apps but decide that being caught playing Candy Crush may not be the most professional thing I have ever done. Instead, I text a few of my friends with the ordinary conversation starters, such as ‘hey, how are you? x’ and ‘morning, hows things? x’. Ten minutes later I am still waiting for a reply so I decide to pop my phone back into my bag and find Mr Smith. When I look up from my bag, Mr Smith is standing right in front of me.
‘Shall we do the upstairs now?’
‘Yes, no problem.’ I follow behind Mr Smith, a few paces behind actually, it seems even the smell of this house cannot overpower his body odour.
I follow Mr Smith into the first bedroom; he looks the room up and down, then scrawls some notes onto his pad. Every so often he gets a calculator out of his pocket and starts typing out sums, I dread to think of the cost to redecorate all of this.
As we enter the third bedroom, I remember that this is the one I chose for little Luke’s room. I picture the walls covered in the red paint I had chosen and the large dinosaur motif I had found on the internet. I can feel the tears building up behind my eyes again and I shake my head to remove any thoughts of Daniel and his nephews from my mind.
Steve saunters out of the room and calls from the hall, ‘right, bathroom next?’
I decide to wait in the hall, I place my handbag on the floor and try to distract myself with the pattern in the artex ceiling. As I look up in the air I suddenly realise how odd I must look, if Mr Smith walks out and sees me staring at the ceiling he is going to think I have gone mad. I study the carpet pattern instead; whoever decorated this hall must have been seriously odd. I have been waiting on the landing daydreaming about new cream carpets for quite a while when Mr Smith shouts out from within the bathroom.
‘Right last bedroom, then we are done!’
Mr Smith joins me in the hall, then we both walk into the smallest bedroom. I make my way over to the large window that looks out onto Kings Drive, if I stand at exactly the right angle I can just about see number 1 from here. Just as I am admiring number one’s new hanging baskets, I feel hot breath on the back of my neck. I freeze, unsure of what to do.
‘Excuse me,’ I turn to face back into the room to see Mr Smith standing right in front of me. Has this man not heard of personal space before? ‘Have you finished now, Sir?’
I am cornered, I cannot move there are walls and a sweaty man blocking all of my escape routes.
‘No, I’m just getting started.’ Mr Smith pushes his body close to mine so I am forced to step back into the window pane, I feel the back of my head hit the glass. ‘Don’t be shy.’
I can feel his pot belly resting against the tops of my thighs and I try to slide out of his grip. ‘Sorry Sir but..’
He places his fat hairy finger over my lips and it leaves a salty taste behind.
‘That’s enough of that, now be a good girl and keep quiet.’ Mr Smith’s hand grabs onto my leg just above my knee, my entire body tenses and I inhale sharply. I try to squirm out of the gap between Mr Smith and the wall but his mass and strength has me pinned against the window. His hand begins to climb my leg and the roughness of his skin grates along me like sandpaper.
‘Mr Smith, no!’ I shout out.
‘What did I say, Miss Hunter?’ He uses his other hand to cover my mouth and pushes my head against the window. I try to pull his hand off of me but he is too strong, his other hand continues it’s journey up my leg.
I search inside my jacket for my phone but I realise I have left it in my handbag in the kitchen. Using both my hands, I manage to push Mr Smith’s hand off my leg but instead of deterring him it seems to encourage him and he returns his hand to a higher position on my thigh. As he is fumbling with the hem of my skirt I once again try to remove his other hand from my face but his strength continues to overpower me.
I hear the engine of a car outside and I scream to try and inform the passer-by of my situation. I know it is in vain though; my muffled screams are only just loud enough for Mr Smith to hear let alone someone outside of the property. Mr Smith’s hand slides under my skirt and I use my free hands to bang on the window.
‘Naughty,’ Mr Smith pushes me away from the window and against the nearest wall; I once again feel the pressure of his body pushing against me. ‘So the Hunter becomes the hunted, kind of ironic don’t you think?’
I continue to scream, despite Mr Smith’s hand covering my mouth and I almost give up hope when I hear footsteps echo down the hall.
What if every story didn’t end with the girl getting the guy?
What if our daughters didn’t enter womanhood believing that acquiring your Prince Charming was the only way to secure happiness?
Regina Spektor famously sung ‘I’m the hero of this story, I don’t need to be saved,’ and I can’t help but feel that women should be reminded of this, rather than led into the sad world of waiting for a man to rescue you. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with wanting to have companionship or experience love and my aim is not to make women with these aspirations feel guilty for doing so. After all it’s in our nature to want to be loved and who would want to go through life feeling lonely? What I am simply trying to say is, do we not feel that women of today would benefit from reading about female characters that have other goals too?
As a child I grew up with Disney princesses telling me that your aim in life should be to find your Prince Charming, then as I grew older Helen Fielding told me through the lips of Bridget Jones that without men you are sad and lonely, with just a tub of Ben & Jerry’s to comfort you. I find as a result of these stories, many women associate the success of their life with their marital status. Not only does this put men on a pedestal and give them a comparison that they cannot ever possibly live up to, but it also causes women to limit themselves greatly, associating other achievements outside of their relationships as minor successes.
I just want to read a book that tells me you can have happiness without meeting ‘the one’. I want to meet an author who isn’t scared of straying away from the standard novel layout of sad, single lady meets the guy, wants the guy, gets the guy. But without this format how would we write women’s fiction? What would our leading lady’s goals be without marriage and love in mind? How could we thrill the reader without the excitement and anticipation associated with courting? It all seems far too complicated for an unaccomplished author, like myself, to attempt so I spend hours rummaging through bookshop’s shelves looking for another female author who shares my ambition and has put it down on paper with success. Living in a modern world surrounded by successful women I didn’t think this was be a challenging task but my endless searching left me feeling disheartened that I would ever find such a book. It’s not that there is a lack of strong female characters out there but more the fact that their ‘girl power’ comes at a price. The characters are either career obsessed, feminism activists or change into the doting wife as soon as they meet the right man. When did female strength become so unattractive?
It wasn’t until I started sharing my ideas with my friends, family and colleagues that I started to be compared to the modern day Jane Austen, not through the quality of my writing, I’m not that pretentious, but rather through my authorial intent. I find it ironic however that two hundred years on from ‘Pride and Prejudice’, Elizabeth Bennett has failed to be resurrected in novels of today. Where’s the feisty, witty, intelligent character that many readers have come to love and aspire to? Why do I have to revisit Georgian England to find my idol? Shouldn’t the authors of today be able to create a lead woman with power, without making her a ball-breaker, ditsy or even worse a bra burning feminist?
I want to read a book where the woman knows what she wants and she isn’t too demure to say so. I want to read a book where a woman has sex freely without criticism and with characters she doesn’t plan on marrying. I want to read a book where feminism doesn’t mean throwing yourself in front of a horse but instead standing up for equality. I want to read a book where the woman has career success without destroying relationships in the process. Where can I find a book that has all these qualities I feel a modern day woman should have? Where can I find a book that shows a woman whose goal in life is to simply to be happy regardless of her marital status?
Simple, I am going to write one.