“Come in, PJ.”
Someone sounded like they’d had a rough weekend, but as PJ didn’t care in the slightest,she didn’t ask. Moving to the chair opposite Derrick’s desk, she sat down. Being a classic egotistical office maniac, he sat staring at her from a vantage point at least six inches higher, and he was in no hurry at all as he casually slid a piece of paper across the desk.
“You leave tomorrow at ten, flying straight into Hong Kong. I’ve rescheduled two of the four meets for you there. The other two are in Hunan, but you’ll have to get an emergency visa from the New Zealand Embassy before you can fly on to China, and that might take a week.”
Derrick smiled, sneered, something happened to his face that she couldn’t quite figure out.
“There might be some issues with the domestic tickets Josh had organized. They weren’t overly keen to transfer them over to you, but I guess you’ll just have to deal with that shit when you’re there.”
With a sense of mounting dread, PJ scanned the list of flights and locations in front of her, but after the third unrecognizable place name she gave up, folding the itinerary in half. The last thing she wanted to do was look at Derrick because she’d never been good at hiding her emotions, and right now her contempt for him would be written all over her face.
She honestly hated the man. At every opportunity over the last year he’d made her life a misery, and she didn’t understand why. She worked hard, was good at her job, and didn’t cause friction in the office, which left her wondering if it was as simple as a personality clash. This last instalment though went further than that; it was vindictive. He knew he was setting her up to fail, at the expense of her career and the companies, but maybe he just didn’t care. There’d been rumours when he’d taken over that he was a risk taker. This wasn’t a risk though; this was a power trip, plain and simple.
Resigned to her fate, PJ stood up, intending to leave. The gentle thud of something hitting his desk had her looking back to find the company expense card sitting just out of her reach.
“I’m not sure what the limit is on that, but I guess you’ll find out when it stops working.”
Something constricted in her chest. “Are you … serious?”
She didn’t want to touch the card as he nudged it closer with the tip of his pen.
“Would be funny if I wasn’t, wouldn’t it?”
Without even waiting for her reply, Derrick turned back to his laptop, his fingers already racing over the keys while she stood there, utterly stunned by his arrogance. The tears were welling just like they had when she’d found Sam’s tie in her knicker draw this morning, but again she forced her emotions down. Sam didn’t deserve them and Derrick was a fuckwit. Both of them could go to hell.
For the next two hours, PJ trawled through Josh’s notes, desperately trying to familiarize with her new client, but by lunchtime she was none the wiser. At least twelve files lay sprawled across her desk; not counting the one that was wedged between the wall and the filing cabinet.
Spinning around, PJ found Alice, the only person in the office who could appreciate what she was going through because Derrick had targeted her too.
“You need a break and we need to talk.”
Grabbing PJ’s hand, Alice practically dragged her down the hall and out the door.
“I just heard about Sam. Why didn’t you call me?”
It wasn’t like PJ hadn’t thought about it several times over the weekend, but Alice had only just clawed her way through her own devastating breakup, the situation almost exactly the same. The last thing PJ wanted was to trigger any sort of meltdown.
“You know why. It’s taken you months to get over Reid and what he did. I would never expect you to just sit there and listen to me rant on about how I never saw it coming or how much it hurts.” And it did.
“I don’t care. You should have called me. I would have come and drunk vodka with you and watched stupid eighties movies like we did after Reid screwed …” Alice teared up just like PJ knew she would.
“I’m fine Babe, really. You know as well as I do that things weren’t perfect. If we had ever managed to make it down the aisle, it would probably have ended in divorce so I suppose I should be thankful.”
“Oh no you don’t.” Stopping abruptly in the middle of the footpath, Alice turned to face PJ, all wild blonde hair and big blue eyes. “This is his fault and that fucking bitch-whore, who you should have ditched years ago. Don’t you dare make this about you.”
Smiling because she just couldn’t help it, PJ pulled Alice into a hug. “What am I going to do without you for three weeks?”
Alice laughed. “What am I going to do without you? The bastards going to be a nightmare.”
“We should leave, both of us at the same time when I get back from China.”
That comment had Alice stepping back to take a long, hard look at PJ.
“I will if you will. I fucking hate it here.”
That was all it took for PJ to feel the first real sense of hope she’d felt in days.
“Right then, let’s grab a coffee and figure out how to destroy the prick before we leave.”
Tuesday November 7th
At six am, on the dot, PJ stood, squinting up at the departure screen inside the International Departures lounge. Tiny numbers floating across the page too fast for her to read, but it was the shooting pain that followed that had her flinching, the first tell-tale sign of a migraine, or maybe she just needed a coffee?
Heading for the nearest stand, she ordered a latte, grabbing her phone while she waited. It was tempting to ignore it for the next twenty-one days, but PJ couldn’t. After her and Alice’s very enlightening conversation yesterday, she had headed back to the office, slightly more optimistic about her future. She’d even managed to sort through some of Josh’s documents, but when the opportunity to leave early and meet a client had arisen, she taken it, not returning to the office afterwards.
Now she was going to have to pay the price. Switching on her phone, she waited while five messages, all from Derrick, dropped into her inbox. Reluctantly she opened the first one.
‘Where are you?!!!’
The second—‘Call me. We have details to discuss!!!’
The third message she deleted, utterly offended after the second line. The forth went the same way as the third and by this point her head was pounding, yet still managed a snigger at the fifth, which was such a literal masterpiece, she saved it while accepting her coffee.
Gulping down a mouthful, PJ headed for the newsagent across the terminal to get some painkillers. The bright fluorescent lights were forcing her to wince just to take the edge off, and she would have given anything at this point for the loud droning voice announcing the new arrivals to shut the fuck up.
As she moved closer to the counter, PJ searched her handbag, once again finding everything except her wallet. She didn’t want to hold anyone up, but she really needed the drugs. When it was her turn, she took drastic means, emptying the contentsof her bag in a neat pile. After the phone and chewing gum came keys and her makeup bag. Hair ties and notebook followed, then some tissues minus their cellophane wrapper, before finally she found her wallet. Grabbing it, she was just about to start loading everything back in when a tentative little hand landed on hers.
“You want me to check that for you?”
Glancing up PJ met sparkling green eyes framed behind retro inspired glasses, the flared points disappearing into coiled grey hair.
“Oh no, it’s used, I can throw it in the rubbish.” Grabbing the discolored tissue between her fingers, PJ wedged it in her pocket.
“No, Love, the Lotto ticket.” Flicking a second tissue aside, the shop assistant exposing the crumpled Lotto ticket.
“Sure, why not?” While PJ dug out a twenty-dollar note, the little lady turned back to her computer, flattening out the corners of the ticket before she fed it into her machine. For several seconds, her fingers raced over the keys then very slowly she leaned closer to the screen.
“Are you traveling alone?”