Valerie pushed away her uneaten prawn cocktail. It was a pre-packed lunch time treat she couldn’t really afford, but she had spotted this one in the reduced section at the supermarket and decided to indulge.
Wincing as the first spoonful of gone off, tangy seafood slid over her taste buds, she tried not to retch into the waste paper basket at her feet. She snatched for the glass of water, about to gulp down the contents but as she heard the door to reception slam, she froze.
Hearing the unmistakable footsteps of Mr Greaves as he panted up the stairs, she hastily buttoned her blouse up to her neck and gritted her teeth as dread slithered down her spine once again.
Squeezing his ego (which his straining three-piece suit couldn’t contain) through her office doorway, Valerie tried to not to grimace as that all too familiar crescent of success spread across her boss’s face. He turned his back to her as he hung his grey overcoat and matching hat on the mahogany coat stand, revealing his flaking scalp, like the remnants of porridge in a breakfast bowl turned inside-out. The crusty surface sprouted a thin circumference of yellow-grey hair, like watercress devoid of sunlight.
“John’s just bagged that deal for me. You know what that means don’t you, Val?” he drawled, as he moved, far too quickly, across the claustrophobic office.
Rifling through papers and envelopes, Valerie searched the desk for some means by which to distract him, knocking the thick amber glass ashtray onto the floor in doing so.
“Oopsie. Are you going to clear that up?”
Valerie cursed her clumsiness as she stooped down in front of him to gather the cigarette ends at his feet, resigning herself to the inevitability of his intentions, and frustrated for lacking the balls to stand up to him.
When she didn’t answer, he bent down towards her and stroked his hand down the side of her face, gently pulling her chin up to look at him. He repeated, “You know what that means, don’t you?” He pulled her upwards with him. “You lucky thing.”
Valerie felt the sour seafood sauce curdle in the back of her throat as his pudgy hand pressed into the small of her back, whilst his clammy fingertips hoped to caress her neck. Swallowing hard, she managed to emit a consenting moan like she always had to. Moist, hot, breath, thick with the stench of mushy peas, pie and gravy, crawled across her alabaster skin, repulsing it into hard goose bumps which he mistook for excitement.
“Ooo, it’s one of those days is it? Have you missed me?”
She squeezed her hands into tiny fists of disgust as he leant in closer to her, oozing the brown smell of stale smoke into her nostrils as she smiled back at him.
His hand bullied into her shirt, shoving past a fatigued bra as he probed, eel-like, for a hard nipple. Her unresponsive gland received an unforgiving twist; pinched into recognition of his manly attentions.
The trimmed, cigarette-stained moustache bristled across her face, grazing her repulsion into hatred, as his lips left a slug trail of saliva behind them, leaving it to go cold on her skin. She wrenched her eyelids apart, searching for some image of morality. She set on the mirror. To watch as her buffalo-backed gargoyle of a boss explored his grunting, leather-hoofed way around her body. His territory. But she would, because to watch was to keep it her own, to keep her control; her decision to lose her reality in the shallowness of 2D.
Life hadn’t always been so vile. Three years ago Valerie was an independent and enthusiastic young woman from a village just outside of Wakefield, Yorkshire. Leaving her dry stone walled, country lane lifestyle, she packed up her credentials and hit the big smoke for a career in publishing.
But London had consumed her, quashing her enthusiasm with its monotony of down-turned faces and loneliness, gradually engulfing her funds.
Barely managing to live off her menial wage as an editorial assistant for a failing publishing house, Valerie felt that her life deserved a little more of the glamour she used to enjoy. She decided to ask her boss, Mr Leonard, for a pay rise which she knew he wouldn’t give her, and then look for work elsewhere. Realising, one week later that she was pregnant, she knew she was stuck. Nowhere would employ a woman looking for maternity pay within a few months.
Mr Leonard, deemed to be doing the publishing house more harm than good, was soon asked to leave and was replaced by Mr Greaves. Valerie thought he seemed the type of man that she could get round with a cheeky smile every so often, and a man like that was exactly what she needed right now. Her hope for a wage increase didn’t seem quite so futile. Of course, Mr Greaves granted it, and in with her wage slip at the end of every month was an extra £50 cash; just enough to stabilise her finances. At the time it had struck Valerie as odd that the wage increase should be given as cash, but she didn’t question it. She had bigger things to worry about.
During the following seven long months, Valerie had been able to prepare fully for her baby, and had saved enough money to look after herself for a month after his birth. After that she wasn’t sure what she would do. Mr Greaves had the solution; he would give her an extra £100 a month so that she could afford a child minder and would still be able to work.
“Because what would I do without you, Val?”
There was no way she could refuse. Her parents were disgusted with her decision to keep the child and she had no other real family or friends to help her. Grateful to be able to keep her job, Valerie returned to work as soon as possible. That was when Mr Greaves reminded her that she owed him a “little favour”.
It began with lunch out; “accompanying him”, as he used to put it. Then he began to expect a kiss on the cheek whenever he came into the office, which she felt obliged to give him, all the more so because he would sulk if she didn’t. Fairly soon she was granting him any “favour” he wanted, as frequently as he wanted. She was getting used to it. She couldn’t afford not to.
His mouth plunged towards her; open, expectant of a warm, wet cavity for his microcosmic tool. She met the upper of the two flabby, offending articles with her incisors; hoping defence might be misjudged for foreplay.
“Feisty,” remarked Greaves.
She felt him poke against her leg as eager bubbles of saliva gathered at the corners of his mouth, anticipating what he knew she would eventually succumb to. She remembered the bulge that would seduce her: a fat wage slip.
He wormed his right knee in between her resistant legs, as she dug her clean, filed finger nails into her palms. He made no hesitation in clamping his sea-urchin flesh over her lips, and tentacled her gums with his stiff, pointed member.
She made a grab for his shoulders and forced herself to hang on.