In fact, I was gone for five days. I had discussed my absence with her before. She had agreed. She’d be running the show in the office, she said.
I carry my suitcase inside and close the door behind me.
‘I told you I’d be back on Saturday afternoon. And here I am.’
‘You disappear to “write.”’ She mimes quotation marks with her fingers in the air. ‘No internet. No phone. 30 messages on the answering machine, two hundred e-mails, the 2016 programme not yet sorted. And look at that huge pile of post. Your behaviour is outrageous.’
She glares at me furiously, blocking my way. There is part of me that would love to walk straight out of the door again and return to the cottage in Norfolk I had rented to make headway with my next novella.
Instead I take a deep breath. ‘Let’s have a cup of tea.’ I usher the Nymph into the kitchen.
‘So what’s the real issue?’ I ask as we are sitting down at the table.
‘The work that has piled up while you are away,’ she insists.
I pour the tea and shake my head. ‘No, Peirene. I don’t believe you. We both knew that that would happen and we also know that we can handle it. So, what’s really bothering you?’
She takes a sip of tea. ‘Ouch!’ She jams down the cup. ‘This tea is far too hot!’ she exclaims, looking at me accusingly. Then her lower lip begins to tremble.
‘Jen and Clara,’ she sobs. ‘They’ve been ghastly to me while you were away. Jen has now finalised the Roaming Store schedule up to Christmas. 43 stalls. Can you believe it. 43! And of course I have to be present at them.’ She shakes her head in despair. ‘And then Clara. She’s so excited. She has sent our next newspaper off to the printers and wants me now out and about with her every week distributing them at tube stations across London. They treat me like a slave. No! Worse. Much worse. Like a work horse! How utterly degrading for a Nymph.’
Peirene is dissolving into tears. I push my chair closer to her ‘Let me talk to Jen, ‘I put my arm around Peirene. ‘Perhaps she will agree to you taking a few days break.’
The sobbing subsides. The Nymph and I finish our tea in harmony: I feel proud of my team. Peirene, on the other hand, feels excited about shopping trips she will organize on her days off.
Image by Feliciano Guimaraes.