‘Meike, we need to have a word.’ The Nymph closes the office door behind her and invites me with a stern nod of her head to sit down on the sofa. She settles down opposite me in the chair. From her voice I can tell that this is going to be a serious conversation.
She clears her throat. ‘Why wasn’t I nominated for a Best of 2016?’
For a split second I’m confused, while she continues:
‘James got a prize. Anthony got a prize. Even Baby Tamu,’ she rolls her eyes in utter disbelief, ‘received a prize. The only one who was left standing in a corner empty-handedly was me.’
The coin has dropped. She’s talking about our own Best of 2016 Awards. I laugh. ‘Peirene, there is really no need to be envious. These awards aren’t to be taken seriously. They are just a way for me to highlight our achievements of this past year.’
But Peirene is not in a jokey mood. ‘This can’t just be shrugged off. Awards are awards. Last year I received the ‘Best Nymph’ award. That was the least I expected this year too.’
‘Last year I struggled to fill the ten nominations,’ I admit. ‘This year we had so much more to celebrate: breach and The Cut, our first Booker nomination, the kickstarter campaign, the EU Open letter and our work with Counterpoints Arts. All new things. All so exciting. We’ve expanded our work considerably in 2016.’
Peirene leans back, folding her arms and crossing her legs. The tip of her right foot is kicking the air as she is obviously trying to reflect on what I just said.
‘I’m still not happy,’ she doesn’t lift her gaze. ‘Of course you are right to celebrate our new achievements. They show our commitment that good literature should engage with society. Still, you can’t just ignore my tender, artistic soul that yearns for public acknowledgement too.’
In the silence that ensues I become aware of my emerging guilt feelings. When I drew up the nomination list, I noticed the absence of Peirene. Suddenly I have an idea. I lean over to her and whisper:
‘How about this: Our office Christmas party is coming up on Wednesday. I will get pink Champagne and draw up a little speech in honour of your artistic soul and its inspirational powers. But you are not allowed to breathe a word to the Peirene team. Deal?’
Peirene’s face brightens like the rising sun. ‘Deal! And what a brilliant excuse to go to the hairdresser and maybe even buy a dress worthy of the occasion.’