"Little white flowers have no hope of waking you
Not where the black coach of sorrow has taken you."
Mornings were always hard for Georgia Johnson.
She hated waking up in that big, plush, soft double bed, tangled around the cream-coloured sheets, and rolling over, expecting, in her semi-conscious drowsiness, to see a pair of sleepy hazel eyes gazing at her in all her rumpled morning glory, only to find herself perfectly alone, and the other side of the bed quite empty. On the bedside table sat a framed photograph of the missing entity – a man, blonde and very attractive with eyes like pools of chocolate, smiling shyly at the camera. Next to him, her pale, freckled arm looped around his neck, was Georgia herself with a slightly goofier expression, and looking nowhere near as model-like as her fiancé, the lovely Johnny. Georgia's olive green eyes were set contently on the camera lens, strands of her orange hair dancing about her shoulders as the photo was taken, immortalising the happiest day of her life.
That photo had been taken in Hyde Park, on the day Johnny proposed. You could see the glint of the modest diamond on the platinum ring on Georgia's left hand. The ring had not moved from its position since her beloved had placed it there two Aprils ago, and Georgia was convinced that it never would, even though she would never get to replace it with the gold band of the married woman.
Unable to lounge in bed and stare at the picture any longer without bursting into tears (a habit she realised she really needed to get out of), Georgia hauled herself out of bed, kicking off a lingering sheet which had wrapped itself around her ankle, and stumbled to look at herself in the full-length, oval-shaped mirror which flanked her wardrobe. A split-second glance was enough to ascertain that she looked as awful as she felt that morning. Her flame-coloured hair, a characteristic of her Irish roots, was dishevelled and unkempt, definitely in need of some serious attention to get it back to the wavy, fluffy state she was accustomed to. Her freckly face was blotched and streaked from one of her midnight crying sessions and the tired, puffy redness was a sure sign that she needed to do two things fast – cheer up and get more sleep. However, a Friday morning left no scope for the latter, and the former seemed equally unlikely to occur – not unless her dead fiancé was planning on waltzing through the door, sweeping her up and kissing her senseless.
It took a few seconds for Georgia to realise she was gazing expectantly at the door, as if Johnny really was about to make an appearance. Thoughts like that certainly weren't healthy. Giving herself a hard mental shake, she made a hearty attempt to pull herself together and get ready for work. Even going through her normal morning routine seemed like such effort since Johnny had died.
Half an hour, an invigorating cup of coffee and a bowl of apple muesli later, after grooming herself thoroughly and donning some freshly laundered clothes, Georgia once again felt human and able to face the day that lay ahead. The weather was bright and golden outside, and as Georgia left her cosy suburban house on London's outskirts to drive to her job in the famous West End Piccadilly Theatre – an employment all considered to be glamorous until she clarified that rather than being a stage star or even a backstage technician, she worked in the administration office as an assistant to the manager of finance. When people asked what such a job truly entailed, she would reply in a most deadpan manner, "Basically, I'm an underpaid accountant."
While most workers found Monday mornings to be the most dreaded times of the week, Georgia despaired on Fridays. The thought of two whole days of freedom usually made folk gleeful, but the thought of two days alone in her firmly Johnny-less house gave Georgia a sinking feeling in her stomach. She didn't get around much anymore. Mondays were greatly preferable – they meant five full days of occupation to keep her mind off the aching, dull pain that had inhabited her torso for almost a year now. Of course, the sharpness and severity of the pain was on a slow but certain decline, but this was a small comfort to the disconsolate Georgia.
However, she was feeling fairly positive today, which was always a good thing. A strong will was required to face being stuck in an office with her ice-queen of a boss, April Nightingale, all day. April was a forty-something, peroxide blonde woman with red-rimmed spectacles and a fondness of tight black clothing (often faded from over-washing), despite her less-than-svelte figure. She wasn't mean, just cold and seemed to care about nothing but her work and the flashy red convertible she ostentatiously parked in between the beat-up hatchbacks and dilapidated aging saloons belonging to the rest of the staff. Georgia herself drove an old burgundy Rover which she'd had for years. Its exhaust puttered now and then and occasionally it would be a tad reluctant to start on a frosty winter morning, but all things considered, it served her well. Nonetheless, she did feel a bit doleful whenever she was forced to park the ancient motor next to April's sleek sports car. She must have a really rich husband or something, Georgia thought to herself as she pulled into the theatre's small car park. There's no way her wage could be big enough to cover the expense of one of those things.
Work was the same ol' same ol' – the mothers of the department chatting amicably about the antics of their offspring, the broody single women glowering jealously at them from behind their computer screens, and the jack-the-lad guys making small talk about football and the best bars in town. Amongst all the good-natured departmental banter sat April, scarlet spectacles firmly affixed to her nose, peroxide hair as pin-straight as ever. She didn't seem to even register Georgia's entrance, so firmly was she concentrating on tapping away figures into her spreadsheets and already munching away on her pre-packed salad despite it being only nine-thirty in the morning. Georgia knew this to be her way of forgiving herself for the greasy bacon butty she would no doubt succumb to come lunchtime. To each their own, she supposed, as she bade her colleagues good morning and settled herself at her desk behind April's. No sooner had she taken off her coat than her boss was spinning around in her swivel chair to issue her instructions.
"Georgia, good, you're here. I have calculated the figures for last month's takings; could you please check the calculations and input them into a presentable spreadsheet format so I can discuss them with Mr. Berkeley in this afternoon's meeting?"
Georgia agreed and smiled placidly, a gesture that was rather wasted on April anyway. Mr. Berkeley was the bigwig of the theatre, and all decisions were made by him. A short, bald-headed man who reminded Georgia more than a little of Austin Powers' Dr. Evil, Mr. Berkeley was a good boss. He paid his employees fairly and was understanding when it came to requesting leave. Georgia considered herself lucky to have such a pleasant and considerate boss, even if he tended to be a little creepy-looking, through no conscious decision of his own.
Opening up April's dossier of figures and pulling her calculator from her desk drawer, Georgia threw herself into her mind-numbing work. Most people hated such tasks, but Georgia took some comfort in the simplicity and found it easy to engross herself in it. The numbers filled her brain so there was no room for her mind to stray to other things… such as Johnny. She knew that she needed to move on – in the bottom of her heart she knew it, she just didn't know how, or what the way forward was. The sad truth is that life tends not to simply present opportunities to those who sit and await them, but hide them, so that only when one dives head first into the tumultuous ocean of the big wide world can they be found.
Absorbed in her checking of April's calculations and inputting the data into her computer, the morning passed quickly and it was soon lunchtime. Georgia had lacked the energy this morning to prepare herself a salad for lunch, so a trip over the road to Marks & Spencer's was required to hunt out some costly, but tasty, sustenance.
It was mid-May, but the wind whipped coldly about London, so Georgia donned her coat and ventured out into the street. Returning fifteen minutes later with a crisp chicken Caesar salad and a bottle of vitamin water, she ensconced herself in her little office cubbyhole to enjoy her lunch, and was about to break into the pre-packaged meal when her office phone rang. Georgia spluttered with surprise on a mouthful of vitamin water, but cleared her throat in time to answer.
"George, it's Friday and you're coming out with me tonight," the firm, decisive voice of Georgia's best friend Willow sounded in her ear. It was a statement, not a question.
Oh, great, clubbing. Not exactly Georgia's idea of a fun night out. She tried to protest, but Willow was having none of it.
"No, Georgia. You've been moping around that lonely old house for far too long now. It is non-negotiable. You're coming out."
It was clear that Georgia was going to be unable to make some excuse and brush Willow off this time, so she grudgingly made reluctant plans to meet her at ten o'clock outside a club called Whisper, and regretted it as soon as she'd hung up the phone.
The morning had passed so quickly, but the afternoon dragged now that Georgia knew what her evening entailed. Not only did she have the worry of finding something both glitzy and fashionable to wear (her wardrobe was long in need of updating), she also knew exactly what was going to happen out on the town tonight, and it promised no more fun than a miserable night watching Titanic alone and eating a fat Chinese takeaway, sobbing her eyes out not only over the tragic ending, but over her own loss. She knew exactly how Rose in the film felt when she lost her Jack.
A typical night out with Willow almost always ended in Georgia feeling like the third wheel. Willow was tall, black and sexy, with legs that all the men slathered over and curves to kill for. She made no qualms about showing off her body, and was seldom seen without a short skirt or a tight-fitting dress. She lived by the saying "If you've got it, flaunt it", hence inspiring jealousy in women wherever she meant, and pulled guys left, right and centre. The evening would usually end with Willow taking off for some alone time with whoever she'd picked up, abandoning Georgia and leaving her to fend for herself in the big, loud clubs she really wasn't very fond of. Being there with Willow made her feel like 'the ugly friend' only brought along to make the other look even more attractive, and being there alone made her feel like a little lost lamb.
Willow insisted that Georgia possessed the potential to have pulling power that matched her own, that she had killer legs, standout hair and eyes that seemed to glow in club lighting, but Georgia was certain that she was just saying that to make her feel better. Nobody would look at a pale, freckly ginger Irish girl when there was flamboyant, glamorous, and indisputably striking Willow stood by her side. It was senseless.
Nonetheless, it would be nice to be in Willow's company for a while that night, so Georgia did her best to banish all negative brooding from her mind and finish her work in time for April's meeting with the boss.