Defiant in the DesertBy: Sharon Kendrick
‘THERE’S A MAN downstairs in Reception who says he wants to see you.’
‘Who is it?’ questioned Sara, not bothering to lift her head from the drawing which was currently engrossing her.
‘He wouldn’t say.’
At this Sara did look up to find Alice, the office runner, staring at her with an odd sort of expression. Alice was young and very enthusiastic, but right now she looked almost transported. Her face was tight with excitement and disbelief—as if Santa Claus himself had arrived early with a full contingent of reindeer.
‘It’s Christmas Eve afternoon,’ said Sara, glancing out of the window at the dark grey sky and wincing. No snow, unfortunately. Only a few heavy raindrops spattering against the glass. Pity. Snow might have helped boost her mood—to help shift off the inevitable feeling of not quite fitting in which always descended on her at this time of year. She never found it easy to enjoy Christmas—which was one of the main reasons why she tended to ignore the festival until it had gone away.
She pushed a smile to the corners of her mouth, trying to pick up on Alice’s happy pre-holiday mood. ‘And very soon I’m going to be packing up and going home. If it’s a salesman, I’m not interested and if it’s anyone else, then tell them to go away and make an appointment to see me in the new year.’
‘He says he’s not going anywhere,’ said Alice and then paused dramatically. ‘Until he’s seen you.’
Sara put her purple felt-tip pen down with fingers which had annoyingly started to tremble, telling herself not to be so stupid. Telling herself that she was perfectly safe here, in this bright, open-plan office of the highly successful advertising agency where she worked. That there was no reason for this dark feeling of foreboding which had started whispering over her skin.
But of course, there was...
‘What do you mean—he’s not going anywhere?’ she demanded, trying to keep her voice from rising with panic. ‘What exactly did he say?’
‘That he wants to see you,’ repeated Alice and now she made another face which Sara had never seen before. ‘And that he craves just a few minutes of your time.’
It was a word which jarred like an ice cream eaten on a winter day. No modern Englishman would ever have used a word like that. Sara felt the cold clamp of fear tightening around her heart, like an iron band.
‘What...what does he look like?’ she asked, her voice a croaky-sounding husk.
Alice played with the pendant which was dangling from her neck in an unconscious display of sexual awareness. ‘He’s...well, he’s pretty unbelievable, if you must know. Not just because of the way he’s built—though he must work out practically non-stop to get a body like that—but more...more...’ Her voice tailed off. ‘Well, it’s his eyes really.’
‘What about his eyes?’ barked Sara, feeling her pulse begin to rocket.
‘They were like...black. But like, really black. Like the sky when there’s no moon or stars. Like—’
‘Alice,’ cut in Sara, desperately trying to inject a note of normality into the girl’s uncharacteristically gushing description. Because at that stage she was still trying to fool herself into thinking that it wasn’t happening. That it might all be some terrible mistake. A simple mix-up. Anything, but the one thing she most feared. ‘Tell him—’