Beat The Clock!
It was a wake-up call and I was going to heed it, even if I happened to make an enemy or two on the way…
A tale with a twist
My heart almost stopped with shock. There, right in front of me, was my gravestone. This must be some kind of joke. Yet who would be so cruel?
The deep gold lettering spelled out my name, Brenda Ann Pickles; my date of birth; and the date of my death in 2020. The wording ended simply: RIP. I frowned. RIP? That was a bit general. I hadn’t married, and there were no kids or grandkids, but I’m fully devoted to my career. I’ve worked for the same company for almost thirty-five years. I’d hoped for more than RIP from my close band of colleagues – this was a lasting memorial, after all.
Plus, I have a group of loyal friends. We’d first met decades ago, when we were fresh-faced kids starting out.
I’m only sixty-two. I don’t want to die in two years time! I blinked back tears.
Of course, my gravestone didn’t state the cause of death. I suspected a cardiac arrest. But there wasn’t a blasted thing I could do about it!
Hmm, I mused. Maybe there was… what was stopping me from losing weight, cutting down on the booze, and visiting the gym more often? Nothing!
I was determined to stop at nothing to get that 2020 date removed.
Three months later, and everyone had noticed the change in me. Thanks to reducing the fat and sugar in my diet and regular sessions at the gym, I’d lost weight. I’d stopped drinking too.
On nights out, I drank soft drinks. It raised a few eyebrows, yet I felt so much better for it.
I treated myself to a sassy cut and colour, beauty treatments, and a host of outfits that flattered the new me. My complexion was glowing, my hair was glossy – I oozed glamour and confidence.
I really hoped all this effort would impress management. I realised my role wasn’t based on appearance, yet I hoped a change of image would influence their approach.
Then one morning I was in a cubicle in the ladies when I overheard a conversation between two new recruits. I’d been introduced to them, yet their names escaped me. They were clearly talking about me.
“She’s trimmed down, toned up and cut out the booze, but sadly, no health kick in the world can stop the march of time,” one began. There was a touch of empathy in her tone.
“It’s pathetic,” the other spat. “The next thing on her list will be a toy boy. Well, she can keep her claws off my Dan.”
Ah – so the rookie had got close to young Dan, who worked alongside me. With his deep blue eyes, muscular frame and dark wavy hair, he’d amassed a fair few admirers. Gossip was rife here. I assumed that’s why Dan had asked Miss Vile to keep their relationship secret.
Yet she had no reason to see me as a threat. I’ve no interest in looking for love.
“She’s desperate to keep her job,” Miss Empathy said. “I can’t really blame her, with these rumours flying around.”
“They want bright young things,” Miss Vile stated. “Like me.” I imagined her preening in the mirror. “One day, Marnie, you’ll be in your sixties too and –” Miss Empathy was rudely interrupted. “Oh shut up! Have you fixed your lipstick? Good. Let’s grab a coffee,” Miss Vile instructed.
I waited until they’d left, then crept out.
Idecided to sneak back to where I’d seen my gravestone. It was still there, propped up in prime position. It still read 2020.
My blood pumped with anger. This was so unfair! So I raced to the meeting and burst through the office door. “Please don’t kill Brenda!” They looked up, startled. “I’ve seen her grave in the props room,” I explained. The TV producer nodded. “We were considering it. But then the scriptwriting team created a new storyline. Marnie’s character will die tragically in a car accident. And Brenda, as a sexy cougar, is going to become involved with Pete.” Dan played Pete. I grinned. All that hard work ramping up the glamour had paid off. Being a soap opera actress is the best job ever!