The Final Client of the Night
Maggie shifted in her office chair. Some clients were so miserable that the chair, a construction of metal and fake leather, felt like it was actually a thing of sweat and bony torture. It was made even worse because, according to the clock on the wall, it was 17:15: home time. She’d agreed to see Victor after five during a phone conversation in which he almost – so close, so close – had what sounded like a full-on, in bloom, all out panic attack. He had agreed that they would talk about good and not so good coping strategies. Fifteen minutes into Victor’s allotted fifty, and he had just about finished the clinic’s initial paperwork.
Victor passed the completed sheets to Maggie with a smile that made her feel attracted to him, whilst at the same time made her want to climb under the sturdiest piece of furniture in the office – a massive old desk – and hide.
Concentrate, Maggie, she told herself. Victor isn’t the first client to creep you out, and, unless you opt for early retirement, he certainly won’t be the last.
“You’ve put on your form that you suffer from seasonal affective disorder,” said Maggie. “How long have you had SAD?
Victor smiled his creepy smile. “About 20 years.”
“Really? How old were you?”
“Not so old … not so young.”
“But if it started 20 years ago, surely you must have been no older than 10!” Maggie exclaimed.
There was a pause, then Victor said, “I was not so young. I have been told that I look quite young for my age.
And what age would that be? Maggie thought, but didn’t ask. As if he was reading her thoughts, Victor smiled, and said, “I was taught that a gentleman should neither reveal his own age, nor ask a lady to reveal hers.”
“I see you’ve put your date and month of birth on the form, but not the year,” said Maggie.
“What are years? Once done with, they are largely irrelevant.”
Back to topic, Maggie, she thought.
“You’ve done something similar with your address. Do you really live in … “
Maggie stopped. Lots of people couldn’t spell the word “cemetery”.
Seeking safety, Maggie said, “If we can discuss what steps you have taken so far to lessen the impact SAD has had on your life?”
“I tried using a SAD lamp but it simply didn’t fit,” said Victor.
“It didn’t fit … you didn’t use a object which might have helped you because it didn’t fit with your décor?”
Victor smiled. “When I said the lamp didn’t fit, I meant that literally. My home is very small.”
“If it’s too small for a lamp I wonder you can fit anything in it.”
“It’s fairly minimalist,” Victor agreed.
“So is it a bedsit?” Maggie guessed. “A one bed flat?”
“It is a very small underground flat.”
Victor smiled. “Come, now, Margaret. We surely understand each other now.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” Maggie lied.
Victor’s voice was smooth as partially melted vanilla ice cream. “A small flat, on Cemetery Road? An underground flat? Dearest Maggie, do I really have to spell it out?”
Maggie said, “I’m not alone, you know. Alice the cleaner is at work in the other rooms. If you … try anything, I’ll scream, and Alice will hear me.”
“She would hear you, if she hadn’t died,” Victor replied. “And left the premises.”
“Which is true? Alice is dead, or Alice has left the building?”
Victor gave Maggie a toothy smile. “Why, both of course.”
Victor stood up. “She’s. a tasty little morsel. But she was merely a starter, whereas you my dear are destined to be a main course.”
“But I ate them!” the man in the clients’ chair wailed.
“I had sex with them – all of them!”
Maggie sighed. “So you were hungry, and a bit horny as well. Hey, we all gotta eat.”
She passed the tissue box to her now sobbing client.
“They were my family.”
“Yadda yadda yadda, … So how long ago was this?”
The man stopped crying long enough to say, “Three weeks. I thought we talked about this when I rang for an appointment.”
Maggie blinked, then said, “You expect me to remember every little detail.? Give me a break. Anyways … “Maggie swivelled her chair til she was facing the clock, “your 50 minutes are up.”
The client snuffled, but headed for the office’s door. Maggie followed him, and showed him the way out. Then she returned to reception, and the young man in the only occupied seat.
The man was dressed all in black, save his red turban. He had a full black beard, and a nervous smile.
Maggie also smiled, a smile so wide it threatened to fall off her face. It was almost seven in the evening, and Maggie was a bit peckish.
She also loved Indian takeaway.
– 30 –