Home > Meet Me at the Cupcake Café (At the Cupcake Café #1)(11)

Meet Me at the Cupcake Café (At the Cupcake Café #1)(11)
Jenny Colgan

‘Mmm,’ said Helena non-committally. She had learned over the years not to diss any of Issy’s men; she often dragged them back in again, and that was uncomfortable for everyone.

‘He sounds like a bell end,’ said the young man.

‘Yeah!’ said Issy. ‘You sniff glue and even you know he’s a bell end.’

‘It’s lighter fluid actually.’

‘Well, you’re better off out of it all,’ said Helena. ‘You know you’re always saying you don’t like … being a medical student,’ she added quickly for the patient’s benefit.

‘You can only be better off out of it,’ said Issy, ‘if you have somewhere to be better off in. Whereas I’m looking at the most depressed job market for twenty years, no jobs in my sector even if the rest of the market was fine and …’ she dissolved into tears again, ‘I’m single again, Len! At thirty-one!’

‘Thirty-one is not old,’ asserted Helena firmly.

‘Come on. If you were eighteen you’d think it was old.’

‘It’s really old,’ said the young man. ‘And I’m twenty.’

‘And you won’t live to see thirty-one if you don’t stop your ridiculous habits,’ said Helena firmly. ‘So you keep out of it.’

‘I’d do you both though,’ he said. ‘So you don’t look that over the hill yet.’

Helena and Issy looked at each other.

‘See?’ said Helena. ‘Things could be worse.’

‘Well, it’s nice to know I’ve still got something to fall back on.’

‘And as for you,’ said Helena, finishing up his wound with an expertly applied pad and bandage, ‘if you don’t give up that stuff, you won’t be able to get it up for anyone. Not me, not her, not Megan Fox, do you understand?’

For the first time, the young man looked frightened.

‘Really?’

‘Really. You might as well lop your bollocks off for all the good they’ll do you.’

The young man swallowed. ‘It’s time for me to get off the stuff anyway.’

‘I’d think so, wouldn’t you?’ Helena handed him the card of the local cessation project. ‘On your way. Next!’

A worried young woman ushered in a toddler with his head crammed in a saucepan.

‘That really happens?’ said Issy.

‘Oh yes,’ said Helena. ‘Now, Mrs Chakrabati, this is Issy. She’s a medical student, do you mind her sitting in?’

Mrs Chakrabati shook her head. Helena leaned down.

‘Ravi, I cannot believe you are in here again. You are not a pirate, understand?’

‘I-is-pirate!’

‘Still, this is better than the cheesegrater, remember?’

Mrs Chakrabati nodded fervently as Helena went searching for the castor oil.

‘Len, I’d better go.’

Helena looked up sympathetically. ‘You sure?’

Issy nodded. ‘I know I stormed out, but I need to go and … well, at least find out about my redundancy payment and stuff.’

Helena gave her a hug.

‘It’s going to be fine, you know. Fine.’

‘People say that,’ said Issy. ‘What if, sometimes, it doesn’t turn out fine?’

‘I will fight them with my pirate things!’ shouted Ravi.

Issy crouched down and spoke to the saucepan.

‘Thank you, sweetheart,’ she said. ‘It might come to that.’

Walking back into the office again was nearly unbearable. Issy felt so nervous and ashamed.

‘Hey,’ she said sadly to Jim on reception.

‘I heard,’ said Jim. ‘I’m really sorry.’

‘Me too,’ said Issy. ‘Oh well.’

‘Come on, love,’ he said. ‘You’ll find something. Better than this place, I’m sure.’

‘Hmm.’

‘I’ll miss your cakes.’

‘Well, thank you.’

Issy bypassed the second floor and went on up to the top, straight to Human Resources. She didn’t think she could face talking to Graeme again. She checked her phone for the ninth time. No texts. No messages, nothing. How could this be happening to her? She felt like she was walking in a dream.

‘Hello, Issy,’ said Callie Mehta softly, looking immaculate as ever in a soft fawn suit. ‘I’m sorry. This is the worst part of my job.’

‘Yeah, and mine,’ said Issy stiffly.

Callie lifted out a file. ‘We’ve worked out a package that’s as generous as we can be … Also, as it’s the beginning of the year, we thought rather than working out your notice, if you like you can take your full holiday entitlement and we’ll continue paying for that.’

Issy had to admit that seemed quite generous. Then she cursed herself for falling for it. Callie probably trained for this kind of thing all the time.

‘And here … if you like, and it’s completely up to you, we’re funding resettlement courses.’

‘Resettlement courses? That sounds a bit sinister.’

‘It’s like a training and guidance course, to help you figure out … where next.’

‘To the dole queue in this climate,’ said Issy tightly.

‘Issy,’ said Callie, kindly but quite firmly. ‘Can I just tell you … in my career I’ve been made redundant three times. It is upsetting but, I promise, it’s not the end of the world. Something always comes up for the good people. And you’re one of the good people.’

‘That’s why I’m out of a job,’ said Issy.

Callie frowned slightly and put her finger on her forehead.

‘Issy, I’m going to tell you this, from what I’ve observed … it may not be welcome, but I hope you don’t mind, just in case it helps.’

Issy sat back. This was like being told off by the headmistress. While simultaneously losing the ability to buy food.

‘I’ve noticed you around. You’re obviously bright, you’ve got a degree, you’re pleasant to the people you work with …’

Issy wondered where this was going.

‘Why are you just an office administrator? I mean, look at the salesmen, they’re younger than you but they’re driven, and committed … You have talents and skills but I just don’t see where they’ve been used with you running around chasing up expenses and timesheets. It’s like you just wanted to hide away doing something safe and a little dull, hoping nobody would notice you.’

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