Fiction for your Friday, courtesy our friends at Litro, London’s free monthly literary mag.
In this, Litro’s debut on Londonist, we bring you an excerpt from Deborah Nash’s ‘Triumph’, published in the magazine’s recent ‘Revolutions’ issue. Although of a different era, the setting of Nash’s story – an oppressive office, its inhabitants blockaded off from the bustle and life of the London streets, with an undercurrent of economic unease and disparity – may seem familiar...
Charlotte reached Bedford Street in the rain, unlocked the peeling door of number 42 and rustled up the staircase. She had climbed these stairs for half a century – knew how her small unit worked – the toilets were off on the right, a continuum of boxy offices to the left and a staircase opening out on to the corridor. Where this staircase led to, she had no idea, and she was unable to connect the rows of windows above and below her floor to actual rooms. The building was an enigma; vast and impenetrable, even to Charlotte, it dominated the street. How long she had worked there, dear god, how long. It had used her up, this building, these rooms, used her up and dried her out.
Charlotte shook herself free of her cape and bonnet and had just picked up a handful of skirt to remove a mud stain when Isabelle Rose glided in. Isabelle Rose, girl in a dream, all peaches and cream, all frothy and pinky in white lace and curls in a chignon.
“Morning Charlotte,” she sang. “Stepped in a puddle did we?”
Her heart-shaped face squeezed into a smile but Charlotte felt no inclination to reply. “It gets worse, I’m afraid: Mr Guest wants to see you in the board room straight away.”
Charlotte let go of her skirt and pulled back a greying thread of hair. She turned her back and looked at her reflection in the mirror on the door, tidying herself.
“Wants to see me instead of you, that does make a change.”
Isabelle Rose wagged the perfect egg of her head and sat down by the window in what had once been Charlotte’s seat, but which she had given up as the newcomer suffered from claustrophobia.
“Comes to work here, where there’s no room to swing a cat, suffering from claustrophobia. Ha!” Julia had ejaculated.
That was the beginning of it, Charlotte decided – the disruption had begun with the chairs, and from then on everything else about Isabelle-Rose, from her lace to the scent of lavender and vanilla that clung to the place, even in her absence – everything was upset, unmoored, adrift. The chair that had always been Charlotte’s and the view from the window onto the street and the heavy brick offices – all this had been taken by the newcomer.
“We are being watched,” remarked Isabelle Rose, tipping a finger at the window...
Click through to continue reading ‘Triumph’, or look for the latest issue of Litro outside of various Underground stations, in libraries, galleries, bars, cafes and other venues in the Capital and beyond.