‘I don’t want to go to school today. I don’t feel well.’ The whining voice perforated Anna’s morning meditations, disturbed her hard-fought inner peace. She took a deep breath and carefully started to emerge from under the apex of her meditation pyramid.
‘I know darling. But you have to go.’
‘But I hate it. No-one likes me and I don’t understand what’s going on most of the time.’
‘Yes but, there are some things in life you just have to do. Work is one of them.’ Shaking out her tense knees, Anna stood up and walked tenderly over to her husband. ‘I know you don’t like your job but we need the money.’ She reached up to stroke his bearded face but all she got in reply was a petulant frown.
‘It’s alright for you.’ Jake pouted. ‘You like your job. You just don’t understand.’
Anna’s heart sunk. He’d forgotten. Sometimes she felt like she didn’t exist for him as more than a support mechanism. She stepped back and turned away, starting to get dressed as a way of distracting herself from his lack of attention. With little real hope, she wondered if he would realise before she actually left the house. But when she turned back he had gone, only an empty space of misery remained, the front door banged behind him and the house was silent apart from Anna’s near-tearful breathing.
Half an hour later Anna was ready to set off for her new job. She walked out of her house, turning left instead of her habitual right, away from the business parks and towards the centre of the city. A shiver of trepidation ran through her, an awareness of the large bags under her eyes from her sleepless night, a fear of the unknown.
This new job had been spun to her as a good thing, a promotion into a highly specialised part of the organisation she worked for. It was a secret, well-paid, good prospects type of opportunity of the kind that doesn’t come along very often, if at all. Anna had said yes without the luxury of thought, she’d felt that she had no choice given the enthusiasm and firm direction of her manager, but ever since that day, only a few weeks ago, she had regretted that she hadn’t at least had a night to consider.
Rumours were all there were, but rumours were enough to unsettle.
For a start the location of the factory was an anomaly. Nearly all economic, education, retail, practical activity went on in the specially built and security maintained business parks that ringed the residential areas. In the centre of the city only chaos remained. Anna had seen the web footage: the collapsed buildings, pot-holed roads, vegetation forcing nature through concrete, rusted wrecks of cars and machinery. And then there were the people: those who couldn’t afford to move out when the economic collapse came, the mentally ill, the old and infirm, the odd. The collapse had caused a situation where, once the weak recovery finally stuttered into life, it was more cost-effective to rebuild on new land and simply abandon the inner city to whoever could cope with it. That strategy had the added bonus of leaving the residential and business areas free of undesirables.
And then there was the nature of the role she was being asked to fulfil. It was incredibly vague. All she knew was that they were looking for a problem solver, a new way of looking at things, and that she had been recommended by someone anonymous but influential. The rest, she’d been told by the blank-faced HR representative, she would find out when she arrived.
It was all very disconcerting.