Z is for Zen

NB: This post may contain offensive or inappropriate language.  But who cares?

It was my final day at work and I felt somewhat depressed.  The end of an era and a new start.  A new beginning that would hopefully see my son get through to the end of school.  I had my first meeting there this morning with Janice Armitage before I got to the office.  I got ready slowly, savouring the moment and applying more effort than usual.  Tomorrow I’d be would be working from home after my school visit and would be able to dress how I pleased. Hmm, maybe I could go all boho hippy or something and invent a new me for my new role...Nah, maybe not.

I made pancakes for the kids which was probably a mistake as I didn’t want them getting used to the idea. I left them in a warm oven whilst I opened the pile of letters on the side of the kitchen counter. Bills, bills, an invite to neighbourhood watch and then a complete and utter shock.  The letter was addressed in floaty style, italic font and gilt edged.  Maybe I’d won something?   I opened it up and began to read:

To Sophie Rhodes,

Receipt for booking of Heavenly spa Indulgence at Eden Hall.

Set within acres of luscious lawns this beautiful listed mansion, built in 1875 will be your sanctuary for the day. Whether you want to refresh and revive or unwind and relax, the first class facilities make sure all of your needs are met.

Whatever your pampering needs, escape to Eden hall for the perfect, peaceful getaway.

Includes 3 course meal at our beautiful restaurant and:

The relaxation day plus the Thalgo Indoceane Comforting Wrap. This is the ultimate therapy for those looking to pamper their skin. Enjoy soothing warm oils and light massage to the back and scalp followed by the application of a hydrating cream. Enveloped; drift away whilst these luxurious products hydrate and nourish the skin.

Paid in full: £161.00

What?  I hadn’t bought that!  I turned the letter over to see if they’d made a mistake or who it was from but there was nothing.  Just the letter, a booklet that made me want to head for Zen land right this second and a number for me to call to book my preferred day.  Who the hell was this from?  I put the letter in my bag so I could deal with it when I got to work. 

We got to school and I parked up outside whilst Bryony and Brendon went in together.  I made my way to reception to get my visitors pass.

“Hi” I said to the receptionist, “I’m going to be here pretty much every day for the next few weeks so can I just have a month’s pass or something?”

“No, sorry, It’s against our rules and regulations.  You need to sign in and out every time..Is it for Mrs Armitage?”

“That’s right.”  I replied.

She came down to collect me and we went upstairs to Base.  Brendon was already there removing all the white board pens.

“What are you doing?”  I asked.

“Stopping that freak boy from winding me up.” He replied.

I looked at Janice, puzzled.

“Yesterday, there was a pupil in here who was drawing on the white board.  It’s what he likes to do.  However, the pen was making a squeaking noise and Brendon didn’t like it.  He told him to stop but the boy refused so Brendon snatched it out of his hand, removed all other pens and forced the boy to leave.  Obviously it’s gone down as an incident.” She said.

“Brendon!  That’s nasty.  It’s not up to you what other people do.  Put those pens back now!” I scolded.

“No.  The noise does my head in. Not happening again.” 

“Brendon.” Said Janice, “I’ve made sure he won’t be in here when you are. Plus now your timetable is cut down, it won’t be a problem. Anyway, let’s go through lesson plan now it’s been set. “

We all sat down, Brendon still holding tight to the fat markers.   We went through the timetable and Brendon and I were made a copy. 

“He’s doing well in most subjects.” Janice said, going through the reports, “Though coursework needs updating.  He can use some free time at The Base to do that or at home.  He is being put straight in for  AS level for Ethics and philosophy because he’s extremely good at it.” 

I was surprised by that.  I couldn’t picture Brendon as a philosopher.  Maybe a professional hacker or a politician but a philosopher?” 

“Why do you like that so much?” I asked him.

“Because you can argue and debate and change people’s opinions.  There’s one girl in there that I hate though.  She’s as thick as fuck and needs to be removed.”

“Don’t be so rude and arrogant!”  I wished he’d be more tolerant of people but I could never see it happening.

“It’s true.  She’s stupid. I think my teacher even agrees.  He’s cool.”  It was rare I heard Brendon call a teacher cool.

“It’s the only lesson he’s never received a negative comment in, only positives.” Janice smiled.

Brendon was excused to go to his class and he put the pens in a cupboard high up that only he could reach before leaving.

“It’s OK we’ve got ladders.”  Janice said to me after he’d left.  “Sometimes it’s just not worth the argument.”

“I need to make this work Janice.  I’ve left my job for this and I want him to get his qualifications.” 

“We can do it.  If we stick together then we should get him through.  To be honest he has been relatively good lately, aside from the controlling and vigilante type behaviour, he hasn’t been that rude.  I think that being on Governors report has actually made him think. Not that he’d ever tell us that but he does raise his concerns with me sometimes.”

I was glad that he did.  Maybe things did seep through after all.   I arranged to see Janice the following day and so forth and left the school feeling quite positive.  However, I wasn’t going to hold my breath.  I’d been on those momentary highs before only to have them slashed ten minutes later when he’d got excluded for the day.  This was going to be a continuous battle of highs and lows but a battle I was now ready for.

I arrived at work to find my desk covered in presents.   I wanted to cry.  Everyone gathered round whilst I opened them all up.  I got a Starbucks card with £50 on so I could afford the odd luxury coffee when in town, three bottles of Rioja, a cinema ticket for the year so I could go out and watch films whenever I wanted, chocolates, a big mud pie from The Cheesecake shop that Monica was already cutting into and a beautiful silver bracelet with a charm on from Argento.   When I opened my card I actually did start to shed a quiet tear as the messages were so beautiful. 

‘I’ve never felt so upset about losing something but I want only the best for you Soph.  You’d better come in EVERY week. Johnno XX’

And then there was Colin’s.

‘You may be walking out of this office but I won’t let you walk out of our lives.’ Colin X’

Where was Colin?  I’d got so caught up with the immediate gathering that I’d only just noticed he wasn’t there.

“Where’s Colin?” I asked the group.

“He got called into a big meeting.  He’ll be out most of the day.”  Monica replied.

I was devastated.  He wasn’t here for my last day at work.  Plus we hadn’t spoken since the ‘about last night’ speech and now I felt awkward and vulnerable.   Maybe he’d had a change of heart.

I sat tucking into my slice of mud pie as I packaged all my goodies away and set to actually doing some work.  Suddenly my phone rang.  It was Rhodes, Karl Rhodes.

“Hello.” I greeted him.

“Hi” He replied without any emotion. “Where on earth were you the other evening?” 

“What?  Oh, you mean when I went to the World Service?”

“I don’t know where you went except that you were with your boss.  I had a phone call from Brendon at midnight wondering what to do and whether he should ring you.  It woke me up. “

“Oh. Sorry.”  I couldn’t believe Brendon rang his Dad! Little snitch bag. He’d kept that one quiet.

“Why were you out so late? Is anything even open past midnight? It’s a little late to be leaving the kids on their own.”

“I’m never usually that late home if I get to go out, so don’t pull that one. It was a special event so it went on longer than usual.”  Trust him to spoil my happy mood.”Plus the kids are fine, the house is secure, they have my number, friends’ numbers and neighbours.  What do you want me to do? Never go out anywhere?”

“That’s not what I said.  I think it’s a little late to be out with your boss and you need to be aware of your responsibilities.”


“A little late to be out with my boss?  I wonder if Sarah’s mum says that to her..” I said sarcastically.

“There’s no need to be facetious. I was ringing to make sure there wasn’t a problem.”

“Did you receive my spreadsheet?” I asked, changing the subject before I lost my temper.

“Yes.  I’ve made some corrections and alterations which we need to go through.  I’ll call in to see you this weekend.”

Of course he had.

“Well make sure you call first in case I’m out.  Now, I must go as it’s my last day at work and I’m busy with my colleagues.” 

“Right.  I’ll see you later.” He hung up.  I looked at my phone and thought about deleting him.

The day flew by fast probably because I didn’t want it to and though it had been nice it was tinged with sadness.  It was 4pm and I sat at my desk with a cuppa and ate yet another chocolate from the pile on my desk.

“No more Soph!”  Said Johnno. “They’re bad for you and you won’t eat your dinner!”

“You can’t buy me something and then tell me it’s bad for me! Besides, I probably won’t eat dinner.”

“Yes you will.”  He replied.

“OK, Dad.”

My phone beeped:

MSG From:
COLIN FRAY:I can’t stop thinking about you. 

My heart did a happy dance and a smile spread across my face.

SOPHIE RHODES: Don’t worry; you’ll get over that in a few weeks.

COLIN FRAY: I doubt that.  Sorry I missed your big day.  Meeting.

SOPHIE RHODES: It’s OK.  That’s life. Thanks for all the presents.

COLIN FRAY: I didn’t want to see you walk out anyway so maybe it’s a blessing.

I left the office at the end of the day having been hugged to death, kissed a hundred times and with a whole load of promises to keep. 

I got home to see Bryony at the kitchen table doing her art homework and listening to Ed Sheeran.   I spent some time helping her paint even though she kept telling me I was doing it wrong.  Painting by numbers was probably more up my street.  

“Where’s Brendon?” I asked. 

“He’s at Jessies. I think he’s gone there for tea.” 

I made her some dinner as she painted flowers in a Georgia O’ Keeffe style and I marvelled at her talent.   I couldn’t eat anything as I had seriously overdosed on chocolate.  I decided instead to open one of the bottles of Rioja I had received and have a glass of that to celebrate and commiserate.

A while later Brendon arrived.  He looked happy and chilled.

“Hey Mommy.” He gave me a big hug.  “Did you get my present?”

“What present?” I looked around the room for signs of gifts.

“It should have come in the post.  They emailed me to say it had.. It’s a spa day.  You like those don’t you? He asked.

Oh my God.  The letter.  I’d completely forgotten about it.

“You?  You bought me that? Are you serious?” I was in shock.

“Yes. To say thank you for everything you do.  I know I make life hard for you.”

I clasped my hand to my heart before it broke in two.

“You can’t afford that. How did you pay for it? You shouldn’t have..really. Thank you so much.  You’re my sweetheart!”

“I saved up all my birthday money.”

I hugged him hard and vowed in my heart to pay him back.

“You seem very happy and relaxed.  You haven’t been smoking weed have you?” I teased. I didn’t want to upset him now he’d just bought me such a beautiful present.

“No.  But I just got a blow job from a Catholic girl.  Result.” He high fived his sister who burst out laughing.

“I beg your pardon..” I looked at him outraged.  “I can’t believe you’ve done that.”

“And YOU,” I turned to Bryony, “Shouldn’t even know what that means never mind giving him a high five!”

“OMG Mum.”  Said Bryony.  “We’re not five years old!”

“I didn’t do anything Mum!  She did it all on her own.” He grinned.

“Was it good?” Bryony asked.

“What! OH MY GOD, go to your room!” I shouted at her.

“Well Bryony, it’s like a pizza,” He replied. “Even if it’s a bad pizza, it’s still a pizza!”

“I hear ya bro!”  Bryony smiled as she collected her art materials and left the kitchen.

“You’re outrageous.” I said to Brendon as I stormed upstairs to my bedroom.

I lay on my bed and tried to remember what it was like to be 15 to 16 years old before I went into parent from hell mode and went ballistic.  I needed to calm myself down a bit.

I clicked on my word game and located ‘The Voice’.  He was now listed in the ‘Game Over’ category of my virtual board.  Due to lack of play the game had automatically resigned.  I felt like I’d lost my first cyber love.  I’d never get to know who that mystery Californian was who’d won my heart with his words.

My phone rang. It was Colin. I could hear the noise of the car behind him.

“Soph... get ready I’m on my way to fetch you.”

“What?  Why?  Fetch me for what?”  ARRR, I wasn’t ready to go anywhere.

“Your leaving do.  Johnnos’s arranged it as a surprise, you can’t let him down.  Or me for that matter!”

“Aww that’s so sweet..But I’m not prepared!” I panicked.

“Just get your shoes on; I’ll be there in ten.  It’s nothing glam, just a few drinks and a pizza.”

I lay back on my pillow and laughed my head off.

“What’s so funny?” said Colin, laughing along at my outburst.

“Ah, nothing.  I’m looking forward to it.  After all, there’s no such thing as a bad pizza right?”

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And now I shall leave you with a song. For all the famalam’s out there, the happy ones, the broken ones and the ones that struggle through every day. Here’s to friends and smiles and challenges!  Thanks to every single person that has followed this story and supported my endeavours. You rock. Well done to all A-Z challengers, I know how tough it’s been and you have my greatest respect.  Now please excuse me whilst I go and get hammered. :)