by Sarah-Clare Conlon
“We have dress-down Friday,” they informed me, with glee, on my first day. We were gazing into the stationery cupboard, eyeing up the propelling pencils, caressing the perfect bound notebooks. I picked out shrink-wrapped Post-Its, a small box of paperclips and four Bic Biros – black, blue, red and, unusually, green. I turned to Helen. “Really?” I replied, trying to sound enthusiastic. Her eyes were shining as she turned the thought over in her mind.
They told me again the next day, while we were at the hot drinks machine. The tacky placcy cup plopped into place and the sticky sickly goo slopped down after it. “Did we tell you we have dress-down Friday?” Paul queried, smiling at Helen. Helen nervously bit the nail on her pinkie and grinned. They were pleased, both of them. “That’s exciting,” I committed, and curled the corners of my mouth upwards.
On the third day, we were in the canteen, where the meals are subsidised and everything comes with chips, even the festive roast in the week before Christmas. Then, everyone gets a cracker to pull and a paper hat to wear. Helen touched my sleeve and jabbed her index finger towards the person sat opposite, next to Paul. “This,” she changed the jabber into an upturned palm, like a gameshow hostess parading before the prizes, “is Andrew.” I smiled and fluttered my hand. “Andrew,” she continued, her voice all fake whispers and dramatic pauses, “is the person who came up with the idea of dress-down Friday.”
By Thursday, the anticipation was palpable. We were waiting for Andrew to prod in the code on the keypad and let us back into the building after a cheeky ciggy in the smoking shed, when Helen and Paul started giggling. “Don’t forget tomorrow,” they beamed. “You can come in your own clothes.” “Oh yes,” I turned and faced them. “I’ll remember.”
Finally, Friday dawned, and I put on the carefully selected outfit that I’d laid out on the empty side of the bed the night before. The security guard, no change to his uniform, was uncharacteristically quiet as I swiped my card at the entrance and waited for the lift. The wig itched and the shoes were almost impossible to walk in, but the look on my soon-to-be ex-colleagues’ faces would definitely be worth it.
Sarah-Clare Conlon is a full-time editor, spare-time writer and part-time adventuress who regularly goes as red as her lipstick by reading her smutty stories live in Manchester.