The End of an Era

Written By: anonymous - Nov• 12•12

The redundancies are confirmed: Melinda is in line to receive four months’ money, a glowing reference and a leaving party (not bad for someone whose greatest contribution to the office has been the introduction of glitter pens). And when she (finally) tells me, she doesn’t even bother to feign sadness or shock; it’s all just one great big carnival of excitement.

“I’ve got some news,” she squeals, “I’m leavin’ at the end of the month!”

“So I gather.”

“Isn’t it great?!”

I half expect her to do a small cartwheel over my desk.

“Marvellous,” I agree.

“Oh!” she gasps. “Are you upset?”

Is she kidding? “Not at all. I’m very pleased for you. Secretarial work is not suitable for everyone.”

“No,” she agrees. “You’re right. I’m not cut out for a life of mindless drudgery. I was made for much higher things.”

Higher things? Standing there with her fake boobs and her fake nails in her fake clothes, she tosses her (fake) hair extensions over her shoulder and fixes her (fake) lips into a (fake) smile to deliver her fake leaving speech.

“I’m really, really grateful for all you’ve done for me Helen, I’ll never forget working wiv you. You’re a great boss. I ‘ope you get the appreciation you deserve; and I really ‘ope they replace me with a decent secretary.”

“Me too,” I agree.  It might make up for the past five years.

“I’m really sorry that I won’t have a chance to finish that filing you gave me, but, well, the thing is, I’ve got so much holiday left to take that Veronica says I can leave on Friday. I know it’s a bit short notice but I thought that you probably wouldn’t want me hangin’ about, now that my mind has been made up and everythin’.”

Friday! Two days’ time!

“Friday is absolutely fine.” Could only be better if it was tomorrow!

“Thanks again Helen,” she smiles. “I’ll clear my desk and make sure I take all my George Clooney stuff with me.”

“You do that,” I nod. “I would hate to think of you without George.”

With a tearful blink of her (fake) eyelashes, she bids me farewell and skips off into the night; her bag crammed full of stolen biros and glitter pens; humming Jessie J’s lyrics “It’s not about the money, money money….we don’t need their money, money…”


Those two days are the best two days of my entire professional career. Despite the drizzle and the crush on The Tube I actually look forward to going to work. There is nothing anyone can do to rattle me; I don’t mind the multiple intrusions from Simpering Veronica; the tiresome bleating from Tarquin and I even tolerate Malcolm’s endless whinging without so much as a snarl. I am a woman on the brink of administrative happiness and it feels marvellous. In fact, by Friday afternoon, my good mood has expanded so much that I even purchase Melinda a small leaving gift and agree to take part in her presentation! And, soon I am lost in raptures; waxing lyrical about all the ‘good times’ we’ve had; how much I am going to really miss her ‘special skills’. I can see Jane (open mouthed) at the back but I can’t stop, I’m too happy to say anything bad. It’s like the past five years have been obliterated and the past forgotten. I am a one-woman Truth and Reconciliation Committee!


By the end of it Melinda is sobbing so much she threatens to stay on, but then she sees the enticing pile of presents on her desk and pulls herself together.

“I’ll miss you all so much!” she clutches her fluffy pink ‘Leaving Bear’ (a special gift from Danielle and Lynnette) to her chest. “I can’t believe I won’t be here next week. It’s been great working for Helen and Tarquin, they have taught me so much, and you all feel like part of my family. I don’t know what I’ll do without seeing you all every morning and hearin’ all your stories. I ‘ope you’ll all keep in touch with me on Facebook or Twitter, at least. And I ‘ope to see you all at my leaving do in a few weeks”

She collapses into her chair with a final, teary, gasp as the onlookers offer a polite round of applause.


At five thirty I am still in a state of euphoria and when she offers me a sentimental hug, I welcome it with open arms. We stand there, for a moment, like two reality TV contestants caught up in the emotion of our eviction.

“I’ll miss you Helen!”

“And I you!” I agree.

“Thanks for everythin’.”

“No, thank you.”

“You’re a brick.”

“So are you!”

With a tearful gulp, she extracts herself from my grip and looks me in the eye. “I’ll see you at my leavin’ do next month. It’s gonna be wicked. Make sure you’re there.”

Then she deposits a little spangly bag on the desk, winks and shimmies out; head back, boobs out and heels clicking; the scent of coconut oil and Lambrini trailing in her wake. I feel an unexpected pang of regret: I might get my filing done next week, but I won’t get any of this.

Unless I move to Essex.



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