She got back to the flat, and put the kettle back on. Another tea before she put her face on and made her way to the store. She drank a long draft of tea, and went back into the bathroom. She looked in the mirror. There it was, the tell-tale scar. The scar she had carried since she was six. It was like a chevron on her forehead. She had been pushed into the parrafin heater by her bigger brother when play had turned into a fight. The v-shaped vents at the top of the heater had left a perfect chevron burn on her forehead. Over the years the vivid scar had faded… But not enough for it not to be noticeable without make-up. It was like her mark of Kane. If anyone saw it in all of it’s natural glory, people might immediately put 2 and 2 together… then her secret would be out.

She applied an exfoliater to the area, then slowly filled the scar with a concealer. After this was completed she used a foundation to blend the area into a seamless whole. Once the chevron was hidden she felt safe. Her secret was safe. They say that you are always given a second chance, Charlotte knew otherwise. If it came out who she really was, her life would become untenable.

The walk to work took her 30 minutes. She could get a bus, but she liked to walk. It helped to prepare for work. Helped her set her mantra in her mind. I must smile! Imust try to be helpful. I will not react to provocation. In her mind, the drugs helped. They promoted a sense of ease. They kept her calm…Dull, but calm. They slowed the rate of thoughts in her mind. She couldn’t race ahead of the now with them. She could not create castles in the air. She could become hyper, but only by force of will… Luckily, she didn’t have that force of will. Her main concentration was on doing her job, being friendly and not reacting on provocation. Her counsellor had perfected this mantra with her. It had taken a long time to learn. She stepped out of the Safe place her flat represented and with the slightly perplexing smile pasted on her face, she paced out the steps which took her to work.

Work was in a supermarket. It was barely minimum wage, and required very little mental activity. She would stack stock, or less frequently, work on the till. She wasn’t often put on the till, given that it required a friendly response, to often idiotic members of the public. Her manageress was aware of her mental past, and protected her to some extent, trying not to over stress her. Her manageress was a nice person. She seemed to understand. He had spoken to Charlotte about her own mother, and how she too had been under section after a period of post-natal depression. Where the manageress was kind and understanding, the supervisor under her was the opposite. He was deliberately provoking. He didn’t agree with the company’s policy of employing Nut jobs, as he called the mentally impaired. He was of the old school. Why give nutters a job when there were ordinary people who needed jobs? Of course, he did voice these opinions within earshot of management, he kept these opinions to himself and his sidekick and underling. Together, the supervisor Jim, a short, fat, and balding tyrant; and Julie, his long, thin, angular and stupid sidekick, looked like a comedy double act… Laurel and Hardy, Little and Large, Hitler and Mussolini… Charlotte had thought of the last comparison during a difficult period from yesterday’s shift. She had thought it smiled to herself, and then admonished herself for not thinking of her mantra. Such thoughts could lead to a cascde event. A spiral of thoughts which would lead inevitably back to the unit. She had taken control of herself. She had, by force of will, focused on smiling, on breathing and not on throwing a tin of baked beans at the supervisor’s big fat shiny bald pate! What was it her counselloe had said? She focused. His words were… It’s ok to have these thoughts… It is not Ok to act upon them. Don’t focus on the thought, focus on getting beyond the thought. She had broken out of the mindset, but it had not been easy. She had taken the trolley of stock, the supervisor had found for her twenty minutes before the end of her shift, and had headed back out on to the shopfloor. The last two hours of the shift she did, the store was closed. She and others on her shift, were expected to clear existing stock, so that the night shift could prepare the new stock, which arrived at eight, for the shopfloor. They had to breakdown the pallets and put them into bay related trolleys.Normally, the twilight staff had finished the existing stock, and would help the night shift break down the palletised stock. It was the best part of the shift for Charlotte. The night shift would banter and joke about, and though Charlotte did not really join in, she enjoyed the feeling that she could. That she was accepted. It felt nice to feel this sense of belonging. So, to be singled out by the Supervisor on last night’s shift had meant that she had missed out on the banter. She was banished from the warehouse, sent out with this magical trolley of stock which had not been there earlier, and sent to the far flung bays of spices and condiments. She felt victimised. It had hurt when she heard laughter as the rubber door shut behind her. She had wanted to answer back, to call them names. She had wanted blood. She had breathed slowly, she had pasted on her best smile, and tried to ignore the tiny tears which prickled in the corner of her eyes. She spoke her mantra in her mind. She did as she was told.


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