Bears, porridge, and cheap hair dye.
Goldie shook out her tangled locks. Once naturally blonde, they were now subject to a monthly dose of peroxide, turning them into a metallic gold that was both unflattering, and slowly turning the follicles into brittle little stalks, But she had no choice, did she? All the stress had turned her prematurely grey and she was far too young for the old lady look.
As she peered into the bathroom mirror, Goldie scowled. Her parting was turning black again, not good. Trouble was, she mused, as she headed for the kitchen, she was broke – stoney broke. Where could she get the money for more hair dye?
She paused in front of a cupboard, opened it, and surveyed the sparse contents wearily. Two tins of spaghetti hoops, and a battered box of… Her stomach clenched and her knuckles turned white, as she stared at the damp stained packet. How the hell did that get there? She didn’t remember buying it – wouldn’t have bought it – not if her life depended on it.
She plucked the box of porridge from the shelf, and with all the force she could muster, hurled it into the waste bin. It hit the edge, spewing its noxious contents into the air. Before she knew what was happening, Goldie had inhaled a mouthful. Coughing and spluttering, she stumbled over to the sink.
When she’d finished retching, and swearing, she blinked away the stinging tears from her eyes, and looked around. She needed to do something, get her life back on track – but how? Maybe she should go back to bed and think about it. She wouldn’t sleep, not properly. She hadn’t managed to get a good night’s sleep for years, not since… Goldie took a deep breath. Every time she closed her eyes, she could see that hairy face peering down at her.
Why was life so difficult? Why did some people have all the luck? Take her cousin Cinderella, for instance. Talk about landing on your feet, glass slippers and all! Trouble was, marrying into royalty changed you – everyone knew that. Once upon a time, Cinderella had been such a nice, quiet girl, but since she’d married that Prince Charming – what a ridiculous name – she’d turned into a right cow. All right, sending her a box of sticking plasters, as a wedding present, in case those stupid glass slippers cut her feet. might’ve been a tad naughty, but it was only a joke.
However, Goldie’s cousin hadn’t seen it that way. She’d retaliated with a stream of so-called-gifts, starting with a pair of slippers , shaped like teddy bears. Then there was the bowls and spoons, all decorated with a bear motif. This was followed by a bear shaped hot water bottle cover. But worst of all was the DVD of a film called: Dancing with bears.
Goldie scowled. Vindictive witch! Anyway, this wasn’t getting her anywhere. She needed money and she needed it now. She could feel her hair turning grey with every passing minute. She heaved a sigh, picked up the local paper, and shook out its pages.
Turning to the job advertisements, she scanned the print. Nothing – nothing worthwhile anyway, but she couldn’t afford to be choosy. Then an advert, for the opening of a new supermarket, leapt out at her. They were looking for temporary staff to help with promoting their products.
Goldie circled the ad with red pen, and then picked up the phone. Twenty minutes later, she was getting ready to go for an interview. As she rootled through her charity shop bought clothes, it didn’t occur to her to wonder why they wanted to see her so quickly.
Despite his ridiculous name, Mr Teddy B Bertrand, the supermarket manager, turned out to be a pleasant enough man.
‘Well Miss Locks,’ he said, holding out his hand to shake hers, ‘I think you’ll suit us very well indeed.’ He paused and his round brown eyes twinkled, as he added, ‘You have the right look. I’m sure you’ll do the job justice.” One eye almost closed in a wink. ‘And if this promotion goes with a bang, you never know, we might be able to offer you more work.’
‘Do you do staff discounts?’ Goldie inquired, her mind still on hair dye.
She smiled, realising she might’ve jumped the gun. ‘Oh nothing, Mr Bertrand. When do I start?’
‘Oh right away, if that’s okay.’
The manager got to his feet and led the way to the staff room, explaining that initially she’d be based outside the main entrance, giving out leaflets to passing shoppers.
‘Of course you’ll be required to wear a costume,’ he told her. ‘I trust you don’t have a problem with that?’
A sensation of unease crept up on Goldie, but she managed to maintain her smile, as she replied, ‘Er no – not at all.’
‘Here we are.’ Mr Bertrand stopped in front of a row of lockers. A sheet shrouded garment hung from a hanger, hooked over one of the locker’s handle. Breath held, Goldie waited as, with a flourish, Mr Bertrand removed the cover.
‘Da,da!’ he trilled, as though he’d revealed a fine work of art. Goldie felt her eyes bulge in their sockets, as she took in the horrific sight.
Half an hour later, passing shoppers were being accosted by a large, rather angry brown bear. It shoved leaflets at them with such ferocity, that most of them gave the creature a wide berth.
‘It’s not bloody fair!’ Goldie fumed, sweating buckets inside the bear costume. Then she remembered the spiel Mr Bertrand had told her to say and in a fair impression of a grizzly’s growl, she snarled, ‘Special offer this week. Fifty pence off Quacker oats, the porridge of kings.’
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