Three weeks into my university life, it was clear to me that I needed to get a job. 1) funds were slipping from my bank account ever so swiftly, 2) the entire flat was empty because all my flatmates worked, and 3) it was about bloody time I joined the rank of the employed.
So my first ever job was at a high-priced clothes shop for women where from 9am to 6pm I was surrounded my bitchy colleagues, bitchy customers, and to a certain degree, bitchy children of the bitchy customers. My initial feeling of excitement and joyful anticipation for the job soon turned into desperate bitterness within 5 minutes of walking through those glass doors. It's safe to assume that I hated the place - I hated my manager who followed orders from Headquarters so religiously she actually ended up marrying the merchandising administrator because Headquarters had told her to make him feel as comfortable as possible (as he was new). What she did to him that afternoon we'll never know. I hated the rest of the Saturday girls who used to throw difficult customers my way and then take credit for their purchases. And I hated the customers, especially the ones with more money than sense who mere days later would come back and return their truckload of purchases because their "husband would kill them if he found out".
It was now March - an uncommonly sunny day which made my trek into work just that little bit more depressing. But I staggered on and made my way up the cobbled street and knocked on the heavy glass doors for one of the girls to let me in.
"Hello," the manager beamed and welcomed me into the shop as if I was an important guest. (I should stress that her and the merchandiser dude were seeing each other at this point).
I smile back at her, ask how she is, forget what she says, and then run to the staff room to put my bag down. I rummage around for no reason trying to waste as much time as I possibly can, and then head back downstairs.
No one else has turned up yet, and it's just me and Mel (the manager) who has such a cheesy grin on her face I almost feel that I like her. Almost.
"Oh, delivery came yesterday," Mel raises her head from the counter she is wiping. After a few sprays of Dettol, she looks up at me. "I think your first job for today will be to try and push some of the new items,"
I look up at the ceiling and almost fall to my knees and thank God. Deliveries of new items were the only thing that made the job bearable. That, and the 75% discount.
5 minutes later, I'm following Mel up to the stock room where we both look at the rack of new dresses. My heart smiles, and my curious fingers creep up to touch them.
This is like Christmas.
This is better than Christmas.
I let my mind swirl and dance in the vision of the new apparel, but my singing state is brought back to Earth by Mel's voice. I realise that I've only tuned in to half of the conversation and she's in fact been hammering on for a while.
"...so I think you should try to push these two," her slender finger points to a row of heavenly blue dresses.
Easy, I think.
Mel scans the sheet that's stuck to the front of the box the dresses came in. "Right," she says once she spots something of importance. "As you can see, they come in two colours. Azure and blue. We've had strict instructions to be quite pushy with selling these. Apparently they haven't done too well,"
There's that word again - push.
One by one I take the racks of dresses down to the shop floor and choose a suitable rail to place them, which later Mel urges me to change because according to Headquarters they will do better at the back.
"Make sure we get at least three of those sold," Mel's words float in my direction as the first flock of customers enter the shop.
I decide to approach a young, blonde girl who seems to be looking frantically around taking everything in with her blue eyes as if she's desperately searching for something. I deduce immediately that she must be about 16 and therefore in need of a ball dress.
"May I help you?" I ask her with a big smile.
She takes in a sigh of relief when she sees me and then as if I'm the doctor who will save her life she says, "You have to help me. Big party happening tonight and I don't have a dress. I've been looking everywhere but they either don't have the right size or the wrong colour," she looks around the store again.
I nod in understanding and walk her over to the new section of dresses. This is perfect, I think to myself.
"You'll be pleased to know we've just had new stock delivered," and run my hand through the blue dresses, "So no one else at the party will be wearing one of these,"
The girls' eyes light up immediately and she picks up one of the dresses to measure up against herself. "This is gorgeous," she says and angles herself towards the mirror.
"Yes, I'm quite in love with it too," I tell her.
"What other colours do these come in?" she asks me not averting away from the mirror, widening her blue eyes to see if they would match with the dress.
"Well," I begin, "we have them in blue,"I point to the one she's holding up, "and azure,"
The girls looks at me confused and then to the rail. "So, you only have blue?" she asks confused.
I protest this for a while (even though I know she's absolutely right). The 'azure' is barely two shades lighter than the 'blue', and especially here in the dimly lit part of the shop, the colours are almost identical.
"You see azure is just that little bit brighter," I try to sell the dress but I can tell that the girl has had enough of it.
"Perhaps I'll look around," she says and walks straight out of the shop.
I sigh in utter disappointment at having failed such a simple task. What's worse is that Mel is scowling at me and shaking her head in anger. Perhaps even merchandiser dude cannot tame that shrew.
A whole morning goes past with the same response from customers.
"But they're the same," they keep telling me, which is soon followed by a walk in the opposite direction. No wonder all the other stores have had such difficulty selling these dresses. I've seen people get confused by the word 'lilac', let alone 'azure'. Especially when it's spoken in an English accent.
By mid afternoon, I want to scream. I've already had a telling off from Mel who's decided to blame this whole debacle on me. My lunch break has been pushed to 3 o' clock, and my shoes are well and truly digging into my skin. I just want to go home and reclaim my Saturdays. But as I'm standing on the shop floor carefully observing the customers, I notice a tall guy enter the store. He's alarmingly good looking with chestnut drown hair which he keeps raking his fingers through, and a charismatic smile that made even Mel trip over a pair of Mary Jane's with were left haphazardly on the floor.
"I'm looking for a dress," he tells me as he's making his way over.
His words don't register straight away and my brain's focus is concentrating on stopping my knees from buckling beneath me.
"It's for my brother's fiance. She's had an accident involving a butter-cream cake. Nothing to do with me," he puts his arms up in a surrendering manner and laughs at his words.
Meanwhile, I'm smiling like a loon. It takes a while for reality to seep into my skin again, and once it does, all I manage is: "How do you feel about azure?"
"Beg pardon?" he speaks, one eyebrow raised in a questioning manner. "Azure?" he ponders at this for a while and then looks straight at me with those warm, brown eyes. "If you tell me what that is I'm sure I'll love it,"
I smile and walk over to the far end of the shop floor and pull one of the azure dresses from it's home. "This," I say, "is azure,"
He eyes the dress up and down and then looks back at me, "So it's blue," he states, which makes me chuckle. It's cut short by a loud groan coming from Mel's direction.
"Actually, this is blue," I inform as I pick up Azure's sister. I hold them next to each other but I can tell from this guy's blank expression that he cannot note the difference.
"They're both blue," he confesses smiling at me.
"Oh, all right. Yes they are," I finally admit, "but there are slight differences," I take the dresses with me to the front of the store, fully aware that Mel's gaze is burning into me. I hold the dresses up once more in the natural light and ask, "See?"
This time I know he does see. "Oh, yeah," he comes to realise. "The azure glistens far more," and his mouth forms a cheeky smile.
"You don't see, do you?" I say as if my entire life depends on this very moment - on him understanding me.
"I do. I really do. And in fact, I'll take it. The azure, that is. Not the blue," he smiles as he says this, which in turn makes me smile.
"Wonderful," I say and mean it. "If you'd like to follow me to the till-"
"I'll run that through," Mel says as she claws the dress from my hands. "If you'd like to follow me, Sir," she says through a faux benign smile. "You," she looks over at me from her left shoulder, "are on front cover until close, so please go and stand by the door,"
I obey, although not happily and make my way towards the glass doors, smiling at the approaching customers as they're coming and going.
"Thanks again," the guy's voice pierces my thoughts.
"You're very welcome," I say and smile.
"I'm Anthony, and I'd definitely like to see you again," he says with a confident air as he hands me over his card. "Hope to hear from you soon," and with that, he's out of sight.
I stumble though the front door of my flat and am greeted by Jo, my housemate.
"Ooooh, what did you buy?" she screams in excitement as she notices my carrier bag stuffed with pretty tissue paper.
I pull out a dress beneath the masses of unnecessary wrapping and sway it in front of her.
"That's a gorgeous blue," she says as she launches her hands towards the dress.
"It's actually azure," I say and smile at the recollection of the day, and know full well from her expression that she needs some convincing too.