The day has run away from me again.
We stayed up until almost 4 a.m. this morning. A finished work closer to 2, and the three of us just talked until we all got too tired to carry on, though we would have done if we’d not been the sensible grown-ups that we are. We spoke mainly about the unpredictability a) f zero hours contract work and the need to grab the work while you get it, and b) how the hospitality sector, even if you’re on a permanent contract, is unpredictable from a working hours point of view. It just goes to show that those of us with permanent contracts not in hospitality need to count our blessings, although, in truth, we shouldn’t have to. It reinforces the imbalance there is between those who have a lot of money (money that does a lot of their work for them), and those who don’t. And that makes the recent “mini-budget” even more morally reprehensible and vile. Yes, vile is the right word.
So we got up late – although M surfaced almost an hour before my tired body allowed me to force it out of my warm and comfy bed. Whatever happened to the rock n roll lifestyle of my youth? In truth, it’s best left there; it has a lot to answer for, and the feelings of tiredness and permanent aches I have now can be laid fairly and squarely at its door. It’s all very well having fun, but doing it to extremes, and playing high-impact sports as if I were immortal, have not done my body any favours. I’m not giving up, though. When all the current travails are laid to bed, I definitely still plan to start fencing again.
En garde, world!
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 225
Aggie shrugs, and puts her shoulder to the door. She doesn’t care anymore, not about any noise she might make, not about any damage she might inflict on herself or Blair house. The door gives way, and she clatters her way into the building. She can feel it’s empty. The air is as still as before, the carpet as thick and undisturbed. She opens the wood panelling again, descends into the tunnel, and this time she doesn’t move slowly or carefully. She barrels along its length until she finds the wall she reconstructed, rips the blocks out of it without trying to keep them in one piece, without trying to place them tidily on the ground so she can rebuild the wall later. The only thing that surprises her is that she’s not yet seen or heard any guards or police. It must be a well-kept secret, then, Truman’s tunnel. She steps through the opening, her eyes always ahead of her, just waiting, waiting, waiting, for the inevitable attack. It doesn’t come. She descends the stairs three at a time, her backpack bouncing against her back as she flies deeper into the bowels of the White House.
‘Aggie.’ The familiar voice. ‘I was wondering if you’d be back.’
‘Valentine.’ She hisses at him.
‘What happened to Sir?’ He laughs and bows deeply, his eyes not leaving her face. ‘Nice to see you again, too.’
Aggie says nothing.
‘I really didn’t think you’d be foolish enough for this,’ he says. ‘But let me not pre-empt whatever it is you’ve come to do.’
‘Perhaps you should try to pre-empt it,’ she says, teeth clenched.
‘Now, now, why spoil my fun?’
‘That’s what you call killing people?’
‘A man has to enjoy his work. There’s no point to it otherwise.’
‘Enjoyment is a luxury not many people have.’
He waves his hands in the air. ‘Oh, the little folk. They don’t really matter. Little folk like you. Irrelevancies. Chambermaids. Servants.’
‘Oh, her. Well, no-one’s going to miss her, are they? Poor orphaned girl. At least this way she’ll have a claim to fame once I get round to writing the history of this time.’
‘I forgot. You like keeping a record, don’t you?’
All the while, they’re standing still, staring at each other.
‘You’re very tense, my dear,’ Valentine says, runs his fingers through his thick black hair. ‘I thought you warrior women were relaxed at times of danger.’
‘I don’t know where you read that.’
‘Perhaps I made it up. Maybe I was thinking of real warriors. Men like me.’
‘Working out of the dark, afraid to face their enemies directly? Getting handmaidens to do their dirty work for them?’
‘Your vocabulary has improved considerably in the few days since I last saw you. Handmaidens are handmaidens for a reason. They’re no good for anything else. Like you. Just doing our bidding.’
‘I’m doing your bidding?’ Aggie laughs. ‘I think you’re mistaken.’
‘Oh, Cassandra made a bad choice when she picked you,’ Valentine says. ‘You’re not half as clever as you think you are. Neither of you.’
‘She fooled me,’ Aggie says. ‘I didn’t realise she was still working with you.’
‘She’s not.’ Valentine snarls, launches himself at Aggie, stops just before he gets to her, and she can feel his hot breath in her face. ‘Whatever gave you that idea? She seems to have disappeared without a trace, coward that she is.’