Fiction: The Look of a Twelve-Year-Old
In this post:
- Why I wrote The Look of a Twelve-Year-Old.
- The Look of a Twelve-Year-Old book blurb.
- Opening chapter of The Look of a Twelve-Year-Old.
- Author Bio.
Why I wrote The Look of a Twelve-Year-Old.
My British teen years spanned the sixties. Mary Quant fashions, Vidal Sassoon geometric hairstyles, mini-skirts, The Beatles: an amazing era I was blessed to experience. I remember rushing home from school to watch Top of the Pops on our black and white telly. Most of the British bands debuted there. Apart from the Beatles I drooled over live performances from The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Lulu—what a cast!
Retail sales boomed. Teens scoured stores for trending records and fashions, thereby generating jobs and income. Employment for high school teen girls arose in the form of Saturday Girls. Back then, stores closed around five on weekdays and all day on Sundays, so the only opportunity for school kids to earn money was on Saturdays.
My first job during high school was as a Saturday Girl in a shoe store. The store, Freeman Hardy & Willis Shoes, fronted the High Street, was popular with woman and teen girls, and managed by a modern-thinking woman. While I enjoyed earning income and taking advantage of the discounted price on shoes for employees, my eyes were opened to how competitive women can be.
Commission was the culprit. The full-timers hated us Saturday Girls because we were entitled to equal percentage of sales. They would do anything to turn our attention away from customers: send us on errands, insist we clear the pile of shoes they had shown to clients, demand we make their tea, an endless list of chores faced us Girls on Saturdays. Eventually, we wised up and schemed our way into securing sales.
I recall one Saturday Girl in particular. Only fifteen, she had the look of a much younger girl. People would tell her she looked all of twelve and found it difficult to believe she belonged on a shop floor. Nevertheless, she was a feisty Girl, harboring hatred toward one of the more arrogant full-timers. They continually argued over sales. One day I heard the Girl uttering murderous threats toward the other, and became fascinated by how far people will go to make money. If this is how things are in a shoe store, I imagined how competitive it must be in big business. I wrote The Look of a Twelve-Year-Old with these two women in mind.
The Look of a Twelve-Year-Old, by Barbara Studham. Book blurb.
Meet Claire Peters. From seemingly innocent youngster to evil conniver, she takes you on her journey from lowly Saturday Girl working at The Glass Stiletto located in small town Heatherly, to executive for a leading company: SLATES Inc. of London. From an early age, Claire Peters joined the ranks of executives but on the way to the top, lost track of who she was and what she hoped to achieve. While working at The Glass Stiletto, she set her sights on winning the Stiletto Award for achieving the highest annual sales. However, a nasty rival stood in the way. Refusing to be deterred from reaching her goal, Claire took drastic action against her opponent. Many years later, recently fired from her executive position at SLATES Inc, she traded common sense for the sake of bloody revenge against the team responsible for her dismissal.
Opening Chapter of The Look of a Twelve-Year-Old, by Barbara Studham.
The following is copyrighted material taken from The Look of a Twelve-Year-Old, by Barbara Studham
Sunlight streamed through the spotless windows of Claire Peters’ extravagant London loft, causing char, Marg, to squint as she hastily vacuumed the expensive Persian rug. Her colleague, Shannon, hurried into the room carrying two silver vases.
“She’ll be here any minute,” she yelled above the hum. “And I’ve yet to arrange the flowers!”
“There isn’t time,” Marg yelled back. “Leave the vases empty.”
Shannon cringed. “It’s on your head,” she warned. “You know how fussy she is.”
Marg flicked off the vacuum and scanned the room for mess. Her gaze fell on clutter strewn across the coffee table. She pointed frantically. “Those magazines and cups on the side tables—quick—discard them.”
Shannon raced to the table, but froze at the sound of a key turning in the lock. She turned to see a stone-faced Claire Peters glaring at her.
“Good evening, Miss Peters,” she said, lowering her gaze.
Claire glared. Marg broke the silence by kicking the recoil switch on the vacuum. The wire whirred noisily into its place.
“Why are you still here?” Claire dramatically lifted an arm to check her watch. “It’s seven. You agreed to be out by four. We have a contract.”
Marg smoothed the skirt of her grey uniform. “We’re really sorry, Miss Peters. You see, Mrs Marks had an emergency and it took us longer to clean her place. She’s an older…
“So old Mrs Mark’s problem has now become mine.” She eyed the room. “Where are the flowers?
Shannon blushed. “In the sink, Miss.”
“So my guest and I are to eat over the kitchen sink, this evening?”
“No, Miss. I’ll arrange them now.” Eager for escape, she grabbed the two vases and darted off. Marg slid the vacuum toward the kitchen door.
“Margaret,” began Claire, “This is your error and will be applied to your record. You need to set an example for the new staff. Shannon needs to understand it is not acceptable to turn up late. A contract is a contract. I would hate to have to report you to…” The intercom buzzed. “That will be the caterer. Hurry up and leave.”
“Yes, Ma’am. It won’t happen again. I assure you.”
Her focus now shifted to the caterers, Claire ignored her. “Come up,” she ordered.
As the team entered the apartment, Shannon placed the arranged blooms on the table. Claire recoiled. “Those are not the ones I ordered,” she barked. “Where are the White Forest?”
Shannon looked confused. “I wouldn’t know, Miss. The blue were delivered.”
Sniffing with contempt, Claire dismissed them. “Get out now. The caterers need the kitchen.”
Exchanging glances of relief, both women took off.
As the caterers began laying out linens and dishes, Claire sauntered to her bathroom to shower. Pressing a hand into the back of her neck, she sighed—Oh, for some relief. Glancing in her mirror, she smiled slyly—tonight, perhaps. She ran a shower, disrobed and stepped in. Water rippled upon her slender shoulders, streamed over her breasts, and cascaded off her nipples like two delicate waterfalls. Turning her back to the spray, she closed her eyes and willed the tension to ease.
For the past three weeks, SLATES SHOES Inc. had drained her of energy. She blamed team member Ed Hughes and his crony, Kevin. Both hell-bent on increasing their personal bank accounts over those of the shareholders’— if I didn’t know better I’d think they were bedfellows. Reaching for a sea-sponge, she doused it with lavender gel and lathered her body. Could they be an item? She decided to keep an eye open for signs. Never know when that kind of information will be useful, although, these days, it has lost its importance. And that Ann Fraser, with her bright red hair and pinched nose look, always in Ed’s pocket, scared to voice an opinion unless he okays it first; what a joke! All three recognize we must remodel our European branches to increase sales, or MARTINS Inc. will win the Asian account. Can’t let that happen. She considered her recent presentation. The numbers speak for themselves. Without a remodel, we will be bankrupt. Things must change.
Scrubbing vigorously, she swore… Fuck Ed! Why did he refuse to back up my numbers? He knows things can’t continue the way they are. I’ve worked too hard to let him destroy SLATES. She glanced at the clock positioned above the heated towel rail. God, look at the time!
While the staff cooked and set a romantic table, she dried off, slipped into a silver satin slip-like evening dress, styled her chin-length burnished-gold hair and applied jewelry and makeup. Peering in the mirror, with fingertips, she smoothed the faint lines forming around her eyes. Do I look older than thirty? She recalled visiting her grandmother shortly before her death and being shocked by her complexion. I miss you Grandma, but hope I don’t inherit your wrinkles.
Eight o’clock suddenly arrived and so did her guest. Opening the door, her eyes widened at the sight of a young man dressed in a navy suit—a la Tom Ford Style. Mmm, delicious. Can’t be more than twenty-five. “Brad, is it?” she asked, her eyes smiling with satisfaction.
“If that’s what pleases you.” He took her in his arms.
She smiled and pointed to the table. “We can eat,” she murmured coyly. She brushed her fingertips over his lips, “but you’re much more delectable.”
“And you’re stunning,” he whispered, nuzzling her neck.
Melting at his touch, she paused. “Mmm, that feels good. Brad, don’t stop. I’ve been so tense lately. It always begins in my neck.”
“And works its way down?” He murmured provocatively, tracing his hand over her hips. “I have a special way of easing stress.”
She gazed into his soulful brown eyes and ran fingers through his chestnut hair. Sliding them down over his chest, she trembled while unbuttoning his shirt. “What about supper? It will get cold.”
“I’m hungry only for you.”
Smiling coyly, she reached for his hand and led him to the bedroom. She turned to the staff waiting to serve the meal. “Leave now,” she murmured before closing the door quietly behind her.
The next morning being Saturday, Claire slept in. Brad had long left and like all the others before him, now simply a sweet memory. Her need to be serviced by handsome men like Brad had become an ingrained habit, one she could easily afford, and one she was not willing to abandon.
Sunlight pierced her eyes and, unlike her memory of the night before, her mood was anything but sweet. Turning from the light, she heard a bottle thump to the floor followed by the gurgle of red wine spilling onto her white carpet—fuck! Her cursing jarred her hangover. She held her forehead, angry more at herself than the spill. Never… again… will I drink so much nor sleep with a man I don’t know. She tried to sit up… well, at least for a week.
Slipping her feet out of the pink satin sheets and into her fluffy, pink slippers, she struggled into her pink, silk robe then to the washroom mirror and peered. Another night, another line, she sighed, dragging a finger across an eye bag. Wobbling to the kitchen where last night’s meal lay congealed in containers, she dipped her finger in cold gravy and sucked. Her gaze fell on the empty coffee pot. Incensed, she searched through cupboards—where’s the damn coffee!—then the pantry. Glancing impatiently around, she finally spied the container next to the coffee pot. Flinging open the lid, she prepared the percolator then sprawled out on the sofa. I need coffee and sleep—nothing more! But her boss, Nick Thompson, had other ideas. First, he startled her by activating her phone, and worsened her hangover with his gruff voice, and finally, as if those two intrusions weren’t enough to irritate her, he totally pissed her off by firing her.
At his words, she sat bolt upright. “What!”
“Sorry, Claire, but you were aware of the possibility.”
“MARTINS, Inc. secured the Asian account and has offered SLATES a sweet deal on Europe. As a result, we are immediately shutting down our European branches. Can’t afford to lose another cent. So, we won’t need your services after this weekend. Of course, you will get severance and an amazing reference. You can count on us for that.”
Claire gasped. “But… you can’t do that! I was the one pushing for SLATES renovations. You attended my presentation. The numbers spoke for themselves. If the shareholders had accepted my plan, European sales would have skyrocketed.”
“But Ed Hughes and the rest of your team lacked confidence in your proposal. Without their support, the shareholders are nervous. They are simply not willing to risk millions on upscale renovations with no guarantees. Claire, you’re young… well, young enough… you’ll find another position. Happens to the best of us, you know. Blame Ed.” Click.
Falling back onto the sofa, she stared ahead. I don’t believe it—that stupid, fucking arse! She called Ed’s line, but it went to voicemail. She screamed into her phone. “Stupid, fucking arsehole—what the fuck have you done! My career is over! I’ve been fired!
Sinking lower into the chair, she covered her eyes and groaned long and low. What am I going to do? What the fuck am I going to do?
The intercom buzzed. Desperate for help and, despite her headache, she ran to it. “Whoever you are, be warned. I am suicidal!”
“Claire Peters?” came the reply.
She didn’t recognize the voice. “Yes. Who wants to know?”
“Gladden Deliveries. We’ve got your new sofa here.”
She glanced at her old one. “Don’t bother,” she said, glumly. “I can’t afford it now.”
“I SAID… I can’t afford a new sofa. Take it back!”
“If you say so, but…”
She cut them off and walked solemnly toward the kitchen. Nothing like being fired to cure a hangover. While pouring coffee, tears prickled her eyes. Laying her head on the counter, she cried. What am I going to do—sob—fifteen years hard slog down the drain—sob—all because of that arsehole! What was he thinking? I could have saved us. Why didn’t they believe me?
Claire spent the rest of the day in a fuzzy-brained panic, desperately trying to plan her future, but unable to think how. By the time evening arrived, she had calmed a little, found a full bottle of sherry, and was seated on the balcony trying to sort through her problem. The cork popped and, as the aroma filled her soul, and her eyes gazed upon the glowing London sunset, her mind raced back to her childhood in the small town of Heatherly where she first laid eyes on SLATES shoe store, then known as The Glass Stiletto. —copyright Barbara Studham.
Barbara Studham’s bio.
For the past twenty years, Barbara Studham parented four grandchildren, all diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Her two memoirs: Two Decades of Diapers, and, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, The Teen Years, describe her challenges during their toddler years and teens. She has also written fiction, including a six-book series titled, Under The Shanklin Sky, set in the seaside town of Shanklin, on the Isle of Wight. She is currently creating a children’s FASD picture book series Strawberry & Cracker, Twins with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Now available is the first in the series titled The School Day
Barbara Studham’s books are available from AMAZON.
Author blog: http://www.barbarastudham.com
FASD blog: http://www.challengedhope.com
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/barbarastudham