Penny

Episode 4: Child’s Play

Penny was having a terrible day. She had five letters of advice to complete within eight working days, The Boss was making her attend court tomorrow to argue a contentious chamber summons application for one of his files, and she had just finished a forty-five minute telephone conversation with an emotionally unstable client who was being sued for having sexually inappropriate dealings with her patients.

Penny stared vacantly at the faded painting of a country cottage that hung on the wall near her computer. It was one of the various stock paintings purchased by the firm and hung in the offices of those unfortunate few who were stuck in offices without an exterior view of the city. The paintings were meant to add a bit of colour and cheer to the otherwise sterile offices, however this painting only depressed her. Particularly on days like this.

When Penny graduated from university at the age of twenty-two, she was filled with exuberance and fervour for her future career. She had secured an Articles trainee position at a top-tier firm and she couldn’t wait to enter the legal community with a bang; a single, independent, ball-busting young female solicitor who would kick down the foundation of the “legal fraternity”. In Penny’s experience, most men at law school were either lazy or idiots, who used the power of nepotism to get them through life. Penny’s daddy didn’t have contacts, but he did give her an intellect and she was excited to use it and make a name for herself in the real world.

What a difference six years makes. Penny had been very successful since commencing her career, however she hadn’t quite made the name she had envisaged. She worked tirelessly at the top-tier firm, only to find it was the same rich boys club that she had hoped to escape. After four gruelling years pulling more than her weight, she was head hunted by a smaller firm to work in a more independent role, earning more money and dealing with her own clients. Two more years had passed since she made the move and she certainly didn’t regret it. Working at the firm felt like being in a community, and she had a level of responsibility that wouldn’t have come for another ten years had she stayed with her first job.

And yet, on days like today, staring at that cottage, Penny couldn’t help but think that her life goal at twenty-two couldn’t have been more naïve. Penny was bored with lawyering and too tired to concern herself with feminist crusades. A year ago, she married the love of her life, who earned more than enough to support her. And after six long years, all she wanted to do was go home and pump out some babies. Was that so bad? What had she been trying to prove? Who did she think she was fighting for? Sure, there were some firms that are stuck in the old days, but times were changing. There were more female lawyers than male. And there were women judges on the High Court, for Christ’s sake!

Let  one of those dim-witted men write the letters to her clients. Let The Boss get off his ass and go to his own chamber summons! And let someone else hear the woes of a middle-aged psychologist Jezebel who managed to extort millions out of a dozen of her more vulnerable male patients.

Penny sighed. She felt trapped. She needed a distraction.

Penny decided to turn to her Social Club duties; another painful stress in her life, but at least it wasn’t work. The Social Club often felt like Penny’s saviour in her corporate life. Helping devise and organise events for the firm’s enjoyment satisfied the maternal urges that were ever building inside of her. Plus, Penny was always happy to make an excuse to drink a couple of Cosmopolitans; an indulgence that she would gravely miss when she finally got into the business of making a family.

Unfortunately, everyone in the firm shared their love of the Social Club, on the proviso that someone else did all the organising. Penny was alone in her enthusiasm, but juggling her duties with her actual job was a drain. And so, with each new employee that started at the firm, Penny took it upon herself to make a pitch in a vain attempt to recruit new helpers. She decided to take a five minute distraction and walked down to the new guy’s office.

“Hi, I just came in to tell you about our Social Club. It costs twelve dollars per month and we use these funds to hold lots of events throughout the year, like the potluck we had a couple of week ago. We always have lots of fun and we’re always looking for new members to join the committee to help plan the events, if that’s your kind of thing.”

“Sure, that sounds so great. I was actually on the Social Club Committee at my old firm.”

“Oh cool. Well if you have any ideas for events just let the Social Club kn…”

“How about a board game night?”

“Sure, that sounds alright. I try to hold meetings one every fortnight, so I’ll include you in the emails and you can bring up your ideas at the next…”

“We could make it a slumber party.”

“What could we make a slumber party?”

“The board game night.”

Penny wasn’t expecting him to be ready for a proper planning discussion just yet, so she assumed he was joking. Penny laughed politely.

“Sure, a slumber party! Right!”

“Yeah, I had the idea at my old firm when I was Social Club President. Everyone loved the idea.”

Penny crossed her arms, as if to guard herself from sarcasm. A slumber party? She stared at him in suspicious confusion.

“A slumber party?”

“Yes, a slumber party! We could all come dressed in our pyjamas and bring pillows and rugs and sit around in the boardroom, eating marshmallows and playing games.”

“And talk about boys and braid each other’s hair?”

“What?”

“It kinda sounds like the Babysitters’ Club.”

“Exactly! But sexier!”

“Sexier?”

“Absolutely. Not all pyjamas are made out of flannel. I’m sure you have some nice silky outfits. I know I do.”

He smirked like a school boy who had found his friend’s older sister’s underwear drawer. She responded, sarcastically.

“Hilarious.”

“I’m serious. Everyone would love it!”

“Right. Well that sounds….”

Awful. Frightening. A sexual harassment suit waiting to happen.

“… it sounds like something we can talk about on another day.”

Penny turned to leave.

“Or how about a day at the Fun Factory?”

Penny turned back toward him. His face appeared innocent, earnest. Penny was still afraid to ask.

“I don’t… I’m not sure… what exactly is the Fun Factory?”

“It’s this playground type area in a warehouse and it has this awesome …”

“Playground?”

“Yeah, it’s for kids, you know like young kids and it’s…”

Penny thought of the children she yearned for. Would she bring her children to work functions? Would she expose her children to this? Penny felt a pit in her stomach, slowly filling with fluttering butterflies.

“Oh, right. Look, not many people at the firm actually have children so I don’t know if….”

“Oh no, no, no. We wouldn’t let anyone bring their kids. It would be for us. It has this awesome foam pit and…”

“A foam pit?”

“Can you imagine!”

She couldn’t. This conversation, initially an innocent distraction, had veered onto a path she could never have imagined. Was this a prank? Had she wandered down the rabbit hole? Was there something out of the ordinary in her coffee, this morning?

“But, wouldn’t other people’s children be there? Have you even done this before?”

“No, but…”

“Look. I’m really sorry, but I just don’t think…”

“It would be really fun.”

He sat neatly on the edge of his seat with a smile, eager and self-satisfied. Penny thought that the half day of preparation she needed for The Boss’s chamber summons was starting to look quite appealing.

“Look, I am actually quite busy right now, so I just wanted to pop by and let you know about the Social Club Committee. I’m glad you’re interested. Let’s talk about this another time”

Penny backed out of the room before he had the chance to continue his thoughts. There was no question: he was being serious. Either that or he was the greatest actor she had ever met. She would be saying no to sexy pyjama party. And the crazy child foam pit. She just couldn’t do it now. He was the new guy, and he seemed so enthusiastic. Penny decided she had enough distractions for one day, however she couldn’t get back to work. For the rest of the afternoon, Penny stared at the cottage, swearing to herself that she would never bring her children to a Fun Factory.

This is the Chronicles of Creepy Pants.

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