Norma

Norma finished her cereal as per always to the sounds of the ABC, the dose of morning news and current affairs combining with the bowl of fiber to keep her regular.

She stopped to straighten a doyley on the arm of her fine brown plaid lounge before heading out to join the dawn and the queue for the bus.

Brown was a common theme for Norma. It was her surname for starters. In addition she had brown eyes, cropped brown hair and much of her furniture and clothes were brown as well. Take the shoes she wore now for instance. Brown. No heel either. Norma always believed she had a quiet, understated elegance about her, nothing of the garish flashiness common to the younger generations.

Although, she was coming to the realisation that what she thought of as a classy pair of shoes were now more often termed as ‘sensible’.

It wasn’t only her sense of style that seemed to have…certain limitations. Her personality could almost be classed as ‘brown’ as well. Norma didn’t drink, didn’t swear, didn’t…well didn’t applied to most things. Part of her upbringing she guessed. Even ordering a chicken lunch at the food court downstairs became an awkward social interaction when they asked if she wanted ‘breast or leg’. Norma blushed and changed her order to a salad.

As Norma entered the lift to the 25th floor she felt her stress levels rising. She didn’t really enjoy work (who would after 19 years at the same job) and only yesterday the one person she felt was her friend in this place had betrayed her.

Becky was younger than Norma, but unlike the others seemed to have the patience and sensitivity required to at least be friendly. Occasionally they even met up for coffee on a Saturday afternoon, which apart from the regular visits to her mother’s was Norma’s only real social engagement.

But yesterday Norma had heard Becky talking to a couple of the other girls; they were in the tea room, Norma was about to enter when she heard the last sentence of a conversation, delivered by Becky.

‘Poor Norma, it’s like she grew up in the 50’s’.

Norma had cried after that, sneaking off and sitting in a toilet stall for 20 minutes, cried again when she went to bed that night, but awoke the next morning with new resolve.

I will not be that person again; I will not be ‘Poor Norma’ she had thought.

Armed with her newborn determination Norma strode purposefully from the lift to her desk, barely acknowledged Becky’s morning hello with a terse nod of the head, and plunged into her typing.

It was difficult though. Norma felt the change in her must be very obvious to everyone else. Would they take it seriously? Would she still be a joke? It was hard to concentrate with this going through her head.

One of the younger men walked past her, she caught his look in her direction. What was he looking at? One of the other girls laughed into her telephone, were they talking about ‘Poor Norma’ again? Just try to get on with your work Norma.

The straw that broke the camels back came at 10.45. Becky and the other girls had gone to the tea room and Norma had sat for 15 minutes wondering if she should get her morning coffee or wait it out. Remembering her new brazen attitude she thought why not and headed off purposefully. Chat and laughter came from behind the tea room door, Norma had not made out anything that was said but as she entered the girls turned and immediately went closed mouth, all conversation ending.

‘That’s it’! Norma exclaimed a little too loudly, voice quivering.

‘I won’t take this any more. I’m not poor Norma’!

With that she swung the tea room door closed (with reasonable force) and strode to the lifts, past her startled colleagues, exited at ground level, strode into the food court and exclaimed in a rather loud and obvious voice.

‘Chicken lunch please, I’ll have the BREAST’!

Norma

Michael Douglass

Alexandria, Australia

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