Authors: Talli Roland
Tags: #Humor & Entertainment, #Humor, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Romantic Comedy
The Hating Game
The Hating Game © Talli Roland 2010
E-edition published worldwide 2010 by Prospera Publishing
© Talli Roland
All rights reserved in all media. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical (including but not limited to: the Internet, photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system), without prior permission in writing from the author and/or publisher.
The moral right of Talli Roland as the author of the work
has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Paperback ISBN 978-1-907504-03-7
Cover design © Prospera Publishing Inhouse
Cover photograph © Torvald Lekvam @sxc.hu
Cover image © Barunpatro @sxc.hu
All characters and events featured in this book are entirely fictional and any resemblance to any person, organisation, place or thing living or dead, or event or place, is purely coincidental and completely unintentional.
Contact: [email protected]
To A, for believing in me.
Half of all work-related flings end
within one month.
ne quarter of work-related marriages end in divorce.
IF I GET PNEUMONIA, HE’S GOING
to pay,’ Mattie Johns muttered as she gripped the chains of the dunk-tank swing and looked down into the murky water. Several unidentifiable floating objects bobbed on the surface and the water had a funky yellow tint. Bonus if she got diphtheria! She’d sue Stuart for all he was worth, saving her company and putting the loser out of business in one fell swoop.
Shame you couldn’t sue for boredom, she
sighed, shifting her frozen bottom on the swing. Watching TopRank Media’s Family Fun Day was about as exciting as watching the company’s CEO clip his toenails – which, unfortunately, she’d had the pleasure of witnessing first-hand. As hideous as that display was, Stuart’s toenail manoeuvres had been infinitely more entertaining than the bedroom moves that had followed. Any male sporting man boobs and a muffin top should be banned from dancing naked to Barry White – stuffed penguin prop or not – no matter how many millions he had.
withered man with an adventurous comb-over lumbered towards her and tried to get a look up her skirt.
It’s not Family Porn Day, you perv!’ she hissed, trying to cross her legs. The swing swayed ominously over the water and she grasped the chains even tighter.
Stuart!’ she yelled, scanning the gathering crowd. Where the hell was he? He was the one who’d stuck her up here on the dunk tank of doom, promising the whole thing would be over within minutes. Just do me this favour, he’d said. Show me you’re really on board with TopRank Media. Then we’ll talk business.
If he needed to dunk her in the water to make her pay for not calling him back, fine,
she’d thought as she climbed up the ladder and onto the swing. Pathetic, but fine. As long as he renewed his contract, too.
Stuart appeared around the front of the tank.
Mattie made a face.
Looking down, she could see the beginnings of a bald patch on top of his head and the buttons on his boring checked shirt strained to keep his belly in place. She’d really had her champagne goggles on when she’d agreed to accompany him home that night.
No, not cold at all!
’ Mattie tried to keep her rattling teeth together – no way was she giving him the satisfaction of seeing she was about to become an ice sculpture. ‘Listen, Stuart, before the fun begins, can we have a chat first? I have some great ideas to extend the scope of your contract with Mattie Johns Media Recruitment.’ She tried to smile but her lips were numb.
looked at her steadily. ‘You know, Mattie, when I started TopRank Media, I asked myself what kind of people I wanted on my team.’
Here we go, Mattie
thought. Boring, boring,
. She started to hum a little tune in her head to entertain herself – the same way she had when they’d slept together. You’d think two bottles of rubbish award-show champagne would have provided enough of a buzz. Stuart had succeeded at dulling even that.
Would I want someone who isn’t considerate? No. Who divulges personal information in front of potential employees? No. Who shows a lack of professionalism the likes of which I have never seen? No, no, no.’ Stuart smiled and tapped the side of the dunk tank. ‘You’re perfect for this, though. Enjoy!’ He walked away.
Stuart!’ she screeched. But he was already out of earshot, corralling more troops around the dunk tank. What a nerve, getting her to perch up here, all the while knowing he wasn’t going to renew the contract. Kind of surprising; she hadn’t expected to find an ounce of guts lurking in that slovenly frame.
Mattie sniffed, as she tried to get a foot on the ladder leading down to the ground. It wasn’t her fault one of the candidates she was vetting for TopRank Media overheard her on the phone to Jess last month, describing Stuart’s toenail rituals. And who would have thought the silly employee would report it back to Stuart? If you asked Mattie, she’d done Stuart a favour. Maybe he wouldn’t ask the next girl to file his toenails before getting busy.
professional, much more than him. True professionals never let their personal feelings interfere with business and that’s exactly what he was doing now. He could learn a lot from her.
, everyone.’ Stuart clapped his hands and silence descended. ‘Many of you came to TopRank through Mattie Johns. Now’s your chance to express your thanks for her
services!’ His face twisted and he laughed but it sounded more like a cackle.
Wait!’ Mattie yelled at the advancing crowd, feeling more and more like a witch about to burn at the stake. She swung a foot out, hooking her heel onto a rung of the ladder.
Stuart, I’m getting down. You can find someone else to boost your ego. Maybe file your toenails, too!’
everyone,’ Stuart shouted, a maniacal look in his eye. ‘One, two, THREE!’
A flurry of balls hurtled through the air towards her as the gathered crowd let loose.
hit!’ Mattie reached for the ladder. But before she could grasp it, there was a thump and she felt the metal bar give way. She plunged into the cold murky water, her foot still hooked on the ladder rung and her skirt floating around her head.
he tried to haul herself upright, water streaming into her ears and nose, breaking the surface to the sound of laughter. Above it all she could make out Stuart’s goofy guffaws.
And she’s up!
’ Stuart yelled through a megaphone. ‘Let’s get her back on that bar again, folks.’
Mattie shook her wet head, hair whipping across her face, and climbed down the rickety metal ladder on the side of the tank. She’d almost drowned, not to mention ruined a thousand pounds of prime wardrobe along with showing off her knickers to a hundred nerdy individuals. All to make an idiotic fool feel better about himself.
Thanks for coming out
,’ Stuart said sarcastically. He strode over to where she stood dripping onto the asphalt. ‘But we’ve just signed an exclusive deal with another agency. I believe you might have heard of them. Kyle Cook Recruitment?’ He met her eyes triumphantly. ‘Kyle speaks very
of you,’ Stuart sneered.
Mattie stared back, anger blocking any retorts from springing to mind
. Of all the agencies to lose business to, of course it had to be Kyle’s. Not that it surprised her – he’d already taken more than half her clients. As if cheating on her wasn’t bad enough! He wasn’t going to stop until she was completely ruined. At the rate she was going, that would be any day now.
She squared her shoulders and plucked a strand of wet hair from her cheek. ‘I hope you two have a very fruitful partnership.’
. She’d never seen two such pathetic men. They could file each other’s toenails, she smirked, trying to stop her brain from flicking through what losing TopRank’s account would do to her bottom line.
Oh, we will,
Mattie, we will,’ Stuart said. ‘We have one thing in common, anyway.’
Mattie turned and squished off. She could think of many things they had in common. Pea-sized brains – and other miniscule appendages, for a start.
We both hate you!’ Stuart shouted.
She stuck up her middle finger and kept walking. She had been such an idiot to trust Kyle – to
Kyle. Her mother was right: no man could be trusted. Look how things had turned out between her parents! Twenty years later and her mum had only just managed to pay back the debt her father had left behind when he’d run out.
Mattie clomped over to the bus stop to get the bus back to the tube. God, she missed her Mini Cooper. She’d had to sell it almost a month ago to keep her business landlord off her back and most days she still looked for the keys before her Oyster card.
Thanks for coming, Mattie!’
Stuart yelled out the window of his predictably dull black Lexus as he flashed by the bus stop. Mattie made a face at the back of the car as it zoomed away, then slumped down onto a gum-covered bench.
In the grimy glass of the bus shelter, she looked a fright. Her black bob was plastered against her head and h
er cheeks were so pale she could pass for a corpse. Add to that her blue lips and sodden clothes, and she resembled something the gutter had thrown up.
The bus lurched over and Mattie climbed on, digging her payment card out of her dripping blazer. She touched it on the reader, then sank down onto a seat, head propped up against the window. Much as she hated to admit it, she’d really been counting on Stuart’s business. Now what was she going to do?
he bus driver called.
Mattie sighed and lifted her head. ‘What?’
Your card didn’t work. Can you try it again, please?’
Mattie got to her feet and stalked over to the bus
driver, then touched her card to the reader. ‘There. Happy?’
driver shook his doughy head and turned to face her. ‘No. I’m sorry. It’s not working. Got any cash?’
tie’s insides twisted. If she had cash, would she be on this smelly bus with the rest of society’s rejects? ‘Of course I don’t have cash. That’s what the card is for. It’s not my problem your reader’s broken.’ She turned away and went to sit down, staring out the window and praying for him to just leave her alone.
There was a noi
se beside her and Mattie looked up to see the driver looming over her. His round body was a larger version of his head.
Miss.’ He twisted his hands anxiously, his eyebrows moving so much they looked like they were trying to escape his face.
What?’ Mattie gave him her harshest look
, the kind her mother used to bring men to heel.
You must pay or get off. And since you can’t pay. . .’ He gestured towards the door.
Mattie snorted. ‘I’m not going anywhere.’ Never back down was always her mantra – especially with blobby bus drivers. Besides, if she got off now, how the hell would she get home?
I don’t want to call the transit police,’ the driver said, locking eyes with her. Mattie stared hard at him, wondering if he’d actually go that far. Probably not, but did she really want to take the risk? She could only imagine the rumours that would circulate if anyone ever got wind of it. And things were bad enough as it was.