Bad Habits

Another interlude that takes place during the novel I started during 2012's NaNoWriMo containing some more of Wendi's backstory.
January 1990

After a while the appeal of working in the record shop began to wane for Wendi. She earned little more than she would have by signing on and had only taken it in the first place to get the Restart people off her back. The free promos from the record company reps were all that kept her going - and she wouldn't be able to get them anywhere else - but finding the money to go to gigs and to rehearse with the nascent band her and Peter were putting together was becoming difficult.

In the end SoundStore made the decision for her. A new contract from senior management came round which all staff were obliged to sign. One clause said that all promos received from reps were "the property of SoundStore Ltd" which was a bit of a coincidence given that one of the senior managers had just set up a mail order rare records service. Further clauses said that the cost of any credit card fraud came out of the wages of the member of staff responsible for performing the transaction and that as a theft prevention measure the management had the right to stop and search any members of staff outside work at any time.

Charlie, the manager of Wendi's branch, told her not to worry about it, and that he wasn't going to enforce any of this. As far as he was concerned he had a nice little relationship going with the record company reps - he accidentally made a few more entries of their pet projects' singles into the chart computer and they took him out for expensive meals - and keeping his staff sweet was all part of that.

But the atmosphere had changed. Wendi felt as if she was being watched and could no longer relax.

The last straw came when she was unceremoniously transferred to the Rotherhithe branch. She didn't have any say in the matter; moving the staff around like this was another feature of the new contract. The fact that she now had to get up far earlier and spend a fortune on public transport meant nothing to the management.

She began looking at the jobs pages in the Evening Standard and it wasn't long before she spotted a post which seemed to consist mainly of mundane administration in the events department of a conference centre in the West End. She'd never done anything like that before, but had a certificate in typing and shorthand from a secretarial college she'd attended a couple of summers ago. The clincher was that the wages were twice what she was earning at SoundStore.

To her surprise she got the job despite her unusual fashion choices - it probably helped that the woman in charge of the department appeared to be a bit of a bohemian and was probably hiring Wendi just to piss off the head of a rival team.

It was dull and Wendi had nothing in common with any of her new colleagues, but at least she had some money and access to the West End in her lunch break. Sometimes she would go straight to gigs after work and on one or two memorable occasions went straight to work after having pulled an all-nighter.

An unfortunate side effect of this lifestyle was that she got addicted to soluble codeine painkillers.

At first the pills been intended as a hangover prevention or cure after one of her nights out but then without consciously becoming aware of the transition, she realised she was taking them as a matter of course as part of her morning routine. Coffee from the machine, sandwich and bottle of still mineral water from the canteen plus two co-codamol.

Then two more mid-morning.

The routine expanded and she begun taking them after lunch. Then before going home. Then she began taking them four at a time. Then she began visiting different pharmacies on the way to work so the shopkeepers didn't recognise her and guess what she was up to.

The problem was that she didn't really know what she was up to herself. She'd become addicted to codeine but wasn't really getting a buzz off it, wasn't suffering any noticeable withdrawal symptoms at the weekends when she didn't take any. It was just something her body did automatically.

Plink, plink, fizz.

The thought of that cold effervescent water and the subsequent vague white numbing of her brain made her mouth water. She looked forward to getting into work in the morning.

Panicking, she'd gone cold turkey, substituting sparkling mineral water for still in her morning routine in an attempt to fool her senses. It worked, but every so often even months later she would catch herself in Boots looking wistfully at the economy-sized packs behind the pharmacy counter. Wendi hated the expression "addictive personality" and the implied abnegation of responsibility for one's own actions and would never have described herself in that way. She had no-one to blame but herself, but she had to admit there was something in her mental makeup that made it difficult for her to stop once she'd started.

All habits died hard with Wendi.


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