On Wednesday morning, Leslie was caught out by a faulty alarm, her phone having died overnight. Aside from that being frustrating in itself, meaning she would have to charge it at work, it meant that she had slept in way past her cut off time to leave. Usually, Leslie walked the nearly two miles but the hilly route took her around an hour. She had all of fifteen minutes. It wasn’t a disaster but it was frustrating: cooped up inside all day, she enjoyed the time to herself when she walked in and back. In fact, she was so late that she didn’t have time to do anything but get changed and hop in the lift for maximum time efficiency.
Chewing a piece of powerfully minty gum that made her tongue burn, Leslie reversed out of her spot a little too fast, nearly wiping out a motorbike in the cycle bay. She didn’t know anyone in her building who owned a motorbike, but there were sixty flats and the only people she knew lived in the two either side of hers: the old, forgetful woman and a single mother. She had no friends in the building. Greg was the nearest and Molly was a close second, living a couple of streets away. Lucy lived halfway between Leslie and her parents, in a leafier part of town with a house rather than a fraction of a grotty high rise. She and Mark had been such an old married couple for so long already, it was about time they had a baby.
Even driving, Leslie was cutting it fine and her bladder decided to wake up. She was fit to burst, jiggling her knees until the point came when it didn’t matter that she was almost at work, she just couldn’t hold it in any longer, pulling over by a block of public loos. She raced to the door: closed.
“Damn it!” she cried, walking with her knees clamped together to avoid wetting herself. She had to stop for a moment, unable to move until the desperate urge to wee dissipated. A man appeared from the other side of the block: the men’s door was unlocked and in a fit of about-to-urinate desperation, Leslie raced in after he was safely gone. There was a middle-aged man standing at the urinals who stared at her when she flew past him into a cubicle, hoisting her skirt up around her waist and sighing as she let herself go.
“Uh, this is the men’s,” the man said, zipping up his fly.
“It was this or my pants,” Leslie called back, tearing off a few sheets of tissue-thin loo roll.
“But … this is the men’s,” he said hopelessly, sticking his hands under the icy tap.
“Look, you’ve got nothing to be embarrassed about so just let me pee in peace,” she said: even in her hurry, she had snuck a peek. He was well endowed. She stood, flushing the filthy handle. Even for a public loo, it was a surprisingly dirty cubicle. Then again, she had never used the men’s before, but Leslie wasn’t a prude. She didn’t pull her sleeve over her hand or try to flush it with her foot.
He was still there when she washed her hands, standing beneath the pathetic dryer that would have taken a week to dry his hands. “Hi,” he said, looking her up and down.
“You have loo roll on your shoe.”
Leslie looked down, shaking off the paper strip by scuffing her shoe on the cracked tiles. The mirror was broken, each shard reflecting back a different version of herself, and the harsh light made it startlingly clear how late she had woken up. “Cheers.”
“No worries.” He lingered, sneaking the odd glance at her. His eyes were drawn to her chest.
“Do you have a problem?”
He shook his head hurriedly like a schoolboy caught leering at a pretty teacher, or a man in his forties caught leering at a pretty lady in the public loos.
“In which case, good day.” Leslie left, revving her engine a couple of times in the cold weather so as not to stall when she set off. She had four minutes to get behind the till.
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Leslie's Study of Femininity ✓ChickLit
•COMPLETE• Everyone tells Leslie she's one of the guys, so she sets out to prove that there are no rules to being a girl. --- watty award winner 'hq love award' 2014