Dylan Coughlan was having an absolutely shit day.
The Northern line was delayed fourteen minutes (just long enough to piss her off and one minute less than she needed to get the journey refunded), and when it finally arrived, every carriage was completely packed, so she spent the duration of her commute tucked into a stranger's armpit, which, while less offensive than it would have been on a blistering-hot day, was still not the ideal way to spend the first twenty-five minutes of her morning. That would've been bad enough—should've been bad enough—but some arsehole in a suit slammed into her the moment she walked out of the station and sent her £5 emergency splurge coffee flying into the window of the Hard Rock Cafe. Then, of course, Chantel, her editor, had shouted at her in no fewer than six separate emails before nine thirty, and now, she was sitting at her desk, dangerously under-caffeinated, drafting another pointless quiz.
A task that was next to impossible because, on top of everything else that had gone wrong today, her parents were now blowing up her WhatsApp. And, worse, they showed no signs of stopping.
Even her brother, Sean, though well-intentioned, was starting to grate on her nerves. He was using every bit of his training as a therapist to keep them all from going nuclear on one another (again), but it was making Dylan wish she could go home and crawl under her duvet for the next month and a half.
A solution that wouldn't be effective anyway, because—apparently—hiding from your problems didn't do anything in the way of solving them.
Dylan wouldn't say she planned on getting into rows with her parents, but if she even so much as breathed in their direction these days, they ended up arguing. Today's fight had started with the annual so what are we doing for Christmas conversation, which, in an impressive seven messages, devolved into her parents berating Dylan for having the audacity to make decisions they disagreed with.
Though she supposed "disagreed with" was putting it lightly.
Dylan locked her phone and flipped it over with a bit more force than was probably necessary. At the hard clack of the screen against her desktop, her deskmate, Afua, looked up, eyes wide with surprise.
"Yeah, sorry." Dylan was lying through her teeth, and judging by the way Afua's eyes narrowed ever so slightly, Afua knew it. "Just need a cuppa. 'D you like one?"
Afua's expression immediately brightened. "Yeah, cheers."
Dylan dragged her phone off her desk and, in a show of surprising self-control, dropped it into her pocket rather than checking her messages. She was almost positive that there was at least one from her brother that was probably bearable, but Dylan didn't think she could keep reading the family chat if she wanted to retain her (basically) positive reputation in the office.
Buxom's office was like every other trendy, millennial-dominated workplace in London, although the magazine covers adorning the walls and the endless stashes of makeup, sex toys, face products, and clothes likely differentiated it from the others. She liked the open space and the feeling of being around everyone all day—having someone else to stare at, cry to, or talk things through with was instrumental when she was writing. Not that she was doing much of that these days.
Their small kitchen was tucked away in a corner behind the fire exit stairs, down a short, dark, brick-lined corridor that played a sharp contrast to the bright, open office. It had taken Dylan six months to realize this kitchen was here.
Dylan grabbed a pair of mugs off the mug tree in the corner and, after refilling the kettle, leaned back up against the cupboards.
She shouldn't check WhatsApp.
She knew she shouldn't.
The first few times Dylan's mam had spouted off, Dylan had been reduced to tears (in this very kitchen, in fact), but now, after nine months of this, she knew what to expect. It was the same line of argument, the same "points," and as much as Dylan wanted to say it didn't faze her anymore, the hard knots in her gut begged to differ.
She clicked out of the family chat without reading the most recent wall of texts and popped into her private conversation with Sean.