When I grow up...
"You need a plan B," said Alicia’s mother when at five years old she told her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Thirty odd years later, Alicia is on plan D: sharing a flat, no tangible savings, and working for hateful Julia, whose sole purpose in life is to make her existence utterly miserable. Good thing she has Oscar and the girls to make the long hours at work bearable. But when a series of events tears the close-knit group apart, putting friendships and motives under suspicion, will Alicia be able to restore balance and set things right? More importantly, will she ever be able to upgrade her life to at least plan C?
I glance at the clock on top of my desk, willing the time to go faster. I have been painfully watching the seconds pass by all morning. In five more minutes Oscar and the girls will be at the kitchen for our accustomed tea break. He had sent a group message half an hour ago informing us when he was taking his break and asked if anyone else was free.
I look nervously at the door, hoping Julia, my boss, won´t choose that moment to open it for one more useless urgent request, when we both know it can also be done three hours from now or even tomorrow. She has a knack for being most inopportune, and if she gives me a task and I take my break late, I´ll have to sit on my own as the others will already have returned to their desks. We are only allowed ten minutes off outside our lunch hour—we always add one or two more, though, as we feel time spent in route to the kitchen should not be included— and we try to coordinate with one another so we can take our breaks together.
The seconds tick so slowly. I can hear Julia on the phone speaking in the voice she uses when she is talking to a client, the same voice that would mislead anyone who didn´t know her into actually thinking she is remotely human.
Just in time, I grab the handset and race to the staff kitchen where Oscar, Emma, Amparo, and Carmen are sitting around the wooden table staring hungrily at the cream-filled buns resting on a plate. We take turns in bringing something to accompany the pot of steaming coffee the first one to arrive makes, and I can´t wait to sink my teeth into what Carmen has brought for us today.
“Ah, there you are!” Emma exclaims as I rush to pour a cup of coffee. “We were only going to give you half a minute more before starting.” The rest start tucking in, while at the same time trying to fill each other in on their hectic days and how our bosses seem to have a goal of making our lives even more difficult than necessary, if possible.
We work for Fernández & Associates. It´s the kind of law firm where the lawyers bill their clients six figures just for answering the phone. We have some of the most prestigious and wealthy clientele, both in Spain and abroad. One of our departments deals with international law, so we cater to all the legal needs of a lot of Spanish businessmen who own companies in other countries, as well as foreigners who come to set up businesses here in Spain. It was started by Sergio Fernández Castellón1, the father of our present senior partner, Alejandro. He wanted to provide very personal service to his clients, so our policy has always been to have just five lawyers, each heading a department. This enables them to have a very close and direct relationship with each client. Now that Alejandro has taken over, he is following the same philosophy and, as a result, we have clients that have been with the firm for over thirty years. We accept new clients strictly on recommendations and only on rare occasions.
The firm occupies three floors of a building located in Calle Serrano2. The ground floor holds the reception area and conference rooms. The secretaries and junior lawyers have offices on the middle floor. And finally, on the top floor, where few venture except when summoned, the partners have what we like to call their dens.
The five of us are “corporate personal assistants”, which is an important sounding title that really means your job description is whatever the boss wants, no matter how ridiculous it is. We all speak various languages, have university degrees, and are known for our discretion—except during our breaks, of course. There, we have no secrets from each other. But really, apart from it being extremely interesting to know all that goes on with the other four bosses, confiding in each other has really helped us on more than one occasion to narrowly escape impending disasters that might otherwise have cost one or two jobs. So our undercover network is of utmost importance to us and probably to the firm as well.
I love a good gossip, but sometimes knowing what someone else´s boss has done is important for me. I can then feel that I am not the unluckiest person on Earth because I work for Julia.
1 In Spain, everyone has two last names; the first is the father´s first last name and the second is the mother´s first last name.
2 Also called Milla de oro because it is where the most exclusive and expensive shops in Madrid are located.
Author of I stand Corrected, Rewind, Balou Uncensored, Bienvenidos a gatos anónimos, Pasarse cuatro Pueblos and Sesenta segundos dan para mucho, Patricia Asedegbega Nieto was born to a Spanish mother and a Nigerian father in Madrid. As a child, she relocated with her family to Nigeria and later returned to Spain, where she acquired her BSc and master´s degree.
She is currently living near Madrid with her family and her very stubborn cat, Merlin Mojito.
1. Tell us about your book/books? I have written both in Spanish and English in my favourite genre; suspense with a touch of humour. Aside from stand-alone novels, I have a series in each language, I love writing and getting to know and develop the characters through each novel, thereby, creating a bond between them and the reader. Though some of the storylines are quite serious, my novels can be read by almost everyone.
2. How did you get started as a writer? I started writing seriously a few years ago. My cat decided that he wasn´t going to try any of the high premium wet food brands I had gotten him, so armed with more than 90 tins, I visited a cat shelter. I was encouraged to write a collection of cat stories to raise funds and help them, after that I found that people liked my work and I just continued writing. It became my passion.
3. What inspires your writing? I am inspired by almost everything around me. The things I see or am told, almost anything can pave the way for a good novel.
4. What’s a typical day like for you? I get up early and spend my day at work, I get home quite late but I always have time during the day to elaborate and plan in my mind whichever book I´m working on.
5. Describe your workspace. I write almost anywhere, all I need is my laptop. I also you a notebook when I´m far away from it to write down ideas and thoughts I have.
6. Favorite books? Any of Agatha Christie´s novels, I have read them over and over again.
7. Tell us 3 interesting things about you. I love cats, I enjoy cooking and trying out recipes and I´m very punctual.
8. Favorite quote: “Two wrongs don´t make a right.”
9. Best and worst part of being a writer? For me, the best part of writing is having an initial idea and developing a whole story out of it, bringing the characters to life, giving them a story and background. The worst art of being a writer comes after, the marketing of the book is not as interesting for me.
10. Advice to writers? Just keep trying, never give up on your dream.