Northamptonshire, England, 2008
He had been asleep for only about an hour when the harsh beep, beep, beep of the alarm woke him. Groggily, he threw out a hand and slammed it down on the LED clock, his fingers quickly finding the button to turn off the infernal din before his head burst.
Jake Sawyer had only slept sporadically throughout the night, half an hour here, ten minutes there but he certainly had not managed a full night as he was too anxious to sleep. Today was too big a day, too important. His whole future was riding on it.
He had not really been tired during the night, as his mind was too active, mentally rehearsing what he was going to say and how he hoped it would all play out. But, of course, now he was tired. That last hour he must have fallen into a very deep sleep and the harsh beeping of the alarm had violently shaken him out of it.
Slowly he sat up and as he threw off the duvet the cold of the morning hit him immediately. It was freezing but he stood and pulled on his boxers and an old t-shirt, then grabbed up his dressing gown and quickly slipped it on, wrapping it tightly around himself, shivering as he did so. He stuffed his feet into a pair of well-worn slippers as he stumbled over to the window and pulled open the curtains, momentarily blinded by the pure white of the morning.
Where he had expected to see spiky brown trees, dull green grass and the row of drab grey houses opposite, he saw instead a winter wonderland. Everything that had been so ugly the night before had suddenly been beautified by a light dusting of snow. But flakes were still falling and the sky looked full of a whole lot more. “Shit!” said Jake aloud. “Just what I need.”
Jake lived alone now in the cheap, rented flat. None of the furniture was his, not even the bed. The only things that belonged to him were the few clothes in the half empty wardrobe, a laptop, a mobile phone and a few photographs of his children which he had dotted around the place in mis-matched frames. Everything else had either been taken by his estranged wife or sold to keep his failing business afloat, including the family home and car.
But today, all that was going to change. Today was going to be his salvation; his and Angie’s and Zack’s and Poppy’s. Today was the day when he was going to turn it around – when all their lives would reboot.
Today the crushing, unrelenting weight of debt and worry would finally be lifted. The new contract was certain, in the bag, needing nothing more than Jake’s artistic signature along the bottom before the first, desperately needed instalment was transferred into his business account, and then he could breath again.
He had even planned to take Angie and the kids out to Pizza Hut for a celebratory meal. Nothing fancy, just enough to prove to Angie that things had changed, that he was back on top – a success, just like before. When she loved him. He could show her, prove to her, that he finally had a way to get out of debt.
The two year contract, putting together a monthly magazine would not only give them a fresh start it would also give him the time he needed to rebuild his business, to win other contracts and new accounts. A vital shot in the arm.
Admittedly it was not the most creative work, but it was regular and it was for Plancom, one of the biggest companies in Europe. Not some small little company with no budget, but a huge corporation with massive resources. Which meant no problems getting paid and right now, that was all that mattered. A safe account with a safe income.
Jake had to pitch for the job. His company, Sawyer Design, was up against two others – both larger than his which was, essentially a one-man-band. But even so, Jake knew the contract was his. The creative director of the magazine, Bob Hart, was an old friend and ex-colleague and he had guaranteed, with a nudge and a wink over a pint the previous week, that Jake’s would be the winning pitch.
Continues tomorrow or download the complete novel here