A ginger haired young man clucked at Phoebe as she walked into the waiting room. He was moving his arms as if they were wings.
Phoebe looked down at the stained red carpet as she hurried to a spare seat. The room was busy and everyone was trying not to watch – but really they were. She could see them peering out from behind their magazines, glasses and iPhones.
The man kept fiddling with the zip on his jacket. Phoebe put her bag on the chair and picked up a glossy magazine. She wondered whether the jacket wouldn’t zip up, or if it was stuck and he couldn’t undo it. The waiting room was hot; she’d taken off her coat as soon as she’d come in. There were no windows, just a skylight through which you could watch the clouds roll past.
The man stood up, arms and legs jerking.
‘Bloody bastard zip.’ He looked over and she quickly looked down at the double page spread of Jordan in a swimming pool.
‘Excuse me.’ She started to feel hot, panicky – he was coming over. ‘Fat cow!’ Spit landed near her feet, so she pulled them under her chair.
‘Could you help with the zip?’ His voice was softer for a moment and he looked straight at her and winked. His eyes were a pale grey as if someone had come along with a watery paintbrush and forgot to put any colour on the bristles.
‘Oh, I’m not very good with zips.’
‘Fat cow!’ he went back to his seat. A red prickly rash spreading across her face. She pretended to carry on reading; the pages swam in front of her eyes, images of models changed shape.
Phoebe got up, checked her bag was tightly closed, dropped the magazine on the floor and took a deep breath. She walked over to him. He was quieter now, resigned, sitting with his jacket half undone. Only his fingers were moving.
‘Maybe I could have a try.’ He sat forward in his chair as she kneeled down in front of him.
‘Might spit again.’
‘Ok. Right. I’ll try and pull it down and see if that works.’ At first her hands shook a little. She got the zip and pulled at the material underneath, which looked as though it were caught. It freed a little, and gradually the zip moved further down. She gripped it and pulled hard. The zip slid off the small silver teeth at the end of his jacket.
He pulled it off and swung it over his shoulder as his name flashed up on the screen.
‘Not so hot now,’ he said. He walked backwards towards the door.
As Phoebe returned to the chair a loud burp escaped from her mouth.
‘Fucking burping fat cow!’
‘Pardon me.’ She smiled.