When I was twenty-two, I moved to London. It was a difficult decision. I wanted to be independent and to try to make it as a writer, but I was worried about Mum. After all, it was just the two of us.
Mum, however, had no doubts.
‘You cannot live your life thinking about me,’ she said. ‘You need to follow your dreams.
That was my mum. Always putting others first.
So, one summer day, two years ago, I loaded my car and said bye to my village and my childhood. The sun shone and I told myself it was a good omen.
As I drove away, I saw Mum waving goodbye and for a second I thought I could see her body sparkle, but I dismissed it as a silly mirage.
The first days in London were hectic. I was staying with friends, but it was cramped and I wanted to find my own flat. I also needed a job.
The flat hunting was easier than I had expected. I found a tiny bedsit that I loved on the second day. It had just been remodeled and it was bright and airy. The rent was not too high for London, so it was a perfect combo.
Finding a job proved to be more difficult. Fortunately I had some money in the bank and I wasn’t in too much of a hurry.
After two weeks, I got my first interview. It was a job at a small newspaper I had never heard about, The East London Scandal.
That morning I agonized about what to wear for half an hour. In the end I chose a navy dress that made my red hair look even redder. Mum always said it was my best feature. I thought she was wrong, I believed my mauve eyes were the only part of my face that was really pretty. Or at least unusual.
When I got to the newspaper office, I joined a dozen other candidates in the waiting room. Seeing so many people had applied for the job somehow dashed my hopes. All of them looked older and more experienced than me.
After an hour, a sour-looking assistant in her fifties called my name. I followed her into a small room and was told to sit down. Opposite me, staring down at my resume, there was a huge man with bulging eyes.
‘So your name is Willow,’ he said without looking at me. ‘Unusual…’
I didn’t know what to say so I just waited.
‘You don’t seem to have much experience.’
‘Well, I’m still quite young.’
He finally lifted his eyes and looked at my face.
‘Unusual eyes as well… Are you a good writer?’
‘I want to think I am.’
He asked me a few more questions and told me they’d be in touch by the end of the week. I left the newspaper offices thinking I would never hear from them again. I was so depressed by that thought that I decided to go to the park for a while.
I bought myself a hot dog at a street stand and sat on a bench. I felt lonely and I missed my mum. That was what London did to you, you felt isolated even if you were surrounded by people wherever you went.
A couple of days later, while I was cooking breakfast my mobile rang.
‘Yes. That’s me.’
‘I’m calling you to tell you you got the job. Could you please come by in an hour. There are certain things we need to speak about.’
‘Of course. I’ll be there at nine.’
After I hung up, I did a celebratory dance around the kitchen and then I called Mum to tell her.
Two days later, I started working for the East London Scandal. I walked to the office even though it was raining and bought a bagel and a cup of coffee on the way. It was my way of feeling like a real Londoner.
I worked from a cubicle as small as a pub booth. I was in charge of writing two tiny columns per day. Two columns that I was sure nobody ever read. They were just there to fill awkward spaces on the pages of the newspaper. The topics ranged from new poop and scoop areas to broken steps in a local church. But I didn’t complain. I was sure this was just the beginning and that one day I would be writing exciting articles for a great newspaper. Or even my own novel…