Letitia Jones was proud. Proud of the one pantsuit she owned, it was a stylish navy blue combination which had cost her a bomb from a fancy Collins Street boutique. She considers it her lucky outfit. She knew it was an impulse buy which immediately transformed her euphoric rush into guilt, regret and self-loathing before she’d arrived home. She spent the following hour circulating her garment steamer over the fabric surface and seeking a suitable height to hang it from before Maybelle arrived home from school with the obligatory sticky fingers of a 7-year old. The next day, sitting as upright as she could and hoping the dark material masked the perspiration swarming from her armpits, Letitia and her lucky outfit were hired by the Hillbury Aged Care Facility. Finally after three years as an unemployed nurse, not to mention the struggle of being a single parent, she had secured a job.
Seven years later, she was wearing her lucky outfit for the second time. Just because Letitia was three years shy of the big half-century birthday didn’t mean she’d lost her identity as the ambitious and gung-ho healthcare professional she had portrayed herself as throughout her career. Global events may have changed the normality of 21st century life but Letitia was still the empathetic, focused and often outspoken warrior for the socially ignored. She made her way through the grandiose auditorium of the Health Services University at the Aged Care Research Symposium, the pantsuit might have been a little tighter around the hips and the material of the jacket not quite flexible enough for the buttons to meet their respective holes, however, it still managed to give her a confidence boost, especially in a room full of men, who quite honestly looked as if they should have been recipients rather than enablers of aged care services, dribbling their mochaccinos down the front of well-worn and rarely laundered custom made suits.
“Here you are, Miss,” the second year psychology student mumbled as he casually waved an arm in the vicinity of the third row. “You’ll find the female amenities in the basement should you require them. Today’s presentations will be followed by an afternoon tea. Should you decide to stick around.”
Obnoxious little prick. She wasn’t going to stick around anyway, the last thing she needed right now was to be small talked by a collective of puppets unconsciously spruiking the opinions and agenda of the Federation. No. She was here to support her boss, Dr Felix Broadlynch, as he presented his research and evidence of Autonoetic Consciousness in order to save the residents, the Hillbury Aged Care Facility and her fucking job from a future of bureaucratic oblivion.
“Thank you,” she responded with a courteous smile as she entered the aisle. “You’ve been very helpful and about as charming as a hemorrhoid.”
The psychology student, oblivious to her response, checked his phone before walking away. He was the stereo-typical over-privileged son of some well-to-do hedonistic prat with connections in all the right places which Letitia had grown accustomed to over the past few years. She made her way along the row of highly inconvenienced patrons who were already seated. They looked away, with a certain amount of irritability, from their phones as she made her way to her designated seat. She sat and rearranged her jacket and was momentarily bewildered by an articulate female voice speaking calmly in her ear.
“It’s quite overwhelming to say the least isn’t it?”
“The irritation that comes with senility and incontinence shouldn’t be underestimated, luckily I deal with it on a daily basis,” Letitia responded as she turned and thought better to make an ally through humour than cause an absolute stink by speaking her disdain towards the event, its organisers and the scared servants that made up the audience. “I’m Letitia Jones, from the Hillbury Aged Care Facility.”
The woman looked early thirties, dressed in a tailored charcoal grey pantsuit and possessed an immaculate bobbed hairstyle without a single hair out of place. Leititia noticed the confident and reassuring look the woman had on her face and surmised that this well presented lady was definitely higher up in the pecking order than herself.
“Meredith,” she extended her hand. “Meredith Lacey, pleased to meet you. I’ve read Dr. Broadlynch’s latest research, it’s rather fascinating.”
“Oh, I wasn’t aware the paper had been circulated?”
“Let’s just say I’m a keen admirer of independent research.”
Letitia wondered how this unknown and perfectly groomed woman had managed to read the report as they had only finalised it yesterday, and as far as she knew, there were only two printed copies in existence. Could Felix have emailed the file? Highly unlikely she thought, as Felix was a digital-sceptic and didn’t trust file sharing servers. Had Felix somehow got lucky after leaving the facility? Had he called into the supermarket on his way home and hit it off with this woman whilst browsing the organic fruit and vegetable section in his pursuit of the perfect papaya and spent the night wooing her with his research paper before indulging in an all night session of tantric discoveries? Realising the avenue her thoughts had journeyed, Letitia surmised that she was either jealous or simply plain old lonely. Meredith smiled, aware that she had stirred something in Letitia.
“Let’s see how it goes down with this lot,” Meredith looked towards the stage. “Isn’t that Dr. Broadlynch now?”
Letitia turned and watched as Felix, looking nervous, was escorted to a seat on the stage by Dr. Rudolph Cruikshank, the striking seven-foot tall leader of the Health Services Federation. He had been appointed by the consortium known as Eighth Day, who took control of global governance and social infrastructure after an unprecedented strain of severe acute respiratory syndrome wiped out a third of the world’s population, crippled poorly managed government operations, caused a global financial recession and left society insecure and isolated. Considered as the much needed rejuvenation to worldwide health care services, Rudolph was admired, respected and feared for his radical ideas, definitive decisions and his relationship with the mysterious philanthropists of the consortium who brought civilisation back from devastation and utter despair after the pandemic.
The lights in the auditorium dimmed, phones were pocketed, chatter ceased and all eyes watched as the naturally quaffed grey haired leader approached the lectern. His stride resembled the majestic movement of a giraffe, long legs with head held high. As he strutted, all heads turned. His presence demanded attention, it was hard to look away. Letitia could sense her breathing as she, like everyone else, fell into a state of anticipation and wonder.
“Welcome all,” The dulcet tone of Dr. Rudolph Cruikshank spread across the auditorium, “Normally, we’d gather here to witness the latest findings in Aged Care research and practices. Normally, funding would be allocated to develop a select few of the proposals towards fruition. Normally, we would all leave after the proceedings with confidence that the decisions and choices made will continue to advance our specialist services. However, today is not a day for normality. Today, as you will soon discover, is a very special day indeed.” Rudolph, out of habit rather than necessity, straightened his already perfectly adorned silk tie. “Today, ladies and gentlemen, you will witness an astounding development in the cognitive neuroscience of aging.”
Chatter made its way through the auditorium like a symphony of kazoos. Letitia, surprised by the reaction, sat a little higher in her seat. She looked across to where Felix had been seated only to discover that he wasn’t there. Instead, there sat the charcoal grey pantsuit with the immaculate bobbed hairstyle. Letitia turned and looked at the empty seat behind her. What’s going on? She wondered.
“To present these remarkable findings, please welcome the Executive Director of the Health Services Federation, Ms Meredith Lacey.” Rudolph started off the applause which soon spread throughout the auditorium like firecrackers during Lunar New Year celebrations. Letitia was momentarily stunned, watching as her newly acquainted fellow pantsuit wearing ally turned out to be the second biggest fish in the pond. Shaking herself back into the moment, Letitia slowly applauded. Unsure of where this was going, she started looking around for Felix. He was nowhere in sight and apart from herself, nobody seemed to have noticed that he had disappeared. She turned to look at the formerly occupied seat behind her and was completely surprised as a large man in a very nice suit shot her.