6.45am outside the venue for the weekly meeting of Cardiff's most successful business networking club, Netgain. No one knows why it's so successful. It doesn't do any visible marketing, but there is always a string of new businesses lined up to join, week in, week out. The boutique hotel falls over itself to provide a plush conference room and the sort of hot buffet breakfast you'd drive an hour for.
Jim’s been hovering outside for ten minutes already, puffing cigarettes and watching porn on his smart phone that he’d propped up on the window ledge. They advised guests not to arrive before 7am. Yet, some did and Jim played the warmup man to any eager beavers. He squinted through the window for the tenth time to see if their coffee flasks had arrived. He'd specified prepared strong filter coffee, not hot water with those packets of instant. Oh god, that gave him the shakes just thinking about it. Cigarettes and reasonable coffee was all he demanded, not a diva in his book.
"What's up Jim?" Sarah chirped warily, long having learnt to keep it light with Jim. She was usually first to turn up to have time to apply her make up. She always said her face was too puffy when she woke up to do it. In fact she will tell anyone who listens, like it was some kind of trendy exotic disease.
"I fucking hate this time of year. Fucking self-assessments. I've had no sleep and I need a fucking coffee" Jim spat the words out like halitosis bullets right in her face.
"OK matey. Good morning!" she winced at Jim's swearing, but tried not to show it. He loved to swear as much as possible in front of her and watch her squirm. He liked the way she pulled her arms into her body like a defence against the words, which made her boobs rise up. "Look, there's the coffee coming now!" Sarah pointed, and trotted off to the loo in heels way too high for breakfast.
She knew to be polite to him. He was the ‘Accountant’. He did all the management team self-assessments. He also managed the payroll. Yes, the membership payroll – a business network club that paid its members. That was one of those things, you know the type - one of those things that had both rumour and fact in it. It was enough to create a buzz alright. The membership was steady and rarely lost members. In fact it had become an ‘in joke’ that the only end to membership was death.
This was the best business she'd ever been involved in, but her boyfriend hated that they never took holidays, yet loved the things they could buy. She loved to treat him. He was her trophy. He wasn’t quite premier level, but pretty enough for the odd photoshoot now and again.
That’s what he told her anyway.