First Days at University – A Short Story

Angela twiddled with her long dark hair. She always twiddled when she was nervous and today she was especially nervous. The butterflies were still dancing around in her stomach. For the fifth time that morning she wondered whether forcing a slice of toast down was such a good idea. She glanced again at her reflection in the tube window, minimal makeup to bring out her dark eyes and a sensible dark business suit with white shirt. Again she wondered whether the skirt and blouse might have been better than this trouser suit which made her look older than her 30 years. The man opposite her reading his paper glared in her direction and she quickly averted her eyes and started smoothing down her trousers and picking imaginary fluff off her jacket. As the train pulled into the station the man opposite her stood and exited the train. Angela breathed a sigh of relief; she hated confrontation and a row with a grumpy commuter was not the right way to start your first day at work. Angela looked up and saw that her stop was the next on the journey. Just one last check of the route planner to ensure that she knew where she was going after leaving the tube. Not that this was necessary as she had memorised the route methodically over the weekend.

Walking down the busy road Angela spotted London University straight away. Modern in design the university stood impressively against the more traditional backdrop. Crossing the road Angela walked into the main reception and patiently waited for the students in front of her to be dealt with by the receptionist. She allowed a student to push in front of her in the queue to ask for directions to the science lab. He turned around and grinned at her.

‘Sorry, were you waiting?’ he asked with a cocky smile

‘No you’re fine, after you,’ she replied.

Angela glanced nervously at her watch wondering whether she was going to be late for her first day. No, she was fine, she still had time.

‘Can I help you?’ the receptionist asked. She was a thin woman with a mean face that looked like she wanted to be anywhere but behind reception dealing with the throng of people.

‘I have an appointment to meet Mr Gregson. He asked me to report here and said he would come to get me.’

Sighing the receptionist said ‘suppose I will have to ring him then.’

‘Thank you,’ Angela replied. Once again the nerves rose and she glanced nervously at the toilet and her watch working out whether she had time to dive in for the fifth time this morning.

At that moment a stout man with a friendly face smiled at her, ‘Angela.’

‘Yes, that’s me.

‘Hi, I am Mr Gregson, Carl. How are you? Glad to see you got here OK. Sorry we carried out the interviews in our other branch, but still you found us OK,’ he rattled on in a sing-song voice.

‘Yes, nice to meet you,’ she stammered.

‘Well, shall I take you up and show you where you are working?’ he smiled warmly at her.

As they walked up to the department Mr Gregson chatted endlessly giving Angela the history behind the building, introducing her to colleagues as she went past. Angela noticed that his trousers were a little too short for him and his suit jacket was crumbled like he had thrown it in the back of a car. None of this mattered as his friendly smile, the type that reached right to his eyes and his enthusiasm meant that Angela soon found herself starting to relax.

As they neared the room where Angela was going to work, once again her stomach lurched and she thought to herself what am I doing here? Why did I think of leaving my last secure job, where I had been for 10 years was a good thing?

‘Here we are,’ Mr Gregson said. ‘Now my office is just down the corridor. Come and see me when you finish and we can have a cuppa and a chat. Do you have everything you need?’

Angela nodded, frightened that if she spoke the tremor in her voice would give away the utter terror that had just gripped her. Why Why Why had she decided that this was a good career move? What made her think that she was right for this job? At that point Angela considered telling him that this was all a mistake, she wasn’t right for the job. She would have run away but, she was pretty sure at this point her legs would fail her like her voice had.

Mr Gregson sensing her anxiety, smiled warmly and put his hand on her arm and said, ‘You’ll be fine.’

With that, he turned with a smile and walked towards his office.

Come on Angela, she said to herself, you can do this. Putting her hand on the cold door handle she gripped it with all her strength opening it and walked into the room.

‘Good morning, I am your new English teacher. If you would like to get your textbooks out we will start the lesson,’ she said in a strong clear voice.

She could do this, well, of course, she could do this, this was her stage, her environment. All the previous nerves were forgotten as she started writing the date and task on the whiteboard.

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