The beauty of your shirtdress is the perfect positioning of the buttons. You can leave the top two undone, and it doesn’t look at all immodest. But from certain angles a lucky man would get a glimpse of cleavage, and even a tiny sneaky peek at your bra. Just in case that angle comes into play during an encounter with Finance you opt for your best push up bra, the black one with the gold ribbon trim. The dress is a deep olive green which is very much your colour. And it looks great with your foxy high heeled tan sandals.

It’s the sort of outfit you’d like to bump into Charlie wearing. Not so much because you want him back – but because you want him to want you back.

By the time you reach the tube and have to walk down the broken escalator you are already regretting the heels. The platform is 10 people deep and you remind yourself, yet again, that you need to leave before eight if you want a less nasty journey. All that time procrastinating and titivating this morning cost you a peaceful sit down on the way to work. You emerge from the tube sweaty and crumpled and decide to treat yourself to a Starbucks and a fruit salad, since it’s Monday. So you’re a little laden down when you arrive at work and have to fish your security pass out of your bag. As you balance your latte between your elbow and your body, disaster strikes. Hot latte coats your left breast and trickles down all the way to your hem. Tears prick the back of your eyes. This is what being single and having to go to work on a Monday morning is like and it sucks. Life is beyond unfair. You, Sarah, deserve so much better than this.

You pull yourself together in the ladies. Some deep breaths help restore your inner calm. And some hasty dabbing reduces the latte mark to a faint, milky stain. Not ideal but better than it was. From your right hand side, and from behind, you still look great.

Still, it’ll be hard to conduct a conversation with the cute Finance guy and absolutely guarantee that he won’t get a whiff of milky coffee or catch sight of a dubious smudge He’ll probably think you’re a working mum and it’s that morning’s baby vom. You decide to keep a low profile and postpone that little chat about budgets till tomorrow.

Some guy from the print buying team is looking for your desk neighbour, Joan, with urgent proofs to sign off.

‘She’s probably just running late,’ you say to the young lad, who must be barely out of sixth form, with the proofs. It’s half past nine, and you sigh internally at the fact that so many bad things can have happened to you before the day has even begun.

Just then, Joan appears, looking a bit flushed. It seems you weren’t the only person who had a bad experience getting into work that morning. Judging by the crumbs on her mouth and the shelf of her sizeable breasts, she consoled herself with a chocolate croissant. She looks a little startled to see the print guy there.

‘Sorry, sorry. Oh my god! The Northern Line this morning was just absolute hell.’

‘You too?’ you shake your head in sympathy.

‘Horrific! I had to let like 5 trains go past, all too full. Finally got on a Charing Cross one and then when it pulled into the next stop they said it wasn't going via Charing Cross after all. So I had to get off, let like another half dozen trains go by...’

‘And then when you do get on it’s bloody disgusting,’ you say. ‘All sweaty and cramped. Ugh. I’m going to start getting the bus in. The tube’s a nightmare.’

The guy from print buying, who’s still holding the proofs, pipes up, ‘You should try cycling. It’s quicker than the tube or the bus, way nicer, and you get a work out for free.’

Joan dismisses this with a scornful look. She wouldn’t pay for a workout, so the fact this would be free is lost on her. She grabs the proofs and starts scouring them for errors, and you take the opportunity to find out more about this alternative to the Northern Line.

‘But don’t you get all sweaty? And then have to sit in your sweaty clothes all day?’

‘I shower here. There’s a shower in the gents on the third floor. I bet there’s one in the ladies. And then I’m all fresh as a daisy all day,’ he grins.

You take in his beard and slightly greasy hair and doubt he’s ever truly fresh as a daisy.

‘So you have to carry your clothes in?’

‘Sure, it all fits in a rucksack.’

‘Hmmm,’ you say, clocking his crumpled shirt and thinking you couldn’t even fit the necessary range of shoes and belts into a rucksack. To have all your options at your fingertips, that is. You’d have to decide what you were wearing before you left the flat. No trying on, no faffing, just pick an outfit, squish it into a rucksack, and get on your bike. Hardcore.

‘I’m not sure I could be that well organised. Still, it must be brilliant exercise.’

‘It is, it is. Feel my thighs.’

Never one to turn down an invitation, you have a squeeze. They’re like granite. Hard, muscular granite.

‘Wow. I could have legs like Rachel Hunter by the end of the summer. But it must be dangerous? The London traffic?’

‘Hate to cut this discussion short,’ says Joan, ‘but these proofs are fine and I know we’re on a deadline to get them signed off.’

You smile apologetically at the print guy as he scurries off, and the reason for Joan’s dismissal becomes clear immediately. Mark, the new cute Finance guy, is standing right behind you.

‘Morning Mark,’ she purrs. ‘How are you this fine day?’

‘I’m well thanks Joan, very well. And how is the Marketing team today?’

‘Well I can’t speak for all of us, but I’d say Sarah and I are both very well. ’

‘That’s good, that’s good.’

‘We were just talking about cycling to work,’ you pipe up, swivelling carefully to give him a latte stain-free view. ‘To save us from the Northern line.’

This is kinda mean of you, for there’s something about Joan’s physique that suggests she’s not the type to get on a bike. And if she did, it’d be comical. She pouts.

He smiles, and turns to you. ‘Ah, the tube. I used to spend the worst ten minutes of my day waiting at Archway tube every morning. There is another way, you know.’

‘Oh yeah? Don’t tell me,’ says Joan, looking him up and down, ‘You run in?’

He laughs, and ruffles his hair, perfectly tousled though it already is. ‘God no. I’ve got a scooter. Gets me from door to door in about twenty minutes, and I don’t break a sweat either.’

‘Mmm,’ you say, wondering what he’d look like naked, with a film of sweat. ‘That sounds good.’

‘Anyway, I’m afraid I came to talk budgets.’

‘Oh,’ says Joan, disappointed. ‘That’s Sarah’s area I’m afraid.’

So you look at his spreadsheet and try to look sorry about your excessive spending on graphic design and viral marketing. What’s fifty grand between corporate whores? You catch him looking at that crucial open button and think that perhaps this Monday morning will have its rewards. He doesn’t share your attitude to overspend, but you chat about return on investment like you care.

It’s all going brilliantly till you wrap up your conversation and stand up to walk to the water cooler with him, the better to display your foxy sandals (before the blisters start to bleed).

‘I smell latte,’ says Mark, as you stand close. ‘I could murder a coffee.’

You curse your coffee stain and ignore the hint. Better to keep your distance. ‘That’s Monday mornings for you, eh?’ you say, as you fill your water cup and admire his rear while he walks to the kitchen alone.

 When you get home you tell Alice of your disastrous Monday morning and she collapses in peals of giggles.

‘Oh Sarah, it's too cruel. There you are, all single and fabulous in your sexy shirt dress - and now I have this image of you as a single mother with puke all down you. Ach, it’s so unfair!’

‘So I’m thinking of avoiding the tube.’

‘What, getting up an hour earlier to get the bus in?’

‘No, no. Better than that. Maybe I’ll get myself a funky little Vespa. Or a bike even. Get a free work out.’

‘Come on! A scooter? After Corfu? Those grazes on my leg have scarred me forever. Come on Sassy, you don’t have it in you to control a 50cc engine. It’s not fair on the rest of us – you’d be a bloody menace.’

‘You might be right,’ you admit. ‘But just what about cycling? Travelling under my own steam, getting amazing legs, showering at work and arriving to my desk all fresh and reinvigorated. And think of the money I’d save. It’d be brilliant.’

‘Ugh, what a shit way to start the day, pedalling away amongst the fumes. Wearing one of those ugly helmets, and lycra, and having to cart all your stuff into work on your back. No thanks. I’ll take the tube any day.’

 

What will you do?

If you decide to take up cycling, go to Chapter Three I to face the consequences

If you decide not to take up cycling, go to Chapter Three IV to face the consequences