Milk and Sugar


It started with the sugar. Well, the milk and the sugar, really, as she had been trying to give up both of them. She’d been thinking how hard it was to avoid putting them in her tea, especially when it was a force of habit, so early in the morning, and the fact that the company provided them for free made it too easy to justify. So when they disappeared from the tearoom she wasn’t displeased. In fact, she was quite relieved, not having to see them every day, not having to watch other people add them to their drinks, and she decided it must be either because someone higher-up had decided they needed to try to be more healthy – as she was doing – or because the credit crunch precluded such extravagances.

 There was consternation amongst her colleagues, of course, particularly in that day’s team meeting, culminating in a stand-up row between the more vocal tea addicts and their team leader, only defused when one of the members of the facilities department was brought in to explain that they seemed to have run out completely, rather unexpectedly, and that the day’s regular delivery had mysteriously not included the items. A post-room boy offered to pop up the road to pick up a few pints and a bag of sugar, but returned empty-handed. She tried not to get involved in the situation, as it suited her quite well, and her black tea seemed to taste better, somehow purer, now that she knew she couldn’t adulterate it.

 A few days later, once the government finally admitted that there was no more milk or sugar available anywhere, everything seemed to settle down again. There were of course, a few people who insisted on spreading rumours that someone’s aunt’s friend had some secret supplies, although no one she knew had had even so much of a sniff of them. Some clever dicks had been questioning how it could have happened, going into detail about the supply chain, explaining where they both came from, and insisting that it just couldn’t be right, but the government had said there wasn’t any, so she thought they should just stop wasting their breath.

 Her diet was going very well, a week or so later, and she’d lost a few more pounds, when she was tempted to eat a chocolate bar, one of the many which were available in the tearoom vending machine. The thought of the nutty caramel filling was almost too much for her to resist, but she forced herself to return to her desk and worked hard on a spreadsheet for the rest of the day. The next morning, tired and peckish, she visited the tearoom, and noticed the vending machine had been cleared out. She was surprised, but she’d always thought the rest of the floor were a bunch of greedy gannets, and after one of their infamous nights out they’d probably been trying to relieve their hangovers. She was sure that facilities would come around to restock it soon enough, but by then hopefully she’d have distracted her stomach with something else, like a nice cup of black tea.

 Pandemonium followed the worldwide disappearance of chocolate and crisps. From the news footage, it appeared to her that people were coping with it very badly, and she wondered why they couldn’t just snack on fruit or vegetables like she was doing. It was so much easier to diet when you knew you couldn’t have the things that were bad for you. She’d tried to tell them at work that they were better off without these things, but they wouldn’t listen, just kept trying to come up with strange concoctions to replace what they missed, with little success. She couldn’t blame them, she supposed, they were set in their ways, and not used to being creative, like she was. They ate meat, after all, and she had always suspected that it made them a bit less sensitive, a bit less human. She thought that they’d all be much better people without it.

 Her cardigan was positively baggy on her now, so her diet was definitely succeeding. She pulled it tighter around her, as she was still chilly, despite the office heating being turned up to max. There wasn’t anyone around to stop her turning up the thermostat now. She wasn’t sure where they’d all gone, but she seemed to remember them annoying her a while back with complaints of being hungry, and then they just weren’t there anymore. Her mug of hot water was cooling down, she noticed, and she reflected that it probably didn’t need to be warmed up now, water was water, whatever you did to it; anything else was just unnecessary. And then, that if there wasn’t any water, she wouldn’t be able to drink it at all.


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