Eat up, Camilla

Taste of Norway cookbook
Eat up. Camilla
Illustration: Christine Nishida

fiction by Glynis Scrivens

“It’s too late to put in an application for the job, Nora. Last Friday was the deadline,” Camilla said, flicking her newly blonded hair out of her eyes. 

“But I was on holiday when you advertised my job,” Nora said. “How was I supposed to apply when I was in Spain?”

Camilla took a sip from the bottle of diet cola that lived on her desk. “If you were up to the job, you’d have got an application in.”

Nora bit the inside of her lip. If she said what was going through her mind, she’d be out of a job right now, with no hope of getting a reference. Not that Camilla would give her a good one, despite the fact she’d done an excellent job here for the past three years.

“I’d appreciate it if you could reconsider your decision,” she said.

Nora stared out the window. This was the only part of the job she’d miss—the view of the river. She loved watching the boats unhurriedly going about their business.

The office was on the tenth floor. If only the window opened, Nora thought, she could push Camilla out. She loved accounting and knew she did a good job for the company’s clients. But it was getting harder and harder to stay sane in this toxic environment.

Hanne looked up from her desk in the opposite corner. The corner without a view. “I told you she wouldn’t let you put in a late application.” She bit into a chocolate caramel bar. “You should’ve brought her back a present from Spain.”

“I see you’ve brought in our usual Monday treat,” Nora said. There was a large container on Hanne’s desk. “What did you make today?”

“I thought Camilla might enjoy sushi. I have to be careful, because she’s dieting. She wouldn’t be happy if I offered her something she’s not supposed to have.”

Sucking up to the boss again. Just because Camilla can’t see through you, it doesn’t mean I can’t.

Nora struggled to stay civil. “Shouldn’t it be in the fridge?” she asked.

Hanne shrugged. “It won’t matter. We’re having it for lunch and I only made it this morning. The air-conditioning’s cold enough to keep it fresh. Since when are you an expert on cooking anyway?”

Hanne had earned a reputation in the office as resident chef. Despite existing mostly on junk food, each Monday she’d bring in something healthy and delicious she’d prepared.

Nora turned on her computer and groaned at the mass of unread emails. Hadn’t anyone done any work here while she’d been away? Hanne had been paid extra to cover for her, but didn’t seem to have done anything. Nora started with the most urgent emails. The morning sped by.

The phone on her desk rang. It was her husband, Kristoffer. He’d brought her a bunch of roses and was waiting downstairs in the foyer. Nora slipped outside, hoping Camilla wouldn’t notice her absence. But the moment she came back, roses in her hand, her boss was standing by her desk.

“Wasting company time again, Nora? Wasn’t your holiday long enough?” Camilla cast a disapproving eye over Nora’s slim frame.

Nora hastily put the roses into a glass vase. There was a packet of white powder with them.

“What’s that? Cocaine?” Camilla laughed. “I thought we knew all your bad habits. Seems I was wrong.”

Nora adjusted the roses. “This keeps the roses fresh for longer,” she said. “The florists all recommend it.”

“You can add that to the water later. On your own time. Not while I’m paying you good money to work.”

Nora slipped the sachet of powder into her skirt pocket. It’d been good of Kristoffer to think of her today. He was having a busy day himself. Kristoffer was a warden at the city jail.

Camilla was still standing beside her. “You’d better work through your lunch break today; you’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”

Just then Hanne came over. “Time for your Monday treat, Camilla.” She held out a plate of sushi. Nora looked at the rolls of seaweed, with its inner layers of avocado and chicken. She was grateful she’d brought sandwiches today. The thought of the sushi not being refrigerated turned her stomach.

Camilla helped herself to a roll. “Delicious,” she beamed. “Up to your usual high standard.”

Hanne put the plate on Nora’s desk and walked over to the kettle to make coffee. “Would you like a hot drink, Camilla?” she asked.

“Nora’s going to get my cola. Thanks anyway.”

“No problem,” said Nora. She made her way into Camilla’s office, returning moments later with the diet cola. She felt almost lighthearted. The holiday must’ve done her good. It’d certainly helped clear her head. She and Kristoffer had talked long and hard about her work situation. She no longer felt helpless among these bullies.

Camilla had almost emptied the plate. Nora excused herself and made coffee. She brought over a fresh cup for Hanne.

“The sushi is making me thirsty,” Camilla said. “You’ll have to use less salt next time, Hanne.” She drained the bottle of cola. “Unless you want to kill me.” Fluid retention was one of the many physical ailments Camilla liked to complain about.

Nora smiled as she sipped her coffee.

It didn’t escape Camilla’s notice. “Since Hanne went to the trouble of cooking lunch, I think it’s only fair that you should do the cleaning up, Nora. Just don’t take your time about it.” And she went back into her office.

Nora filled the sink in the staffroom with hot water. She’d make sure the dishes were sparkling clean today. 

There was a piece of sushi remaining on the plate. Nora opened it out to examine how it’d been made. She could see white grains of salt. She added more, and then carefully wrapped it up again, putting it into the fridge. Someone might want it later, she thought. She washed the coffee cups, and even washed the cola bottle before putting it into the recycling bin.

She sat back at her desk. “I wonder if Camilla’s still feeling thirsty?” she said.

Hanne looked up. “I’ll see if she wants me to buy her another cola.”

Moments later, Nora heard a piercing scream. She rushed into Camilla’s office to find her boss slumped over her desk. Hanne stood beside her, whimpering.

“What’ve you done to her?” Nora asked. She dialled the emergency services number.

The paramedics declared Camilla to be dead. They were clearly not satisfied. Within minutes, the police arrived.

“Did she eat anything out of the ordinary?” an officer asked. “It looks like poisoning.”

“Hanne made sushi for her,” Nora explained. “But she didn’t eat any herself.”

The two policemen exchanged glances. “Did she now? Is any of the sushi left?”

Nora handed them the plate from the fridge.

Later, the policemen returned to the office. Grains of arsenic had been discovered inside the sushi. Hanne was arrested.

“I haven’t done anything,” she protested. “Tell them I’m innocent, Nora.”

“It’s

too late to put in an application for the job, Nora. Last Friday was the deadline,” Camilla said, flicking her newly blonded hair out of her eyes. 

“But I was on holiday when you advertised my job,” Nora said. “How was I supposed to apply when I was in Spain?”

Camilla took a sip from the bottle of diet cola that lived on her desk. “If you were up to the job, you’d have got an application in.”

Nora bit the inside of her lip. If she said what was going through her mind, she’d be out of a job right now, with no hope of getting a reference. Not that Camilla would give her a good one, despite the fact she’d done an excellent job here for the past three years.

“I’d appreciate it if you could reconsider your decision,” she said.

Nora stared out the window. This was the only part of the job she’d miss—the view of the river. She loved watching the boats unhurriedly going about their business.

The office was on the tenth floor. If only the window opened, Nora thought, she could push Camilla out. She loved accounting and knew she did a good job for the company’s clients. But it was getting harder and harder to stay sane in this toxic environment.

Hanne looked up from her desk in the opposite corner. The corner without a view. “I told you she wouldn’t let you put in a late application.” She bit into a chocolate caramel bar. “You should’ve brought her back a present from Spain.”

“I see you’ve brought in our usual Monday treat,” Nora said. There was a large container on Hanne’s desk. “What did you make today?”

“I thought Camilla might enjoy sushi. I have to be careful, because she’s dieting. She wouldn’t be happy if I offered her something she’s not supposed to have.”

Sucking up to the boss again. Just because Camilla can’t see through you, it doesn’t mean I can’t.

Nora struggled to stay civil. “Shouldn’t it be in the fridge?” she asked.

Hanne shrugged. “It won’t matter. We’re having it for lunch and I only made it this morning. The air-conditioning’s cold enough to keep it fresh. Since when are you an expert on cooking anyway?”

Hanne had earned a reputation in the office as resident chef. Despite existing mostly on junk food, each Monday she’d bring in something healthy and delicious she’d prepared.

Nora turned on her computer and groaned at the mass of unread emails. Hadn’t anyone done any work here while she’d been away? Hanne had been paid extra to cover for her, but didn’t seem to have done anything. Nora started with the most urgent emails. The morning sped by.

The phone on her desk rang. It was her husband, Kristoffer. He’d brought her a bunch of roses and was waiting downstairs in the foyer. Nora slipped outside, hoping Camilla wouldn’t notice her absence. But the moment she came back, roses in her hand, her boss was standing by her desk.

“Wasting company time again, Nora? Wasn’t your holiday long enough?” Camilla cast a disapproving eye over Nora’s slim frame.

Nora hastily put the roses into a glass vase. There was a packet of white powder with them.

“What’s that? Cocaine?” Camilla laughed. “I thought we knew all your bad habits. Seems I was wrong.”

Nora adjusted the roses. “This keeps the roses fresh for longer,” she said. “The florists all recommend it.”

“You can add that to the water later. On your own time. Not while I’m paying you good money to work.”

Nora slipped the sachet of powder into her skirt pocket. It’d been good of Kristoffer to think of her today. He was having a busy day himself. Kristoffer was a warden at the city jail.

Camilla was still standing beside her. “You’d better work through your lunch break today; you’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”

Just then Hanne came over. “Time for your Monday treat, Camilla.” She held out a plate of sushi. Nora looked at the rolls of seaweed, with its inner layers of avocado and chicken. She was grateful she’d brought sandwiches today. The thought of the sushi not being refrigerated turned her stomach.

Camilla helped herself to a roll. “Delicious,” she beamed. “Up to your usual high standard.”

Hanne put the plate on Nora’s desk and walked over to the kettle to make coffee. “Would you like a hot drink, Camilla?” she asked.

“Nora’s going to get my cola. Thanks anyway.”

“No problem,” said Nora. She made her way into Camilla’s office, returning moments later with the diet cola. She felt almost lighthearted. The holiday must’ve done her good. It’d certainly helped clear her head. She and Kristoffer had talked long and hard about her work situation. She no longer felt helpless among these bullies.

Camilla had almost emptied the plate. Nora excused herself and made coffee. She brought over a fresh cup for Hanne.

“The sushi is making me thirsty,” Camilla said. “You’ll have to use less salt next time, Hanne.” She drained the bottle of cola. “Unless you want to kill me.” Fluid retention was one of the many physical ailments Camilla liked to complain about.

Nora smiled as she sipped her coffee.

It didn’t escape Camilla’s notice. “Since Hanne went to the trouble of cooking lunch, I think it’s only fair that you should do the cleaning up, Nora. Just don’t take your time about it.” And she went back into her office.

Nora filled the sink in the staffroom with hot water. She’d make sure the dishes were sparkling clean today. 

There was a piece of sushi remaining on the plate. Nora opened it out to examine how it’d been made. She could see white grains of salt. She added more, and then carefully wrapped it up again, putting it into the fridge. Someone might want it later, she thought. She washed the coffee cups, and even washed the cola bottle before putting it into the recycling bin.

She sat back at her desk. “I wonder if Camilla’s still feeling thirsty?” she said.

Hanne looked up. “I’ll see if she wants me to buy her another cola.”

Moments later, Nora heard a piercing scream. She rushed into Camilla’s office to find her boss slumped over her desk. Hanne stood beside her, whimpering.

“What’ve you done to her?” Nora asked. She dialled the emergency services number.

The paramedics declared Camilla to be dead. They were clearly not satisfied. Within minutes, the police arrived.

“Did she eat anything out of the ordinary?” an officer asked. “It looks like poisoning.”

“Hanne made sushi for her,” Nora explained. “But she didn’t eat any herself.”

The two policemen exchanged glances. “Did she now? Is any of the sushi left?”

Nora handed them the plate from the fridge.

Later, the policemen returned to the office. Grains of arsenic had been discovered inside the sushi. Hanne was arrested.

“I haven’t done anything,” she protested. “Tell them I’m innocent, Nora.”

Nora shrugged. “I’d like to help you, Hanne. But I’ve remembered what Camilla said when she ate the sushi.”

“You’ll have to tell us everything she said,” said the taller policeman, producing a notebook.

Nora looked at her colleague. “I’m sorry, Hanne, but I have to tell them the truth.” She turned to the policeman. “She said Hanne was trying to kill her.”

“But you know she was only joking,” Hanne said.

“She’s dead. That’s not a joke. And we have evidence someone poisoned her.” The policeman clamped a pair of handcuffs on Hanne’s wrists and led her away.

Nora looked around the empty office. How peaceful it seemed. She had plenty of work to do, but first she’d place advertisements for new staff. She’d need someone to replace Hanne, and a good accountant to take on her old job. As senior accountant, she’d be working in Camilla’s office from now on.

She put her hand into her skirt pocket. Her fingers found the empty sachet. She’d have to throw it away. One of those bins on the pavement a few blocks away would do. No one would think to look there. Just as no one had thought to look in the empty cola bottle. But she’d cleaned it anyway, just in case.

Several weeks later, Nora found herself with spare time. The new accountant was efficient and had quickly got on top of the job. 

Nora visited Kristoffer at the jail. It was a Monday. She found him at his desk eating a salad of baby spinach leaves, cubes of roasted pumpkin, cherry tomatoes, and toasted pine nuts, with pomegranate dressing. “That looks appetizing,” she said. “You never used to eat this well.”

Kristoffer grinned. “And it’s all thanks to you. We’ve put Hanne on kitchen duties every Monday, just as you suggested.”

 

Glynis Scrivens writes short stories and has been published in Australia, UK, Ireland, South Africa, U.S., India, and Scandinavia. Her book Edit is a Four-Letter Word includes what she has learned in the process (see www.glynisscrivens.com).

This article originally appeared in the April 5, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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