I sat upright in my chair and squeezed my knees together, trying to ignore the swirling black dots closing in on my vision that signaled that I was definitely going to pass out and needed to get out now.
“So I see you’ve been working as an assistant psychologist at Kings” he said, expressionless from behind his rimless glasses.
“Yes…” I cleared my throat and tried to take a bigger breath so my lungs would let me form a sentence “It was at the acquired brain injury unit.”
I forced myself to look at him when I spoke even though it made my eyes sting. His brief glance up to meet my eyes felt like he could see right into my mind. Right through my lies.
“Hmmm” he looked down at my application. A silence filled the room that was punctuated only by my shuddery breaths. Every second brought with it a wave of paranoia that I felt rising up my chest and into my throat. I fought the urge to run out of the room and away from this place and filled the void.
“I worked on a one year longitudinal project comparing recovery outcomes for people with prefrontal cortex lesions and prefrontal skull trauma.”
The fabric under my armpits felt wet. I made a mental note to not lift my arms up. I licked a bead of sweat from my upper lip, the salty taste distracting me for a moment. It really is hot in here. Surely it can’t be just me. Breathe.
She briefly wondered if it was a tactic to throw her off. That was something he would have done.
“And why did you choose Sussex to come to for your next post? Surely there are better opportunities in London”
Any expert in the field knew that London had all the opportunities someone like her needed to go on to lead their own research team. To turn that down and go anywhere else implied not doing so by choice, and the need to get away from something. Or someone.
She hoped he wouldn’t ask, but anticipated that he would.
“I recently separated from my husband. I’ve moved to Brighton so that my mother can help with childcare.” Her breathing was steady now, controlled. “I prefer the pace of life here and I was delighted when this post came up.”
Did he buy it? It must sound plausible. Could happen to anyone.
“It’s funny” he said, with no sign of humour, “I looked up the research team there and couldn’t see your name”
Shit. Shit. Shit.
“Er, well I changed it you see. After my husband and I split up.”
“I see. Well that’s not ideal for professional continuity on published papers of course. But I think I understand.” He gave me a knowing look and I smiled back, relieved that he knew nothing at all.