Dear Reader, at last it is Friday and the day the F A Kontrell office Christmas shindig. In this two-post conclusion to my Christmas tale, we’ll find out if Harry’s devious machinations to woo the fragrant Josie actually bear fruit…
*/rolls eyes… Way too much, Clicky… Come on, just relax, put your fins up and let me tell the story…*
Friday evening seemed to take forever to roll around, but at last I found myself, suitable attired in sartorial elegance, at the pub the Fat Kontroller had selected to host the evening’s events. He’d hired the dining room, but most of us were gathered at the festively decorated bar while we waited for the stragglers to arrive. The pub was called The Exchange, a converted bank, with high vaulted ceiling and polished wooden floors. The Secret Santa gifts had been transferred from the office by Shazza – who else? – and were piled up in the dining room. The heap of presents was dominated by one conspicuously large parcel with a gift tag that read ‘To the gorgeous Josie, with lots of love from your Secret Santa xxx’.
Unfortunately, the object of my affections turned out to be one of the stragglers and was nowhere to be seen. I lounged against the bar with one eye on the door and the other on my watch while I swigged my drink, trusting the alcohol to sedate the butterflies that had congregated in my gut. Around me, my colleagues made small talk about work and gossiped about the latest office romances. The former was tedious beyond belief, so I tuned in on the latter just in case I heard Josie’s name mentioned. Or my own for that matter. Damn! I thought. Where the fuck is she?
A stream of cold wind blew in as the door opened and everyone looked up expectantly. The Fat Kontroller stood in the doorway, beaming and looking natty in DJ and bow tie. The man loved to make an entrance. I caught the barmaid’s eye and ordered a double scotch, his favourite tipple. It arrived just as he reached the bar.
“Harry! Is that for me?” he asked and downed the drink before waiting for an answer. He smiled at the barmaid and indicated for another. “Splendid! Let’s get this party started!”
“Oh, are we all here then?” I said as nonchalantly as I could. We were most definitely not all here; Josie had still not arrived.
He finished the second drink and looked around. Shazza appeared as if by magic and hovered at his elbow.
“HR Josie called, Mr Kontrell,” she said with a glance in my direction. “She can’t make it tonight. Her washing machine has flooded or something.” On hearing the news, the butterflies in my stomach instantly disappeared, leaving a hollow as cavernous as the pub we stood in.
The Fat Kontroller frowned at the news. “Oh, that’s a shame. She’ll miss a cracking evening,” he said, then shrugged his shoulders. “Oh well, can’t be helped I suppose. Come on Sharon, lead the way,” he said as he grabbed her fleshy bare shoulders and steered her toward the dining room.
I followed them through the crowd with leaden legs. When I reached the dining table I discovered that the seating plan had placed Josie in the seat next to mine. It felt as if the universe itself was conspiring to rub salt in my wounds. Shit! Fuck! Bollocks!
The seasonal set meal tasted like ash in my mouth as it progressed through starter, mains and dessert. I tried to look interested as the conversation swirled around me, but all I could think about was the empty seat beside me. Eventually, after coffee and petite fours had been served, the Fat Kontroller stood up and announced the start of the Secret Santa gift-giving ritual. Shazza served as his assistant: she passing him the gifts and him calling out the names. One by one we trooped up to collect them.
Eventually, he got to me. It was inevitable really. “Harry! Where’s my PA? Harriet!”
I scraped my chair back and wandered up to the top table. The Fat Kontroller was holding a gift. Not a voucher-shaped envelope that I was expecting, but a rectangular box wrapped in shiny silver paper and curly blue ribbon.
“Harry,” he beamed, handing it over, “this is for you.”
I was dumbstruck. Somebody had bought me a proper gift. “Thank you,” I said, turning it over in my hands.
“Well open it then,” Shazza urged excitedly. “I love shecret Shanta pressies,” she slurred.
“Quite sure you’ve had enough wine, Shazza?”
“Nearly,” she hiccuped and giggled into her hand. “Go on open it.”
I pulled at the tight ribbon and eased it off. Something inside the box rattled. Fuck! Somebody actually bought me a present, I thought as I started to rip off the paper. And then I saw what it was and my face fell.
“OH MY GOD!” Shazza shrieked with barely contained glee. “SECRET SANTA GAVE HARRY A BUTT PLUG!!!”
The room fell silent for a moment, and then the laughter began, triggered by a booming guffaw from the Fat Kontroller. All the blood in me seemed to leave my limbs, rush to my face, and combust there. I looked up into the Fat Kontroller’s eyes. They twinkled with mirth, unlike Shazza’s which glowed with something else altogether.
“Somebody must think you’re a pain in the arse, Harry,” she said coolly before joining in the merriment with exaggerated howls or laughter.
She set me up… the fucking bitch!!!
Slowly, I turned toward the room and held the ‘Big Boy’ butt plug for all to see. “Thank you. Thank you, Secret Santa. If I ever find out who you are, I’ll know exactly where to put this,” I shouted.
I walked back to my seat, still holding it aloft, like a prize fighter displaying a glittering belt. This elicited further laughs and a round of applause, which slightly mitigated the fucking disaster the evening had turned into. I sat down and pointedly read the packaging before putting it in my handbag. I downed my drink and wondered how long I had to stay before getting the fuck out of there.
Not long as it turned out. Once the Secret Santa ritual was out of the way, those with babysitters to relieve began to make their excuses. It was the only perk of having children that I could see, so decided to slip out with them in the rush for the door. I rang for a taxi and started to gather my coat and bag.
“Harry!” the Fat Kontroller called and beckoned me over. Thankfully, Shazza was nowhere to be seen. If there was any justice in the world then I hoped she’d laughed herself sick and was puking her ring up in the toilets. “Leaving already, are we?” he asked.
“Yeah. I’m driving up to mum and dad’s tomorrow,” I lied, “early start, you know.”
The Fat Kontroller looked at me kindly. “You handled that very well, Harry. That was very naughty of somebody. Are you getting a taxi?”
“Yeah, it’s on it’s way.”
“Here,” he said pulling fifty pounds from his wallet. “Shazza!” he boomed and mouthed the word ‘receipt’ to me.
Shazza appeared from thin air again, still grinning at her prank. She was obviously not the complete air-head I’d supposed her to be. “Yes Mr Kontrell?”
“You know where Josie lives. What’s the address of our missing HR manager? Harry here is going to drop her secret Santa gift off on the way home, aren’t you Harry?” His eyes twinkled.
“Yes,” I informed Shazza slowly, following his cue. “I’ll take HR Josie’s gift to her and tell her all about it. Let her know exactly what she missed this evening.”
Was that a gulp from Shazza? I hoped so, but I was too excited at the opportunity that had suddenly presented itself. I would get to see Josie and give her my gift. I might even get a cup of coffee for my troubles. I played it cool and strode off to collect Josie’s superbly wrapped gift, whilst the Fat Kontroller handed Shazza his pen and a discarded cracker joke so that she could write the address down.
We bade farewell, wishing each other a happy Christmas, and then I left to wait for my taxi…
Don’t miss the exciting conclusion to ‘Secret Santa’, which follows on in just a bit…
*/lights up fag and waits nervously… You know, Clicky, if this was on telly there’d be adverts now… /drags… Perhaps I should mention The Underdog Anthology and Cultish… /blows smoke… What do you think?*