As it happened, I ended up arriving late for the County Business Awards at the Civic Centre. Very late as I’d overslept from the afternoon nap I’d taken, with the intention of being fresh for the evening ahead. Now I felt frazzled; I hate being late.
Despite the area outside the building being clearly designated ‘No Smoking’, there were a good number of glammed up people loitering by the entrance, taking a last puff, as if their lives depended on it.
I felt a hand lightly tap my shoulder and turned to see a vision in shimmering gold in the warm evening sunshine. “Harry! You’re late too. Thank goodness, I didn’t want to arrive on my own!”
Josie fair took my breath away, stood there lithe and tanned in a floor length gown that she appeared to have been poured into. Her thick black locks were piled high on her head, loose tendrils curled down, emphasising the slenderness of her throat and shoulders. And her make-up was as smooth and flawless as the skin tight dress she wore, emphasising her jaunty breasts, flat stomach and lean thighs.
“Whoa! Hi Josie, you look…” It’s difficult to keep the awe out of your voice when faced with utter perfection. Then another thought occurred to me: where’s Alfie? I scanned the road but couldn’t see his car.
“You scrub up nice!” I joked, trying to play it cool and prevent a drooling incident.
Josie giggled nervously, twirling girlishly. “Is it too much? I wasn’t sure, I haven’t been to one of these events before.”
I felt my jaw start to drop at the sight of the satin material clinging to her righteous arse cheeks. Jesus! She can’t be wearing any underwear!
An appreciable number of smokers’ heads turned in our direction, although I could tell none of them were looking at me. “No, you look absolutely stunning. In fact if we win tonight, you should definitely go up on stage to collect the award. It could get us on the front page of the local rag.”
She has no idea how gorgeous she is, I thought, as Josie blushed at my suggestion. I lightly grabbed her elbow, steering her toward the main entrance, unable – and unwilling – to remove the huge smile now plastered across my face. “Come on, we’re really late. We should go inside and find the others.”
More posh frocks and penguin suits milled about inside, quaffing champagne and munching canapés in between small talk. We made our way to the bar area, zeroing in on the sound of booming laughter. For once the Fat Kontroller was already in attendance; he usually liked to make an entrance, but from the ruddy colour of his cheeks I’d say he’d arrived a while ago.
“Harry! Over here!” the Fat Kontroller called out, beckoning us over. “You’re late.”
He was sat at the bar, flanked on one side by Simon and Katrina from our newest client, Clovis International, and on the other by Lol our friendly bank manager. Next to him was Shazza, showing far too much flesh in a low cut dress and braying like a donkey at an amusing anecdote being told by our final guest, who stood with his back to us. I hadn’t met the famous Zander Rhodes yet, but from the look of his slim hips, broad shoulders and slicked back hair, I could tell he was cut from the Alfie mould of manhood. Then I saw the wolfish look flash across Zander’s chiselled features, as he turned to see Josie sashaying toward him. My heart sank, only to be further compounded when I saw the look Josie gave him as hellos and introductions were made.
“Bad luck old girl,” Lol whispered in my ear as he kissed my cheek and squeezed my arse. “Good evening, Miss Egg. You’re looking radiant this evening.”
“Lol Williams, what have I told you about trying to grab my assets,” I replied with a smile, moving his hand up to my waist. “Honestly, you bankers…” I said with an exaggerated eye-roll, loud enough for the others to hear. It was a charade of course. I’d known Lol a lot longer than I’d worked at FAK. You could say we were kindred spirits and he was the only person I’d confided in over my longings for Josie, what really happened at Christmas and the loathing I felt for Shazza and her antics.
Lol laughed at my playful rebuke and quickly shifted his eyes in Shazza’s direction, urging me to look.
As unhappy as I was that Josie and Zander were hitting it off, Shazza looked positively crestfallen at the fizzing chemistry between the two best looking people in the place. She must have thought she was in with a chance with Zander. What a fucking pair of jokes we are, I thought, feeling a rare sense of camaraderie with the dope. It lasted all of a second as Shazza decided to open her mouth.
“Yeah, you look nice, Harry. Is that the same outfit you wore to the Christmas party? I thought that got ruined.”
“Oh no, what happened at the Christmas party?” Katrina asked innocently. She was a recent addition to the Clovis management team, so probably wasn’t aware of the gory details, just eager to join the conversation.
“A chocolate incident,” I replied smoothly, shooting a reassuring look in Josie’s direction. But she wasn’t listening, being totally absorbed in whatever Gaia-saving bollocks Zander, with his designer stubble was feeding her.
I downed the whisky proffered by the Fat Kontroller, who clapped me on the shoulder and stood up. “Right then boys and girls, now we’re all here, let’s get this party started.”
The main room set up with about 20 tables and was filling fast with the Great and the Good of the county’s business community. The level of chatter was high as we picked through the crowds to table four, positioned close to the stage. I decided I should take that as a good sign for award success but, to be honest, I was clutching at straws considering how the rest of my hopes for the evening were panning out.
Shazza had been busy in my absence as the place settings on the table were arranged boy/girl and she’d placed herself between the Fat Kontroller and Zander, with me opposite sandwiched between Lol and Simon. With Katrina sat between her colleague and the Fat Kontroller, Josie had been placed the other side Zander, and the suave environmentalist was availing himself of the opportunity to be as attentive as possible.
Lol gave my knee a reassuring squeeze under the table. “I’d offer to swap seats with you, Harry, but I don’t think you’d get a look in,” he muttered out of the side of his mouth.
“Don’t sweat it, love,” I reassured him, “I’m here to work. Here, have some some wine.” I poured him a large glass of Barolo before filling my own and grabbing a bottle of Chardonnay. “Simon? Katrina? Red or white?”
And so the evening progressed, through three passable mass catered courses, made more palatable by my excellent selection of wines. The Fat Kontroller and I worked on Simon and Katrina, the only actual clients at the table, whilst Lol tried his best to engage Zander and Josie in conversation. He was fairly successful too through his keen interest of in cycling and holidaying in Asia. Bless him, he’d even tried to include Shazza in their conversation with less success – she was finding the evening hard going, fidgeting in her seat, shifting from one conversation to the other, unable to contribute to either. She could drink though. Warily I watched her find solace in her wineglass, looking more and more miserable. I didn’t know whether to feel concern at what she was capable of after a skinful, or sheer delight at her self-imposed discomfort. But on the whole, I sided with delight – at least she wasn’t gobbing off.
Eventually the awards presentation began, starting with several dull but worthy eulogies of the strength and diversity of the county business community. We sat and clapped through numerous categories of award before they got to the one we were shortlisted for. I don’t mind admitting to a jolt of nerves as ‘Green Business of the Year’ was called out. My submission was F A Kontrell’s first attempt at winning any business gongs. Writing it up had been a doddle and success would mean more brownie points for me. As much as I liked my recent pay rise, I still preferred to earn it than get one for being merely non-litigious.
Under the table I felt Lol’s hand cover my own as I squeezed and scrunched the napkin on my lap. I lent across him toward Josie, “You’ll come up on stage won’t you, if we win?”
“Ooh can I come up too?” Shazza suddenly piped up, visibly brighting at the prospect of a bit of reflected glory. She turned to the Fat Kontroller, “If Harry and Josie are going up, can I go up too?” she squealed.
“Tush, Sharon, it’s not the Oscars,” he replied calmly, patting her on the arm. “And we haven’t won anything yet.”
It seemed to take an age for the presenter to read through all the names and for the nominees’ logos to appear on the screen behind him. You could cut the tension around our table with a knife.
“And the winner is…” He opened the envelope and pulled a card. “F A Kontrell!”
We erupted in a chorus of cheers and whoops. We’d only fucking won it!
With scraped back chairs, the four FAKkers got up to collect the award, receiving congratulatory hugs from the rest of our guests. Zander seized the opportunity to kiss Josie full on the mouth. She kissed him back. Slut! You’ve only just met him!
“Oi! Don’t smudge your lipstick,” Lol playfully chastised Josie, pulling her from Zander’s embrace.
I grabbed Josie’s hand and tugged sharply. “Come on! Let’s get you on the front page.”
Despite the huge quantity of alcohol he’d knocked back during the evening, the Fat Kontroller was steady and measured ascending the stairs, whereas Shazza was bouncing around like a demented yoyo. Josie and I joined them under the bright spotlights, standing behind our Glorious Leader while he made his acceptance speech. We posed with our trophy for the official photographer with beaming smiles, arms wrapped around each other’s backs. I could feel Josie’s right boob pressed up against me, my hand lightly resting alongside her satin covered left. This is probably the closest I’ll ever get to touching her tits, I lamented whilst we all shouted “Cheese!” at the camera.
Lol had procured a bottle of Bollinger and was already pouring it out by the time we returned to our table. “A toast to F A Kontrell,” he said, handing me a bubbling champagne flute. “And to Miss Egg and her award submission writing prowess!”
“Oh give over, Lol,” I said punching his arm, but loving his efforts to big me up. “It was a team effort,” I stated magnanimously.
“Oh no, Harry,” Shazza said slyly, handing me the trophy we’d just collected. “You definitely deserve this!”
It might have been the nervous anticipation or the excitement of winning, but I hadn’t fully appreciated the trophy’s shape until that moment. It was a heavy, crystal egg on a pedestal base. “Because it’s the shape of my name?” I asked.
“No,” Shazza hooted maliciously. “For your enormous butt plug collection!!”
Jesus fuck! What the hell?!
Undeterred by lack of laughter from the rest of us, Shazza cackled wildly and dug in. “You know, to go with one you got for Chrissmass!” she said oblivious to the shocked faces around the table.
Josie pulled away from Zander and stood up. “Sharon! Take that back,” she reprimanded her.
“An’ you can shut up, you snobby bitch! Or will Alfie beat me up, too?” Shazza sneered. A red flush crept from her chest, up her neck and flooding her contorted face. She pawed at Zander’s sleeve, “You know her boyfrien’ beat ‘arry up, doncha? Thought she was trying it on and tried to drown her in chocolate. Didn’t kishy prisshy pants tell you?”
“Sharon! It’s time you went home. I’ll call you a taxi,” the Fat Kontroller said, placing an arm around her shoulders to shepherd her away from the table.
“And get your hands off me!” Shazza shouted angrily, squirming out from the Fat Kontroller’s, causing a bout of rubber-necking from the surrounding tables. “I’ll do you! I’ll tell HR!”
Josie pulled herself upright. She looked magnificent, eyes glittering with righteous fury. “I am HR, Shazza! Duly noted. Now go home, you’re drunk!”
Shazza suddenly looked confused at the turn of events. The room had descending in silence at her outburst. Even the presenter had stopped speaking and was peering down at our table. Talk about snatching defeat in the face of victory!
“Oh Mishter K, I’m sorry…” Shazza slurred, allowing him to lead her away but the drunken cow wasn’t quite done. “Call me!” she sloshed back at Zander. Fat chance, you never pick up the fucking phone!
Zander shifted away from Josie, “You have a boyfriend?”
“Oh, um, I…” Josie faltered, losing her composure.
“Harry dear, what was all that about?” Katrina asked open mouthed. “Was that about the chocolate incident?”
“Erm,” I hesitated, “There was a misunderstanding with a chocolate fountain someone had bought Josie for Christmas.”
“You have a boyfriend and a fountain of chocolate?” Zander accused Josie indignantly. “Do you have any idea of the environmental devastation wrought by intense cocoa farming in West Africa?”
“Katrina. Simon. I am so sorry for the upset,” I apologised, refilling their glasses. I slumped back in my seat and drained my Champagne flute. “Oh god! What a fucking disaster,” I said under my breath.
“Don’t sweat it, love,” Lol said laughing and gave me a hug. “Just look at this way, Harry, not only did you win an award tonight but it looks like you might be getting shot of Shazza at last.”
“Heh,” I scoffed sceptically and looked over at the perceptible rift opening up between a suspicious looking Zander and Josie, guiltily gnawing at her bottom lip with pearly white teeth. Yeah, I conceded, things could have turned out a whole lot worse.