The Phantom

by Tetley

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Desc: Drama Story: It's all very well, getting mad about something someone has said, it's an entirely different prospect doing something about it. It was quite clear in my mind that I needed to get off my butt and do something, the question is what?



Author's Note

This is a short story I've been thinking about for a few weeks. It all came pouring out last night and I'm posting it unedited. So in the same vein as terriblethom, and to partially quote: Enjoy without complaining. Any grammar and other screw-ups are mine and I don't need to be reminded that I can't spel rigth (sic).

Tetley


Fat geek in the corner, that's me. Middle-aged, severely overweight, I believe obese is the correct term, and as timid as a mouse. Yes, that describes me alright.

I wasn't always this way, don't laugh but I used to have a 9% body fat ratio. I danced almost every night of the week, English Folk and sword dancing. Semi-professionally in that I got paid to do it but it wasn't my main job. I've been on dance tours throughout Europe and the group I belonged to had bookings for barn-dances and ceilidhs 6 nights a week from late spring to late autumn.

Then I took up programming and spend most of my waking hours behind a computer. Very energetic I can tell you and over the years, the weight has gone on.

I used to be in demand as a dance partner, now my only partner is my right hand. Pathetic isn't it? The only time I get to see my dick these days is if I look in the mirror. The fat around my belly gets in the way to see it normally, even if I bend over.

And, like most fat people, I sweat. Even a walk to the kitchen to make a cup of tea makes me sweat. I hate it. But I've not got any reason to do anything about it. I know I should, but I just can't seem to work up the enthusiasm.

I don't eat that much. No seriously, I don't. It's just that I don't do any exercise. None. I walk from the house to the car, drive to wherever I want to get to, the office mostly, and then walk to the lift, up three floors and walk to my desk. That's it except for the trip to the kitchen for drinks. Then I reverse the process to get home. I eat fruit, salads and cold cuts of meat. Anything, in fact, that doesn't require cooking. I can cook and while my parents were still alive, I used to cook for all of us. Both of them in their later years were too busy to cook so I did it all. I can cook meals and bake with the best of them. I just don't see the point these days. It's not easy cooking for just one, so now I don't bother.

I take my lunch break in the kitchen on the third floor and after eating my sandwiches I usually lay back, relax and listen to my mp3 player. No, it's not an iPod, I prefer something better. Then after the allotted hour I return to my part of the office and buckle down.

It's a strange dichotomy being a fat geek, you get ridiculed all the time until something goes wrong that only a geek can fix. Then you're flavour of the hour, or however long it takes to fix the problem. Most days I keep my head down, stay quiet and try not to attract any attention. As for the various social events that the company runs, I've never gone to one and these days, I don't even get an invite.

Like I said, pathetic.


Well, that all changed one Tuesday lunchtime. As usual I was resting in my armchair in the kitchen, eyes closed and this time, not listening to anything. The album I had been playing, Lily Allen if you're interested, had ended and I hadn't bothered to start anything else. This meant, for once, that I could hear what was being said by the Bitches. That's what I call them. Five of the ladies from Marketing, pampered and painted, not a hair out of place and not a personality between them. No, that's not right, they do have personalities, just not nice ones. I can usually tune out what they are talking about, but today they were talking louder that normal, excited about the Christmas do this year. Heavens above, it's only February and the company is already organising the Christmas party.

Anyway. Apparently this year it's going to be something out of the ordinary, a Masquerade Ball. There are to be several prizes for costume originality and that sort of thing but what made me listen in was the two major prizes. Two prizes each of ten thousand pounds, one for the person that stays anonymous until midnight and the other for the best dancer of the evening, five thousand for the male and five thousand for the female. There are rules, of course, the costume must not be one that entirely covers the person, such as a Mickey Mouse costume and things like that and as for the dancing, it's going to be Ceroc.

What the hell is Ceroc?

Oh well, no chance of me getting even a chance at the prizes. I mentally dismissed that idea and started to let my mind wander when Janice, bitch-in-chief spoke up.

"Everyone is going to get an invitation, even OG over there", OG, That's me, Overweight Geek. It's nice to have friends isn't it? "but there's not much chance of him winning, after all, who could miss all that sweat and blubber. As for dancing..." They all burst out laughing at the thought.

I don't know what it was, but this made me see red. Normally, I'd just have shrugged off what they said, and believe me, they've said worse, but this time something snapped. I didn't get up and rant and rave, that isn't my style. I did, however, sit there and fume.

In fact it was well after the normal lunch break that I finally got up and went to my desk. I didn't stay there long, pleading not feeling well, I took the rest of the week off. No-one seemed to mind, not that I cared just then, but I have more time in lieu owing that the rest of the employees put together, so HR didn't bat an eyelid.

It's all very well, getting mad about something someone has said, it's an entirely different prospect doing something about it. It was quite clear in my mind that I needed to get off my butt and do something, the question is what?

The target is easy, lose weight and learn to dance Ceroc in time for the Christmas bash on 21st December, just ten months away. The how is a bit more difficult. As I said before, the reason I'm overweight is not from over-eating, it's from under-exercising. After thinking of various solutions and then considering the pros and cons of each, finally decided that I needed a housekeeper. One that would be able to cook healthily, have a knowledge of exercise and massage. No, get your minds out of the gutter. If I was going to be exercising then I was going to ache and pretty badly to start with and the massage was for dealing with that. If the housekeeper in question also knew how to dance the Ceroc stuff, then all the better.

Easy, Yes?

No.

How do you go about hiring a housekeeper?

I should take a few moments to describe my house since it is pertinent. When my parents retired and started playing golf, they found that they were away from home more often that not, at least, once they started winning tournaments. Then they travelled all over the country playing golf, went on golfing holidays, and on one notable occasion they won first prize as a couple in a fairly prestigious competition which was a golfing cruise. When they first mentioned that to me I had visions of a cruise liner with an 18 hole golf course on the top deck. Needless to say, it was nothing like that at all. The ship took them for one Carribean Island to another, or more precisely, to one Carribean Island golf course to another.

So, they suggested that we all buy a house together, one that had a attached flat that they could use and the main house was for me. That way they had a home but also someone to look after it while they were away. It suited us all very well and they lived like that until the day they died. They died together, which was a blessing since neither of them wanted to outlive the other. They were totally in love even in their seventies and I knew that they dreaded the day when one of them would leave and so did I.

As it happened, they were on holiday, golfing naturally, and staying in a very well respected hotel in the North of England. One night there was some fault in the heating system and the carbon monoxide fumes killed them. They went to sleep and never woke up. Well, after the legal wrangling had died down, the company that carried out the heating repairs and maintenance paid a huge amount to me in compensation, three of the fitters were in jail along with two of the directors. The hotel also paid me a lump sum, they didn't have to as the courts exonerated them from all blame, but they did anyway. Good PR I guess. So, I have no debts, plenty of money invested and in my current account and no parents either. After I'd mourned for them I realised that this was probably the best way for them to go and that if there was an afterlife, then I'm certain that they approve of their demise, strange as that may sound.

So, getting back to the story, I have a suitable house and garden for a live-in housekeeper and the money to pay her wages. I just have to find one.

Despite what I said earlier, it wasn't as hard as I expected. I put an advert in the local rag, informed the Job Centre of my requirements and the qualifications that I expected, thoroughly researched of course, hired a room at a local (posh) hotel to carry out the interviews and then sat back to await results.

Well, only metaphorically. In reality I went back to my job.


There were a number of suitable candidates for the position along with a very large number of unsuitable ones. I talked to them all in the end even though a lot of them were totally unsuitable. I had but one candidate left to interview and went out to ask her to come into the room I'd hired. As I did so I was shocked to see a young lad, obviously employed by the hotel since he was dressed in the hotel livery, hustling my last candidate towards the door, trailed by two crying girls.

For a frantic moment I wondered what to do. Normally I would have let something like this go, but this time I decided that the timid mouse was going to roar.

"Hey you!" I called in my loudest I-am-going-to-get-the-attention-of-everyone voice "Just what the hell do you think you're doing."

Everyone, including the hotel lad, boy, whatever he was, turned to look at me as I intended. Putting on a don't-fuck-with-me face, or what I'd like to think was one I stormed over to the unfortunate lad.

"You" I pointed to the girl at the reception desk as I strode past "Get the manager out here, right now." I saw her pick up the phone and start punching the buttons. Confident that the manager would soon make an appearance I continued my march across the hotel foyer. The lad seeing that I was heading for him attempted to hustle the lady towards the door.

"Stay right where you are!" I commanded and was somewhat surprised to see that he did just that.

I stopped when I was less that two feet away from him, right inside his personal space.

"What is your name?"

"Um..."

"Speak up, it's not a difficult question."

"Uh, Julian."

"Julian, what?"

"Julian Carstairs."

"Julian Carstairs, WHAT?" I boomed

"Er..." He looked around for a moment, I'm not sure why.

"Julian Carstairs, sir."

"Well, Julian Carstairs, take your hands off that lady and stay right where you are until the manager gets here."

At this he seemed to gain a little backbone.

"Sir, this is hotel business and not your concern."

"Shut up and wait."

He did.

This is so, not like me at all but I couldn't back down now.

A few moments later the manager arrived.

"What seems to be the problem Mr. Goodall?"

"You are, I take it, aware that I hired the Green Room for this afternoon to conduct interviews?"

"Yes, Mr Goodall, indeed I am since I dealt with you concerning the matter."

"Then perhaps you can explain to me why this Julian Carstairs has taken it upon himself to forcibly remove one of my candidates from the premises?"

I was pleased to notice the Oh-Shit look appear on the young Mr Carstairs' face.

"I cannot, in fact I am at a loss to explain it."

He turned to the lad. "Perhaps you could answer Mr Goodall's question, Julian. I am interested in the answer myself."

Julian Carstairs ummed and erred for a moment before speaking. "Sir we don't let people like this into the hotel." He waved his had at the lady and her children. "We have standards to maintain."

I took that moment to look at the lady in question. Apart from the fact that she was Asian and somewhat unfashionably dressed even to my male eye, as were her children, I could see nothing wrong with her. I did however, note that Julian still held her arm.

"If you do not take your hand off her right now, I will do it for you and then call the police since you insist in continuing your assault on the woman." He let go of her as though she were suddenly red hot.

There was a long pause before the manager spoke. "And just what standards were you trying to enforce Mr Carstairs?"

I think at this point Mr Carstairs realised that he was standing on very thin ice.

"The Hotel standards, sir."

"What hotel standards, Mr Carstairs?"

There was an even longer pause.

"This hotel does not have any such standards to my certain knowledge, Mr Carstairs but it does have rules and regulations as to the behaviour of its staff regarding anyone that come into the premises. Have you read these, Mr Carstairs?"

"Well, not exactly."

"I see."

"I mean, they're just for hired staff."

"And you are, what, Mr Carstairs?"

Checkmate, there was no answer that he could give that wasn't wrong.

The manager, Mr Webb, waved one of the men behind the reception desk over. "Take Mr Carstairs here to my office and stay with him until I get there. Also ask HR to prepare termination documents."

"Yes, Sir." The man took Julian's arm and started to lead him away and not gently.

"My Uncle will hear of this..." began the unfortunate Julian Carstairs

"I'm sure he will and I've no doubt that he will understand exactly why you are being terminated. Now go."

He turned to me. "I must apologise, Mr Goodall"

I held up my hand to stop him. "It's not me who you should be apologising to."

"No, you are correct." he turned to the lady and her two children. "I most humbly apologise for the totally inappropriate behaviour of one of my staff. I assure you that it is being dealt with and that you are most welcome in the hotel at any time.

I realised at that point that neither she, nor her children had spoken, or made any sound come to think on it other than the crying of the two girls. The two small girls in question were hiding behind their mother's diminutive frame peeking out at us in the manner that small children do.

I stepped forward and held out my hand. "I'm Steven Goodall, Mrs Ling." After a moments pause she shook my hand and stepped back. "You are here to interview for the Housekeeper position?"

"Yes, I am, we are."

"Good. Could I ask you to take a seat for a moment and perhaps you would like a tea? I must relax a little before I interview you. It would not be fair otherwise."

"That would be nice, Mr Goodall."

"We have various teas, Mrs Ling" said the manager, "If you would come this way I'll show you our selection for you to choose from." He led them away to a comfortable couch and showed them that tea selection.

I walked over to the reception desk and to the young lady that I had so abruptly spoken to a short time earlier.

"I must apologise for speaking to you that way, I'm afraid that I didn't have time to be polite."

"That's alright, sir, I was happy to oblige." she leant forward and spoke in a low voice. "It was great seeing that misogynistic prick get his comeuppance. And" she looked around to make sure that no-one could hear "I get off on being ordered around like that." She blushed slightly.

"Well, I'm glad to have been of double service to you, then." I winked at her causing her to giggle. "do you think it would be possible to get the two girls some ice-cream?"

"Oh yes, we have plenty of flavours."

"Good, would you be so kind as to arrange that for me? I need to walk off the remainder of the temper I worked up."

"No problem at all, sir."

"Thank you."

I left her and went for a short walk around the hotel grounds.


"So, Mrs Ling, please take a seat and we can begin." I waved to the armchairs I'd placed in a circle in the centre-ish of the room. Once she and the two girls were seated, I took the remaining seat.

"As you can see, I'm somewhat overweight and I need to slim down. Because I seem to be unable to do this for myself I want to hire a housekeeper who knows about heath, healthy eating and exercise who will help me to do that job. I also need, for various reasons, to learn how to dance Ceroc and all this before December 21st. Clear so far?"

She nodded.

"Good, I see from your CV that you have a degree in Sport and Exercise Science and another in Nutrition, so you are completely qualified for that part of the position. In fact, you are probably completely over-qualified so I need to ask you just why you are considering the housekeeper job."

"There are several reasons. I must explain that mine was an arranged marriage after I had obtained my degrees and my husband did not want me to work but to be a traditional housewife for him and to bear him sons. You can see that I failed in that last and he decided to divorce me. I have no family to turn to and now I have no money so I must look for any work that I can do to look after my children. They are very important to me. I have not been able to find work in the sports or nutrition field, there are not that many places for non-educational positions and to get one of those, I must first obtain a teaching certificate which requires money, time and dedication that I cannot give because of my daughters."

"Well, you are the best candidate I have interviewed but I have one last thing to mention. To a certain extent I will require to be my driving force in this. I do not have the dedication for some reason, to lose the weight myself or I would have done it by now, so part of the job will be to make sure that I do the exercise not just to plan it for me. Is that going to be a problem?"

"No, part of the Sport training that I took was for international standard athletes and while most of them are totally dedicated there are some who need to be bullied into training and dealing with these was part of the courses I took."

"Well, I see no reason not to offer you the position if you would like it. There are just four things I need to mention. Firstly the position comes with rent-free furnished accommodation that will be big enough for you and your daughters. Secondly, the remuneration for the position will be a take home amount of one thousand pounds per month, that is one thousand pounds after tax and deductions and thirdly food and drink will be paid for."

"And fourthly?"

I smiled.

"When can you start?"


Mai Ling and her daughters Aiko and Kioko moved in immediately. Apparently they had nowhere else to go. Their meagre possessions were all in a single large suitcase that they had put into left-luggage at the station. Needless to say I had no food for four people so one of the first stops after showing them the house was the local supermarket. I let Mai lead here and she shopped for food. We also bought other items like toothbrushes, toothpaste and other toiletries for them, new pyjamas for the girls and two teddy bears for Aiko and Kioko. I saw them looking at the bears when mama wasn't looking and I went back to get them one each while they all waited in the queue for the till.

Neither of them let go of the bears for nearly a week, I think. After that they always took them to bed and wherever they wanted a cuddle, they would bring their teddy bear into my living room, usually when I was relaxing in my chair and clamber up onto my belly and just snuggle. The first time it happened Mai was mortified at their behaviour and tried to get them to leave me alone but I told her that they were fine and welcome anytime they needed a cuddle.

Actually, that particular occasion I could hardly move from the exercise that Mai had put me through that evening. Every part of me ached, even my eyebrows. Well, maybe not those but everything else.

For the first few weeks Mai gave me a massage after the exercise and then another one in the morning before I went to work. That was necessary since I ached so much I could hardly move without it.

I told Mai the reason why I needed to lose weight and learn to dance and she became quite the conspirator.

"You need to get some padding."

"What?"

"Padding. To make you look fat."

I looked at her nonplussed. "You're losing weight and it's becoming noticeable. So we get you some padding to make you look as fat as before. Then they don't notice you losing weight."

"Ah. I understand. So, where do we get this padding?"

"I look around tomorrow and find out."

I noticed that when Mai gets excited her command of English slips from its normally excellent standard.

And find out she did. At the local amateur dramatics theatre. Now, Mai has been home schooling her daughters and to fulfil the requirements of that she has to make sure that they get adequate, quality time with other children of the same age. So, they go to various activities including allowing various mothers and children to use my swimming pool. It's not a big pool, but it is heated and has a greenhouse like building around it so that it can be used all year round. Not that I ever used it, it belonged to Mum & Dad and they used it every day when they were in the flat. It was the reason that we bought this particular house. That, the fact that we were not overlooked by any other house and the garden. Dad loved gardening.

Anyway, the mother of one set of kids that came to use the pool was wardrobe mistress at the theatre and had suitable padding of all shapes and sizes for use at the theatre. Not only that but she and a few other mothers soon became really involved in the masquerade thing.

"The Phantom."

"I beg your pardon?"

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