"A prick up her jacksie might cheer the miserable bitch up a bit," Shirley declared.
"And if it was stuffed up her bum, it might knock some of the shit out of her," Sally the receptionist commented, "You sure you don't mind parting with this Becky? It looks like it's silver and might be valuable."
"Yes, it is silver but I got it in a job lot of jewellery at a car boot sale and only paid a few pounds for the whole lot. I've never liked it. It's more of a choker than a necklet and I thought it made me look like an Egyptian slave."
"Do you think Bryan will go along with it?" Deborah asked.
"Probably. He's a pretty good sport at most things," Cindy Reynolds, Bryan's personal secretary answered, "I'm not so sure that she will though."
Eight of the nine girls that worked in the accounts department of P&J Porter Ltd. sat around a table in the cafeteria. Bryan Seymour, the young and recently appointed manager of the department, so far had shown little interest in any of his female staff outside of the work place. At work he appeared friendly enough and had a smile and a pleasant word for each one of them, even for Kathleen Connors but she rarely uttered more that a quick reply unless it was to complain about one of the girls or a customer. She was the object of their derision and intended practical joke.
For the last three years Kathleen, a fiery and grumpy brunette, worked on her own from a wheelchair chasing up bad debts, a job she was quite successful at. As the result of a bad car crash, surgeons amputated both legs above the knee and while she had prosthetic limbs, for the most part she relied on her wheelchair. Prior to the crash, she'd been a lively girl who enjoyed walking and dancing and was popular with the boys, but since then she'd become morose and introverted and shunned company and companionship, believing that anyone who tried to be nice to her was only doing it because they were sorry for her disability. They were just trying to be charitable and she didn't want any of that. The situation was made worse in that she had no one, other than herself, that she could blame; she was travelling too fast for the foggy conditions and failed to see the road turn sharply to the left. An oak tree took the full force of the impact and firemen, tree surgeons and doctors from the air ambulance fought for over two hours to free her from the wreckage but by then it was too late to save her crushed legs.
Bryan smiled at the hearts and cards that decorated the desks when he returned to his office early after lunch on Monday. Valentines day wasn't until Wednesday and the works Valentine Dance not until the following Saturday but the girls were already into the spirit of it and he'd received a number of cards with improper suggestions from anonymous girls that could only have come from his department. Only Kathleen's desk was bereft of cards. He knew though, the other girls had given her one or two but she'd told them heatedly, "It's a stupid thing to do and a waste of time and money. I'm never going to find real love and the cards are meaningless unless they are genuine and offer true love." She pointedly threw the ones she was given into the wastebasket.
Unusually she was the last one to return to the office after lunch and even more unusually all the others were working and not chattering and yet she knew all eyes were on her as she wheeled in and deftly stopped at her desk. And stop she did. A space had been cleared and a brightly wrapped packet and a card stood where she'd left her pile of invoices. Her first reaction was to throw the card into the basket but before it left her fingers curiosity got the better of her. "Who would send me a card and a present? None of the girls would do that surely?"
Opening the card she read,
Please accept this small gift as a token of my love and admiration for you. It is for you to keep whether or not you agree to my invitation. Over the last few weeks I've watched you from a distance but now, at this lover's time, I am asking you to do me the honour of accompanying me to the Valentine's Party on Saturday and, if you are willing, get to know each other a little better afterwards. Please say you will come.
Kathleen's mind spun in a wild whirl when she read the card a second time and noted the typed text and handwritten signature in the peculiar shade of purple ink that Bryan favoured. It almost guaranteed its authenticity. No one, but no one and certainly not a man, had invited her out since she'd left hospital. No one would want a legless woman and therefore she no longer bothered with make-up and fancy hair-dos. "Does it really mean what it says?" she asked herself. "What does he really mean by 'and perhaps get to know each other a little better afterwards?' Have sex with me? Is he that perverted that he wants sex with a legless woman? Because I'd be helpless and he could easily force himself on me? And why has he never spoken to me before except on work matters?"
Furiously she tore open the package and saw it covered a jewellery case inside which nestled a silver choker collar. "A bloody slave collar!" she thought, "The perverted bastard. Wants a helpless woman to fuck."
Only vaguely in the background did she hear the girls giggling and maybe if she'd stopped to think, she might have realised it was a joke but no, her temper rose rapidly and she wheeled her chair at high speed to Bryan's office. "I'll have the bugger, it's sexual harassment." Ignoring Cindy sitting at her desk near the office, she crashed through the half-open door and barely stopped at his desk. "You dirty perverted bastard inviting me to become your helpless sex slave. Trying to use your position to get a hold on me and using this bloody Valentine's Day nonsense as an excuse to get your prick in me. Probably I'm sacked if I don't. Well we'll see who gets sacked; I'll see the General Manager about this. I'm not a fuck slave and will never be yours!"
Bryan just sat there open mouthed for a few seconds and then started to stand. Kathleen, thinking he was about to grab her, picked up a glass paperweight and threw it. Without looking and not caring where it landed, she spun the chair and speedily made her retreat, almost bowling Cindy over on the way, and found isolation in the disabled person's toilet where she could cry without being watched by the office girls.
Security first alerted her to the trouble she was in. A woman's voice loudly ordered her to open the door and when she did the uniformed woman pushed her back to the office in time to see the paramedics arrive and start to treat Bryan who lay unconscious on the office floor, blood covering his face. The paperweight hit his forehead directly between the eyes and he'd only managed to stagger a few yards before collapsing on the floor.
Kathleen spent Valentine's Day sitting gloomily at home wondering what her fate would be. The police had taken her away and questioned her for hours and it was from them, she learned that the whole episode was a practical joke, a joke that had gone very wrong. They'd allowed her home that evening but she'd been told to keep away from Bryan and not to go to work until the matter was resolved.
The doctors sewed five stitches across the cut and forced Bryan to stay in hospital overnight because of concussion. Before releasing him the following day they explained, "The wound's a bit ragged and will probably seep blood for a while so you'll have to wear a bandage and it may take a week or more for that enormous lump to go down and longer for the bruise to fade. Don't drive for a few days and if you pass out again, get someone to bring you back to the hospital immediately." He didn't go into work that day but asked Cindy to pick him up on Wednesday because his head hurt and his car was still in Porter's car park. Most of his enforced day off he spent trying to decide what to do about Kathleen. The police hadn't yet charged her and they'd told him that if they did, she could get anything from a prison sentence to community service but because of the bad publicity and the fact that she believed he was forcing her, a severely disabled woman, to be a sex slave, they were reluctant at this stage to press charges. "We're going to pass this on to our legal team Mr. Seymour. This whole business could become a very messy affair for everyone if she gets a good lawyer and the newspapers on her side," the detective in charge explained, "You can insist we charge her and then we'll have to go along with your decision but it could backfire on you and the office girls that are the root cause of this fiasco."
Wednesday dragged. His head ached and he wanted to lie down but he tried to carry on. The office girls apologised for their part en-masse and he accepted it knowing it was really Kathleen's temper that caused his wound but they weren't entirely blameless either. For a Valentine's Day, the atmosphere in the office was very subdued. The general manager called to see him and discussed the situation. "I expect you'll get rid of her now," he suggested.
"I'm not sure Sir. It could give rise to a lot of bad publicity and she's very good at her work. She'll find it very difficult to find a job elsewhere. At the start we only employed her to conform to the employment of disabled persons regulations but she's actually been of benefit to us. I've still to make up my mind though."
By three o'clock he'd had enough for the day. "Cindy, would you mind driving me to Kathleen's and then home please. I don't think I ought to drive yet; my brain's not totally in gear."
.... There is more of this story ...