The ideas and thoughts that follow are pure fantasies. In real life, at the very least they would be unpleasant and probably illegal. Fantasies are like that; daydreams where we can contemplate and imagine the sensations without suffering or inflicting the pain, despair or humiliation.
Based on an idea in a story by Jack Spratt1 but the stories are totally different.
Chapter 1: Gift wrapped
I knew the office busybodies had caught up with me when I opened my workshop and saw the pink square envelope bordered with miniature Santas someone had poked under the door. "Sod it! I suppose I will have to look for a present for some kid I don't even know, while those tarts in the office get all the credit. Typical women! They might like shopping but I certainly don't!" Tossing the envelope on the bench, I pushed the trolley with my toolbox into the corner, filled the kettle and switched it on, and then sat down and looked at the job sheet to decide which was the next priority.
The long established firm of Criterion Printers Ltd., employed me, Ken Blake, as an odd-job man or 'maintenance man' as they liked to term my function. I put up shelves, repair tables, install computer benches, repair locks and any of a thousand-and-one other jobs that help to keep the works running smoothly. Normally, but not on that day, I work the usual 8 a.m.
5 p.m. hours but if my hammering and sawing would disturb others, I work evenings or nights and take days off instead. Originally there had been three odd-job men but with changes in working practices and the installation of a few multipurpose woodworking machines in the basement workshop, I now work as the sole maintenance man, calling on anyone who was available when more than one pair of hands are needed to do the job.
In fact, I prefer being a one-man-band especially after the debacle with the woman I thought I would marry. The bitch led me along with promises she never kept while having other lovers on the side. "She just used me as a meal ticket and when she found a better one, I was kicked out and left to find a place of my own with few finances," I confided to my sister. Marion, my ex, found the house and paid the deposit but for two years, I'd paid the mortgage. As it was in her name, I was thrown on the streets. Actually I was lucky in finding a cheap one-room bedsit and soon after, obtained the better paid job with Criterion. Without the expense of keeping her, I was able to sort out my finances and I'm now reasonably well off. I don't go out much and don't bother with fancy clothes so I don't have a lot of expenditure. Being jilted in such an offhand way, has left me with a deep mistrust for women, and women in the 20
35 age group in particular but I try to overcome my resentment as women comprise about 80% of the ninety or so employees at the firm.
It's not that I'm unattractive, or at least I don't think I am, and at twenty-seven years old, some women might see me as an attractive catch but, as they say, once caught, twice shy, I avoid any unnecessary contact with them. I'm not tall, only 5' 4'', but I'm stocky, have crew-cut hair and solid muscle, that, I've heard a number of women say, gives me a rugged appearance. I've resolutely ignored the overtures of all the single women, whatever their age. Many now regard my manner as rather morose and introverted but I have an excellent reputation for craftsmanship and for ingenuity in doing this work.
Finishing my tea, I loaded the steel tool trolley with the materials for the next job, a new door on a storeroom that couldn't be left open all night, and headed for the lift. The job took until 9:30 that evening and, as usual in the circumstances, I sent an email to my boss informing him that I'd worked late and wouldn't be in until after lunch the following day. Thus it wasn't until I prepared to leave at the end of the day that I spotted the envelope on the bench and stuffed it in my jacket pocket.
It was almost bedtime before I remembered to open it. Momentarily I was a little puzzled that it had been sealed with Selotape and my name was on the envelope. Others, I knew, had been asked to choose a blank envelope but being tired, I wasn't overly concerned with the anomaly and pulled out the sheet with a Post-it note on top.
The Post-it note gave the instructions, 'Once you have the package complete bring it to reception with the child's name and reference number on it and Shirley will pass it through the system. It you put a tag on it, sign it with just your first name to keep your anonymity.'
"I suppose it won't cost me too much to buy a few toys and I've no other children to buy for so maybe I'll make the effort this year, at least that might get the office bitches off my back." On a work level, I got on okay with most of the women in the firm, but the office staff always appeared snooty and to look down with some contempt on a mere odd-job man, unless they wanted a job done in a hurry.
Inside the printed/photocopied sheet read:
Make a Child's Christmas Wish Come True
'Thank you for accepting this very important task. Fulfilling this will fulfill one Child's Christmas Dream and you will have the joy of knowing you are part of that dream.' There was lot of other promotional guff and bullshit, which I glanced through, but the description of the child and what she wanted surprised and puzzled me and I wondered how I would ever be able to get the items suggested.
Under the opening paragraph a printed list gave the child's information and alongside each entry the detail was handwritten in ballpoint pen.
Child's name: Anne / female. 203
Age: 14 (I double checked). It appeared that 24 had been inserted and the 2 changed to 1 but the result could have easily have been either. "It says a child so it must be 14," I reasoned.
Child's Measurements: This information is to assist in any clothing purchases that we strongly recommend be part of your gift.
Height: 4' 11"
Weight: 7 stones.
Dress size: 10
Shoe size: 3
Body Shape: slim
Favourite colours: light blue, or deep green.
No mother or father.
Notes: Has been invited to a party but cannot go as she has nothing suitable to wear.
She is a very deserving child and anything you can do to make her Christmas memorable would be the answer to her prayer. Please try and make it "A Christmas Wish Fulfilled".
I tried to picture the child, young girl or whatever, but without hair and eye colour and other details I could only see a featureless girl approaching puberty, probably a late developer because these days, so many fourteen year olds had well developed tits. I read and re-read the information. "There's something odd about this," I thought tiredly, but couldn't really define what it was. "A girl of fourteen wanting a party dress and doesn't have a mother or father? Is she living on her own? No, more likely in care. Where on earth do I get a dress for a young girl? GAP? NEXT? Primark? Better go into town in the morning."
With Christmas only three weeks away, the town was fairly well packed even though I went in early and it was a weekday. I spent a frustrating hour or more, looking through the racks at several of the smaller clothing shops without having a clue as to what I wanted but eventually I ended up annoyed and fed-up in a large department store. "Can I help you Sir?" a bored assistant asked, still looking across at the other side of the room and not at me.
"Yes, if you are actually working today," I snapped rather louder than I intended. I'd already had enough of shopping to last me a whole year and it was for something I didn't want even if I knew what it was that I wanted.
"Is there a problem Sir?" An elderly woman appeared. I explained the situation. "Rebecca, help this gentlemen get what he needs. The girl is not much younger than you so you should have a better idea of what she would like than I will. She'll probably need shoes, socks and a handbag to match."
"Yes Mrs. Reeves."
Once motivated the girl did indeed get her arse into gear and found a rather low cut, bottle-green dress, shoes and socks to match and a lighter green imitation leather handbag. The total came to £96.45, far more than I intended to pay but the girl gift-wrapped it for me at no extra charge and I was glad to get the hell out of there.
On the tag card the store provided, I wrote:
I hope this is suitable.
Have an enjoyable time at the party
With my best wishes
Chapter 2: Gift rejected
I'm Sally Anne Hughes, the archivist at the printers and my job is to catalogue all the images and text used on the various print jobs and create an index on the server so they can easily be found again if a further print run is required. I really enjoy the work especially as I largely work on my own in a little office that is part of a large storeroom where all the discs and archived material are stored. Each item is numbered to indicate its position in the store, a system that I instigated several years ago. My main problem with the work, is getting to the upper shelves, but they bought me a pair of steps and I'm agile enough to clamber up and down them without a problem. They make up for my lack of height.
Some of the others, particularly the lads on the print shop floor, call me 'Shrimp' but they say it without rancour so I accept it, and provided they don't try and chat me up or invite me out, we get on well enough. I accept the term less willingly when the snooty hens in the office use it because they make it sound derisory and to emphasise their superiority. I can't help being small. Both my parents were small but they'd died young of an infection they'd caught on a tour in Egypt. Worse, as far as I am concerned, is when on the few times I've been in a pub, they want identification and even question if my driving license is genuine, before serving me alcohol. Even in the supermarket, any new girl on the check-out questions my age if I buy alcohol, not that I do that very often. "I'm a woman in a teenage body; no height, no body and no tits," I remarked to a friendly, overweight cashier.
With still three weeks to go before Christmas, I was mystified to find the package outside the door of my office when I returned from lunch. I read the card and burst out, "How dare he! That cocky, jumped up so-called handyman, how dare he send me a gift like this? Surely he doesn't expect me to go to the party with him? He should know I don't have anything to do with boys or men these days, not after what happened. Does he expect to give me all those kisses?" A couple of other women stared at me so I took the parcel inside and read the tag card again.
I hope this is suitable.
Have an enjoyable time at the party
I swore at the audacity of the man I hardly knew and continued to rant as I ripped open the wrapping paper. Inside were a nice green dress, shoes and something else that was wrapped. The fact that a man had given these expensive presents to me indicated in my mind, that he wanted a lot more in return. And why would he give it to me so long before Christmas? I sat in my chair and cried a little, remembering back to that morning six years ago ... I'd better fill you in on the details.
In courts he said it was my 'little-girl-look' that led to the attempted rape attack when I was barely eighteen. I didn't even see him lurking behind a tree as I walked through the park enjoying the early Sunday morning sunshine and, before I knew anything was amiss, the beast cornered me, grabbed me from behind, tore my shirt and dragged me to a secluded area concealed by some shrubs. I remember hitting the ground hard and felt him start to rip my clothing, managing to free my tiny breasts and tear my shorts before I recovered sufficiently to fight back. He certainly didn't expect the fury with which I retaliated. Yelling and screaming at the top of my voice in the hope of attracting attention, I fought with more skill than he expected and made my punches land in the places I knew caused men the most pain. With a certain smugness, I remembered the training I'd been through at the keep fit and self defence classes for several years and tried to remain calm, although that was easier in the gym lessons than when faced with a real life situation. He was more concerned with subduing me and keeping me quiet but I didn't get away unscathed, largely because he was so much bigger and heavier than me. Eventually I got two killer kicks to his balls and by then, the fight had gone out of him and the park warden and several dog walkers had arrived. Eventually, after all the embarrassment of making statements and the court appearances, the man was sent to prison for three years.
Unfortunately the mental trauma didn't end there and although I've been to counselling sessions, I'm never able to get close to any boy or man without re-living the horror of that day. Nowadays, I shun all boyfriends.
More recently I've seen a hypnotherapist and that is having more effect and I've started to see men in a slightly different light but haven't found a man I'm comfortable with. Several men in the works have asked me out but I politely told them to get stuffed and when that wasn't sufficient a deterrent for one and he put his arms around me and tried to feel if I really did have any tits, my bony elbow in his stomach stopped any further advances and left him gasping for breath on the floor. Word got around that I was not to be trifled with and I haven't been accosted for some time.
Finding the dress and the accessories and checking the labels only to find they were the right size and looking again at the name on the tag, my mind started to piece things together. "To get a dress and shoes the right size, he must have been stalking me and checking in my clothes locker. Perhaps he has a key to it? Probably he's been watching me at home, checking the clothes drying on the line. Spying on me, wanting to entice me into a lonely spot or his bedroom..." My imagination ran wild and was soon filled with many unrealistic scenarios. My fury increased. "I'll teach that bastard!" Grabbing the parcel I stormed down to the basement.
"What the hell!" Ken shouted as I flung the workshop door and it hit the stop with a loud bang. "What's up Sally?"
"You know what's up you pervert! Trying to get into my knickers by the back door. By enticement and entrapment. I'll have you for sexual harassment!" I hurled the parcel on the bench spilling its contents. "That's what's the matter. Now tell me you didn't buy that!"
Confused, Ken answered, "I bought it for the Christmas Child Gift thing. How did you get it?"
"You addressed it to me. Look, Sally Anne 203, my room number."
"Keep your rotten dress, you'll never see me in it!" Tears flowing from my eyes, I headed for the door.
"Wait ... please."
"Get ready to find another job you low-down, conniving scumbag. I'm reporting you to the boss!" I left quickly, trying to wipe my tears away and get back to my office where I could hide away.
I heard my computer chime that it had mail but I was too upset to open it. The phone rang and I took it off its cradle; I was too angry to answer it.
The sudden onslaught threw me for a loop and it took me a few minutes to put two and two together. To my mind it added up to a practical joke and one that backfired. After examining the tag card and then the original invitation that, luckily, was still in my jacket pocket from the shopping trip, I quickly realised what had happened. "Probably it's those bitches in the office trying to do some matchmaking. Interfering busybodies, they have no idea what a hornets nest they've stirred up." I looked up Sally's works email address and sent:
<Don't do anything rash Sally please. The snots in the office have set us up. The tag was doctored and my gift letter faked
No reply. I tried her phone but it disconnected.
For the rest of the afternoon, I couldn't concentrate on my work. I debated whether or not to go to her room but knew there was little chance of getting to see Sally as she always worked with her door shut. I do have a passkey to all the rooms but entering while she was there could only lead to further accusations and escalate the problem. Banging on the door would only gain unwanted attention. There was nothing I could do except hope that she would relent and not see the boss, not that I couldn't explain my actions to him but it could all get very unpleasant.
For the next hour I repaired a cabinet but my mind was elsewhere and when nothing happened I began to wonder if she actually went to see Simon Cranfield the managing director. There was no doubt when at 4:15 my mobile showed a text message.
< Come to my office immediately. Use the back stairs
The 'use the back stairs' gave me a little hope. Using the emergency stairs would bypass the main office and I wouldn't have to confront the secretaries. Did he already know the prank his secretaries had played? Did he believe Sally? Would he believe me when I showed him the evidence? I hoped so, especially as he always appeared to be an understanding boss.
Holding the tag, the invitation and a magnifying glass in my hand, I entered the prestigious office on the top floor and was greeted cordially. "Thank you for coming Ken, please have a seat. I guess you know why I've asked you to come." Simon tried to put me at ease and asked for my version of the events. Trying to keep cool, I explained what happened and produced my 'evidence' and also said the girl in the department store would certainly remember the letter and me. "If you look carefully you'll see the words Sally and Blake are in a slightly different ink and the letters are slightly different shape and thickness." Feeling like an amateur Sherlock Holmes, I handed him the documents and the glass.
"Do you know anything about Sally?" Simon asked when he'd examined them and agreed with my assessment that Sally and I been set up, almost certainly by the office girls.
"I hardly knew more than her name until an hour or two ago and I haven't done any work in her office since she first came."
"Between us, she was sexually molested several years ago and this left her with a fear of men. My wife knows more than I do and I don't want to go into details but she's gradually getting over it but there's some way to go yet. What's happened could be a set-back. I'll suggest she apologises but would ask that you treat her with care and don't be offended if she doesn't even come to you. I also think it a good idea for the moment to let the office staff think they've got away with it otherwise this is all going to blow up into a major incident and end up with dismals that I am loathe to sanction at this time of year." I knew Simon was a genuine, caring boss and always treated me well when I'd done work in his office so I accepted what was said but hoped the office bitches would get some sort of reprimand. It was some weeks later I learned that he not only reprimanded them, he indirectly 'fined' them. "Ken paid out £100 because or your practical joke and has brought the charity into disrepute, I suggest that as a recompense, you, between you, pay the £100 to a charity of my choosing," my informant told me.
A few minutes before closing time, Sally came to the workshop, tears streaming down her face. "I'm sorry Ken. I'm sorry, I didn't know." Seeing her standing shaking by the open door, I wanted to hold her, and that surprised me after not wanting to touch a woman for so long but I didn't. Probably it was because she looked so helpless, vulnerable and defeated. Without waiting for a reply, she turned to leave. "Sally, please take the parcel, it won't fit me and it will be too embarrassing to take it back," I called out.
"I don't want it!"
"Please take it even if it wasn't meant for you. Take it as a Santa gift and not as a gift from me. One day you may find an occasion when you can wear it, if not pass it to a charity shop."
Finally after more persuading, she agreed and somewhat reluctantly, said "Thank you." I think she finally understood, that none of this was my fault except that I'd been gullible and taken in by the gift request.
Chapter 3: The accident
Our paths never crossed very often at normal times although I did sometimes see her in the canteen but whether or not it was deliberate, I didn't see Sally at all for the following fortnight, not until five days before Criterion Printers closed for the Christmas and New Year break. We closed on Friday 21st and reopened on Wednesday January 2nd. Only the security people would be in. I could have stayed and done some necessary repair work but decided I needed a break too and would go and visit my sister.
On the Monday, the engineers decided the old, huge photocopier in room 205 had finally given up the ghost and needed replacing as a matter of some urgency. They wanted the job done before Christmas and the staff on that floor just wanted the job done as quickly as possible to save them having to use one downstairs and all the congestion that involved. I was there to remove the door to gain the extra inch needed to get the copier out of the room and it took the two engineers, the van driver and me to manhandle the heavy machine on to an old, wheeled cradle they'd brought, and get it through the opening into the corridor. Once it was through the door, the two engineers and the driver pushed the heavily over laden cradle along the uneven floorboards to the service lift. It bumped its way noisily along and I followed it for a short way but, seeing they didn't need my help, was about to return to 205 when there was a loud crash and a scream from 203. Rightly I guessed, the vibrations caused by the lumbering copier had dislodged something from the walls. Without hesitation I fished out my passkey and entered the room.
Sally lay on the floor amid a pile of CD's and the remains of a shelf. She glared at me and I knew she was a little frightened but kept quiet. "Lie still Sally and let me get rid of some of this stuff. Can you move your toes?" On receiving an affirmative nod, I lifted the shelf off her right leg revealing her ripped trousers and the blood beginning to soak through. "Lie still," I again commanded, and carefully moved the torn material aside. Underneath I could see a number of deep scratches, probably caused by the sharp corners of the CD jewel cases or the shelf brackets. In spite of my warning, Sally struggled to stand and managed to hobble to a chair and I realised that probably nothing was broken. Ineffectually she protested and winced when I lifted her leg and had another quick look at the lacerations. "They'll need dressing, you're going to the clinic," I stated and she must have known she would need some treatment from the amount of blood spreading through the fabric of her trousers, but she was more than a little surprised when I picked her up. I guess she was in too much pain and shock to resist and, as an involuntary action, put an arm around my neck to steady herself and allowed me to carry her to the lift.
"Hold it!" I yelled at the group about to force the copier through the gates of the lift. By then some staff from other rooms looked out to see what was happening but only one of the engineers got in with us and took us to the ground floor. "Phone the clinic and let them know I'm bringing in an accident victim and let the office know," I shouted to the receptionist as we went by and out to my van. For once she stopped preening herself and picked up the phone. No doubt the sight of the blood goaded her into action.
The clinic was only half a mile away and during the drive, Sally moaned a little with the pain but I could tell she was trying to contain her emotions. I disregarded her protests that she could walk, and carried her into the clinic where I was immediately directed to a curtained area with a paper-covered couch.
While I gave them the details they needed, a nurse cut Sally's trouser leg off well above the knee and began to clean the wounds. The scratching on the front and side of her leg was pretty extensive but fortunately none were seriously deep and only one needed straps to hold the cut together. There was also the beginning of a lump and a bruise on her shin where the shelf had hit and that's where she felt the most pain. I knew it all must have been painful and sat and held her hand without speaking and without her pulling it away. In any case, while she swabbed and cleaned the cuts and reduced the flow of blood, the nurse kept up a continuous stream of conversation until she had to fetch the doctor to check on the wounds and he prescribed some painkillers and an anti-tetanus injection. An hour later her leg was bandaged and we could leave. "Try and keep the leg raised and still for a while and don't walk on it unless you have to," the nurse instructed. Had I not been there, Sally, I'm sure, would have defied her but I insisted she sat where she was until I got a blanket from the van to stave off the chill, and then carried her to the van.
What a traumatic experience just before Christmas, not that I had a lot to look forward to, not with living alone and now having a sore leg. As I lay on that couch in the clinic, listening to the nurse prattle on, I relived the moment that the shelf fell. I heard the noises from the next room and knew what they were doing, but I kept my door shut to keep out the commotion and the dust. Then the wall next to the corridor started to shake and, almost in slow motion, I saw the shelf start to move from the wall. I rushed to save it but I was a fraction too late and a few inches too short and just as I got to it the whole lot fell. The shelf, and its load of a hundred or more CD's came crashing down and most of them fell on my leg and I found my self, semi-buried on the floor.
My feelings were very mixed when Ken burst in. He startled and worried me, especially after what happened earlier and I wondered if he would be out for revenge but he spoke quietly and cleared the debris and looked at my leg. I could see a lot of blood and he looked through the tears in my trousers and told me I was going to the clinic. The pain was pretty horrible but he carried me carefully and when the nurse was cleaning my leg, sat and held my hand. Mentally I blamed the pain for letting him do it, but it truth, it was a comfort and I was reluctant to let go. I have to say, that all the time, he treated me firmly but correctly and the few words he spoke, helped to soothe my fears. I wondered if he was listening to the nurse or if he too was thinking back to the dress fiasco.
"I'll drive you home if you tell me where you live." At first I was reluctant to give him my address and remembered thinking how he must have found out my dress size by looking at the clothing on the line, but now realised that supposition had been far from the truth and that Ken had gone out of his way today to help me. His blood stained, once-white overalls showed that. "But can I trust him not to take advantage of me when we get there?" I asked myself but the throbbing of my leg and a weariness from fighting the pain, forced me to give him the information and even to let him inside my home when we arrived.
It didn't end there. Ken made sure I was comfortable by the fire with my leg propped up and went back into town to get the prescription painkillers and then made mugs of tea for us. For a while we sat in silence, listening to the hiss of the gas fire and watching the flames dance over the artificial coal and my mind churned the events of the past few weeks. My thoughts asked, "Why are you trusting him when you've never trusted a man before? Will he suddenly turn on you when you least expect it? No, don't think he will. Are you sure he's not out to take his revenge on you for going to the boss? Good job old Simon understood, otherwise I'd have been the one looking for another job. It really wasn't Ken's fault and you didn't give him chance to explain." I broke the reverie. "Ken, about the dress ... I'm very sorry I acted like I did ... I should have listened to what you had to say..."
"Forget it Sally, it's over and it wasn't your fault, it was Ms. High and Mighty Cynthia Crawshaw and her crew that are to blame. They're the ones that should be punished. Simon may have said something to them because they've been a little more polite to me lately but I've not heard if and how he dealt with them."
We finished our tea and he said he ought to get back and asked to call in on his way home. "I can bring some fish and chips to save you cooking." And so he did. We talked about work and generalities for an hour and, as I seemed better, he left.
That night, I didn't sleep well. My leg felt stiff and I couldn't get comfortable so I lay awake with my thoughts, particularly those concerning him, Ken Blake, and how little I really knew about him. Simon Cranfield had given me an outline when he called me back into his office after my outburst and threats but that only told me he'd been badly treated by a girl he expected to marry; no details, so I wondered what really happened. Actually it was my behaviour that caused me more concern, particularly the way I'd allowed him, not only inside the shell of my life, but to almost take it over. I'd had no choice about going to the clinic, no choice about how I got there and really no choice about being brought home. I suppose I did have the choice of him returning with the fish and chips but my choosing was tempered by the soreness in my leg and my not wanting to move from the fire, at least that's what I tried to tell myself, but I wasn't sure that if behind it all, I wanted his company.
He turned up early next morning to see how I was and to find out if I intended to go to work. "The leg's a bit stiff and I won't be able to get up the steps but I'm going in to see what a disaster you've left." I gave what I hoped was a smile.
"I left things just as they were and only brought your lunch box and stuff last night and I left a note on the door for the cleaner not to go in. They'd got the new copier in by the time I got back and then Simon wanted to know how you were and I had to fix the door back on 205 and do some finishing work there. I thought it might be better if you sorted the CD's back into their right cases while I repair the wall and put up a new shelf or more probably, a whole set of shelves. The ones still there aren't very safe."
That evening as I sat and packed the presents I'd bought for my sister and her husband, I pondered on the day's events and particularly why I'd gone out of my way to help the young girl, well young woman really; she was only three years younger than me but her appearance made that deceptive. I knew that I was only doing the normal thing by taking her to the clinic, but afterwards? Sitting and talking with her? Bringing her fish and chips? Why had I let my guard down over her? Was it because I didn't feel that she was a threat to my life? Wasn't going to offer me things and not fulfill her promise? Was it because she seemed helpless and vulnerable? No, she didn't want me to become close and I didn't wish to become close to her. Or did I? I had to admit, I'd found her attractive without being blatantly sexual, and that I missed the companionship of being close to a woman since Marion kicked me out. Seeing her bare thigh in the clinic stirred my prick but fortunately it wasn't noticeable to either the nurse or her. But after each thought came the remembrance of the way she burst into the workshop and flung that stupid dress parcel at me. I told myself it was because she was afraid but I couldn't help but wonder if she would turn on me like that for other reasons. In bed that night, while I gently massaged my prick, I decided to keep our relationship on the cool side but to help her in any way I could at least until her leg had recovered. After that, I'd see what developed.
Next day I had to withstand a lot of ribbing from the lads when I helped her out of the van at work. "Show us your bruises," Pete from the print room shouted so Sally must have heard. Both of us brushed that remark aside. She wanted to go in to work and start sorting the discs out and she could do that without too much standing and the painkillers dulled the pain. I would put her room on the priority list, which it was because no one could be expected to work with that mess on the floor. By lunchtime the debris was cleared, I'd repaired the broken plaster on the wall, removed a couple of other shelves that weren't too secure and Sally was opening each disc and checking to see if any were damaged. I couldn't do any more there and left her alone until nearly the end of work and asked if she wanted a lift home but she decided she could drive her own car especially as it was an automatic.
With other jobs that cropped up and having to order in materials, it was Wednesday afternoon before I had a new set of steel framed shelves ready to install. I'd seen her a couple of times but only spoke briefly to enquire about her leg and she'd been back to the clinic that morning to have the dressing changed for one that only covered the deep cut. She didn't show me but I guessed her leg and thigh was still a mass of scratches and, from the way she limped, I knew she was still in some pain.
I needed a second pair of hands to hold the pieces while I put the bolts in place and she was there and, in fact, didn't seem to mind helping. The door was open because neither of us wished to be accused of molestation so, right when we were standing at our closest trying to align two bolt holes, who should strut in but Cynthia Crawshaw.
"Very cosy I'm sure," she sneered.
"Well I don't suppose you would have offered to hold the pieces," I snapped back, "Even if the job was in your office."
"Certainly not. I have other things to do."
"Like walking around with a clipboard and noting who is with who?"
Ignoring that remark she went on, "I came to enquire if you will be attending the Christmas party on Friday night?"
"Sorry, I'll be halfway to Cornwall by then."
"And you couldn't leave on Saturday?"
"I suppose you won't be missed." The sneer was back in her voice. "And what about you Miss Hughes?"
"I don't think so ... my leg..."
"Oh don't use that feeble excuse girl. If you can stand and hold pieces of metal, you can certainly stand and hold a wine glass. The bosses will expect to see you there without fail."
The woman left abruptly as if that was the end of the argument, which it was as far as she was concerned. Sally though looked upset. "You don't have to go just because Miss Bitch says so. It won't affect your job, despite what she thinks. You don't want to go do you?"
She shook her head, no, and said, "I hate those parties where everyone gets more than a little drunk and they think I'm peculiar because I won't touch the booze and have to fend off all the remarks about my age and the snide suggestions and gropes from those who get tipsy. Trouble is I couldn't think of a decent excuse not to go."
"Why don't you elope with me to Cornwall?" I don't know why I said that; it sorta just came out and if she hadn't have been holding the shelves in place, I guess from the look she gave me, I might have had a black eye but as it turned out, I had time to explain that my sister ran a B&B a little way from Penzance and at Christmas a few guests, who were also friends, stayed and everyone had a good time. "She'll give us separate rooms. What else would you do over the holiday period?" She had to admit she would be on her own most of the time. "Look Sally, why don't we at least talk about it tonight? Can I visit you say about seven?"
Chapter 4: Christmas
"I can't believe I agreed to this! Here I am in a Travelodge on the outskirts of Exeter, sleeping in the same room as him, but not, of course in the same bed. And it's not that I didn't know before hand." I wasn't actually sleeping either and I wondered if he was but he lay quiet and faced away from me so I imagined he was. This was too much like an adventure with an unknown ending for me to sleep.
I admit, it was a rushed decision, made without careful thought but for once in my life, I was taking a chance to see how the cards played. Ken came round as promised and told me as clearly as he could, what his plans were and how I would fit in and if I agreed to go with him, he would phone his sister Karen that evening to let her know in time to organise another room. "We'll travel as far as Exeter on the Friday night. That's about 200 miles or a bit more and will be plenty far enough as I expect there will be a lot of traffic on the road but it should help if there are two of us driving and it's motorway most of the way except for this first bit until we pick up the M25. I've booked a room in a Travelodge for the night. They have two beds and en suite facilities so, while you will have to share a room, you won't need to share my bed and I promise that I will not make any attempt to have sex with you or to try and invade your privacy that night or at any other time during our stay." His words sounded genuine but for a little while I thought to refuse his offer, but then when I considered what my holiday would be like if I stayed, I decided to hear him out.
"We'll try and get away early Saturday morning and head for Penzance. That's a bit over a hundred miles but it could well take just as long as the previous 200. Karen's guest house is a few miles around the coast and overlooks Mount Bay. It's a beautiful spot when the weather is nice but at this time of year, expect rain and wind. If we get one really nice day, we'll be lucky; two will be exceptional. Karen will sort us out separate rooms; I believe there's about fifteen all told and during the holiday period Graham will be around but otherwise he will be at working at a garage in Penzance. He doesn't get a long period off like us."