[I wrote this story for my sister back in the early noughties, as a spoof on the romantic chicklit that flourished at that time. There are many, many in-jokes here, including quite a few lines taken from the script of that incomparable chick flick, Clueless.]
Bunty wandered absentmindedly into reception and said, “Two Dictaphone tapes and one email, if you wouldn’t mind.”
He squinted at me.
“God, Piggy, you’ve improved over lunch. Did you go for a face lift?”
I threw the tapes at him.
‘I’ve been demoted!” I screamed. “Selma has drowned! And if that isn’t enough I missed out on a fantastic DKNY deal this afternoon. And – “ I held out my phone. “Look at this. My boyfriend has been two-timing me.”
I slammed the phone on the reception desk.
Bunty looked at the offending photo over his glasses.
“He’s your boyfriend?”
He sucked in air through his clenched teeth.
“Well, I’d say this calls for one thing, Daze.”
“What?” I snapped.
“Like what? I’m heartbroken, Bunty! And she’s” – I dropped my voice – “the boss’ daughter.”
Bunty looked round thoughtfully, and then whipped out a book from under his jacket.
“See here?” he said, pointing to subparagraph 5.4.2. “Staff procedures manual. Read it.”
I read it. It said: 5.4.2. Staff working in the same office are not permitted to enjoy intimate relationships. Such relationships will hinder productivity and encourage secret-spreading.
I looked at Bunty, morosely.
“You mean I can’t marry Toby O’Dash? Jeez, Bunty, I may as well go throw myself off the nearest bungee bridge.”
“I’ll wait for your cogs to turn,” replied Bunty. “If you can’t go out with Toby, then…?”
I stared at him.
“…then…you can’t go out with him either?” I tried.
Bunty affected a sigh.
“Then nobody in here can go out with Toby. Capisce?”
Then the penny dropped.
“Give me your phone,” said Bunty, “And your handbag.”
“Hey!’ I shrieked as he whisked away my Prada best. “ – That was way harsh, Bunty.”
But Bunty was already busy connecting my phone to his computer. Seconds later, I saw him glance around, shiftily, and slide a printout in a drawer. Then he started rummaging in my handbag.
“No!” I whispered through my teeth, not wanting him to crumple up the Ronan autograph I carried everywhere, but it was too late – Bunty was already wandering over to Piggy’s desk with something in his clenched fist. Piggy was away from her chair.
“Daisy?” came a voice from behind me. I swivelled.
It was Simon, hanging out of his office.
“Type a memo to Accounts,” bellowed Simon, “About the meeting this afternoon. Tell them I shall be…” He rolled back his cuff and looked at his watch. “Precisely two minutes late. And wash the front window, Daisy. Mm thankyou.”
There was a porcine guffaw from his office. Piggy was in there, evidently.
“Daddy, your puku,” she said, and I saw that Simon’s shirt had popped around his middle. It was not pleasant to behold. A second later, as I was typing the following memo:
From: Simon Chester
Re: Accounts Meeting, 2.45
I shall be precisely two minutes late.
…Piggy crossed in front of my desk with a smug nod in my direction.
“Enjoying your new life as a receptionist?” she smirked.
I stood up with a bang.
“I not receptionist!” I shouted.
“What’s that all about?” said Piggy to Bill Barton from Accounts who was walking by.
“Daisy’s really an Office Co-ordinator,” explained Bill Barton helpfully, but Piggy shrugged, and started waddling her ample behind back to her desk.
“Never mind, Bill,” I muttered, getting up to wash the office window. I whipped out the cleaning fluid and squeezed the nozzle. As Yellow Pine Fresh splashed over my eyes and into my mouth, I felt a sudden blindness.
“Hey, Daisy,” said Bill’s voice, coming round in front of me. “I was wondering if you were free on Saturday whether you’d fancy –”
He stopped. I could feel the yellow liquid dripping off my face.
“Maybe not,” he said, backing away. I rubbed my eyes viciously with my sleeve, and blinked. Just then, there was a scream.
Piggy had sprung up in fright. Several of my toothpicks were dangling from her huge behind. Bunty must have stolen them from my handbag and put them there. Simon came striding out of his office amid the consternation, and stopped short.
“What’s going on?” he asked coldly, after a second’s pause, staring at the notice board.
The office fell silent. Someone who watched too much Eastenders quietly switched the radio off.
Bunty had pinned a huge printed photo of Toby and Piggy across the notice board, and scrawled underneath with lipstick: THERE’S SOMETHING YOU SHOULD KNOW. (He’d refund me for that. Fuzzy Peach was £40 a tube.)
Simon Chester looked at the photo and then across to Piggy, who was trying to pluck toothpicks from her backside.
“Pig?” asked Simon Chester slowly to his daughter. “Is this true?”
Piggy looked dolefully across the room to where Toby O’Dash hung his dark and curly head.
“Oh Daddy,” whimpered Piggy, “He told me not to tell you.”
There was a split second’s silence.
Then Simon Chester launched himself at Toby O’Dash and there were punches, fistfights, and clumps of flying hair. It took us an hour to clean up the mess.
“I don’t believe it!” trilled Tilda. “You got your old job back? Why couldn’t you get a promotion?”
“Actually, Tilda,” I yelled above the drum ‘n’ bass hophiphop ragga urban garage R’n’B trance, “I resigned. I don’t think I can take working for Chester, Chaster & Charlie anymore.”
“Well, what are you going to do?” said Selma through a cocktail. She had regained consciousness after seven hours in a coma and seemed none the worse for her ordeal, except that she could no longer stomach the sight of lentils. Oscar had been discovered at home, unchaperoned, throwing all his toys into their large roaring fire.
“Why don’t you come and work for me?” asked Selma. “I need to find an au pair within the next twelve hours or Social Services will take Oscar away from me.”
“I have my contacts,” I assured Selma. “I’ve got this mate, Tony…”
“Sounds like a wheeler dealer,” said Tilda. “Listen, Selma – I’m dying for a job with children –”
“Are you a people person?” asked Selma patiently.
“Yes!” bubbled Tilda.
“Well, you’ve got the job,” said Selma.
“Congratulations on getting revenge, by the way,” hissed Fintan in my ear. “The only thing left to do is find me a bladdy man. I can’t miss another of Elton’s bashes. He’s got one next week, you know. Oh!” – as an INXS song came on – “This is one of my favourites. Excuse me.” He whipped out two glowing faces on sticks. “I just have to dance. Clubbin’ is my life. Mystify…”
“By the way, Selma,” I yelled over the music, “You’re not still upset over Jude, are you?”
On cue, Selma’s phone began to play the Cheeky Girls.
“It’s a message from Jude!” breathed Selma, and showed us. It was a selfie of Jude and Olenka relaxing on what looked like Bondi Beach.
“You’re not jealous?” I asked, astonished.
“No, I’m not jealous,” replied Selma, “Although I might be envious.”
I felt a pinch.
“Bunty!” I said in astonishment. He was wearing a t-shirt that said If you ain’t a biker you ain’t shit.
“You didn’t think I wouldn’t show up, did you?” asked Bunty.
“Like a pair of old slippers,” I said and punched him like a mate.
“Ahem,” came a cough, and Fintan sailed into view, looking delirious.
“I have just found A Man,” said Fintan, triumphantly.
Gary appeared, dressed in a tutu.
“Gary?” I said, choking on my Bloody Mary.
“What?” said Gary, cracking his knees. “Couldn’t ya tell I was gay?”
“I don’t believe it,” I said to Bunty.
“Neither do I,” said Bunty and kissed me on the lips.
There was a loud whoop from the crowd.
“I suppose we have to get together, really,” I said to him as we smooched.
“I suppose we do,” he said and pulled down the curtain that said THE END.
© Joanna Rubery 2017