I don’t often post personal information on my blog, but last week was the anniversary of the loss of someone I loved very much. He died very young, and although it was 34 years ago, now you know why a couple of my books are based in his homeland, Malta. R.I.P. x
Another in my song title series with a sentimental touch. Originally written and released by Labi Siffre in 1972, the version some twenty years later by Madness is probably better know. We began as acquaintances when he started a job in the office block where I worked. Apart from his employers, most of the businesses in the building had only a dozen or so employees, so we all knew each other. It became a tradition to meet up after work on the nearest Friday after pay-day. It gave us the opportunity to have a laugh, a whinge about life in general, and our bosses in particular, even if some of them joined us in the pub. There were more decisions made, and complaints overcome over a few drinks, than in the more formal employer/employee atmosphere.
Jack worked for one of the larger firms, in a high-pressurised environment where results and targets were everything, and his colleagues tended to look down on us lesser mortals. After recognising several of us when he was having a solitary drink, he began to turn up regularly for our monthly socials. He became a friend and we fell into the habit of exchanging first weekly, then daily emails. We rarely saw each other at work, and the pub was not conducive to personal chat, but over the months we gradually revealed more of our secrets, thoughts and dreams.
It was an odd sort of relationship, a cross between social media acquaintances we’d never met, and long-standing friends who we’d trust with our lives. We were there for each other in the bad times, offering comfort and support, and the first to be told when we had good news to share.
‘Hey, guess what? Against all the odds we won that big contract. I was ready to give up but you were so encouraging, I didn’t want you to think I was a failure. Thanks, Tina. I owe you big time. See you Friday week. The drinks are on me. X’
The email from Jack made me smile, but the kiss at the end was the first time he had indicated we might be more than associates. Then I realised I was over thinking; I regularly ended my emails to girlfriends the same way, so it was probably nothing more than a friendly greeting.
‘Go you,’ I replied immediately. ‘Make sure your boss appreciates it was all due to your hard work. You’ll need that bonus to pay for the drinks I intend to wring out of you at the pub. 😀 See you then. X’
Well, if he was comfortable with signing off with a kiss, I could do the same. At the end of the month I was looking forward to hearing more about his success, but as usual fate intervened. My own manager was abroad, chasing some potentially lucrative business, and had forgotten the difference in time zones until I reminded him.
‘I’m so sorry, Tina, but I really do need those figures tonight. Can you get them over to me for my meeting tomorrow? I’ll pay you overtime but it really is important and I know I can rely on you.’
It was emotional blackmail but he was a good boss, so it was late by the time I turned up at the pub. As usual it was busy, and the only available space being at the far end of the table, I had no opportunity to speak to Jack, who had been commandeered by an inebriated Liz.
‘Hi, Honey. Sorry about last night, but Liz was out of it and I had to make sure she got home safely. Are you free this Friday? Perhaps we could have a drink, just the two of us, without the usual crowd. Let me know how you’re fixed. X’
It was unusual to receive an email from Jack on a Saturday, but I had already arranged to go away for a hen party weekend, so had to decline his invitation.
‘No problem. That’s what friends are for. Hope Liz was OK but I can’t make Friday. How about the following week? I could meet you then. X’
‘So sorry, and thanks for understanding but unfortunately no can do. I’m away that week following up on the contract, and the following week will be a nightmare, so it looks like it’s going to be the usual pay-day meet before I see you again. I’ll get there early and save you a seat. X’
When I turned up the place was heaving as there was a band playing that night. I squeezed in next to Jack, and although I could feel the heat of his thighs against mine, we had no chance to talk as the sound was deafening. We continued to meet up regularly with the others every month, but somehow our one-to-ones seldom materialised. Sometimes it was me who had to cancel, sometimes him, sometimes work commitments. Was it fate conspiring against us? I really wanted to know him better but was unsure how he viewed me. Were we friends, colleagues, or was he thinking something more?
He was in my dreams, often in my daytime thoughts, and his emails always made me smile. I felt bereft if I didn’t hear from him, but how well did I really know him? His emails told me more than our face to face conversations when the world and his wife were listening. Amongst company all we could do was laugh and join in the general whinges about life. From what he had told me privately, I was able to pick up on his throw-away comments, and we learnt to say so much without words. Was it enough?
Should I be looking elsewhere for my happy ever after, and merely accept him as a valued confidante, as I did with a select few girlfriends I had known for years? My previous boyfriends had all been lust at first sight, and he didn’t fit the mould. That put him firmly in the friends rather than the lover category, and yet…..We carried on in the same distant but remote relationship for two years until I received the email which changed my life.
‘Need to see you urgently. Can I come round to your place tonight? Sorry for the short notice, but if you’re free I’ll bring take-away, chocolate and wine. Bribery and corruption, I know, but please say yes. It’s important. X’
‘You know chocolate will sway my heart,’ I replied immediately, ‘how can I resist? About 8? Do you need my address and directions how to get here?’
‘Darling, if I admit how long I’ve known it, you might not let me come. LoL from your devoted stalker. X’
Although he’d seen me in every imaginable bad hair day, for some reason I got myself in a tizz deciding what to wear for when he arrived. I dashed around cleaning up, put on my best vamp dress, changed my mind and had just changed into my favourite comfortable but sexy outfit when the bell rang, promptly at eight.
‘Your order, lady,’ he said, thrusting a dozen yellow roses into my hand. ‘By the way, is a humble delivery boy allowed to tell you how gorgeous you look tonight?’
‘Come in, you nutter, before the food gets cold,’ I said, relieved that his usual sense of humour had broken my anticipated concerns about entertaining a stranger. ‘Stop standing around like a spare part and open the wine while I put these in water.’
The evening was a mixture of fun, laughter, serious talk and revelations. It turned out he had been head-hunted and offered a year’s contract for a job in Europe by a rival company.
‘It’s a fantastic opportunity, Tina,’ he told me. ‘Double my existing wages, all expenses paid, and a similar deal for the staff I select to come with me.’
‘I feel a “but” coming on,’ I replied, not sure whether to congratulate him, or admit how much I would miss him.
‘The “but” is will you come with me? I know it’s a lot to ask, but I couldn’t be happy any other way.’
‘Why me?’ I asked, even as I knew my answer would be yes.
‘Guess, it must be love,’ he said as he took me into his arms.
‘What took so long?’ I smiled. ‘When do we leave?’
© Voinks May 2019