“So who is she then, Gary?”
Startled, he jolted around – to find himself facing Sheila and Shirley, the ‘Terrible Twins’ of the warehouse picking-department.
They weren’t twins, of course, nor were they even related, or looked similar. They were, however, conjoined by their constant dual presence, their matching smirks… and their insatiable ‘curiosity’ about all things that were, basically, none of their business.
Gary quickly recovered his composure and shrugged nonchalantly. “Who’s who?” he countered, equally offhandedly, as he turned back to his trolley, on which he had just handballed a second pre-packed cardboard box of large-tinned peaches.
“You know who we mean!” said Shirley, her narrowed, flinty eyes gleaming, the goading tone in her voice almost like a physical prod. “This new girlfriend we’ve been hearing about lately…”
“Yeah”, added Sheila, characteristically picking up the other’s slack before it had even become a slack. “Anyone we know?”
Gary’s cheeks puffed up as he breathed out exaggeratedly. This interrogation was hardly unexpected; working in a small warehouse was like living in a small village: stick around for long enough and pretty soon everybody knows your business as well as each other’s.
He shook his head and scratched the back of his neck, still not looking at them as he reached for a box of tinned plums in the next storage bay along, as per the printed order sheet he had clipped to one of the straps on his trolley.
“Just someone I met in a pub the other night in Ellesport”, he replied, determined to keep his answers as brief as possible – hoping the department’s primary pair of cackling crows would soon get bored, then flap their wings and fly away. “I doubt you’d know her.”
The moment he said that, Gary winced inwardly, realizing he’d made a tactical blunder. He could almost feel the Twins’ hot breath on his neck above the collar of his overalls as they pressed him for more information, starting with her name.
He thought for a moment. “Ann”, he said at last, and dumped his latest box on top of the other two. He permitted himself a brief smile at them. “I don’t know her last name; we’d only just met for the first time.” Another shrug. “Might not even see her again. After all, I don’t go into Ellesport that often.”
He turned away from them to study his picking-list, peering at it with deliberate intensity, as though suddenly finding it hard to read the computer-type printed on it.
“That would be a shame”, Shirley lamented, her voice a blend of disappointment, amusement and – he guessed – feigned sympathy.
“Such a shame”, echoed her spiritual clone, perfectly on cue. “Everybody else is either married, engaged, or otherwise… spoken for.” She heaved a dramatic sigh, her ample breasts straining against the constraints of her deliberately tight-fitting overalls. “You surely still wouldn’t want to be the only singleton left in the village… would you?”
Or the only weirdo-oddball-loner, thought Gary – which was exactly why he had discreetly spread the word to a couple of his workmates that he had finally met someone, knowing that Fred and Derek would enjoy chortling about that with the other lads during the coffee break… which meant, inevitably, that the section’s gossip-queens would also soon be privy to it; their catlike ears were like the constantly-revolving radar-dishes on military warships: always scanning the vicinity for something unusual on the horizon.
Okay, doing that was a pain – and he knew he’d end up suffering this consequent interrogation – but it was better than having the local warehouse scandal-vultures continuing to think that there was something wrong, or even sinister, with him just because he kept himself to himself. In their world, you were better off being a three-headed alien than a loner; the latter was likely to be suspected of either having bats in their belfry or a – possibly literal – skeleton in their closet.
So a little bit of misinformation should be sprinkled about to keep the bloodhounds off the real scent.
The truth was, he did have a girlfriend – but didn’t want them to know who she really was.
It was always a relief to finish for the day and go home.
Get back, strip off, jump in the bath and wash the sweat and grime of the warehouse off as well as just generally soak, letting the heat of the water sink into his feet and muscles, and dispel the aches and pains there. While his mind went over and analyzed the events of the day.
It was a good-enough job to keep him physically fit, but he didn’t want to stay there forever. Growing up in this poxy little village was bad enough, and there had to be more to life than rotting here forever.
It didn’t look like he was ever going to get out of here, though. This village was all he had really known since his family had moved here when he was ten years old. He had gone to the local school before, in later life, simply drifting into local work, eventually ending up in the warehouse, which paid better than the part-time shop work he had started with, and had enabled him to move out of his parents’ house and rent a small flat on the edge of town, where he could have his privacy and do what he liked.
But he often felt that the village had held him for too many years now, and he didn’t know if he could ever fit into anyplace else. So it had him snared by a permanent connection, like a baby bonded to its mother’s womb by an unbreakable umbilical cord.
Gary didn’t stay up for too much longer after his bath.
He had taken advantage of the overtime offered this evening to put another couple of hours in – and let’s face it, who nowadays couldn’t use an extra few coppers in the pot, given the ever-increasing cost of living? – so he was even tireder than usual. But the other guaranteed bonus was that at least it was more peaceful than the usual dayshift, given that the Terrible Twins never worked overtime. (What?! Postpone – and thereby shorten – their precious leisure time by spending extra hours in the warehouse instead of getting down the pub as soon as possible: to booze and gossip with the rest of the squawking gaggle of geese that made up their ‘special’ social circle? Unthinkable!)
Gary smiled thinly at the thought of that as he finished the last of his toast and marmite before draining the dregs of his hot chocolate. He couldn’t be bothered cooking, and hadn’t felt like bloating his guts with a takeaway. There was, luckily, nothing much of interest on the telly tonight either, to sidetrack him.
Which meant he could crash out early tonight.
His smile widened at the thought of that.
As he slid smoothly between the bedcovers and lay down, switching the bedside lamp off, Gary stared sightlessly up at the bedroom ceiling through the darkness, and thought about his girlfriend.
He’d had her for many years now. So many that he couldn’t remember how long for. Or even where he was when they had first come together.
But she was absolutely perfect. She never complained, never nagged, never argued with him… and never engaged him in conversation unless he wanted her to.
She was also, quite literally, indescribably beautiful. If anyone ever found out about her (which, admittedly, was extremely unlikely), then he wouldn’t be able to tell them what she looked like when they asked him. He had no real idea himself. Only that she definitely was beautiful.
He grinned again. Like I said: indescribable!
And she was always there. With him. For him. Any time he wanted her to be.
He’d never had anybody else. He’d never wanted anybody else. He’d never needed anybody else. Not while he had her.
Not while he had Elaine.
She was everything to him. Anything and everything he wanted her to be.
He would never need to share her with anyone else, nor worry that she would ever leave him, or be unfaithful to him.
No. She was his.
Now and forever.
His absolutely perfect dream girl.
Finally fully relaxed, and feeling warm and comfortable and contented, Gary rolled over onto his side and was soon fast asleep.
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