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Friendship Fiction

Amelia D’Arcy: beautiful name; beautiful face; beautiful soul. She is the modern-day Snow White. Everyone in the office loves to be around her. Her laughter alone would repair the worst of moods and her presence lifts the atmosphere of everywhere she treads. She’s only been here for a few months, but I often ask myself how I managed the other eleven years without her?

“You remembered!” she squealed, throwing her arms around my neck. I fumbled for a bit trying to yank my hands out of my pockets to return the hug, but by the time I’d managed it she’d stepped back – I was trying to remember what it was I had supposedly remembered, to no avail – I did the typical British smile, nod, and –

“Aw, well! What can I say?” No really, what can I say?

“They’re beautiful. How did you know what my favourite flowers were?!” She said while playfully punching my arm, revealing the “Birthday Girl” badge that adorned her cardigan. I wish I’d remembered her birthday and sent her favourite flowers – sadly, I have the memory of a sieve and haven’t a clue what her favourite flowers were. Luckily, Chad walked in and rescued me from telling the truth – but I’d hoped the vacant look on my face would tell her everything she needed to know.

“Hey, it’s the birthday girl!” Chad shouted – it was far too early to be so loud, he may as well of crashed two symbols together – my ears would have been equally as damaged – but Amelia is a ball of energy, too.

“Thank you! 29 is the new 21, right?”

“Oh for sure. So have you been showered with gifts?” Chad turned around to switch the kettle on and prepare his usual 8am coffee (does he really need it though? Would it be morally wrong of me to switch normal with decaf?)

“The best gift I’ve been given so far is from Mike – the most beautiful bunch of flowers!”

Chad’s eyebrows wrinkled and his head cocked to the right – we go way back. He’s the one that got me the interview eleven years ago and persuaded the big boss to take me on – we’re ‘besties’, if you will.

Really?” he said, with an upward incline – I think I could get away with lying about sending the flowers to anyone else in the office, but sadly Chad knows I would:

A) Never remember Amelia’s birthday

B) Never have the guts to send Amelia flowers

C) Have told Chad I was planning to send Amelia flowers, and would have wanted Chad’s opinion about sending said flowers

Chad took great advantage of this – “so what flowers did you send, Mike?” he looked at me with a sideways glance, hiding his grin behind his ridiculously oversized coffee cup.

Oh Christ, why would he ask me that? What do I say now?! Is it a bit late to deny sending them now?

“You know – the pretty ones.” I looked him dead in the eye and grabbed his mug – because boy, could my dry mouth do with some coffee right now.

“Well, all flowers are pretty, Mikey! What ones, specifically?”

“How do you not know, Mike?! Everyone knows what a Sunflower is!” Amelia giggled.

“Ah, Sunflowers”, Chad said whimsically. “So, will you be sending everyone in the office flowers now?”

Why didn’t I just deny sending them? Or better yet, correct Amelia and not take the credit for sending her the flowers – whoever actually sent her the flowers is going to be pretty narked when they find out I took credit for it!

“Aw, don’t tease him!” she giggled – and then turning very serious very quickly, she looked at me and softly said, “I think it was really sweet.” She planted a kiss on my cheek and swept out of the kitchen – oh right, THAT’S why I didn’t deny it.

It had been a few hours now and not even a whisper from anyone about the flowers – I’d been trying to eavesdrop in on people’s conversations to see if anyone had said anything, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out who had actually sent them. It’s not something I could openly ask, as Amelia is in earshot, and it’s not something I can continue to take credit for – I should just come clean to her - I’ll tell her at lunch. But how? Either way, I’m going to sound like a twat. Maybe I could fake a bad concussion and blame that – I’ll just tell her I was confused. That sounds good, right?

Chad plonked himself next to me a few minutes before lunch and gave a wry smile – “I have to give you credit. You’ve made her a very happy bunny today!”

“And here I was, thinking you wouldn’t believe I had sent them?”

“Well, I didn’t at first to be honest – but then I saw your handwriting on the note.” He stood up, grinned at me and started walking towards the kitchen to have his 113th cup of coffee.

“Note?” I asked, what note?

He looked back and pointed at me – “It’s my birthday in a few months - I like Roses, Mikey!”

Now I was confused. I definitely didn’t send the flowers and I for sure didn’t leave a note – maybe I really did have a concussion? I sauntered over to Amelia’s desk to scan for the note, which was indeed standing proud by her monitors – and it was indeed, in my handwriting – which is odd because I have very swirly handwriting. I haven’t met many people who have my kind of handwriting and know for a fact that no one in this office has similar handwriting to me. I’ll think about this predicament over lunch – I always think better with food in me.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not going to do anything. No one seems to be annoyed that Amelia hasn’t thanked them for the flowers they’d sent and she seems perfectly happy thinking I’ve sent them. What’s the harm in that? It’s just a fluke.

A few weeks had passed and frankly, I’d forgotten about the flower fiasco – until I came in this morning that is. Another bunch of Sunflowers were proudly placed on Amelia’s desk – maybe she bought them for herself? They are her favourites after all, and they do cheer the place up. My thoughts were interrupted when Amelia came bounding in with a hint of confusion on her face –

“Morning! How’re you today?”

“Not so bad, for a Wednesday – you?” I felt myself tense up, hoping she wouldn’t bring up the flowers – I even tried to shuffle in front of them to keep them out of her view, as if that would make her suddenly forget they were there.

“Yeah! Doing okay thanks. What’s with the flowers this morning?”

“Flowers?”

“Yeah – the ones behind you!”

“Oh, they’re not from me.”

Amelia chuckled and gave me a sideways look – “but the note is in your handwriting? And what did you mean by it?”

What does she mean, what do I mean? What does she think I wrote!? A lot of time has passed now, and I haven’t said anything. I don’t even think I’ve blinked. Can I pull the concussion card out now?

“Morning both!” Dawn’s voice cut through the silence like a hot knife through butter. I have never been so pleased to see her, and I talked endless nonsense to her in an attempt to divert the conversation away from the flowers, which surprisingly worked – I walked with Dawn to the kitchen and thankfully, Amelia didn’t ask about the note again.  

“Nice card Mikey – very subtle!” Chad jeered as he slapped down a pile of paperwork on my desk.

I looked up at him and was about to ask him what my supposed note said, but before I could, the piercing alarm of the fire bell rang. Chad’s a fire marshal, a job he takes very seriously – he has a hi-vis jacket and a little clipboard. He ushered everyone outside, including the big boss who told him to ‘shove off’ because he had lots of important e-mails to send – luckily, Chad’s persuasive charm sent him outside, before grabbing his pack of cigarettes and a half battered lighter.  

I made a beeline for Dawn as I didn’t want to be stood around by myself while everyone else formed their little cliques. She didn’t really look me in the eye or seem to want to talk to me very much – perhaps I’d already met our yearly conversation quota? To be fair, I did talk a lot to her this morning – or more at her. She’s probably fed up of me. But when I looked around, I noticed everyone kept shooting me quick glances and then speaking to their comrades in a hushed tone – everyone. I looked to Amelia, who had her back to me and was talking to some other ladies in Sales; I started to walk over to her to speak with her but James cut in front of me like a bodyguard and stared down at me.

“Alright mate?”

“Yeah, mate. I’m good, mate.” He practically growled at me, barely even separated his teeth when he spoke.

I smiled and gestured that I wanted to move passed him in a typical British awkward motion, but he carried on staring at me and actually shuffled a bit closer to me. He took his hands out of his pockets and crossed his big, beefy arms. As if this wasn’t intimidating enough, his shirt sleeves were rolled up to reveal tattoo sleeves – whilst tattoos in themselves aren’t intimidating, there’s something about a tattooed man that’s looking at you like a punch bag that frightens me. Chad saw me and came bounding over in an attempt to rescue me –

“Alright, Jamie?! Feels like I haven’t seen you in ages! Did you have a nice holiday?”

“Yeah, all over so quick though – can’t wait to go away again to be honest. We booked up for later this year whilst we were there – got a decent discount.” Jamie instantly eased up in the presence of Chad, he smiled at Chad and opened his mouth properly like normal people do when they’re speaking.

“Sounds great dude – you went to France, right?”

“Yeah, really nice place – good food and nice weather. The Mrs loved the wine cellar the hotel had.”

“Oh, I’ve always wanted to go to France. What part did you go to, Jamie?” I chipped in, hoping by some miracle he’d stop suddenly wanting to punch me.

“It’s James.” He glared at me for a while, looked me up and down like a snake sizing up their prey, turned to Chad and said “We went to Paris. She wanted to go and see the Eiffel Tower. I could give you the name of the hotel if you wanted, Chad?”

After much more glaring and exclusion from Jamie – or should I say, James, we were finally called back in. Next time, I think I’ll stay put in a potentially burning building – it’ll be less painful.

A few more weeks went by and people still weren’t really speaking to me – Amelia and I were still on the early shift together so I always saw her before we started work. There was no more throwing her arms around me or kissing me on the cheek – just a bunch of awkwardness. She was never hostile towards me, like James was that day, and she never blanked me, like everyone else but Chad seems to be doing these days – she’s just aloof. I never did find out what that note said, I couldn’t find it – she must have thrown it away. I wish I’d just denied sending her those poxy birthday flowers in the first place.

I was walking into work – or more, powerwalking since I’d overslept and was now running two hours late - on a brisk December morning and got to thinking about the flower fiasco. Who sent both bunches of flowers in the first place? I was thinking of talking to Amelia about it, but she’d never believe me since the handwriting was uncannily like mine and I’ve probably left it too long now.

I walked through the doors, hoping to go unnoticed – which wasn’t entirely implausible these days – only to be greeted by a female mob around Amelia. I walked towards her and made eye contact with her – she looked startled, and her face was really blotchy – it looked like she’d been crying.

“Are you alright? What’s the matter?!”

She burst into tears tried to speak, but couldn’t get any words out without sounding like a seal trying to speak English for the first time.

“What the Hell were you playing at?” Dawn asked me, furiously – I’ve never heard Dawn swear, let alone be assertive – it caught me so off guard that I myself was unable to speak.

Suddenly, all the women were looking deep in my eyes with crossed arms – thank God they didn’t have tattoo sleeves, else I might have fainted.

“What do you mean? What’s happened?”

One of the women – she’s new – looked at me and flung her arms in an exasperated fashion and gestured at the bin. I turned around. Oh God, please not more flowers. As if in slow motion, I saw an upside-down bunch of flowers sticking out of the bin – with a note. I looked at Amelia and shook my head – “they’re not from me! I wasn’t even here this morning!”

“Well you weren’t here the other times, either!” She whimpered.

I took the note out of the bin to see what ‘I’ had said that upset her so much – it was once again in my handwriting. Do I have amnesia? Perhaps I am writing these notes and forgetting about them?!

“No. No I definitely did not write this, you have to believe me!”

James came storming towards me – he had his arms parallel behind him like Donald Duck does when he stomps – but I was really trying not to compare him to a cartoon duck, especially knowing I was probably about to get obliterated by an angry duck.

Out of nowhere, Chad came running in front of him like Superman would – James started pointing his finger at me and shouting – the women herded together to one side of the room – Chad spread his arms out in front of James like a graceful swan and spoke gently to try and diffuse the situation. James eventually calmed down – I say that loosely – enough to go and sit down in another office. Chad pulled me into the kitchen and shut the door.

“What the fuck? What was actually going through your mind when you wrote that?”

“I didn’t! I promise you, I did not write that.”

“It’s in your handwriting! You gave her the other two! You can’t get out of this, just because you’ve screwed up. Or got caught screwing up.”

“I haven’t screwed up – I didn’t give her any bunches of flowers, or weird notes! You know I didn’t.”

“Look man, you can’t get out of this – you will never come back from this. You need to just hand your notice in with immediate effect now so you don’t get fired instead.”

“They can’t fire me! They can’t prove it was me! They’re not going to fire me for this.”

“Course they will! They take harassment seriously! If you leave today of your own accord, you’ll be able to get another job with no questions asked. You’ll never have to explain this to anyone.”

“No.”

Chad held his face in his hands and shook his head. “I’m here for you Mike, I’ll always be your best mate – I’ll even help you find another job – but you have to leave. You can’t stay, not now. Imagine sitting in a meeting with everyone after they know what you’ve done? Imagine going to lunch with them? Christmas parties? And I can’t protect you every day. I can’t always be around you. You know it’s the right thing to do.”

I paused. I can’t believe how quickly this all escalated. I took Chad’s advice and left. I didn’t say goodbye to anyone, I didn’t even pack up my desk. I was there for eleven years, and then suddenly through no fault of my own, I wasn’t.

A few years have passed now. I found another job and I’m happy there. I keep myself to myself. Luckily, I still have a best friend in Chad – thank God he was there that day, else I don’t know where I’d be now. He asked me to pop round and help him redecorate his house today, which is the least I can do for him.  We started by taking the radiators off the wall, when an old card fell out of the bottom – I recognised the design on it, and picked it up – Chad suddenly became very defensive and tried to snatch it away from me, but I moved out of his way – I opened the card up to reveal a note – in my handwriting – that I hadn’t wrote. Everything started to click into place. I can’t believe I didn’t piece this together sooner. I looked at Chad open mouthed, my eyes demanding an explanation. Chad, who initially looked like he was going to defend this, sighed and sat down. His head was bowed – “I know it was wrong. I’m so sorry. I knew you were about to be promoted and I knew Amelia liked you, and I couldn’t stand to see you have both.”

“So you took them both away from me?!”

“It was never intended to be like that! It just got out of hand!”

“How did you think this would play out!?”

Chad looked at the floor. He couldn’t say anything else to defend what he did and I had nothing else to say. The silence was deafening. I tore the note up and walked out of Chad’s house, with no intention of ever going back.

November 24, 2021 20:49

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