FIRST AID (STORY)
Looking back, it should never have happened.
“I don’t believe it,” said Annie to herself, as she rushed to the bathroom. “All I was doing was looking for the tin opener.”
At the back of the drawer, while preparing dinner, Annie’s fingers had closed, not on her trusty steel tin opener, but on something rather sharper.
The pain from the potato peeler blade made Annie wince. She washed her bleeding finger and applied one of the few remaining plasters from the medicine cabinet. It was too big for the job but would have to do.
Now, thought Annie, there was just enough time to open the can of chickpeas, and add it to the curry with the coconut milk, before he arrived.
Giles. She pictured him now, tall, greying temples, lopsided grin. Dear Giles. She’d been so lucky that he’d asked her out. Everyone in the office fancied him, the new guy in accounts, but unbelievable to Annie, he actually made a beeline for her.
“Excuse me, could you just show me how the photocopier works?” he’d asked her on his first day. Then it was the computer, then the coffee machine ……….And it had all started from there. The other girls in the office giggled knowingly, seeing Annie’s wistful expression. “Annie’s in love,” winked Sandy from the next desk.
Annie blushed, despite herself. “Not at all, I was just being helpful, welcoming, professional,” and she expertly ducked the empty paper cup that Sandy had just lobbied in her direction.
Unfortunately, it hit Mr Henderson, Giles’s boss, who had just happened to be passing through Admin at the time. “What the …….?” he began, as a couple of stray droplets of tea made their mark on the shoulder of his jacket. “Miss Parker, was that you?” Annie reddened, unwilling to betray her friend and looked away.
Later, Sandy giggled, “Thanks for not splitting on me, Annie.” But why would she? After all, Sandy was a good friend and it was to her that Annie confided some very special news a week later, “Giles has asked me out to dinner,” she breathed excitedly. “But please don’t tell a soul.” Sandy swore herself to secrecy and waited with anticipation to hear all about it.
She didn’t have long to wait. The next morning, Annie fairly glided into the building. “How was it?” whispered Sandy, as they both made their way into the lift. “Dreamy,” sighed Annie, “He is such a lovely guy.”
All that day, Annie could barely settle to do any work. Customers found they were having to repeat their telephone orders two or three times to make themselves understood. “What was that?” asked Annie, “You want 14 blouses in size 8? Or 8 blouses in size 14?”
It was no use. Sandy knew she had to come to the rescue. Give Annie an excuse to go over to Accounts. Stop her pining away and messing all the orders up.
“Annie, do you want to take these invoices over to Accounts? We just need to get Henderson to sign them.”
Annie reached for the file. She thought for a moment, wrote a few lines on a piece of paper, inserted them into another file and off she went.
“Do I look ok?” she breathed to Sandy. Sandy nodded, relieved at a few minutes’ peace, and Annie was on her way.
To Annie’s disappointment, Giles was away from his desk. She waited for a minute but, as he didn’t reappear, she placed the file on his desk.
“Miss Parker,” said Henderson, who had just emerged from his office at that point. “Can I help you?” Annie remembered the purpose of her visit and swiftly placed Sandy’s file in his hands. “This is for you,” she said, flustered, and marched quickly out of the office before he could reply.
Back at his desk, Henderson opened the file. “Dinner tonight? My place? 8.00 pm?” She’d written her address, signed it Annie and had even drawn a little, smiley face.
Henderson smiled to himself. Annie Parker. He’d spotted her around the building for ages but she’d barely seemed to take much notice of him. However, there was the recent paper cup incident and now this invitation… He coughed slightly, adjusted his tie, and ran his right forefinger through his black, greasy hair.
* * *
Annie stirred the curry thoughtfully. There was just time to finish washing up and make sure the table was ready. With delight, she noticed how the pink hand-made candles made a welcoming glow on the rose-patterned tablecloth. The glasses were shining brightly, and the wine was chilling nicely in the cooler.
Suddenly, she looked down at her hands and noticed that her finger was bleeding. “My plaster?” she wondered, “Where on earth is it?”
A cursory inspection of the bathroom revealed no sign of the offending item. Nor did a more detailed search of the kitchen. She looked in the sink, behind the taps, in the cupboard, everywhere, no sign of it so it must be ……… “In the curry! Oh no!!” she yelled frantically, stirring it with a slotted spoon to see if she could spy it between the mass of vegetables.
And with no time to prepare anything else, what else could she do other than hope that it ended up on her plate and not his?
The doorbell interrupted her frantic thoughts. Smoothing down her green dress, and pausing briefly to fluff up her chestnut curls in the mirror, she went to open the door.
“Hope I’m not too early,” said a familiar voice, behind a huge bunch of yellow flowers.
She looked up, perturbed to see the sight of Henderson standing on her doorstep.
“I was very surprised to get your invitation,” he continued, walking into the hall, “But very pleased.”
Stunned, she found herself taking Henderson’s coat and showing him into the lounge. “Invitation?” she thought. But how could that be? After all, she put it in the red file and placed it on Giles’ desk.
“Oh no,” she realised to herself, “I must have put the file with the invoices on Giles’s desk and the file with the invitation on……Henderson’s.”
She headed for the wine bottles cooling on the table. Definitely time for a drink for both of them. But how to tell him?
He was just settling on the settee and admiring the landscape paintings on the wall, when the phone rang.
She ran to the hall to answer it. “Annie.” It was Giles. “I just wondered if you were doing anything tonight…”
“Oh Giles, I…….”
“Need me to do anything?” Henderson’s voice cut across from the lounge.
“Annie, why that sounds like Henderson? What on earth is he doing there?”
”Giles, it’s not what you think. I…….”
Too late. He’d put the phone down. Drat and double drat.
Henderson was in the kitchen, bending over the roses and stroking his finger furiously.
“I just thought I’d arrange the flowers for you,” he said apologetically, “But I seem to have pricked my finger on a thorn. I don’t suppose you have a ………”
”Plaster!” said Annie brightly. “Certainly.”
And with that, she plunged her slotted spoon into the curry for one last valiant effort. And true to form, there it was dangling on the end. One soggy plaster.
“And somehow,” Annie giggled to Sandy the next day, “He just seemed to lose his appetite. He was gone before I knew it.”
“It was fine. I just rang him back, explained what had happened and he came right round.”
“Not for your curry, I hope,” laughed Sandy.
“No, definitely not. But I still had plenty of wine left, and somehow we both ended up getting plastered.”