They were a particularly attractive bunch of roses and took pride of place on her office desk. They were an assortment of colours and gave the impression of being specially selected and picked.
It came as no great surprise to her—and though probably loath to admit it, she would have been disappointed had it not been the case—that the bunch of roses was soon attracting a lot of attention.
“Oh what a lovely bunch of roses.”
“Did your boyfriend give them to you?”
She assented with a monosyllable.
“Is it your birthday?”
The more forthright of the three inquisitors smiled knowingly and said, “So you’ve had a row and the sleazeball is trying to make it up to you. Well I tell you what honey, don’t let him off the hook that easy. There’ll be plenty more roses where these came from.”
“No, we haven’t had a row, and he’s not a sleazeball,” she replied in a slightly offended tone, and she looked at her papers to indicate that she’d prefer to terminate the conversation.
Her two less forward work mates quickly took the hint and moved away. They were followed by the third, who, as soon as they were out of earshot, muttered: “Snooty nosed bitch.”
“You shouldn’t have said that though.”
“About her having a row with her boyfriend, and calling him a sleazeball.”
“Why not? It’s probably what happened. She’s just too haughty taughty to admit it.”
“It might not be what happened. Maybe she’s having other problems—you can’t know.”
Maggie looked doubtful, but grew silent nonetheless. A short time later she approached Sharon’s desk and said, “Look honey, I’m sorry I called your boyfriend a sleazeball and all that, I’m sorry about what I said.”
Sharon winced in a way that suggested she was not altogether comfortable being called honey, or at least not by Maggie, but she accepted the apology.
But Maggie wasn’t finished. “Look, if you need to talk, I’m here. You know that don’t you.”
Sharon looked surprised: “Talk? What about?”
“Well, you know. If you’ve had a bereavement or something like that.”
“A bereavement? What on earth makes you think that?”
“Well, the roses, with it not being your birthday or anything like that.”
Maggie could stand it no longer: “Well why did he give you the roses?” she blurted out.
“Because he loves me.”
“He loves you?”
“Yes that’s right. He loves me.”
Maggie was dumfounded. She sidled back to her own desk, where she was quickly joined by the other two.
“Did she tell you why he gave her the roses?”
“She did, but she’s obviously lying.”
“What did she say?” asked Tammy.
“She said that he loved her.”
There was a moment’s stunned silence before Rangi, who had earlier taken Sharon’s side, said, “Well he can’t love her very much. He didn’t give her a Valentine’s card.”
“That’s right” agreed Tammy. “Hers was the only desk without one. Remember we felt sorry for her and were going to send her an anonymous one.”
“Let’s confront her about it.”
The deputation had barely arrived at Sharon’s desk when Maggie blurted out: “If he’s so great, why didn’t he give you a Valentine’s card?”
Sharon, who had been engrossed in her work, looked up, surprised.
“Lover boy. If he’s so great, why didn’t he do something on Valentine’s Day, when you’re supposed to, instead of just when he felt like it.”
“We don’t believe in Valentine’s Day. It’s too commercial and Americanised.”
“So its commercial and American is it?” mimicked Maggie. ‘And what pray tell me is wrong with that?”
“Sounds like a copout to me,” piped Tammy, before Sharon could answer.
“It’s a copout all right,” snarled Maggie. “He forgets Valentine’s Day and convinces you that it’s because he’s anti-American, and then he buys you roses when he happens to see some going cheap.”
“Actually it was me who convinced him that Valentine’s Day is load of crap. Now if you don’t mind I have a report to finish.”
“If he loved you he would still have done something for Valentines Day,” said Maggie.
“That’s right,” continued Tammy. ‘Mine gave me a massage,” she added dreamily.
“Mine cooked tea,” Rangi volunteered.
“Oh yes, he did both those things,” said Sharon airily.
“He cooked your tea, and gave you a massage? On Valentine’s Day? I thought you didn’t believe in it.” Maggie’s voice dripped with sarcasm.
“We don’t. He cooks tea every night and often gives me a massage. Now if you don’t mind I really do have to finish this.”
“Oh, so you have a report to finish. Hear that girls? The boss’s little darling has a report to finish. It was probably him who gave you the roses. And not for work done here either.” She smiled at the other two, who giggled nervously on queue.
Sharon had had enough. She jumped to her feet, grabbed the roses and walked over to the paper bin where she deposited them. Then she walked to the door and just before exiting she turned to the others and said: “Are you happy now? I’m going to get a cup of coffee and when I come back I want to finish my report. Uninterrupted.”
Maggie was triumphant: “There, that proves it.”
“Proves what?” asked Tammy.
“She’s sleeping with the boss. As soon as I mentioned the boss she chucked the roses away.”
Rangi and Tammy looked at each other. Things had got out of hand. Sharon was their friend, far more so than was Maggie, who was really just a pain, though she could be a good laugh sometimes.
“What a pity,” said Tammy, as she reached into the bin and started picking out the roses. “I’ll rescue them and put them back on her desk.”
“You’ll do no such thing!” snapped Maggie, snatching the roses out of Tammy’s hand and throwing them back. She then put her foot into the bin, squashing the roses, and screwed it around to destroy them.
“Now when she comes back we’ll confront her about sleeping with the boss.”
“Is that really a good idea?” asked Rangi.
“Of course it is. Quick, here she comes. Now you girls make sure you back me up.”
“Are you sleeping with the boss?”
“Yes you. Who else around here would be?”
“No, I am not sleeping with the boss. Now will you all fuck off so I can finish this report,” replied Sharon angrily, and louder than she’d intended.
There was a stunned silence. Nobody in the room, including Sharon, had ever heard Sharon use that word before.
Suddenly, from the adjacent office, in walked their boss. There was a scramble, but he focused on the one person who was still at her desk. “We will have none of that language here thank you Sharon.”
“I should hope so. Is that report finished yet? It was due on my desk five minutes ago.”
“Yes, I mean no, it’s not finished yet.”
He frowned. “I think you had better come into my office.”
“Hi honey, what sort of day did you have?” He did not wait for an answer as he continued his patter. “Did you get the roses. I got them off an old Chinese guy. He said they brought good luck. Did you have any good luck today? Lovely weren’t they?”
There was a pause before Sharon replied: “Yes, they were lovely, but don’t buy any more. We can’t afford them.”