He knew he should not have had that last pint. Typically Richard had insisted when the landlord had called last orders and Simon`s brain had tried to make the rationale choice but the lure of more alcohol easily won the argument. Still he had just managed to catch the last bus home and get back to his flat just after midnight.
That was the least of his concerns at this moment. For some reason he always booted up his laptop when he got back from a drinking session. It was force of habit and a need for him to do something before he went to bed. He had just pressed the enter button on the keyboard and he knew there was no turning back now. He could not believe what he had just done. Still the combination of the tiredness and alcohol meant that he was somewhat numbed to the implications. He decided he would go to bed and think about it in the morning. It was a work day the next morning and he knew he was going to have a hangover.
The next morning Simon was not wrong. He had the mother of all hangovers when he awoke. He dragged himself to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. He looked like hell. All he saw was a red bleary eyed image grimly staring back at him. He had looked better he thought. His hair was spilling out in all directions. Normally, with a little gel, there was a little semblance of order to the thick brown covering. Still a shower might help.
He felt a little better after his shower but his head stilled thumped a steady beat. After getting ready he drank a cup of thick black coffee with a couple of painkillers before he left for work. This was becoming his usual breakfast after a night on the beer. He barely took any notice on the commuter ride into the office preferring to catch up on the sleep that he had missed out on the night before.
It was only when he got off the train he thought back to the night before and realised what he had done. Now the worry and concern would set in. When really it should be excitement and anticipation. On the way to work he stopped at a newsagent to buy a copy of Rugby World. He might need this he thought.
When Simon arrived at the office Richard was already at his desk and knowing him had probably been there since 8 am. Simon knew that Richard`s powers of recuperation were second to none.
Richard looked up from his desk. His round freckled face grinned when he saw Simon. “Looks as though you had a rough night, Si!”
“Remind me next time not to go out with you on a work night again.” Simon replied as he made his way to his desk over beside a window.
Simon`s first priority was another coffee before he booted up his desktop computer. At the coffee machine he spotted Penny at her desk working. She was a nice dark haired girl who had moved into the area about 3 months ago. She was quiet but had a bubbly personality just under the surface he had discovered on the few occasions he had engaged her in conversation outside work. He liked her but did not have the courage to ask her out. Besides she still had a boyfriend in the South Midlands where she had moved up from.
“Er, how are you today, Penny?” he said, blurting out the first thing that came into his head. He could feel the blood rush to his facial area.
She looked up and studied him carefully. “Better than you look,” she said. A gentle smile spread over her face.
He liked her smile. His turn to stay something. Simon stumbled for his words. “Richard`s fault, leading me astray again,” he managed to force out looking in Richard`s direction and taking the attention away from his glowing face. He glanced and saw Penny smile again. That would help him get through the day he mused.
Simon went back to his desk with his hands tightly clamped around his coffee. His colour had returned to normal as he switched on his computer and saw Richard ambling over. All he wanted to do was try and get through the day with as little social interaction as he could he thought.
“We nearly scored with those two birds last night, Si?” He made sure he was overheard.
Simon thought we had as much chance of scoring with them as turning out for the England soccer team. Still he would humour Richard. “Shame their boyfriends were at the bar though,” he replied.
“I had some good chat up lines though, Si!” Richard liked to think of himself as a bit of a lady`s man. In reality he was as sad as Simon when it came to girls. He did have bluff and bravado on his side which is why Simon tagged along with Richard when he was out.
“You certainly were on tip top form,” Simon lied. They had a brief exchange of the highlights of the previous night before Richard wandered back to his desk.
Simon found it hard to concentrate on work. His thoughts were on last night and he visibly cringed the more he thought about it. He had been browsing an online auction website when he came across that advert. He had seen it two nights previous and knew he would look back to check out how it was going.
He could not really believe what was being auctioned. He had never seen the like of it before. Probably smacked of desperation he thought Not even worth a bid. Too risky and a complete waste of money.
When he had looked again last night he saw that there had been a lot of bidding activity. For and for some reason he had impulsively keyed in a maximum bid well above the most recent bid. He did not know why. Well, yes he did, a beer too many that gave him that extra bravado. Now he was the highest bidder, or at least he was last night. What if he won? He did not even know what exactly he was getting for his bid or whether he could pluck up the courage to go through with it. The auction finished at 8pm that night and that was the only thing on his mind. He just wanted to get through the day and watch the minutes tick down on the screen, not sure exactly what outcome he wanted.
At lunchtime he sat by himself trying to avoid conversation and reading the magazine he had bought on the way to work. Richard sat beside him briefly and asked why the sudden interest in rugby. Simon fobbed him off with some excuse and then went over to try to talk with Penny when he saw that Simon`s attention was elsewhere. Simon managed to get through the rest of the day.
On the way home he got himself a takeaway which he quickly consumed back at the flat before switching on his laptop. He navigated to the auction site to check on his bid. Simon did not know whether he was happy or not when he discovered he was still the highest bidder.
The clock was ticking away. He read the auction details one more time :
Hello potential bidders. I am female and 22 years old and live in Leeds. The successful bidder will be entitled to a blind date (hence no photo) with me at a public venue of their choice. They will need to pay all costs and expenses for the evening. As I am straight, this auction is open to males only in the age range 20-30.
Good luck with your bids.
Sparse on detail Simon thought. Yet people had bid. He and they had no idea what she looked like. It all seemed a bit desperate. What sort of girl would subject herself to this type of auction he wondered. What must she look like? A multitude of questions buzzed through his mind. What about the bidders themselves including me? He tried to console himself with the fact he had not taken a girl out in 11 months. But that did not make him feel any better. It did sounded as if she might be into sport or rugby at least. Did that mean she was fit? His imagination shifted up a gear and was really working overtime now.
He looked at the auction clock ticking down. Two minutes to go. Someone was bound to put in a last minute bid. That always happened to him. Forty five seconds to go and then that fateful message came through – You have been outbid!
Simon felt some relief at first but then disappointment. He would not have to go through with it. Twenty seconds left – he decided quickly he would put in another bid. This would be nearly a months salary but what the hell it was only money. Quickly he keyed the amount in. Two seconds. He pressed the enter.
Almost instantaneously came the message – Congratulations, you have been successful with your bid!
He had done it now he thought, no turning back. He quickly made the payment through the auction site and did not have to wait long for an email to come through from the seller. It simply read :
Congratulations Macho-Man1534 on your successful bid. Thank you for your payment. I will leave it to you to arrange the details of our date and look forward to hearing from you.
Of all the auction nickname he could of chosen, what possessed him to choose that one. Maybe it was the fact he was going to the gym at the time. So cheesy, but there must have been 1533 others he thought with the same idea. This offered him some reassurance.
He decided to reply straight away while he was on a roll. Quickly he typed :
Let`s meet in the Red Lion near the bus station in the town centre at 8pm tomorrow night.
He pressed the enter button and then worried about how he would recognise her. He need not have bothered. The reply came back :
Perfect. I`ll be wearing a pink T shirt with black jeans. I will have a pink shoulder bag. So hopefully, recognisable.
See you tomorrow night.
No backing out now he thought. He could not concentrate on anything else the rest of that night and at work the next day.
So it was now Friday night and he had just walked through the main door into the Red Lion bar with a certain amount of hesitance. He had forgotten how busy this place got on a Friday night. There were people all around him as he pushed his way to the bar.
He tried to peer past the melee of people but was finding it difficult and wished he had thought more carefully about the venue and picked somewhere more quieter. He heard the loud tones of what sounded like Richard off to his side near the bar despite the constant beat of the music all around. . Yes it was him, the last person he wanted to see. He knew if Richard saw him he would want to come over and see what he was up to especially as he had declined a Friday night drinking session earlier in the day.
Simon quickly veered off in the other direction. Was that Penny in another corner. He could not see who she was with but suddenly he went into panic mode. Too many people he knew here. He should of gone for a meeting place. Too late now or was it? In that instance he decided to head back towards the entrance.
He heard a voice above the crescendo of noise call out to him and turned around to see Penny making her way towards him. Too late he thought.
“Hi Simon, or should I say Macho-Man?” she said with a glint in her eye. Had he heard her right? Then he noticed she had a pink bag and it all became clear.
“It`s you, I mean Rugbygirl. How did you know it was me?”
“Well Richard does have a big mouth and I think he might have mentioned that nickname of yours when I first arrived. If you remember he was always trying to chat me up until he eventually got the message.
When I saw you reading that rugby magazine the other day I had a little inkling but couldn`t be sure.” she said.
“Right. So you like rugby?”
“No, I hate it. The rugby connection – well you know I`m from the South Midlands. Well our family home is in Rugby.”
Realisation suddenly sunk in for Simon. While he was on a roll he thought he had better ask that awkward question, “What about your boyfriend?” He winced as he spoke.
“It`s all right. We split up just after I moved here.”
Simon`s stance relaxed as Penny words came out. A big smile spread over his face.
Penny looked around and asked, “It`s a bit noisy in here Simon, besides Richard …”
“That would be a great idea,” Simon interrupted. “I know a place just down the road.” Definitely worth a month`s salary he thought as he gently reached for Penny`s hand and led her towards the door.