Traditionally, it’s the time of year to bestow gifts on your family and friends. Since we are too stingy to put anything in the post to you all, here is something we’ve put together in the spirit of the season to amuse and entertain, so pour yourself a big glass of mulled wine and break out the mince pies then read on:
It was the day before Christmas and in the KOD offices, little was stirring apart from the mice and even they were being pushed around half-heartedly surfing the web rather than doing any useful work.
Gareth walked in the main office with a glum look on his face. One of the web guys nodded toward him and then quipped to his colleagues, “Horse walks into a bar, barman asks, what’s with the long face?”. They chuckled, but the object of their amusement was too deep in his own thoughts to notice.
“Whassup G ?” said Tracey, the woman who’d fit nicely into the cast of ‘Made in Chelsea’.
“Well, it’s that time of year, and as much as I love my wife, I really don’t know what to get her for Christmas.” Gareth replied, looking more depressed by the second.
Tracey’s ears pricked up. Could this be an excuse to nip off early? Any chance of a shopping trip, and she would be there like a shot.
“Blimey, you’ve left it late. The big day is tomorrow you know…” Tracey left that hanging to really drive the knife home and then said, sweetly, “Would you like me to help?”
Gareth’s face lit up like a city centre whose Christmas lights had just been switched on by an X Factor runner up. “Oh would you? That would be marvellous. Thank you so much.”
“No problem. We’ll need to crack on though.” She was quickly in her coat and heading out of the door as Gareth followed her much admired bottom.
Tracey entered the department store like a Hollywood starlet arriving on the red carpet. She paused for a moment in the doorway to drink it all in. The sights. The smells.
The store was wearing its full festive finery. Fairy lights glistened. Baubles sparkled. She was in her element.
The real twinkles were in the products all laid out in front of her, every one whispering sweet nothings to her credit card. As she and Gareth walked towards the cosmetics counters they disappeared in to a haze of a multitude of perfumes.
“Wolf’s bane, madam, great for your man to smell manly at Christmas”
“Fairy’s breathe, a mere whiff of scent for only £50 for 10ml”
“S*x on the beach, a great present for the auntie.”
The staff crowded round as Tracey had a reputation as a big shopper. They could see their end of year bonuses becoming as plump as a maiden aunt after Christmas dinner. Arriving in her wake, Gareth got pushed out in the crush and was left standing at she was whisked off to one of the counters.
“Would you like…”
“Can I interest you…“
“Try this…” said each one, as they covered her in smells and powders. Tracey lapped it all up, like a queen with her subjects.
“Huh, huh” Gareth cleared his throat rather loudly. Tracey came out of her revere and remembered what she’d come for.
“Ah yes.” She paused. “Ladies, we need some help. My colleague is in need of something for his wife for Christmas.”
The staff looked at Gareth standing in front of them, wearing a suit that had once been expensive, but not for many years. The matching waistcoat, tweed ensemble and elbow patches put him firmly outside of their usual customer base. In fact, he’d looked like be more comfortable knee high in pig shit than in the middle of a department store. He was really an unknown quantity. Each person tried to decide if he was a prospect worth working on. Maybe he would be better in Marks & Spencer. On the other hand, Tracey had brought him along and if she wasn’t known for associating with anyone who couldn’t sustain a decent line of credit.
Gareth tried to return the stares. He was feeling uncomfortable and wondered if he had been wise to take up the offer of help. This wasn’t his sort of thing really.
Sensing that her boss was contemplating making a bid for escape, Tracey stepped in. She was in charge here and was going to make sure everyone knew it. Drawing herself to her full height of 5’ 6” in her 3 inch heels, she wished she’d worn the extra high Loubutins for effect.
“Gareth, why don’t you describe your wife to these ladies and she if they can help.” Tracey smiled at him sweetly.
“Well, er. Um” he fumbled.
“She’s very into country pursuits.” Tracey leapt in. “About five foot five. Size errm.”
She looked at Gareth. His face was of a man who has been asked a question he had no hope of knowing the answer too. He looked around trying to find someone of similar stature.
“About the same size as you” he blurted, pointing at one of the assistants from the Clarins counter.
Olivia, Gareth’s wife could, at best, be called matronly, at worst, fat. As a cattle farmer she was at home in hunter wellies, hand me down cardis and a barbour jacket, shouting loudly at her prize herds. If Gareth was not your usual department store customer, Olivia would struggle to know what to do in a town centre let alone a clothing store.
Tracey looked quizzically at Gareth, she had only met Olivia a couple of times and recalled someone a little different than the lady he was pointing to. She also remembered crazy hair, a preference for tweed based clothes, a slightly agricultural smell and a high pitched snort when she had been overheard discussing clothes in the staff room. This wasn’t going to be easy.
“Perhaps some perfume sir ?” asked the lady he was pointing at “Do you know what scent Madame prefers ?”
“Perfume? I don’t think my wife has any real preference. I mean she has these bottles you know. On the dressing table. All you ladies do don’t you?”
Tracey remembered Olivia and decided that her preference was probably ‘Eau d’bovine’ so something a little less rural would probably be a good idea. Gareth was stuttering again so she rescued him.
“If you’re not sure, why not go for something unusual. Something that you really like,” she growled slightly on the last words. “Maybe a new scent would work wonders for the two of you. Something a little spicy perhaps?” She was warming to the idea, even if there was a mental picture of her boss that would take a few tequilas to dispel.
Unexpectedly, Gareth suddenly seemed very enthusiastic about the idea and was soon being indulged with whiffs for the finest scents to be found in Solihull. He’s a bit of a dark horse, thought Tracey.
After half an hour, Gareth was carrying a tiny bag that has cost him a surprisingly large amount. He joked that he hoped his wife would mind him coming home smelling of another woman’s perfume but was obviously enjoying the attention. One of the assistants had even rubbed a little moisturiser into the back of his hand, which seemed to brighten his mood considerably.
Tracey guided him towards the handbags next. He didn’t seem that keen to leave the cosmetics section, but she pointed out that time was marching on and he really couldn’t just hand over one present could he?
“There’s one thing a woman can never have too many of – Handbags.” She announced as they rounded the corner.
“Well, Olivia does like something stout in leather.” He replied.
I bet she does, thought Tracey, a picture of her employer tightly trussed for a night of passion shot into her mind. As they stood there, Gareth cooing over the material, the image quickly evolved into him wearing a full gimp suit. If he said much more she’d need therapy rather than alcohol to blot it out.
He continued, “In fact she’s very particular about leather goods. Likes plenty of grain apparently. I remember her talking about it when she came back from a local tannery. Something to do with showing the quality of the hides apparently. My wife is very particular about hides. I suppose it’s what keeps the insides of the cow in place after all.”
“I hope the insides of the cow have been removed by the time they get in here.” Quipped Tracey, wincing. “She’ll need somewhere to put her lippy !”
Tracey picked up a Radley Mortarberry bag and showed it off to Gareth. It wasn’t her style of course, as it didn’t come studded and in snake skin, but something good and solid seemed more suitable for a lady who wanted to carry more than a mobile, a bit of make-up and a tiny bit of spare underwear. Olivia didn’t strike her as the clutch bag sort.
“What’s that on the side?” enquired Gareth, fiddling with the dangling emblem, “Is it a little cow ? Oh, she’ll like that”
“It’s a dog actually. Still an animal though. I suppose it could be a cow if you squint.” Replied Tracey.
“Hmm. I don’t think Olivia would be fooled by that. She knows her livestock. On the other hand she’s got a bit of a soft spot for the yappy little fellows. Good firm strap too. I like that.”
He held that bag at arms length and admired it. Tracey thought he seemed to be enjoying stroking the rough leather a bit much but at least he seemed happy and soon he was carrying another rather nice looking carrier bag.
Success seemed to release Gareth’s inner shopper. He started to lead Tracey a merry dance throughout the store, stopping off at various departments and adding to the haul. A Hermes headscarf and Jaeger cashmere sweater were quickly added to his growing collection. Instead of acting as personal shopper, Tracey started to wonder if she should be holding him back. After all, it was her who was the big cheese in this world, not her boss. Besides, she didn’t want him making regular trips to the store and catching her shopping in the future, when she was supposed to have, ‘just popped out of the office on an errand’.
On the other hand, his transformation into a serious shopper gave her a warm glow of satisfaction, although some of his purchases seemed a bit random. Quite how his wife would react to a garlic press, even one promoted by Jamie Oliver (“He’s that cockney chap on telly isn’t he ? The one with the fat kids and chips or something.”) and a pair of fuchsia leather gloves (more cow skin, she noted) along with some curling tongs (he had nearly broken the pair while playing with them and handed over his credit card out of embarrassment. Tracey wondered how long they would last with Olivia’s thatched mane).
As daylight faded in the outside world, the assistants were starting to look restless with home time approaching, and began to be a bit less welcoming, even to a pair staggering under the weight of a number of bags. Tracey pointed this out to Gareth, but was pooh-poohed by him and her hopes of skiving off early began to fade away.
Suddenly she was shaken out of her disappointment. Being able to navigate the store with her eyes closed she realised the unthinkable was happening. Gareth didn’t know it, but the next corner would deposit them in the lingerie department. Surely he didn’t plan that? Standing in the ladies smalls with her boss was her idea of hell. Far too embarrassing. She looked around for an alternative route to the exit but knew there wasn’t one. Her only hope seemed to be to get enough momentum to drive him out of the store without stopping.
Can Tracey escape a session with Gareth in ladies underwear ?
Will she ever get the terrible mental pictures of her boss out of her mind ?
Can we bring this story to a suitably festive conclusion ?
Find out on Thursday in A KOD Christmas Part Two !