Two for the price of one

By Eamonn Finnegan

Monday morning had arrived, it was the beginning of a new week. Ryan entered the County council offices with the human stream of people who worked there. He floated through the entrance as if he was log being carried along by a river. He had worked there since he had graduated from university with a second class degree in town planning. He was twenty-five, athletic with brown hair and matching puppy dog eyes.

As usual, he nodded a greeting to the receptionist, whatever her name was, she seemed delighted, and beamed a smile back to him. On some days it was like this and on other days she just seemed to be different. He was hopeless with names. He always thought of her as the receptionist. Due to the nature of his work he spoke to her occasionally on the internal phone, rarely person to person. He noted that she could blow hot and cold. Sometimes they exchanged a few pleasantries and the following day it was as if it had never happened.

Today she wore a blue cotton V-necked jumper which matched her eyes. The white blouse offset her fair hair and the navy pencil skirt showed off her slim figure. Despite an impression of tiredness, she was pretty, there was no doubting that. “She has a tedious job, I don’t know how she does it. Maybe, that’s why she can be so unpredictable? Perhaps she’s as fed up as I am?” he thought. Later that day there was a delivery for the department he worked in, she rang the internal number for his phone and he obliged by walking down the stairs from the first floor to pick it up.

She made him sign for the packages in an officious manner but once the paperwork was out of the way she beamed her ‘Young Receptionist of the Year Award’ smile at him. He also noticed that she hovered her glasses on the end of her nose and gently sucked the yellow Bic biro which was always at hand. “Well, at least she’s thorough and efficient” he thought as he returned to his office. Despite this, Ryan only really noticed her when she wasn’t there. He shared an open plan room with three other young men, Michael, Stephen and James.

It was divided by partition walls low enough to look over, as his annoying colleagues often did. The interior design meant that he rarely had any privacy. Stephen, interrupted his train of thought. “Tippex Ryan, will ya?” “Please say please” replied Ryan. “Please, then for flips sake”, came back Stephens answer.

The banter went on like this all day, every day it helped to dispel the strain of the job. They worked hard to put together detailed monthly reports and recommendations for the ongoing development of the county. The room literally smelled of testosterone and aftershave especially on Fridays. Despite their laddishness the joint efforts they made had given their department a small but loyal following among the county council members.

Ryan was the keeper of the office equipment and materials. Without him, they would have been doomed to a chaos of untidiness, confusion and endlessly running out of items that were vital to the production of the reports. Any young woman in her right mind knew to stay as far away from ‘that’ office as possible, especially when deadlines were approaching. The language and loutish demeanour of the Ryan’s co-workers had near legendary status throughout the building. Collectively their behaviour was similar to a group of scaffolders on a stag night.

This fact embarrassed him but greatly amused his friends and colleagues. The administrative centre was home to nine other departments but theirs was the alpha male one. Friday evening drinking sessions inevitably involved copious amounts of alcohol. Bragging rights competitions were standard.

Which department was the best, the most important, made the most money or had the best looking women working in it where standard. Ryan’s three amigos [the collective name he had for his colleagues] where often the source of some outrage committed in an unsophisticated manner against one of the women who worked in the building. This usually consisted of an attempted chat up line that would have shamed a gigolo. They agreed that the receptionist was a lasher yet they also held her to be both strange and unapproachable.

Ryan knew that they too were a source of gossip throughout the building. In the two years Ryan had worked there, both Stephen and James had arrived at work in the morning looking as if they had just left a party. Even worse, it was known that Michael had received an official warning about out of hour’s behaviour.

Christmas was coming. That only meant one thing. The office party. The Christmas office party. The party of the year with all the expense, excitement and danger that that involved! One week to go! Ryan’s phone rang. It was what’s her name, the receptionist. “Tonight there’s a special offer after work, if you fancy it”? She said. She told him to write down the details, Ryan dutifully obeyed and later decided to turn up and see what was going on.

He met her in McCarthy’s bar at seven-thirty. She looked fabulous. She worn a tight fitting blue dress, silver high heels with a matching bag and belt and a silvery, furry cardigan which she wore open. Her name it turned out was Amy. After a drink and a toasted cheese and tomato sandwich eaten while listening to Abba songs Ryan needed the toilet. “She’s really lovely!” he thought as “The name of the game?”  rang in his ears. When he returned he suddenly felt as if his drink had been spiked. Sitting at their table were two Amy’s! They were dressed in exactly the same outfits. He was in complete shock!

They both smiled. Then they looked from each other to him. “This is my twin sister Annie”. said Amy. “We job share at the office”. said Annie. “We both think you’re nice”. said Amy. “You’re a very lucky boy”. cut in Annie as she winked. “Because tonight’s special offer is two for the price of one.” “Yes and the winner takes it all!” added Amy with a giggle.

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