Simon was my desk buddy in a large open office. We both had a few desk buddies sitting around us and there was much that we shared in work and life. Simon was a single father stud with the prowess of someone that loved his play more than his work.

Wednesday was Simon’s birthday and he was absent. I texted him a happy birthday wish and it seemed that he didn’t have my number in his Contacts list.

“Thanks, whos this?” Came back the SMS shorthand.

I’m not a great fan of SMS shorthand, but stepped in to line with the response,

“M” – the initial of my first name, Malcom.

“Mandy?” came back the reply.

.

.

.

.

And from here the plot had a chance to thicken.

“Hey, yes it is. Happy Birthday, fella.”

Not ‘big fella’, which I know would have normally got Simon’s chest pumping if my image of Mandy was the same as Simon’s knowledge of Mandy. Not really knowing who Mandy was I don’t want to take the still fictitious character in the wrong direction.

I signed off there and got back to work. I had to tell Tania, what had happened. Tania saw the endless possibilities to take this further and set about finding out from Simon who this Mandy was. Simon was back at work next day and Tania and he went for some coffee from the cafe. Apparently, it didn’t take much prodding of Simon to bring up the Mandy contact, in fact, he volunteered the information a few minutes down the corridor.

Tania squeezed as much as she could and reported back.

“A Mandy used to babysit Simon’s daughter when she was younger, about 3-4 years ago. She was quite attractive but at the time she had a boyfriend. Simon’s thinking that maybe circumstances have changed. Especially as she has randomly got in touch, and that she remembered his birthday. Simon’s not sure how that came about.”

So Tania, Sally and I worked on the next text message.

“Hey Simon, watchya up to these days?” Sent from my phone as I sat in my desk opposite the man himself.

“Working, waiting, wanting.” Was the flirty reply. “How did u know it was my birthday?”

“Clarisa told me back in the day.” Clarisa was the daughter that Mandy babysat for Simon every Friday night for about 18 months. “I marked it on my calendar,” came back the lie.

From where I sat I could see Simon stiffen looking around the office. He was in.

“Hey, how about we catch up tomorrow? For lunch?”

Boy, this was moving fast, but oh so typical of Simon.

I asked my colleagues about the next best move. Didn’t want Mandy to sound too needy, but really, what would Simon care?

Tania said to write back with a simple, “Sure. Whereabouts?” I did so.

Simon suggested the local pub, just a little down the road, but far enough away for it to be too unlikely to meet anyone else from work. Who knows what might have happened to Mandy since they last met.

Mandy agreed to meet.

“I’d better get you a birthday present then.”

Things were getting better by the text.

On Friday, the day of the lunch date, Sally, Tania and I made sure we were in early enough to beat Simon to work, just to catch his entrance. He didn’t disappoint. He was buffed, fluffed, and pumped. The lunch date couldn’t come quick enough. 

Mid-morning a text came through to my phone from Simon.

“All good for lunch today? Should I bring anything?”

I’ve no idea what the second question was about, but it gave us another opening.

I replied (on behalf of Mandy), “Sure. All good. Just bring your fingers to undo the bow.”

Simon almost spun off his seat.

I was starting to get nervous about how we’re going to uncover the ruse. I was pretty keen to do it now before Simon got too far up the anticipation pole.

There was another twist though. We updated Simon’s boss on the sequence of events. He was on board. Good sport is Chris.

Chris booked a very important meeting with Simon to clash with the lunch date at the pub. 

“Sorry Simon, it’s vital you come along to this meeting.”

“But Chris, PLEASE, I’ve got an important meeting of my own. It’s super important.”

Simon tried to plead his case. Chris wasn’t relenting. He played such a straight bat.

Simon was getting quite angry. It was as if a resignation wasn’t out of the question.

Jeesus!

Tania, Sally, and I thought we had finally better own up to the prank. 

We agreed to remain at our desks and read out loud the next text we get from Simon within his earshot. Letting it slowly dawn on him.

I sent Simon another text. “How will I recognise you after all these years? Wearing anything special?”

Simon’s smirky smile was fixed as he texted back, “I’ll be the one with his tongue hanging out. LOL.”

 Now was the moment to reveal. We all crowded around my phone.

“I’L.L. B.E. T.H.E O.N.E W.I.T.H. H.I.S. T.O.N.G.U.E. H.A.N.G.I.N.G. O.U.T.”……  I articulated loud enough for all to hear. Especially Simon. 

It was such a distinct sentence, Simon knew he was the author. But how did it get to my phone? Why was I reading it out? Did he send it to the wrong person? No, the text trail was all going back and forth to the same number.

Simon’s face went from smirk to smile to shame to anger to disappointment then back to anger and that’s where it stayed.

I took off to the bathroom. Locked the cubicle door. Refused to come out again until I thought the anger might have dissolved.

Everyone had heard the story by now, and Simon could have done anything.

He was looking a little less buffed, fluffed, and pumped. Revenge was the main emotion that was coursing through his veins, his glands, his synapses. 15 years later, payback is yet to materialise. (Unless a 35-year-old still at home, and a wife who prefers cafe-life to any part of domestic life is part of the revenge strategy).

But, gee it was funny.

PS Speaking of wife, it was later that Friday night, after I’d gone to bed, that my wife found the text messages on my phone. Having read through them there was only one conclusion she could reasonably make. And she was keen to confirm her conclusion with me, by turning on the bedroom light, kicking the bed base until I woke, and grilling me on what I meant by “Just bring your fingers to undo the bow.” It took some explaining.