Short Story 11: The King’s Speech
[I completely forgot about this story until last night when I was sitting in a pub with some friends and someone reminded me of it. You’ll understand why it was being discussed in an alcohol infused environment when you read it. It was written as part of an exercise titled “King’s Speech”, shortly after the movie came out. Not my finest work but here it is.]
By the age of twenty five most people have a reasonable understanding of what their alcohol tolerance is. Years of daring under-aged drinking followed by equally foolish years of legal age binge drinking would have honed the senses into gauging how many units to consume for drunkenness, flirtatiousness, chattiness or to just about pass as a designated driver. Most people’s livers had conversed with the rest of their organs and agreed how long they thought their owners’ bodies would last. It was a good year for the body to start the sideways shuffle away from the evil liquid as people took stock of how they wanted to proceed in life.
For Beverly King it was at this age that she discovered what her limit was. It was the night of the office Christmas party, historically a night of embarrassing tales and yet one that people never quite envision as the night of their undoing. To be fair to Beverly, it was only her second attendance at one of these dos. She had to bail out of the Christmas party she had been invited to last year because her sister had gone into labour just after the main meal had been served. As her birthing partner, Beverley had no choice but to dash to the hospital to be with her. This year she would finally be able to join in on office gossip ensuing from misdemeanours of the night. She was a little too excited about it all and it didn’t help that some of her colleagues squealed with delight at any mention of the party.
None of the excitement dissipated till the night arrived. The event was being held in the large ballroom of a four star hotel on the outskirts of town, one of the few venues that could hold the three hundred plus crowd. The room was all done up in white fairy lights and a tall glistening tree stood in the corner, soft carols filled the air and alcohol flowed at a disproportionate ratio to the meal that was served. Everything felt perfect, a sure sign that disaster was about to strike yet everyone managed to remain civilised until all the food was consumed. The alcohol began to flow more rapidly and a DJ arrived, promptly swapping the carols for a selection of cringe worthy cheesy tunes. Seats were abandoned as a dance floor emerged amidst the tables and song choruses were shouted at anyone who dared to brave the floor, which was surprisingly most people. It was still all going well until Beverly saw him.
Matthew Conrad from HR. She had been silently obsessing over him for months and now there he stood, drinking a beer and chatting with two of his mates. For once he looked approachable and for once she felt like she had the courage she needed to say something to him. It probably had something to do with the two bottles of wine she had unwittingly consumed over the last two hours. But what could she say? What would make him see that she was worth noticing, worth taking a chance on? Her legs began to move before her brain had decided on her next move so when she found herself standing in front of him, she still didn’t know what to say. The three men stared at her with raised brows. The music in the background had switched to someone crooning a love song and Beverly felt the first of many knots begin to develop in her stomach.
“Matt,” she heard herself blurt out. “It’s me Beverly from accounts…”
That was all she managed to get out before she lurched forward and was violently sick all over his shoes. There was an audible gasp from around them as people turned to gawk. Beverly covered her offending cesspool of a mouth with both hands, her eyes widening with shock and despair. This was, by far, the most horrific thing that had ever happened to her.
“Oh my God, I’m so sorry,” she started to apologise before bursting into tears and running towards the toilets. She had never felt so humiliated. Even the cushioning of the alcohol did not take that away from her. She spent at least fifteen minutes in the cubicle shuddering at the thought of what had just happened. She was never going to live it down. Everyone had seen her make an absolute fool of herself and she would undoubtedly be the topic of discussion on Monday.
“Are you alright?”
Strangely Matthew was waiting outside the ladies toilets when she came out. This was possibly the worst day of her life.
“I thought I should make sure you’re alright, Beverly from accounts.” He smiled at her. Matthew Conrad was smiling at her. And of course she couldn’t ignore the fact that he was speaking to her. Despite the fact that she probably stank of whatever vile fluid she had spewed on him, he was asking if she was okay.
“I’m so sorry; that’s never happened before. I didn’t realise how much wine I’d had…”
“Do you want to try again?”
“Excuse me?” She must have misheard him.
“You were trying to say something to me before…you know.”
“Oh.” This was unexpected. “I guess I was just trying to introduce myself. That was it really. I’m so, so sorry.”
Matthew grinned and put his hand out towards her. “Okay Beverly from accounts, we’ve officially met. Don’t worry; it happens to the best of us. But I have to insist that you join me at the bar for a glass of water. I hear they’ve got a choice of sparkling and still. You can’t say no, it’s either that or a bill for a new pair of shoes.”
Beverly stared speechlessly as he took her hand and led her back into the crowded room. Yes, twenty five was the age Beverly King found out how low her alcohol tolerance was. It was also the year she found out that a little alcohol induced sickness did not put off Matthew Conrad from HR, especially if he had already noticed you a few months before the incident. And oh, what a lucky thing that was.