X is for X factor

NB:  Post may contain offensive and inappropriate language.

Within ten days of selling on the online marketplace I’d had my ebay account barred.  Clearly I wasn’t cut out to become an eBay millionaire.  Being naive to this arena I had put some of my clothes on there without a reserve price because I didn’t know what that was.  I was already finding the efforts of listing stuff a massive time sink and wondering how the hell anyone made money from it.  I’d sold a Calvin Klein skirt, a Karen Millen dress and a Coach jacket for £3.00.

Your eBay item has sold! Speciallady72 has paid and item needs to be shipped.

Err, no it doesn’t, I thought.  Are you kidding me? £3.00.  That lot alone had set me back in excess of £600.00 and she wanted it for £3.00? Pfft!   I’d rather give it to charity or my daughter than sell it for that! 

EBay message to Speciallady72 -from Sophistication04:

Sorry but I’ve changed my mind about the sale and I’ve sent you a paypal refund.


Speciallady72- You are bound by the trading standard to honour the sale.  Please notify so I can pay again as I won those items.

Sophistication04 – No can do – they’re too expensive to go for £3.00 and I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. Sorry.

Speciallady72 – Then I will have to report you for unfair trading.  That’s bad practice.

Sophistication04 – Knock yourself out.  Sorry.

Report me to whom?  What were they going to do, arrest me? Instead they barred my account. Awesome.

Apart from screwing up eBay I’d managed to make a brilliant shopping budget and save loads of money on other things.  I’d had three people look at my car and was sure one of those was going to buy it as they kept coming back to see it.  Colin had accepted my resignation with a heavy heart and I‘d been spending the last two weeks at work being told that I could change my mind at anytime.  I’d been close on several occasions.  Johnno in particular had made me want to kill myself.  He kept leaving sticky notes on my desk with little messages or an occasional chocolate or love heart sweets saying ‘Miss you’ or ‘Don’t leave me’ it was hilarious but heart wrenching.  His latest move did have me reconsidering big time.

“If you stay at work I promise to get you a date with Frank Lampard.” He said seriously.

“LOL!  Really Johnno?  What about his girlfriend, she may not be too pleased.” 

“I’ll find a way, I mean it.” He replied.  I had to chuckle at his candour.

Colin had been brilliant and rang around various publications and such getting me an in on the freelance list and bigging me up to everyone he knew.  I’d already started to get assignments and also some PR work for a company and that was before I’d legitimately left my current role.  I knew I was going to make it and I hoped it was going to be worth it.

I sat at my desk and looked around surveying the whole office. I wanted to take it all in so I could remember it when I was no longer here.   Monica was studying something intently on her computer screen and sucking a pen.  She always had a pen in her mouth.  Johnno was on the phone, his desk covered in sports regalia and his Adidas bag, full of kit, at his side.   I hoped Bryony ended up with someone like him.  He was such a lovely lad.
  I picked up one of the jelly beans that Johnno had left as today’s present and clicked on my word game for the millionth time.  The Voice hadn’t responded to me since I’d not taken him up on the phone call. He’d played two goes, storming words, but had left no message.   He hadn’t, however taken a turn in the last four days.  I was on the verge of heartbreak.  I couldn’t explain it but that’s how it felt; like I’d been dumped.  I couldn’t play until he did and I felt like he was holding me ransom.  I just wanted him to talk to me.  I’d left a message a couple of days ago in the chat bubble.

Sophistication: It’s your go...

Nothing.  No play.  No response.  I decide to send another.   Maybe he wasn’t well or something.  I should be nicer.

Sophistication: Hey, are you alright? I hope so.

There that was nice.  I clicked it off and felt a sense of woe.

It was getting on for 4pm and I was leaving early as Colin and I were going to the World Service restaurant tonight.  I felt privileged to be taken as his guest as it was a beautiful place set in a 17th century building and it was kind of a nice way to end our working relationship.  Well, from a full time point of view.  I went to his office to see him about the arrangements.  He was standing up analysing something on his computer, deep in thought.

“Colin..?” I snapped him out of his reverie.

“Yes babe.  What’s up?”

“What time shall I meet you tonight?”

“Starts at 6.30pm so how about 6 pm at the Slug and Lettuce?”

“Yeah, that’s great.  I’ll see you later.” I smiled and left him to his work.

I got home to hear Brendon on his mobile to someone.

“You’re a dickhead and if you don’t sort it out I will never talk to you again. You’re a fucking waste man.”  He ended the call and looked as angry as hell.

“Who are you talking to?”  I asked.

“Luke.  Shithead.”  He snapped.

“You really don’t have to swear all the time you know.  You are quite capable of stringing a sentence together without profanity. You’re not a complete reprobate.”

“I’m an articulate reprobate, Mother.”

“What’s he done to upset you?”  I asked carefully.  Usually he’d tell me everything.  Often things I didn’t want to know and information that teenage boys should keep to themselves.  I never knew if he did it for the shock factor or because it was how he was.

“He’s put two things up for sale on eBay that he didn’t even have.  Anyway, a couple of kids have bought them and he’s taken the money but obviously not sent the goods because they don’t exist. You can’t fucking do that to people.”  

“That’s terrible.  I hope he’s going to give them the money back.” I said somewhat concerned.

“Well I’m not talking to him unless he does and I want proof that he’s done it.  If he doesn’t I’m going to smack him one.”
  Brendon had a very keen sense of right and wrong which was amazing since he couldn’t apply it to himself.  He was often in trouble around school for interfering in fights or stopping teachers shouting at pupils.  He was like a real life vigilante. Judge, jury and executioner.   He would have made the perfect Judge Dredd.

“You can’t hit people and I know you won’t.” I said, “But he should not be being fraudulent to people.” I considered my own misdemeanour on eBay but at least I’d refunded the special lady.

“Yeah, but he doesn’t need to know that and I feel like punching him.”

His phone beeped and he looked down at another message.  “Ugh..”  He said out loud to it. “Are all girls this needy? I’m sick of getting constant texts, it’s pissing me off.”

“Yes, Brendon they are, especially if they like you.  Get used to it and be nice. She’s a lovely girl and you’re very lucky.”

I went upstairs and jumped in the shower ready to go on my evening junket.   I chose a simple black dress from Whistles that was always a winner and one of the few things that hadn’t made it to my eBay pile.   I called a taxi and waited for it with a nice glass of wine as I changed over handbags.  I walked round in bare stocking feet until the taxi arrived as my black court shoes were going to kill me, I knew it.  Thank God I’d be mostly sitting down. 

I shouted goodbye to the kids. “And do not ring me unless it’s absolutely necessary Brendon!  I’m out with my boss and I’ll be back when I’m back!”

The slug and Lettuce was relatively busy but I spotted Colin in an instant.  He had that edgy style that just set him apart from everyday people.   He was wearing a dark navy Paul Smith suit and Pale blue shirt.  He looked effortlessly classic.

“You look great!”  I said “That really brings your eye colour out.”

“Thanks Soph, and back at ya! I got you a vodka and coke..You still drink that right?” 

“I’ll drink anything Colin.  And yes I do. Thanks!”  I’d not had a vodka and coke for ages and I made a mental note to rectify that.

We talked about work for a while and then had to hurry to the restaurant.

There were a few people I recognised on the guest list when we arrived-  Paul Hymes being one of them.  He came straight over to Colin and shook his hand and planted a kiss on mine when I went to shake it.  I wiped it off on the side of my dress as soon as he let go and focussed his attention on my boss.

We got seated at a nice table near the window and got ready for our food.  It was a pre-set three course meal to sample their new menu. 

·        Almond flaked prawns, chilled garlic and Almond puree, compressed grapes.

·        Derbyshire filet of beef, World Service béarnaise, crispy onion, Goose fat chips.

·        Yoghurt foam, pumpkin seeds, sour cherry sorbet and /or an assiette of desserts for two.

A bottle of house red and white wine was already on the table.  I hit the red instantly. I was going to make the most of this meal as this kind of thing was now decadence to me and would serve to be a memory of the good old days.

The food was outstanding as was the service and I loved it in this place.  Colin and I got through the wine with ease and ordered another bottle.  We spent the evening chatting and laughing about all sorts of things from the boring to the ridiculous.  We even explored my phone box idea a little further  and how we could set it up.  It got more absurd the more we drank but we talked about it like it was a new and exciting venture.

“Shall we have some champagne?” Colin asked as he poured the last of the wine into our glasses.  I was already feeling warm and tingly which didn’t help with my ability to say no.

“Oh,  go on then.” I said with a big grin.

“So how’s Trudie?” I asked.

“Soph!  I was having a really good night ‘til then!” He smiled.

I started giggling. “Sorry.”

“Meh.  She’s been encouraged to move on.”  He said.

“Colin! We need to find you the right woman.  They’re always stunning anyway so what is it that’s missing?”

“He leant forward, elbow on the table and a finger on his lips as he pretended to ponder this question. “Hmmm...”  He looked at me across the table. “The X factor.”

I laughed. “Ok Simon Cowell, and what IS your X factor?”

He looked at me very seriously for a few seconds.  I wondered if I’d upset him a little by asking too many personal questions.  I really shouldn’t drink so much.

“It’s an unquantifiable thing Soph.  Let’s go and research it.  Come on!  Let’s go to the office with this champers and watch a film and make plans for phone boxes and figure out the X factor!  I need to get out of here now. “He picked up the bottle and made his way to say thank you to the owner.

I sat there surprised.  Well OK then.  Colin was obviously as tipsy as me!

We made our way down the street arms linked and laughing at our own stupidity.  We got to the office and through the glass doors.  

“What’s the alarm Soph?”

“What? Err... 2 , 0, 4, 9... it took me a while to remember. “You should know that Colin!” 

“I do. I just want to make sure you’re awake.”  He giggled as he punched in the numbers and we went through the office doors.  It seemed weird to see it all dark and quiet.  I followed Colin through to his office and he put the wall lights on.

“Music!”  He said out loud to himself as he opened itunes on his computer. “Go get glasses Soph, we have the world to save.”

I went to the kitchen and looked for glasses. I  couldn’t find them so I got two mugs instead.

“Mugs?! You philistine, Sophie Rhodes!”  Colin went to pour the champagne into them anyway as we stood at his desk.  We lifted our mugs and knocked them together as Snow Patrol played in the background.

“Here’s to..stuff..”  I said.

“Stuff?! I can’t believe I let you write for me.”  He grinned. “Here’s to the mysteries of life, Sophie.”

I raised the mug to my mouth and took a great big mouthful of champagne.  The bubbles exploded tenfold in my mouth and burst forth, spilling down my chin and onto my dress.

“Arrr...”  I squealed bending forward and trying to brush the fizzing liquid off my Whistles frock.  My hair had fallen into my face and strands had stuck to my champagne lips.  I felt Colin’s hand gently remove my hair and tuck it behind my ear.  I looked up at him as he very slowly took the mug from my hand and put it on the desk, not once taking his eyes from mine.  His hand came to my face as he stepped closer and rubbed his thumb softly over my wet lips before he lowered his mouth onto mine.