Scholars and Rogues Fiction: “Lady by the Buffet,” by Daniel Henshaw

Lady by the Buffet

Sitting alone at the Christmas Disco, Eddy Price was ready for bed.  As usual, the whole thing had been nothing but a meat market.  Single people had magnetised towards each other, lips creeping closer and hands venturing where they wouldn’t usually dare.  Drinks flowed, or spilled in Franny Hill’s case –tipsy since 3 o’clock – and everyone giggled away like it was the first time they’d heard Brett Watson’s stale jokes.  The singletons were having a great time, destined to share a taxi home.  Even Colin Marshall – with his rubbery face and milk-bottle specs – had managed to find himself a suitable match; Rubie Silk from accounts with her never ending, never-stop-jiggling bingo wings.  Yes, everyone had pulled tonight.  Everyone… but Eddy.

Eddy struggled with the opposite sex.  He fancied Sandra from admin and although they were the same age, she looked ten years younger.  Her blonde hair had natural curls and her brown eyes had a spark that said: I’m naughty in bed.  Eddy did speak to her everyday… but that was just to order more staples or use her fax machine.  Even then, he felt awkward.  As the fax sent, he would twiddle his thumbs, trying to think of the right words to impress her.  But no.  Eddy said nothing.  Until: “Thanks Sandra.”

He observed her now as the disco lights flashed around the office.  Infuriatingly, she was sat on Brett Watson’s knee.  King slimeball.  Of all the people, why him?  Watson pointed up at the mistletoe.  Eddy turned away, avoiding the inevitable.

He sipped a beer.  It was warm and unappealing; like him, he supposed.  A humorous thought.  Eddy was full of humour.  If girls got to know him, they’d realise this too.  His reflection was in the beer bottle.  Not hideous.  Thin, stylish specs and short, ginger hair.  Prince Harry was ginger and thousands of women wanted him.  Eddy’s hairline may have receded but he was forty six after all.  He had a house, a car and two adorable cats.  What more could a girl want?

As Eddy took a final tasteless swig of beer, he noticed the lady by the buffet table.  She was staring straight at him.  The new girl.  Eddy couldn’t remember her name – Jasmine or Jemima.  Something like that.  He avoided eye contact but her image was printed on his mind.  Very pretty.  Dark hair to her shoulders and a black dress that hugged her petite figure.  Eddy plucked up the courage to glance back at her.  He couldn’t believe it. She was walking towards him!  Perhaps her friend was nearby – though nobody had sat near Eddy for the last 87 minutes.

As Jasmine/Jemima – crept closer, Eddy became anxious.  He looked for something to fiddle.  His beer was empty and he’d picked off the label an hour ago.  When Eddy looked up, the lady in black – a glamorous work of art – was standing in front of him.  There was no denying it; she wanted to speak to Eddy.  Could he really do this?  Be yourself, he thought.  That’s what mum always said.  He took a deep breath, filling his lungs with confidence.  A polite smile crept across his face and then, without anymore hesitation, Eddy spoke.

“Hello,” he said.

Had it sounded ok?

Or too miserable?

Why he was alone?  He’d say that he chose to sit alone – didn’t like anyone else.  Make a joke of it.

No.  Too misanthropic.  He’d tell her the truth.  Nobody likes me.  But make it sound funny.  Don’t they say it’s attractive to laugh at oneself?  Yes, that was it.

“Hello,” replied Jasmine/Jemima in a gentle voice with a flavour of Eastern Europe.  Romanian or Hungarian.  She was so fragile, Eddy feared her words would break if interrupted.  The girl’s eyes shifted from side to side and Eddy noticed a gulp in her delicate throat.  She was nervous!  What a result!  An amazing, beautiful woman, just as awkward as him.  He looked into her brown, hypnotic eyes and saw his future wife.  Their children just like her.  Beautiful, dark haired.  They’d be happy together.  Grow old, share memories.  Eddy would take the kids to the park each day.  Eastern Europeans made brilliant gymnasts.  He’d train them up.  As teenagers, they’d need to decide who to represent at the Olympics – Hungary or Great Britain?  Things had taken a positive turn.  An amazing future now lay ahead.

His daydream broke as Jasmine/Jemima spoke again.


This was it.  This was the moment life changed.  Maybe she’d ask to sit down or ask to dance.  Eddy couldn’t possibly do that but, still, a step in the right direction.

She spoke again.

“I think, erm… I think… you’re… sitting on my coat.”