“Can you keep a secret?” Jen whispered to her new best friend, Abi.
“Of course. Mum’s the word.” Abi tapped the side of her nose in a conspiratorial manner.
Jen gave her a sideways look before continuing. “Don’t tell anyone, but I heard that Julie and Andrew Mills are splitting up.”
“Really?” Abi looked at Jen, agog. “Why?”
“Apparently he’s gone off with Winston from accounts.”
“Blimey, didn’t know Andrew was gay.”
“Nor did Julie, apparently. Bit of a shock.”
This riveting piece of news unfolded in the office canteen over a bowl of tomato soup and a cheese roll. After sharing the secret that had been revealed to her by Millicent, who worked in the accounts department, Jen got up to go to the ladies’ room and left Abi alone to ponder this new revelation. She, Abi, had danced with Andrew at the Christmas office party and he flirted with her remorselessly, so that this nugget of news came as a surprise.
As if on cue, Andrew sauntered into the canteen, looking every inch the hunk in his designer suit, crisp white shirt and a pink tie. He caught Abi’s eye and winked. She responded by smiling foolishly and feeling guilty that she had found out his secret.
‘I wonder if he’s wearing the pink tie to send out a message.’ Abi thought as she watched him stroll over to sit next to Winston. Observing them with interest, she thought that they were sitting very close together and seemed comfortable in the other’s company. It looked as if they were sharing a private joke and Andrew was holding onto Winston’s arm as they doubled over with laughter. She was sure that Andrew had highlights in his hair. She’d never spotted that before and was amazed at how it all made sense now that the truth was out.
On her way home from the office, she sat next to Fran from human resources, bursting to share her news.
“Can you keep a secret?” She asked her colleague.
Fran sat bolt upright from her usual slouching position. “You can trust me. I’m like, so into confidentiality. What’s up?”
“Andrew Mills is going to marry Winston from accounts as soon as his divorce comes through. Gay marriage seems to be all the rage these days.”
“Winston? Oh, I know – he’s the tall guy, quite young, from the Caribbean. It’s common knowledge that he’s gay but I must say I’m a bit shocked. Andrew always tried to chat me up. He’s well fit. If he wasn’t married, I’d be like, so into him. What a waste. I won’t tell a soul until it’s common knowledge. Here’s my stop. See ya.” Fran staggered off the bus in her sky high heels.
When Fran got home, she had a shower and prepared to join a group of girls from the office who were going out for a curry to celebrate her friend Sandra’s engagement.
The restaurant air was thick with spices and intrigue. Tucking into a creamy chicken korma, Fran whispered to Sandra. “Can you keep a secret?”
“You know me.” Sandra replied. “The height of discrepancy or whatever you call it. What’s happened?”
“Well, Andrew from accounts is leaving the company to go off with his lover. Guess what, it’s Winston. I think they’re going to live in the Caribbean together.”
There was a sudden intake of breath from Sandra before she uttered, “No! Andrew – God’s gift to women and the biggest flirt in the company. He covered that up pretty well. I thought he was married.”
“Straight up - he is, but I think she got wind of it and has probably gone off with someone else. Who can blame her?”
Sandra pondered this as she chewed her naan bread. “I’d do the same. You just can’t tell, can you?”
“I suppose not.” Fran nodded philosophically, as she considered the complexities of modern life.
The following Monday Sandra was enduring a workout in the gym when she spotted Agnes from marketing on the treadmill. They got chatting in the jacuzzi later.
“You live near Julie and Andrew Mills don’t you?”
“Yes, next door but one. Why?”
“Can you keep a secret?”
“Of course. You can trust me. I’m never one to gossip.” Agnes assured her.
“Well – you won’t believe this but apparently Andrew is getting a divorce. He’s going to marry his lover and move abroad.”
“Really? I thought it was all hash-hash.”
Agnes lay back in the bubbling water and laughed. “Hush-hush. No, everyone seems to know that he’s going to marry Wendy Winston from accounts. She’s much younger than him but they seem happy together. Apparently Andrew split up with Julie when she told him that she was a lesbian. She lives with her girlfriend now and Andrew’s got a flat somewhere in town. He and Wendy are going to St Lucia for their honeymoon but I didn’t know they were moving there. People can be so unpredictable can’t they? You just don’t know who you can trust anymore.”
This story is available in Sue’s latest book, Stories to Go – Ninety-three Very Short Stories, which is for sale as a paperback and e-book on Amazon.