Another Monday morning at Dobsons Cardboard Ltd. Mr Mayberry, the Chief Accountant, ambled into his secretary, Sheila’s office.
‘Morning Sheila, – good weekend ? I’ve just seen Sir Norman in the lift, he’s just had a productive weekend golfing. Guess who he has managed to persuade to be the special guest at the Annual Charity Dinner ‘- he lowered his voice to little more than a whisper while he revealed the name. ‘ This is highly confidential mind, no one –absolutely no one- except us is to know, you know how gossip spreads around here.’ Sheila agreed, and promised utmost secrecy.Unfortunately, neither of them had noticed that the office door was not closed properly. Stella was outside, and had heard every word. She knocked on the door and went in when Sheila responded. She handed over the weekly figures, then hurried back to her desk in the Sales Office.
Stella was a very shy, plain and somewhat overweight bespectacled girl. She sat down at her desk, quivering like a jelly. Mr Mayberry had lowered his voice at the crucial moment, but she had been close enough to hear him say that Tiger Woods would be coming to the annual ‘do’. How were they to know that Stella worshipped Tiger, she had a scrapbook full of every cutting and picture of him she could find , and hours of video clips of him playing golf, and oh how she melted at the sight of that wonderful smile.
Somehow she managed to get through the day, then hurried home to her little flat. It was May now, and the dinner was always held in November, so she had six months to plan her strategy. Firstly she checked her savings, and decided that she would forego a
holiday this year and any unnecessary new clothes. Then she checked the Yellow Pages for golf courses that gave lessons. Lastly she phoned her office supervisor at home, apologising profusely, but saying she had just discovered she had a dentist’s check-up at 9o’clock next morning, so would be an hour late in to work.
After a very restless night, she used her stolen hour to ring the golf courses and find the one whose lesson timings suited her best. She booked a course of lessons beginning in three days time after work, and spoke to the resident professional about the clubs etc. she would require. She went in to work with her imagination working overtime – she and Tiger would have so much to talk about when they eventually met.
Almost overnight, Stella’s life changed dramatically. She was at work each day as usual, but each evening she was either taking instruction or hitting balls at the golf range. She got friendly with one or two other ladies, and occasionally on a Saturday they would play a proper game, nine holes at first, but eventually managing eighteen holes quite easily. All the exercise she was getting meant that her excess weight disappeared, and when she had her hair cut and got her contact lenses, several of the younger men at work began to take more interest in her.
At the end of September, a poster went up advertising the Annual Charity Dinner, and as an auction prize, the anonymous guest was to take the winning bidder to lunch at a nearby country house hotel the following day. The auction would be held at the pre-dinner reception, before the mystery guest made his appearance.
On the night of the dinner, Nick, Dobson’s marketing manager, picked Stella up and took her to the hotel. He never left her side as they mingled with the other guests. Everyone was speculating about who the mystery guest was going to be. Eventually, Sir Norman stood on the dais and cleared his throat.
‘Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to our annual charity dinner, this year benefitting the local hospice. Now to the main event of the evening – the auction for the lunch date tomorrow with our very special guest. Now who will start me off with £100 ?’ Someone called out, to be followed by several others, and the cost had soon risen to £400 before all went quiet . Stella raised her hand.‘Four fifty’ she said and to her great delight the prize was hers. Oh Tiger, Tiger, you are mine, mine! She was quickly hustled to the dais, and Nick went with her,- he thought she looked in danger of fainting.
Sir Norman took her hand. ‘ Well,’ he said,’ what a very generous lady you are, and what a lucky man it is that will be accompanying you to lunch tomorrow, as well as having a few dances with you tonight, no doubt. Without any further delay, ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce our very special guest for this evening – a man very famous in the world of the cardboard box, the Editor of Cartons Monthly. Mr Nigel Woods.’ There was a ripple of applause, and some smothered giggles as through the door stepped the short, balding, overweight, bespectacled man, as well known for his bad breath and wandering hands as for his editorial status. Stella thought the end of the world had come. Tiger Woods ? Nigel Woods ? Oh dear, her hearing had not been as acute as she had thought.
All that effort – all that expense ! Her knees began to buckle as the portly little man advanced on her, a lascivious grin betraying his ill-fitting dentures.
Nick stepped quickly forward . ‘I’m sorry, its all too much for the lady’ he said, ‘She needs some fresh air ‘ and he expertly guided her out of the door and into the empty courtyard. Hot tears were coursing down her cheeks, as he held her close. ‘Some day you’ll tell me what this is all about,’ he said, ‘but for now I suggest you donate your prize to the raffle and come to lunch with me tomorrow instead. The Red Lion does a fair Sunday roast for a fiver.’
As her sobs quietened and she nestled comfortably against Nick’s shoulder, Stella began to realise that perhaps it hadn’t been such a waste after all.