The first bar kicks in and we begin to sway. Shoulders clonking left to right and back again like a faulty executive toy. But our clumsy movements soon turn to rhythmic swagger. Five torsos loosen, drawing lazy figures of eight in the air. I initiate a matey arm-linking from the centre and – voila! – a miscellany of tipsy co-workers becomes tonight’s hot ticket.
Damien on the very left (he’s a bit Ant, a bit Dec) starts clicking his fingers and Saucy Sue (opposite end) follows suit. The large glass of Chardonnay I glugged before ‘signing up’ – my third of the evening – is beginning to take hold. I smile mischievously at Damien and Ruth The Goth, throw a suggestive wink to Sue and HR Annie.
I’m deep in the zone as the lyrics appear across the karaoke screen.
‘Start spreadin’ the news…’
We come in with gusto, our little town blues melting instantly. I don’t know who’s begun the can-can but I totes approve! There’s some tittering as we synchronise legs, then we’re kicking like circus ponies, our manes shiny and violet under the lights.
‘If I can make it there…’
An audience have gathered by our flimsy plywood stage. My sour-faced manager, Dionne, is nodding meaningfully in my direction, clearly peeved by our display of flamboyance. I elevate my kicks, add a flirty ankle flick. ‘Not dynamic enough for a senior role’, my arse, Dionne! Stick this up your annual appraisal.
‘Top of the list! Queen of the hill!’
The lyric change is spontaneous, unanimous! Bless you, Damien, for truly you are a woman’s man! Snorting in appreciation, I lose my thread and find myself gawping into the crowd.
Hipster Jeff has nudged his way up front. Typically, he’s rejected the dress-code and wears a tee-shirt featuring a crudely rendered felt-tip tie. What a loser! He’s fiddling with his smartphone – quelle surprise. Jeff’s so painfully self-aware, he’s reduced to videoing genuine fun. Apparently he’s a perv too… look at the angle of his phone, for God’s sake.
A thought stirs in a corner of my brain, a dazed bumblebee on the cusp of revival. Is there something wrong with my clothes? The fuzzy memory of feeling a tad devil-may-care when dressing feels unnervingly significant. I glance down at my outfit: elegant Peter Pan top coupled with somewhat-tight-over-the-bum but undeniably stylish drop waist skirt. Good. But bare feet? Ah, yes: pumps kicked off in exuberant illustration of ‘vagabond shoes’. Then, horror as it hits me –
I stop can-canning. With my body wobbling on freeze-frame, I replay in my mind the frantic and fruitless search for no-VPL knickers… inwardly scream at my wildly out-of-character decision to ‘go commando’.
I look at Jeff as the heat creeps into my cheeks. He fires back a nasty wink and waggles his phone at me. Did he get the shot or is he bluffing? Would it count as upskirting? Probably not at that distance…unless he zoomed in… oh, Christ alive. No matter – breeeeeeathe – I’ve got some highly tradable dirt on Jeff. We can do a deal on Monday, after the inevitable ‘private chat’ with Dionne. I think I already know what I’m going to say to her.
‘– brand new start of it!’
Reflexively, my mouth syncs back with the music. The rest of me is cloud-counting from an aeroplane window, an iced rum and coke tilted to my lips. My sister’s start-up’s doing well, turning a decent profit in the Big Apple. I’m all out of excuses not to join her and fulfil our teenage dream – it was always me who was the ambitious one, after all.
‘It’s up to you, – ‘
With the violet dazzle exploding in my eyes, I belt out the final refrain and prepare myself for take off.
Lucy Goldring is based in Bristol and writes short and shorter fiction (along with developing her comedy writing). She has been shortlisted for Flash 500 and for the National Flash Fiction Day micro competition (twice in both cases). Lucy has a story in this year’s National Flash Fiction Day anthology and online publications with Ellipsis Zine, Reflex Fiction, 100 Word Story and the Cabinet of Heed. You can follow her on Twitter @livingallover