Мария Равданис

img_0693Мария Равданис

Я с детства любила рассказывать истории друзьям и членам семьи. Я сочиняла их на уроках в школе и на парах в институте, а потом бывало – это строго между нами – что и на работе. Я также люблю писать сценарии к фильмам и юмористические стишки, но пока ничего не опубликовала – только в интернете. В настоящий момент я работаю копирайтером и переводчиком. Я обожаю смотреть кино и сериалы, читать книги в оригинале, изучить иностранные языки и путешествовать. Мне удалось побывать во многих странах, и я почти полжизни провела за границей. Также, я люблю учиться и посвятила этому много времени. Говорят, что надо писать о том, что знаешь, поэтому я стараюсь узнать о нашем мире как можно больше, чтобы из меня вышла хорошая писательница.

I've always loved telling stories, imposing them on friends and family, scribbling them in my school notebooks, storing them on my computer. I like writing movie scripts and funny poems, but I haven't yet published anything.  My current job has to do with copywriting and translation. I enjoy books, movies, languages and travel. I have visited many countries and spent almost half of my life abroad. I also like studying and have done quite a bit of it. They say, one should write about what she knows, so I'm trying to accumulate as much knowledge about our world as I can to be a better writer.


Short story "Secret Santa"

It could be lovely Emma. Golden-haired, smiley and sweet natured. She had only joined the office a month ago, but already charmed everyone. She always looked impeccable and performed her diverse administrative duties with admirable elegant ease.

Now, standing in a circle together with other employees of Lloyd&Fisher Insurance Limited, she was chatting with Maud, their accountant. Stewart, who was a rather average-looking bloke by his own evaluation, was dreamily watching her from across the room, when a colleague handed him a Santa hat full of paper pieces.

Of course, his chances of drawing Emma’s name out of it were miniscule, but one could dream. From her first day at work, he’d been trying to get her attention. When she was looking for a mug, he offered his, with “Stew” written on it in black permanent marker. Occasionally he’d help her replace a water dispenser bottle or open a jar of some sauce that was impossible to get off his tie afterwards. Still, on none of those occasions could he bring himself to strike a proper conversation.

If he were to draw Emma’ name, he’d ignore the 5-pound rule and buy her something really nice. Silver earrings, perhaps? Other women would be envious, of course. “They’re never a fiver”, - Maud would say.

Stewart unfolded the paper and couldn’t believe his bad luck: not only he wasn’t getting a lovely present for lovely Emma, but he was expected to spend his hard-earned dosh on the man who deserved a piece of coal at best. His boss, Frank Fisher.

Mr. Fisher was unanimously disliked by his employees. It was hard to find a person in that room whom he hadn’t wronged. From delaying salaries, to forcing people to overwork and introducing a system of fines for the most insignificant mistakes, - Frank Fisher did everything to earn the title of the worst boss.

Never mind, - Stewart told himself, - If he were to get Emma a present, she wouldn’t know it was from him anyway. It was Secret Santa after all. Suddenly, Stewart had a eureka moment. Of course! That was his chance of getting back at his boss without being busted. Stewart would get him the worst present he could find, and no one would ever suspect him, since literally anyone there could – and probably did - hold a grudge against their boss.

Except for Emma, of course – she was way too lovely for it. Besides, she hadn’t worked there long enough.

***

It was neither explosive, nor poisonous. Alas, Stewart only had a couple of days to get his boss a vindictive Secret Santa gift, so a mug with an insult on it would have to do. In his usual manner of doing things last minute, Stewart had to wrap the gift in the underground parking lot of the office. Suddenly, Emma’s face appeared right outside his window. Stewart jumped in his seat and, quickly hiding the gift, let the glass down.

Hi, Stew, - she said in her soft, melodic voice – sorry to bother, but may I borrow some of that wrapping paper of yours? I completely forgot to buy any.

Sure, - Stewart passed her the green roll with happy elves on it.

Oh, you’re a life saver, Stew, - said Emma.

She took it and hurried to the office.

Under the plastic foldable Christmas tree, there was already a pile of presents.   Fighting the urge to whistle, he headed to his desk.

Christmas Eve was a busy day in the office. Of course, Frank Fisher wouldn’t be himself is he allowed his employees to have proper winter holidays: with the exception of December 25, it was business as usual for them. However, most of their clients were expected to be unavailable, so things needed to be dealt with today. Their gift exchange was scheduled for the lunch hour. At 2 pm they poured some champagne into plastic cups and gathered around the tree.

Maud volunteered to distribute gifts. She picked them one by one and read their labels aloud. There were cheers and comments on the usefulness of the items. But Stewart paid no attention to what the rest got. He was waiting for the grand finale. Suddenly, Maud said Stewart’s name. He looked up, ready to receive his gift and felt his heart sink: it was a parcel wrapped in green paper with elves. For a few moments, he was completely bewildered. He wanted to start denying everything. Then, his eyes darted under the tree and the realization came: his gift was wrapped in the same paper as his boss’s. It was from Emma. He looked at her. She was watching him.

Stewart unwrapped his gift and found a silky blue tie inside.

This is never a fiver! – exclaimed Maud.

Emma smiled at Stewart and he felt elated. At this moment, Maud announced a gift for the boss and everyone cheered. Frank Fisher tore into the paper with happy elves on it, opened the box inside and drew out a mug in the shape of an ass. On its front, there was the word “dumbass” written in permanent marker. The room went silent, with everyone looking at one another. Stewart threw a glance at Emma. There was quite a change in her facial expression: now she was staring at him in wrathful disbelief, with her mouth half-open.

Frank Fisher gave his employees a stern look.

Well, who is the smartass here then?! – He asked loudly.

He got no answer.

Alright, - said Frank, - I’ll find out. Now get back to work.

He gave the whole room a menacing stare and retreated to his office. A moment later, Emma’s phone rang and she was summoned there too. Those who hadn’t got their gifts rushed under the tree and picked them up. Everyone went back to their tables.

***

Emma accosted Stewart by the coffee-machine and pushed him into the cleaner’s closet.

Why on earth did you do it?! – She hissed at him.

In the tiny room, they were standing very close to each other, but under the circumstances, it was hardly romantic.

I don’t know, - hesitated Stewart, - It seemed like a fun idea…

He’ll think I did it! – interrupted him Emma.

Why would he think that? – asked Stewart.

Because of the wrapping paper! It’s the same as on your gift. He’ll think I got his as well.

But nobody knows my gift was from you, - objected Stewart.

Maud knows, - said Emma. I traded Secret Santa recipients with her.

Why? – Stewart was confused.

Probably because I was of a better opinion of you than now, - answered Emma.

Thanks for the tie, - mumbled Stewart.

Listen, - said Emma, - you need to fix this.

Can’t we just ask Maud not to tell on you? – suggested Stewart.

She’ll crack under pressure, - Emma said bitterly, - Mr. Fisher has already started interviewing people about the incident. And he wants everyone to write the word “dumbass” on his whiteboard – to compare the handwritings.

It occurred to Stewart that for the first time he was having an actual conversation with Emma. She was right though: this whole thing was getting way out of hand.

I’ll confess, - he said.

Don’t be silly, he’ll fire you, - protested Emma.

I won’t let him fire YOU, - said Stewart determinedly. He opened the door and went straight to his boss.

Wait! – called Emma. But Stewart didn’t turn around.

Mr. Fisher was sitting at his desk, with the mug in front of him and the whiteboard with obscene handwriting samples behind.

Enter, - said Mr. Fisher. Before Stewart could utter a word, he continued: Well, looks like we found whose handwriting it is.

He took another mug, Stewart hadn’t noticed at first, and turned it around. It said “Stew” on it in black permanent marker.

Found on the table of Miss Emma Lloyd. Who would have thought, - said Mr. Fisher.

Wait, Lloyd? - Asked Stewart, - As in “Lloyd&Fisher”?

Yes, genius!

So, you’re not going to fire her? – Asked Stewart.

How can I? She’s my associate’s kid! - Mr. Fisher hit his table with a fist. Now, what did you want?

Stewart shook his head. It’s not important, - he muttered.

Be off with you then, - said Mr. Fisher.

Stewart turned around on his hills and saw angry face of Emma, standing right behind him.

Who told you to come in? – asked the boss.

I am sorry, Mr. Fisher, there was a misunderstanding, - she said. I got presents for both of you, but mixed up the labels. You see, the mug was meant for Stewart here. While the tie was for you, sir. Stewart, will you go get Mr. Fisher’s tie, please?

Stewart took the butt mug and left the room. As he was walking to his table, he was considering a drastic career change.

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