The metal panel clattered off the wall of the silent office. Mark clambered inelegantly out of the air conditioning duct and onto the top of the photocopier then lost his footing and landed in a heap on the floor, like a puppet whose strings had been cut. He disentangled his gangly arms and legs and stood up to his full 6′ 4″ height, brushing bits of fluff from his black polo neck jumper and trousers. He had planned to wear a balaclava but at the last minute had decided that it was unnecessary and a bit of a cliché. Unable to stop himself, he looked around to see who had witnessed his clumsy entrance then remembered that it was 3am and he was completely alone.
Despite this he tiptoed in a pantomime fashion across the carpet until he realised how ridiculous he must look. He reached his destination and glanced around at the gonks with nylon hair in a variety of fluorescent colours and pink hearts decorating the desk. He paused briefly to muster his courage then hesitantly lowered himself into the chair, as you would with a too hot bath, a flush rising from his neck to his forehead as he did so. He took a moment to start breathing again then fired up the computer. He couldn’t help but notice that a photo of a pretty blonde holding a chihuahua puppy in a pastel-pink heart-shaped frame took pride of place next to the monitor.
The computer had completed its start-up process and the login page was displayed. He typed “Samantha Ward” into the user name line, pressed return and then watched as the cursor blinked patiently at him from the password line. He looked around the desk for inspiration: gonk was too short and chihuahua too difficult to spell first thing in the morning. He had an idea and typed “pinkheart” into the space. Invalid password. Blast, only two more attempts. He thought harder and tried “purplegonk”. Invalid password. Last chance. Mark had a lightbulb moment and typed in “SugaPuff”, taking care with the spelling and capitalisation. Bingo! Of course, Samantha had used the name of her new puppy.
Once Mark had gained access into the computer, he waited a moment for the home page to load and was delighted to see a photo of the pretty girl hugging her puppy as the background picture. Samantha’s blonde hair shone in the sun and her sapphire blue eyes were hidden by Jackie O sunglasses. He felt a twinge of jealousy when he realised SugaPuff was licking his owner’s face and she was squealing in delight. “Oh, if only that was me,” Mark sighed out loud and made himself jump in the silence. Mark checked his watch. 3.12am. He clicked on the email icon and opened the last message, sent by him at 10.27pm.
Mark cringed as he read the contents of the email:
My Darling Samantha,
The sun is dimmed by your loveliness and the moon weeps stars at your beauty. Flowers bloom in your footsteps and birds sing joyfully as you pass by. Your skin is as soft and unblemished as a peach, your hair shimmers like ripe barley in the sun and your eyes reflect a perfect blue sky on a summer’s day. Every man is undone by you, especially me, who worships you as Aphrodite, the goddess of love. No woman is more perfect, more beautiful or more loveable than you as you are the epitome of womankind. I am not worthy of you but know that I would do anything for you and the power of love will sustain me for an eternity.
I will always love you,
He had drunk a bottle of red wine then thought it an excellent idea to declare his undying love to Samantha. He had composed the email, then fallen asleep at his computer and woken in a cold sweat, and with an imprint of the keyboard on his face, when he realised he’d actually pressed the send button. Mark had panicked, then forced himself to calm down and hatched the plan to break into his office and destroy the evidence.
Mark pressed delete and breathed a sigh of relief. Samantha would never know about his passion for her as he would prefer his love to remain hidden rather than having to suffer the embarrassment of rejection. Anyway, he was used to his love being unrequited as he had never been able to tell a woman how he felt, not after Marie Newman had broken his heart when he was fourteen. She had agreed to go on a date with him to the cinema to see Beaches (her choice, not his) and had stood him up. He had waited over two hours, the reasons for her non-appearance becoming more fanciful in his mind the later it became. He didn’t realise it had been a cruel joke until he went to school the following day and everyone sang “The Wind Beneath Your Wings” at him and he’d ended up taking refuge underneath the stage in the main hall. Mark logged out and switched off the computer, checked that everything was in place on Samantha’s desk and then climbed on top of the photocopier and retraced his route out of the building.
Mark felt dreadful but managed to drag himself into work the following day. By the time he had returned home, he had only managed three hours sleep and had woken with a monumental hangover. His only consolation was that Samantha would never read his email and he would avoid the embarrassment of everyone in the office finding out.
Mark was inputting that month’s sale figures into a spreadsheet when he smelled perfume, Samantha’s perfume, and whirled round in his chair. There she was, closer than she had ever been before, so that he was able to admire her flawless skin and bask in her unparalleled beauty.
“Hi Mark. Wow, you look really hungover! Heavy night on the tiles, I bet!”
Mark smiled ruefully but didn’t say anything.
“Hey, I just found an email which I think is from you.”
Mark froze with fear. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t checked Samantha’s recycle bin and just assumed that her emails were deleted every time she logged out. He could feel adrenaline pumping round his body, preparing him to run fast, anywhere but here.
“Email?” Mark finally managed with his Sahara-dry mouth. “I don’t remember sending you an email,” he said as nonchalantly as possible.
Samantha looked at him in puzzlement, “But you’re Mark Telford, aren’t you?”
Mark couldn’t speak so just nodded.
“I was really surprised when I read it but it was so sweet of you. You know I’ve just split up with my boyfriend and been feeling a bit low, so that was very kind of you to try and cheer me up.” Samantha leant over, gave him hug and whispered in his ear, “Don’t worry, I won’t say a word.” Samantha rubbed his back briefly before releasing him then gave him a brilliant smile showing off her gleaming white teeth before turning away and walking back to her desk.
Mark stared after her in amazement. She was perfect, absolutely perfect, and his love for her fizzed and bubbled like champagne. He would dream about that hug forever and would tend the eternal flame of his love for her while being so very privileged to worship her from afar.