Blackmail

“You in?” Asked Paula and I was on the spot. I can normally worm my way out of most things with my super sharp brain, but this?

“You’re not getting it now, are you?” I asked. I needed time to think.

“Soon,” she said ominously.

“Okay,” I said folding my bottom lip into a point and thinking hard. I didn’t mean, ‘okay I’m in’. I meant, ‘okay, it’s good I have time to think’.

Paula was talking about buying a ticket for the Jersey Hospice Lottery. We don’t have the National Lottery over here and instead every year the Hospice – which I think is a hospital for horses – run a lottery. The good thing is the first prize is one million pounds. Not too shabby. The bad thing is the tickets are one hundred pounds each. But the good thing is there’s a limited number of tickets. But they’re one hundred pounds each, that’s bad. It’s a bit fucking stupid really as you’d need to have won the thing to buy a ticket and because of the huge investment required syndicates form to buy a ticket. Work syndicates. One had formed at work like a moss mask on the face of a corpse buried in a damp meadow. Enrique was in, Marcel was in and Paula was in. Paula asked if I wanted in. I said… I’ve done that.

Clearly I didn’t want in. In an ideal scenario nobody I knew would have a chance of winning it and then I wouldn’t have to worry about trying to win it, you know, to be better than them. I didn’t want to give Paula £25 and I didn’t much want to give the Hospice £25. So I thought about what would happen if I wasn’t in. It only took a second, in fact I didn’t even need to think about it. They’d win it for sure. It was obvious. If I wasn’t in then they’d win. Each of them would win £333,333 and I’d be the World’s biggest dickhead and there’d be articles about me in the media

However if I did give them £25 then obviously we wouldn’t win and I’d be £25 out of pocket. I should just give them the £25 because that’s literally what I would be doing, I’d be giving Paula and Enrique and Marcel £25 because we wouldn’t win. There isn’t another option. Or is there? There must be, I assured myself.

Enrique came out of his office. He looked smug, like he was going to win £333,333 and I wasn’t. The arsehole. He was eating coleslaw and pitta bread. He was using the pitta for a scoop, leaning forward slightly.

“Okay?” I asked. He nodded. He couldn’t talk as he had a mouth full of coleslaw. Then he turned and went back into his office, still leaning forward slightly. He banged the door open with his shoulder. My head hurt. £25 is quite a lot of money to just give away. It wouldn’t break the bank but I really didn’t want to do it. I cursed the idiots at work for making my life so very complicated. Why couldn’t nothing ever happen? Why must people do things? What the hell would Enrique do with that kind of money? Or Paula? Fucking hell. I could talk them out of buying a ticket? Would that work? That could work and we’d maintain the status quo. It was worth a shot.

“Paula,” I said walking towards Paula. I hadn’t prepared what I was going to say but I felt confident it would come to me on the hoof.

“Are you in?” She asked.

“You know…” I began.

“Decide now, right now,” she said. She didn’t look interested and that was the unsettling part.

“Don’t be an idiot,” I told her. “I just…”

“That’s it, you’re not in.” She blew a bubble. This one didn’t pop, it deflated. I watched it.

“What?” I said, snapping out of it. Ooh, this wasn’t right at all. “Don’t be a cunt,” I said. I didn’t mean to say that. I was a caged tiger. “You stupid cunt,” I added making things worse. Paula was looking at me. It didn’t seem like I’d outwitted her, quite to opposite in fact. “I…”

“Too late,” she said “We didn’t want you in it anyway.”

“I wasn’t fucking going to be in it anyway, fuckface,” I kind of lied, it had still all been up in the air.

“Cool,” said Paula.

“I know it is,” I told her and then I headed back to the counter wearing a pained expression but keeping my ears relaxed so she couldn’t tell. What the fuck was happening to me? I should have just stolen £25 from the till there and then and given it to her but pride and a lack of takings stopped me, and so I did the next best thing. I pretended not to care.

I looked up at Paula. She saw me and that made me feel bad and I dropped my eyes and shook my head. Ten minutes later Paula went past me. She was singing,”we’re in the money!” And clicking her fingers. I didn’t look up. I was doing a sudoku but I could picture her face. It was disgusting. I coloured in some sudoku squares. When Paula went past again singing the same song with Enrique in tow I closed my eyes tight. Enrique didn’t know the words. He joined in only on the ‘money’ bit.

“Yeah alright,” I said, standing straight when Marcel joined the conga line. He didn’t know any of the words and was just going. ‘rah rah rah.’ They didn’t stop though, they just danced past me and down the drinks aisle. Took them about one minute and twenty seconds per lap. When Paula eventually appeared by the magazines I smiled to show I was actually a good guy. It was fun, what they were doing, nothing more. We were all having a big load of fun.

“Okay,” I faux sighed, “I’m in.” But Paula didn’t respond. “I’m in!” I shouted, trying to smile.

“Too late!” Shouted Paula. The other two nodded and smiled but I think, I hope, they were just caught up in the moment and weren’t smiling at my expense. I smiled too. “You stupid fucking cunt!” I shouted then turned to make sure no customers had come in and heard me. None had and when I looked back they were out of sight once more. “Stupid fucking cunt,” I said to myself. The dance broke up somewhere towards the back of the shop amid gales of laughter. Marcel went past first. He gave me a thumbs up. Then Enrique appeared mopping his forehead with a hanky.

“I like dat!” He said nodding his head violently. I nodded. “What chu spend chor half on when we win?” He asked.

“I don’t even… want… to,” I replied and left it hanging. Enrique dried his face thoroughly, still beaming.

When he realised I wasn’t adding to that he turned to Paula and said,”chu get me if you do dat again!” He then looked appreciatively at his hanky and returned to his office.

Before closing time Paula approached me. “Only joking, are you in?” She asked. She seemed genuine.

“Oh that was a great joke,” I told her but I was very relieved indeed. I wasn’t going to show it but I was very happy. I went for my wallet.

“It was a good joke, you were nearly crying,” she said with bright eyes burning like fire. I kept calm, couldn’t blow this again.

“Fuck off, was I,” I said. Did that make sense? Just.

“It’s okay,” she said. “You in, yeah?”

“I suppose,” I told her.

“Suppose?”

“Yeah, I’m in,” I said.

“You don’t soun-“

“Stick it up your fat arse you fucking…” Luckily for Paula the word I was searching for hasn’t even been invented yet. It was a bad one though. Probably would’ve taken her head off. Paula walked away laughing.

At about 2am I phoned Paula and negotiated a deal in which I also pay her share of the ticket and then I finally slept.

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