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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2199628
The story of a lady with an unfortunate name.
Word Count: 1,342

By Any Other Name

Rubella did not blame fate or bad luck for her unfortunate name. That her parents had decided to call her Rubella was clearly down to their ignorance and inability to find a definition in the Dictionary. The fact that their surname was Spotts was just adding insult to injury.

Throughout her school years, Rubella tried to keep her name hidden by insisting that her name was Ruby. This may have been a mistake since, whenever her real name was revealed, the surprise to her classmates only intensified the mockery and joking that resulted.

It was only to be expected, therefore, that Rubella had her name changed by Deed Poll as soon as she left her parents’ home. She became Ruby Sparkes, a name that had rather more attractive connotations. To ensure a complete break with her past, Ruby moved from her home town where she was too well known and found herself an apartment and a job in the city.

Being in a rundown area, the apartment was small and a bit dilapidated but she cleaned, repaired and decorated to the extent of her limited means. In time it became home and she looked forward to its welcoming embrace after a long day of stressful work. As promotion led to greater income, Ruby was able to buy herself a car and the occasional night out. She made many friends and her life became a busy round of high-powered work in an architect’s office and evenings of dining and dancing in the trendy places of the city centre.

A day came when Ruby was introduced to a new client at work. He was classically handsome, tall and broad-shouldered, slim-hipped, dark-haired with just a hint of grey appearing at the temples, deep, brown eyes and a smile that could enchant a Siren. His name was Hugh Stoneman and he seemed to be as smitten as Ruby was with him for, at the end of their meeting, he invited her to dinner that evening.

Ruby, who was already aware of the problems inherent in her marrying a man with the surname Stoneman, cast all her doubts to the wind and accepted.

That is how Ruby found herself desperate to get back to her apartment through the rush hour. It was particularly bad that evening and the delays were gnawing at Ruby’s patience until she began muttering to herself.

“Come on, you idiots, get moving. You’ll make me late for my date. I have so much to do when I get home and then I have to drive through this again.”

The traffic ignored her and slowed to a stop. As Ruby halted the car a few inches away from the car in front, her mobile phone began to ring. She grabbed her handbag and reached inside to retrieve the phone. For the seventh time that week, she cursed aloud her choice of the most irritating ringtone of them all and swore to change it as soon as she got a moment.

When she found the phone and checked the caller ID, she saw immediately it was an unknown number. She rejected the call and threw the phone on to the passenger seat. Looking up, she saw that the car ahead had moved on and a gap had opened before her. She quickly eased the car into Drive but it was too late. A black Range Rover slid into the space before her car turned a wheel.

“Bastard!” she spat. “That’s my space.”

The phone started to ring. Ruby shouted her anger at the world in general and reached across to the mobile. It was the unknown number. She rejected the call and sat up quickly in case the traffic had moved again.

It had not. Instead, a man was holding up a hand-written sign in the rear window of the Range Rover ahead. Answer the phone, it read.

Once more, the phone rang, leaving Ruby very little time to think. It was obvious that the only way she would find out what was going on was to answer it. She hit the green phone symbol.

“What?” she said.

A man’s voice replied. “Ms. Rubella Spotts?”

Ruby froze. It had been years since she had heard that name but it still had the power to reduce her to a frightened little girl. She had to answer.

“Yes. What do you want?” Ruby’s voice was no more than a whisper.

“It’s Hugh Stoneman here. We met today in your office and you agreed to have dinner with me.”

Ruby looked up from her phone. The man in the car ahead had taken the sign down and was waving at her. It was Stoneman, just as the voice on the phone had claimed.

Ruby waved back and spoke into the phone.

“How did you know my name? I mean, my old name.”

The Range Rover moved on a few yards and Ruby realised that Stoneman must have a driver. She eased her car forward into the space. Stoneman was speaking into his phone now and the lips synchronised perfectly with the words she heard on her mobile. She relaxed at this proof that her caller was her date and not some madman intent on luring her to a terrible fate.

Stoneman was explaining. “When I met you this afternoon, I realised that we already knew each other. It was a few years ago now but you’ve hardly changed at all since school days. I’m not surprised that you didn’t know me, however. My appearance has undergone a bit of a transformation since then.”

Ruby studied the face looking earnestly back at her. No, she still could not match him with any face from her memory.

“What was your name?” she asked.

“Same as it is now,” replied Stoneman. “But you wouldn’t remember that. In school I was always known by a nickname.”

“Which was?”

“Oh hell,” came his response, “I was hoping that I could tell you this over dinner. But I’ve started now so I suppose I must finish.”

He paused, then blurted out, “Everyone knew me as Huge the Blubberman.”

Ruby’s eyes widened in surprise. “But, but, you couldn’t be Huge. He was just…”

“Enormous and obese.” Stoneman completed the sentence for her.

Ruby lowered her eyes in shame. “Well, yes,” she admitted.

“It’s okay,” he said. “Accepting it is partly how I became who I am now. When I left school, I realised that it was up to me to become the person I wanted to be. No one else was going to do it for me. I searched for a diet that worked and eventually came up with something that was really effective. I even started to sell it and that is how I made my first million. And, of course, it’s how I came to look like the Hugh Stoneman of today.”

Memories had been flooding back to Ruby as he spoke. “D’you know,” she said, “I always felt sorry for you, the way they teased and called you names. I wish now that I’d been kinder to you myself. But I was too wrapped up in my own concerns, I guess.”

He smiled at her, sending shooting stars loose through her body. “Now we have the chance to get to know each other properly,” he said. “Follow me and I’ll get my driver to find a quicker way to your place. Then you can get changed and the driver will take us both to the restaurant.”

A frisson of doubt returned to trouble Ruby. “How do you know where I live?”

“Same as the way I found out your phone number. I gave your boss a ring and he told me.”

Ruby sighed and relaxed into following the Range Rover. The traffic began to thin very quickly after that and they were soon outside her apartment block. Ruby emerged from her car into yet another brand new life. As she inserted her key into the front door, she whispered the words, “Mrs. Ruby Stoneman.”

Yes, she thought. That will do very nicely.

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