"Oooh, Fernando. What I wouldn't give ... oooh." Sheree stared at the tv screen and hugged herself.
"You're daft, you are. Like he'd even look twice at you. He's dating that model, what's her name, her with the legs."
Sheree threw a cushion at Sue. "Spoilsport!" She reached over and grabbed the box of chocolates. Ripping off the cellophane, she lifted the lid. Looking forward to a coffee creme, she almost cast aside the paper insert. Almost. There, staring from the box, was her beloved Fernando. She reached for her specs. "Win a date with Fernando," she read. "What have I got to do? Ring a number, answer a question, okay, I can do that."
Sheree dialled the premium number. Engaged. Dial again. Engaged. Dial again ... Thirty minutes later she got a ring tone. "You are through to the Galaxy Promotions Contest line; you are thirty-seventh in the queue." Classical music seemed inappropriate but better than silence. Another hour and a half waiting on the line.
"You're wasting your time, Sher."
"You have twenty seconds to answer this question." The voice was mechanical. "What is the title of the third track on Fernando's first album?"
"Running On, it's Running On." A fanfare sounded. "YES!"
"You are the winner of the Fernando Contest. Please give your name and contact number after the beep."
"I've won. I'm going on a date with Fernando." Sheree bounced up and down on the sofa, which creaked in response. "What am I going to wear? Oooh, shopping trip."
The boutique was an exclusive affair requiring an appointment to enter. It was in a back street off of the main shopping area.
"Isn't this a bit ..." Sue was not impressed with the sparse racks of somewhat outlandish designs. The glass of champagne said it all.
"What do you reckon?" Sheree held up a slinky, blue and silver number, with a slit up the side.
"How much?" Sue was concerned for her friend.
"Oh, come on, Sher, you can't afford that."
"I'll put it on my credit card. Don't worry about it. How often do you get a date with someone special?" She turned to the sales assistant. "Have you got this in a size fourteen?" The woman gave her a look, then walked off giggling.
Sheree jiggled, Sue pushed and squeezed. The assistant harrumphed. "Okay, size sixteen please." The assistant brought a sixteen, and an eighteen and a twenty.
"Hey, there's a big limo pulling up."
"It's him ... oooh. Zip me up?" Sue managed to do up the size eighteen dress with a bit of effort.
When the door knock came, Sheree couldn't get there quick enough.
"Your limousine Miss." She was disappointed to see a driver at the door and not Fernando. Maybe he was waiting in the car. She staggered out the door on heels that were far too high. As the limo door was held open, she was disappointed to find the vehicle was empty.
As they pulled up at the restaurant, Fernando was already there, posing for the paparazzi. Cameras flashed as she left the car, exposing rather more thigh than she had intended. It was a young woman in a business suit that came to greet her. "Let me introduce Fernando." He barely turned to acknowledge her presence.
The restaurant was empty of patrons. A table in the centre of the room was set up for a dinner for two. It was surrounded by arc lights and cameras. A waiter held out a chair for her. She sat and waited for Fernando to join her, but he was still busy with the press. "Wine, Madam?" The waiter proffered a bottle wrapped in a white napkin. She nodded, but her attention was still on her so called date.
When he finally came in, he spent some time talking to the woman in the suit. Sheree couldn't hear their whispered conversation but she did hear the woman giggle in response to some comment. "Shirley, isn't it ..." He speaks.
"Congratulations on winning the contest." The cameras rolled and he went into a lengthy speech about sponsorship and then his own career. He moved to her side so the publicity photos could be taken, then he finally sat down opposite her.
The first course appeared. "Your amuse bouche, Madam." It was a single cracker with something slathered on it. One crunch and it was gone. Fernando nibbled a corner and then his attention was taken by a persistent photographer.
"Your starter, Madam." Two grapes and a tiny wedge of brie. Gone and soon forgotten. She gulped down her wine as she watched Fernando whisper to the woman in the suit. When was he going to talk to her?
"Your main course, Madame." A tiny little bird with a sprig of thyme poking out of its bum, one carrot, and about six peas. Sheree's tummy was grumbling from hunger.
"Okay?" Fernando was actually speaking to her and all she could do was nod. The waiter refilled her glass and she drank it straight down. "Slow down there." God, he thinks I'm an alcy. When the waiter tried to put more wine in her glass, she covered it.
"Your dessert, Madam." Ah, this was more like it - chocolate mousse with a swirl of whipped cream. Sheree tucked in. Fernando pushed his away, and once again had a whispered conversation with the woman in the suit. She came back with a large brown envelope.
"An autographed photo for you." He passed it to her, then he got up and headed out of a back door. Sheree just sat there. Some date.
The driver appeared through the back door a few minutes later. "Your car, Miss. I took the liberty of not coming to the front door."
"Thanks for that. Yes, home ... no, the nearest chippy; I'm starving."
"Don't look." Sue tried to hide the social media photos. Sheree snatched the phone and looked at the photo of her getting out of the car, flashing her big knickers. The comments were worse. 'Fatty', 'Minger', 'Desperate'.
"Oh, that's nothing. I've just had my phone bill. It cost me a hundred and thirty-five quid to enter that contest."