This is the first episode of a fiction serial, in 1131 words.
Steve got back before Ellie that evening. He had escaped from work early, claiming to have a dental appointment. But as the weather was so good, he just wanted to get home, get out of his suit, and enjoy a beer in the garden. As he closed the door, he saw a small card on the mat in the hallway. It had delivery details printed on it, but they were the wrong name and address. Steve sighed, knowing how the careless naming of streets in the town often caused such confusion, and now it had happened again.
They lived in Maple Close, but there was also a Maple Drive, and a Maple Avenue. Someone in authority had seriously lacked imagination at one time, there was no doubt about that. The card was from ES Electrical, and had their motto underneath the name. ‘ES, always Extra Special’. It stated that the parcel had been left behind the side gate, ‘as instructed’. It should have gone to Maple Drive of course, right across the other side of town. Steve decided to see what it was, and thought he might just save the hassle, by delivering it himself.
Opening the side gate, he shook his head in disbelief. The huge carton filled the narrow path that led to the back garden, and from the name on the side, was unmistakably a washing machine. No way was that ever going to fit into his tiny car, even if he had been able to handle the weight of it on his own. He went back into the house, and checked the card again. The customer services department was open until six, so he would call them to let them know about the delivery to the wrong address.
Of course, there were lots of options. Press this for that, press that for this. Steve pressed zero, and waited for an answer.
“ES electrical, always extra special. Sophie speaking, how may I help you?” Her voice was rich, and sounded as if she had a throat full of honey. Impossible to guess her age, and suggestive of a vamp from a 1930s film. He had never heard a voice like it.
“Hello, my name is Steven Fuller, and I live at number twelve Maple Close. I have received a delivery today that should have gone to a Mr Ali, at number twelve Maple Drive. It’s a washing machine, and it is behind my side gate. Who leaves a washing machine that costs about five hundred pounds behind a gate? That’s crazy. Can you pick it up and take it to the right address, please?”
She replied without hesitation. “Can I take your customer reference number, sir. Or the order number, one of them should be on the card.” Steve scanned the card, but it only had the name and address, as well as the details about leaving it behind the gate, as instructed. He told her all this, and she asked him to hold. At least there was no annoying music. Her sonorous voice came back on the line. It was immediately reassuring, and so pleasant to hear. “I do apologise, sir. It would appear that our delivery team did indeed take this to the wrong address. I can arrange for it to be picked up tomorrow, between nine and five, if that is suitable”. Steve could have listened to her all day. He would have paid good money to hear her read out the telephone directory.
“Yes, that’s fine. Thank you, Sophie. I will leave the side gate open for them to get it. Thanks very much for your help, you are a pleasure to deal with”. Steve was smiling at the phone. It felt good to have complimented her. He was sure that people mostly shouted and moaned at call centre operators, so it might be nice for her to be appreciated for once. Her voice sounded even more seductive as she replied.
“Why thank you sir, that is so kind of you. Would you be willing to supply an email address for a customer satisfaction survey? It is very short, and won’t take up too much of your valuable time”. How could he refuse that voice? He replied that he would be happy to do the survey, and supplied his main personal email address. She thanked him once again, and he hung up.
Ellie was hot and bothered when she got home. There was no seat on the train, and she had been forced to stand in the packed carriage, surrounded by sweaty commuters. Steve started to tell her about the delivery, but she walked upstairs to get out of her clothes and have a shower, not in the least bit interested. He took off his jacket, grabbed a beer from the fridge, and went to sit in the garden. He thought about the call to the electrical company. Not often you got such satisfaction, in this day and age. That Sophie was worth her weight in gold. He hoped that they appreciated her.
After dinner, Ellie settled down to watch a rom-com on TV, and Steve scanned his emails on the laptop. There were two new ones. The first was the customer satisfaction survey from ES Electrical. He checked a few tick boxes, and got to the free space for comments. Smiling to himself, he began to type.
‘Rarely do you get such good service from a company these days. Your employee Sophie did a great job, and was very efficient and professional. She is undoubtedly an asset to your company, and I sincerely hope that you appreciate her’. He pressed ‘send’, and closed the survey.
The second email was from firstname.lastname@example.org At first, Steve didn’t connect the name. But when he saw the message headline, ‘Thanks for your kind words’ he knew it was from her. He felt stupidly guilty as he opened the message, even glancing across at Ellie, to make sure she was still concentrating on her film.
‘Dear Mr Fuller, I wanted to thank you for your kind words to me today. They meant a great deal, and you sounded so genuine, with such a nice voice too. I have taken the unusual step of contacting you directly to thank you. I hope that causes no offence, but I really wanted you to know how much I valued your thoughtfulness. Sincerely, Sophie. xx’
Steve felt strangely excited. Two kisses at the end, and an obviously thoughtful woman, to thank him personally. He moved the email into his personal items folder, switched off the laptop, and told Ellie he was going to bed. After a quick shower, he slipped under the duvet and stretched out.
But he couldn’t sleep.