I remember Tullene asking me to be her plus one at her work’s Christmas function.

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You probably all know Tullene by now. And for those of you who are unfortunate enough to… whoops slip of the keyboard. I meant, of those of you who are FORTUNATE enough to, I’m sure you’ll be questioning why I said yes. Drama follows that girl and I.

My initial question was “Why can’t you take your boyfriend?” To which she replied, “I can’t take my boyfriend because he got into a fight last year and now he’s barred.”

My gut instinct should have been to decline the invitation. I hesitated suddenly and was about to make my excuses when Tullene pulled out her trump card.

“There’s a very handsome gay man that’s just started working with me.”

My ears pricked up. Oh, who am I to turn down an invitation to a social gathering? It is Christmas after all. And I may also find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Before I could mutter the words, Christmas work do, I found myself sat at a very posh table at a hotel in Heathrow. I’d dug out my best all-in-one grey suit, and as I had, some moths flew towards me. I hadn’t had any cause to wear it in recent years. I’m at an age now where everyone in my social circle has got married. Except for me, that is. I’m still the token single friend.

But before anyone breaks out the violins, let’s get back to the work do. Tullene had slyly juggled with the place settings and I had conveniently ended up sitting next to the new gay boy colleague she had previously mentioned.

I was about to abuse Tullene by bellowing Cilla Black across the table at her but my eyes came out on storks as Dave, that’s his name, approached the table and came to take his place next to me. HANDSOME was an understatement. I had to pick up the swan-shaped napkin from the table to dab up my dribble from my watering mouth.

We got on famously. We laughed, we joked and we innuendoed our way through the three-course meal. I could see Tullene’s eyes light up as she oozed with pride that her Cilla Black attempts were appearing to be successful.

As the coffee was being poured, he stood up and asked if I’d like to dance. Oh, it was so romantic. And so old fashioned. I loved it. I stood up quicker than a bolt of lightening.

He took my hand and led me to the dancefloor. It was like a scene out of a cheesy 80’s soap. And for those who know me best, will know that that is right up my street.

All my friends tell me I was born in the wrong decade. I love anything 80’s, or 90’s come to that. My DVD collection consists of nostalgic soaps and drama series. Prisoner: Cell Block H, Take the High Road, Dynasty, Howard’s Way. The list goes on.

Anyway, enough of the nostalgic digression. Back to the dancefloor.

As Dave lifted me up into the air, Dirty Dancing style, I felt a flutter. Well, he didn’t actually lift me up into the air. I just made that bit up. I thought it made it sound more romantic. And to be honest, I don’t think anyone could actually lift me up. I’ve come to adore Savvy B and cake too much.

But as he span me around, he leant over and whispered into my ear.

“Would you like to come for a glass of wine up in my room?”

Now, you know me, I’m not normally so easy when I’ve just met a guy but who was I to turn down a handsome man? And after all, it is Christmas. I thought it could be my present to myself.

I surveyed the room, looking for Tullene but she was nowhere to be seen. Dave grabbed my hand and led the way.

As I was being led to my Christmas present, I saw a group of Tullene’s colleagues in the corner. And suddenly my ears pricked up.

“POOFS!” I heard one of them shout. My nostrils flared and I felt steam coming from my ears.

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“Ignore them!” Dave pleaded as he tried to drag me on. But I simply couldn’t ignore it. Not blatant homophobia. I’m not really a fighter and I normally avoid confrontation like the plague, but that comment had really got my goat up.

I managed to escape Dave’s hand and I marched up to the perpetrator of the comment. Looking him straight in the eye, I wracked my brains for a suitable, intellectual comeback.

“And you’re a cunt!” Well, it was the best I could muster. Straight, direct and to the point.

He looked shocked as I took Dave’s hand and we continued on our journey to Dave’s room. Maybe he didn’t expect this POOF to respond.  I inhaled a deep breath and pushed my chest out. I felt liberated.

As we made our way to the lifts, I heard a man’s voice shout “OI!” I quickly span around in my shiny loafers. It was the homophobe.

“What did you call me?” he barked in my face. He was clearly deaf as well as a C U Next Tuesday. So I repeated my offensive comeback just to ensure there was no misunderstanding as to what I’d said.

And next, Well, I don’t know what came over me but I could smell danger. I feared he was about to punch me so I decided I should be the one to make the first move. Before you could say, Merry Christmas, I seemed to have my hand gripped around his throat and I pushed him up against the wall.

“MARK!” I heard Tullene’s voice come out of nowhere. “What the hell are you doing?” Now, for those who know Tullene, know that she has a very bad, violent temper. Especially when she sees her friends in danger. I knew I had to rile her up quickly as I feared I needed her help. I may have had my hand around his throat but I didn’t actually know what my next move was going to be. I’d never punched anyone in my whole life.

“He called me a poof!” I screamed. I saw the top of Tullene’s head pop open with steam. And I saw Tullene’s eyes change to angry Tullene.

“WHAT?” She bellowed. I felt the man’s Adam apple as he gulped.

He tried to deny it but Tullene was having none of it. She lifted her up her crutch. No, I’m not talking about her lady garden. An actual crutch. Now, for anyone wondering where this random crutch appeared from, let me tell you.

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Tullene has a weak ankle. Along with various other ailments and conditions which I won’t bore you with. She bores us enough with them! But anyway, she broke her ankle at my 30th birthday party. And that’s a story for another time!

She picked up her crutch and whacked the man behind his legs. He fell out of my grip and dropped to the floor, legs akimbo.

“That’s for being a cunt! And homophobic!” She screamed and dragged me into the lift out of harm’s way. In all the commotion, I hadn’t noticed Dave had gone missing. Maybe he was scared of my sudden fight club impression. So I never made it up to Dave’s hotel room. But at least I stood up to a homophobe!

I also hasten to add, Tullene now needs to find someone else to take to next year’s Christmas do.

About the author: Mark Woollard

Mark David Woollard graduated from Brunel University, West London in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing and Journalism. Since then, he has written for many publications as a freelance writer. He has been ‘The Undateable Gay’ for The Gay UK magazine since 2015 where he documents his unsuccessful dating life. He wrote an opinion column for the national Student Times, discussing LGBT issues.

He also writes educational pieces for ‘Massage World’ magazine, giving advice to Reflexologists about treating certain ailments. He authored a novella in 2013 entitled ‘The Fun and Frolics of FIFI a L’Orange’, the crazy adventures of a drag queen.

And is currently working on a series of LGBT books for children and a collection of flash fiction.

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