“Wait, when did he ask you this?” Mackie inquired, her North Carolinian accent failing to mask her wry disbelief.
“Just now, in the other office,” I explained.
“But, how… I mean… I wouldn’t have even guessed,” Joe scratched his head in bewilderment.
“Oh I knew,” I declared proudly. “I have an amazing sense for these things. We all do. Am I right, Stefan?”
Stefan looked over to me for the first time since I broke the news; his face was a picture of ignorance. “Well, I guess. I didn’t pick it up, though.”
Seated with his impeccably tall, Dutch posture, Stefan swiveled his chair to face me completely. “Some of us are busy doing our work, Andrew.” His response was drier than my Aunt Colleen’s roast chicken.
“I didn’t realise that listening to BBC One and reading the Stylist was in our job description, Stefan.”
“You bitch!” Stefan shouted in mock outrage, before swivelling back toward his computer screen in a pathetically imagined protest. We all giggled before Joe reset the line of questioning.
“So, how did he know? It was a pretty gutsy move on his part. He must be off his chops!”
“That’s Australian for crazy,” I interpreted for the rest of the room.
“Seriously though. I mean, no disrespect but I don’t think there is anything about you that would automatically make anyone assume, well, you know?”
I ignored Joe’s borderline insulting rhetoric. Joe is a kind-hearted and open-minded soul, who genuinely means for the best by saying things in the worst possible ways. I smiled. “It’s unspoken, Joe. We gave each other the look.”
“The look?” Joe, Mackie and Tonia looked confused.
“It’s like a secret code. It’s hard to explain. It’s nothing that is written down or taught to us. Who even knows how it began or how any of us adopt it. But somehow we all do, and we all understand it.”
“You’re blushing!” Mackie exclaimed.
I was blushing. As I stood before the four pairs of eyes watching my every move, I realised that my hand hadn’t left the door handle since I came into the office. My body was ready for an escape as soon as the conversation go a little too uncomfortable. Why was I expecting it to get uncomfortable? Had I made a mistake relaying this little piece of gossip? Why had I even told them? Did I really need their advice? Or was I just gloating? Most likely, it was a little bit of both.
Tonia cackled at the back of the room. “Soooooooo, what did you say?”
“Yeah, what did you say to him?” the room cried in unison.
“That I’d get back to him.” I replied with uncertainty. I was blushing, again.
Tonia slapped her knee and squawked again. “You did what?”
I looked at my feet and shrugged my shoulders in naked embarrassment. “I said… I’d get back to him.”
“You did not!” Mackie cried. “What did you mean by: you will get back to him? What do you think is going to happen?” Mackie and Tonia could not contain their giggling. Damned Americans have no sense of decorum.
“Shut up!” I protested. “Of course nothing is going to happen. I just freaked out!”
“Sounds like you’re keeping your options open.” Stefan smiled.
“I didn’t know what to say. It was so unexpected. I was embarrassed for him. For me!”
“More like you were flattered.”
A flashed a cheeky smile. “Well, I’m not going to lie…”
Everyone burst into laughter. It was a bizarre situation, after all.
“How did he react?” Joe asked.
“He said that I knew where to find him. Then he scurried out of the room.”
“Jesus! He’s bold!”
“Guys, you can’t tell anyone else.” I pleaded. “Not for my sake, but I don’t want him to be any more embarrassed than he already is.”
“So what are you going to do?” Joe asked.
“What do you mean?”
“You can’t leave it like that!” Mackie exclaimed. “He probably thinks you’re some important guy at the bank.”
“Fuck, you’re right.”
“Well, I guess you kinda already answered. I mean, I think he’ll take that as an answer,” Joe reasoned.
“Yeah, I’m sure it will all just blow over,” I replied, hopefully.
“But he might think his job is on the line,” Tonia opined.
“Oh yeah. We were so caught up in the drama, we never actually considered that he could view this as being quite serious,” Mackie agreed.
“Shit. The poor guy. So, I’m gonna have to do something, aren’t I?”
“Yep,” everyone replied.
“But I don’t wanna!” I whined.
“You have to!” everyone exclaimed.
This is Part One of a three part series.
~ Expatria ~