My new boss is about six foot two, steel grey of hair, as finickity as a Dickensian clerk but in fact American and called Cortez Baignton. Isn’t that great? Cortez!
This morning he said to me:
“You in brown again? Didn’t anyone tell you the seventies are so OV-ER?”
“I like brown actually,” I told him (we get on ever so well). “It’s very forgiving with my skin tone.”
“Not on any chart I’m looking at, sister.”
He handles the tax affairs of immensely wealthy clients. I wonder if he comments on their colour choices, too. I wonder a lot about him during the day. He’s one of those people that gets on with absolutely everybody (the polar opposite of me, in other words). I think he may bat for both sides, what’s more.
I’m also beginning to think that he and one of the other partners in the department, a Kate Knorr-Windlass, are a little sweet on each other. She’s the only other solicitor in the whole place with whom he’s tongue-tied and awkward. (There’s a partner in property called Carmen Boynton who would be a much better match in name terms but love doesn’t work like that, does it.)
Both are married or at least in relationships their partners must assume are safely permanent. When they are in the same room, Cortez is very gallant and old-fashioned and asks her if she wants to sit down or bids me fetch coffee for her whether she wants it or not. Her eyes glow in his presence and she grins a lot at anyone who’ll receive it.
“It’s a sordid little office romance,” my colleague Amanda told me this lunchtime.
“Oh no!” I protested. “I’m sure that nothing has happened between them. It’s probably all so chaste. Why should that be sordid?”
“Office romances always are,” she huffed.
“Maybe no one will get hurt,” I tried. You see I’m very fond of Cortez already. He’s the only reason I’m sticking to this awful bloody job. He can do no wrong.
But all the way home I couldn’t get him and Kate Knorr-Windlass out of my mind, the innocence of all that shyness, the fun of it, the wonderful risk of utter disaster. That’s a spectator sport if ever there was one and it’s free! But also I thought: what if an office fling was presented as a huge romance? What if it was soaring rather than sordid?
Wouldn’t that be funny.
I sat down after dinner in the new-found silence of my home and clicked on to a site called Chapter by Chapter. I’ve never written like this before – for an immediate audience. It’s just not me. But then I wasn’t going to be me. I was going to be Danby Houghton (Male? Female? Who knows?) and I was going to set out the opening chapter of A Sordid Little Office Romance.