‘No. No that simply won’t work,’ she gestured towards a sofa as I stepped into the room.
She indicated the small headset into which she was speaking.
‘No, what the fuck? You know I don’t like that, why - what are you suggesting that for? No, fuck off. That’s not happening. Well ok then, whatever. Love you too. Bye mum,’ she pulled the earpiece out and chucked it onto the desk before standing and greeting me with a beaming smile.
‘Was that really your mum?’ I asked.
I hoped that my face didn’t mirror my feelings. She was a trendy looking girl and I didn’t want to seem uncool.
‘Oh, that? Yeah,’ she replied with a small smile, dimples forming on her cheeks. ‘We’re always like that. She’ll phone back later. She is always on that phone,’ she rolled her eyes dramatically.
‘Right,’ I nodded ‘So, you’re... Fiona’s receptionist?’ I asked looking about the room.
She was the only person there.
‘Oh god, sorry about that, where are my manners?’ she said with a small burst of laughter. ‘I’m Fiona, and you must be Matt’s assistant?’ she smirked before poking her tongue out. ‘I’m just playing.’
She extended her hand to meet mine. Her palm was smooth. She unexpectedly leaned in at this point, and planted a kiss on my cheek. I got a strong waft of her perfume, she smelt like a strawberry field. We both sat down on the sofa and I found myself staring at her. Her dimples were still showing as she looked back at me. This wasn’t what I’d been expecting. I mean, she was obviously the right gender. I just wasn’t expecting her to be, well, anything other than a wispy fifty-year-old moustache-endowed lady, like my agent. I wished I’d gone to more of an effort than just throwing on a jumper and a pair of jeans. But then I ran the risk of looking like a bit of a tit.
I soon realised that the staring hadn’t stopped. She was frowning now, her hands clasped tightly on her lap. I shouldn’t have looked at her lap. She was wearing a black mini-skirt over thick pink tights. I tried focusing on her grey oversized jumper, but that was worse. At that point I decided if I didn’t speak she would dub me a pervert and chuck me out. Without pause to consider them, I blurted out my thoughts.
‘How d’you know Morag? You’re not... well,’ I stammered.
‘We used to work together,’ she tapped her foot; the idea of her being nervous had never crossed my mind.
Morag was a middle-aged divorcee with two passions in life: needlework and crime novels. I would often find myself concentrating on the thick salt and pepper stubble inhabiting her upper lip. After failing to meet my last deadline she had forced me to accept her final offer, a ghost co-writer. The money was long gone, so out of desperation, I had accepted.
‘Sorry, it’s just you’re not. Well, you’re not-’ I fumbled with my words, and Fiona burst into outrageous laughter, stopping me from digging myself into the ground with an inappropriate comment.
‘Sorry,’ she said in between what were definitely becoming giggles.
I started to wonder quite how young she was.
‘I was an intern at her agency. She read some of my work and said if anything came up she’d be in touch. I was surprised she called. I’ve not worked there in a while.’
Maybe she wasn’t that young, it all hung on the duration of this “while”.
‘Right, yeah, sorry. I hadn’t thought of that,’ I clasped my hands together also.
‘I must say, before we start, this isn’t my office,’ she shook her head ever so slightly, her curls bouncing about. ‘My mate works in the building and lets me use empty rooms. She’s a big deal here, so they don’t ask. I was just saying it cos, we might not always be in here. If all goes well,’ she spoke using her hands, as they spread out in wide arches in front of her.
I nodded a nod that I hoped was filled with meaning. She was the perfect fit. Something about her seemed just right. Maybe I was a little influenced by my first impression, but the idea of working in close quarters with Fiona made my skin prickle in anticipation. I rubbed the back of my neck as I thought of something meaningful to say. When I opened my mouth her phone rang. She bounced out of her seat, my eyes following her.
‘Hello?’ she flicked open the phone that had been lying on the desk. ‘Yeah. Not right now, I’m busy,’ her eyebrows joined for another frown and I could now see the small dents the frowning had created. ‘Yeah, I’m doing that now. It’s ok actually,’ she turned to face away from me, so I tried to stop listening. ‘Yeah, nice.’
The problem with not listening, is that it becomes harder to do the harder you try.
‘Quite cute,’ she laughed, was she talking about me? ‘Look I’ll call you later, love you baby Jay.’
I shuffled on the leather sofa, creating a loud squeal. I could smell the beer and curry from the night before working their way through my pores. I stood up and startled her as she turned around. I shoved a hand into my jeans’ pocket and with great difficulty pulled out the small object that had been digging into my leg. The flash drive contained what little writing I had accomplished over the past few months.
'Well ah, this is it then,' I held the object up in front of my face.
She took the proffered flash drive. Pulling my hand back brusquely I tried to look casual. Things worsened as my clammy hand collided with my sticky neck in a battle of sweat. Shit. My eyes looked at the door, I just needed some cold water, and the meeting could still be rescued.
'I'll erm, leave you with that then and just nip to the loo,' smooth, casual, my voice faltered, there was no salvation.
'Sure, down the hall, the door with the picture of a stick man,' she said in the same friendly tone.
'Right,' I nodded. ‘At least we’re not in Scotland, cos then I might think the stick skirt is a kilt,’ I laughed, but instantly regretted the joke, she seemed to just be staring at me.
I backed out of the room.