Velma studied him. “No need to look so uptight, Mr. Gray. I just wanted to let you know that Kiskadee Records was extremely impressed with your ad layout.”
“Oh.” He was very relieved to hear that.
“As I said on Friday, you did an outstanding job which is what I always expect from you.”
“Don’t mention it. I have another project for you. It’s for Penny Worth, the author. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with her work. Her first novel was, Pasteurized Promises. She recently wrote another novel. I think it’s called, Breath Of The Night. I’d like you to create web banner ad for it. The banner must be perfect for any sale, promotion or other web advertising campaign. Don’t worry, you don’t have to work overtime. The deadline is next week Wednesday.”
“I am familiar with her work. I read Spiders Of Stone when I was at King’s . I can still remember the opening line. It said, ‘The silvery web became tangled around his throat‘.”
“I’ve read all of her books. Here’s the creative brief.” She took it up from her desk and held it out.
He went over and took it from her. “I’m looking forward to working on this,” he said.
“Good.” She went over to her desk and sat down, signaling that it was time to get back to work. He excused himself and walked out of the office.
On his way back to his desk, he ran into to Kelly. “So, how was your weekend?” she asked.
“It was great. How was yours?”
“It was fine. So, what did you do for the weekend?”
“I went to dinner with a friend on Saturday and bumped into Ms. Moore. On Sunday I visited a farm.”
Kelly’s eyes widened. “You visited a farm?”
“What was it like?”
“It was nice. It was surrounded by rolling hills. We went horse-riding.”
“My date from Saturday night.”
“So, who is she? And are we ever going to meet her?”
“She’s a beautiful woman and no, you’re not going to meet her.”
“Bummer. Did Velma meet her?”
“My date arrived after Ms. Moore and her date left me in the waiting area.”
“So, Velma had a date. Good for her.”
“Well, she said that he was a friend.”
“You don’t sound like you believe her. Do you think he’s more than a friend?”
“Yes, I do. Anyway, I’ve got a lot of work to do today. Excuse me.”
“A new project?” she asked, looking at the folder in his hand.
“You won’t have to work late again, would you?”
“No. The deadline is in two weeks.” He excused himself again and walked away.
It was noon and most of the staff were out to lunch. Velma left her office to head to the kitchenette to heat her lunch in the microwave. She saw that Tadeas was at his desk. He was doing something with his cell phone. She walked over to him and he glanced up when she stood in front of him.
“What are you doing, Mr. Gray? Taking selfies?”
He flushed and bristled. Was she insinuating that he was conceited? “No. I’m looking at the photos I took of the farm I visited yesterday.”
“You were on a farm?”
“Yes. You seem surprised.”
“You don’t look like the type who would be traipsing about on a farm.”
“I grew up in the countryside.”
“It isn’t the same as growing up on a farm.”
“I wasn’t traipsing about the farm. We went horse-riding and then, after lunch, she gave me a tour of the farm.”
“She? As in your date from Saturday evening?”
“I never thought that you would go for an older woman.”
“What kind of woman did you think I would go for?”
“Someone closer to your age like Kelly or Amanda or anyone of the other twenty-something year old women in the department.”
“I’m not interested in any of them although they’re all very nice. Just because I’m twenty-seven, it doesn’t mean that I’m going to date a twenty-something year old. I’ve always preferred older women.”
“Hmm. And it seems like your date prefers younger men.”
“Did you enjoy dinner with your friend?”
“Yes, I did. And did you enjoy yours?”
“Yes. Have you and–I’ve forgotten his name…” To be honest, he hadn’t forgotten the man’s name but for some reason, he wanted to give that impression.
“Yes. Have you and he been friends for long?” He couldn’t get the image of Akello placing his hand on the small of her back as they left the restaurant out of his head.
“Yes. We’ve known each for about ten years. We met at a mutual friend’s barbecue.”
“He seems like a very nice person.”
“Where is he from?”
“I’ve never been there but I’ve heard that it’s the cleanest town in the country. Maybe one of these days, I’ll visit it.”
“Again, you sound surprised. I guess I’m not the type who would go to Africa but I’ll have you know that I’ve been there several times. I’ve been to Kampala, Cape Town, Dakar, Nairobi, Lusaka and Windhoek.”
She stared at him. “You’ve been to all of those places?”
“I’m impressed, Mr. Gray. Those are all the places I would like to visit.”
“I wasn’t trying to impress you.” He knew he was being rude but her response irked him. And it vexed him that she was calling him ‘Mr. Gray’ again.
“I guess that’s because I’m not–what’s your girlfriend’s name?”
“Her name is Briony and she isn’t my girlfriend.”
“Maybe you should tell her about the places in Africa you’ve visited. I’m sure she’ll be impressed. Excuse me.” She turned and walked away.
He stared after her. Why did it bother him so much when she called Briony his girlfriend? And why did he ask her all those questions about her friend? It was a really a fishing expedition. He wanted to find out if they were really friends.
He dragged his fingers through his hair. Why on earth did her relationship with Akello matter to him? And why was it that when he was having dinner with Briony he was so distracted? He tried rather unsuccessfully to convince himself that it was the fact that he and his boss were having dinner in the same restaurant on the same night which bothered him and that he wasn’t used to seeing her in a dress like that–close fitting with fine straps and short, revealing her bare legs and calves. She looked amazing, to be quite honest.
Many times, he was tempted to glance over his shoulder at her. Even after she and Akello left, he still couldn’t stop thinking about them and wondering if he took her straight home and if she invited him in for a nightcap. What if she did? What business is that of yours? he chided himself now. What the hell is wrong with you? You’ve managed to snag a stunning and classy woman like Briony and here you are fixated on your supervisor and her personal life. Snap out of it, you bloody fool.
Velma walked by his desk and went straight to her office. She closed the door. He sat there, watching the closed door. Should he go in now and apologize for his rudeness earlier? She was his boss, after all. He didn’t have to like her but he should at least, show her some respect.
Later, when everyone had left for the day, he would go to her office and apologize. He put his cell down on the desk and finished eating his lunch.