The Touch

“Wow!” Velma exclaimed when Tadeas walked into her office on Friday morning. “You’re looking very corporate today, Mr. Gray. Nice suit.”

“Thank you. I’m having lunch with my father at his club and they have a dress code there.”

“I see. And which club is this?”

He told her.

“Oh. That is an upper class, ultra rich establishment. You’d never see people like me there, for sure.”

“That’s where I met Briony.”

“Is she from a wealthy family too?”

“No. Her father is a farmer, remember? It was her family’s farm we visited on Sunday.”

“Oh, yes. It does make for an interesting Hallmark movie, doesn’t it–the farmer’s daughter and the rich man’s son.”

His face suffused with color. “Why do you persist on needling me?” he demanded.

“No need to get upset, Mr. Gray. I’m just playing with you. You really need to develop a thicker skin.”

“I don’t like you throwing my wealth in my face and I’m tired of you calling me Mr. Gray. Why can’t you call me Tadeas like everyone else?”

“All right, Tadeas. Calling you Mr. Gray is a habit I’ve gotten so used to. And as for your wealth, I’ve met guys like you who think that they’re entitled because they’re come from money.”

“I’ve told you before that I’m not like that. I don’t want any special treatment or privileges because of my father’s wealth and the fact that he’s a lord.”

“I read when the Queen knighted him. Must have been a momentous occasion for the family.”

He shrugged. “It was for him and my mother.”

“What about you? Weren’t you excited about it?”

“I was happy for him but I wasn’t excited. I suppose you find that surprising like everything else I say or do.”

“I don’t think you and I have ever interacted when I haven’t said or done something to upset you.”

“I think you enjoy getting a rise out of me.”

“And why would I enjoy doing that, Mr. Gray?”

“There you go again, calling me Mr. Gray. Do you do it on purpose to annoy me?”

“I told you that it’s a habit that I can’t seem to break. So, why are you here in my office, Tadeas? Do you need to talk to me about something?”

“Actually, Briony has asked me to find out if it would be possible for our firm to assist with communications materials such as brochures, product guides, newsletters, and customer magazines for her company, Lavender Lullabies.”

“I’m afraid you will have to tell her that we can’t help her.”

“Why not?”

“You know as well as I do that it would be a conflict of interest.”

“Because of my personal involvement with her?”

“Yes. And it doesn’t matter if what she wants falls in a different area from yours, it’s still a conflict of interest. I’m surprised that you didn’t turn her down flat when she asked you.”

“I guess I wanted to double check with you first.”

“You didn’t make her any promises, did you?”

“No. I told her that I didn’t think that we could help her but that I would confirm with you.”

“I’m surprised that she made such a request. As a manager of a company, she should be aware of what would be considered areas of conflict.”

“I guess it didn’t occur to her that it would be a conflict of interest to have our firm help her. I will call and let her know that we can’t help her.”

She removed her jacket from the back of her chair and pulled it on. “Let her know that we don’t do business with friends, acquaintances or love interests.”

He grimaced. “She isn’t my love interest,” he muttered tightly.

“Then, what is she?” she asked, folding her arms.

“Is Akello your love interest?” he countered.

“I’ve already told you, he’s a friend.”

“I know what you told me but based on what I saw, it’s obvious that you two are more than friends.”

Really? What makes you think that, Mr. Gray?”

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“I saw him put his hand on the small of your back as you and he were leaving the dining area of the restaurant.”

“So what? That doesn’t mean anything.”

“It’s common knowledge, at least among men, that when a man touches a woman’s lower back, it means that he’s attracted to her.”

“That may be true for some men but not for Akello. He touched the lower part of my back for no other reason than he’s my friend and was just being cordial. It was a friendly touch.”

“Friendly touches are supposed to be brief and light but, his lingered.”

“What was your date doing while you were watching how long Akello had his hand on my back?”

He flushed. “She was looking at the menu.”

“I don’t know what you think you saw, but Akello and I are just friends.”

“What if he wants to be more?”

“Then, that’s my problem, isn’t it?”

“Yes, and none of my business. Excuse me.” He turned and walked briskly out of the office, feeling like a complete fool.

Sources: Balance The Small Business; Love Panky; Her Norm

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