31 Mar

While Geoff mockingly danced his tribal dance with Steve, Marie studied the name of Geoff Smith a little closer.  Where did she recognise the name from? It was a common sounding name of course but there was something more than that, it rang bells and just as Marie was about to recall the bus tour, in he strolled as the secretary held the door ajar, “Mr Geoff Smith to see you Marie,” chimed the secretary.  The picture clicked.

Marie smiled as she watched Geoff approach and found she was genuinely happy to see the man again. He was really rather sweet, Marie thought, as she remembered meeting Geoff at the country club. 

Marie hadn’t really bonded with too many people here in HQ.  There was Terry Duran of course and she was amazed she’d hit it off with him, but beyond Duran and her own Personal Assistant, she didn’t really know too many people. 

Marie struck a rapport with most staff and was well respected she knew, but rarely on a more intimate friendship level. 

“Ah Geoff hello, well what a small world and how lovely to see you again, please come in and take a seat,” invited Marie.

“Thank you Mrs Petrie, lovely to see you again too,” replied Geoff, hugely encouraged by Marie’s warm smile and greeting (and the fact she could remember him) before taking a seat.  He pulled up the comfortable leather chair directly opposite Marie and sat down. Marie smiled at him across the desk and there was a brief silence.

“So um, what can I do for you Mrs Petrie?” enquired Geoff breaking the short but not entirely uncomfortable silence.

“Oh yes right, sorry Geoff forgive me. Please Geoff call me Marie, as long as I can call you Geoff?” replied Marie.

“Absolutely…Marie, you can call me whatever you want, you’re the boss,” Geoff stated rather giddily.

“Great, I hope Steve was helpful in showing you the way up here?”

“Yes, he was charming as always. I don’t really know the man to be honest. Sat down in the basement there I don’t get too much company, so Mr Rocker has left me to my own devices.”

“Please, call him Steve, Mr doesn’t quite suit him somehow,” said Marie thoughtfully.

Geoff already feeling unusually at ease, proffered “Or Barney, we could call him Barney?”

Marie started to laugh, something she didn’t do as often as she should. Her laugh was more of a titter but it sounded like music to Geoff ears. “Barney Rubble indeed, did you know his hold music is the theme tune from the Flintstones? How fitting. I hope that wasn’t you Geoff,” said Marie, giving Geoff the glare before another giggle escaped her lips.

Geoff laughed along, relieved. For a moment he thought that was his purpose for being here before Marie’s laughter broke that momentary idea. “Oh you’re joking! Wow, you had me there for a second!” Geoff pondered that mock glare and found himself ever so slightly aroused, he sensed she had a power she could turn on and off. Then the image and memory of Andy, her vicious primate husband, popped in his head and his fleeting aroused state ended.

“No Geoff, I actually called you up here because your work is remarkable. I mean truly. Your department itself is doing well and I couldn’t be happier with how quickly you guys get the applications up to us, but you Geoff, well you are head and shoulders above everyone which takes some serious doing.” 

Marie rested her chin on her upturned palms as she spoke,  just as she always did when at her most relaxed.

“Thank you, that’s nice of you to say so, hell to actually notice as I’m you know, Geoff trailed off.

“You know what Geoff?” enquired Marie.

“Well, I’m not exactly noticeable. Not that I want to be or anything but my type of work is not exactly sexy or interesting or important really.”

“Geoff, I guess that depends on your interpretation of sexy or important for that matter. Leaving sex out of this for the moment..” Marie stopped, frowned, checked herself then continued, “Your work is important and interesting, especially to the likes of me.  If you or your colleagues don’t get your job right, my department up here doesn’t get the applications it needs to complete its business. So, you and your area are very important to me, you see Geoff?”

“I do yeah. I’m just used to people saying that but not truly believing it.”

“When it comes to me Geoff, believe it. I don’t say things lightly when it comes to business and it’s the so called small details that make up success.”

Geoff coyly nodded his acknowledgement and found himself blushing. The more he tried to stop the worse it was getting.  Why am I so shit with women he thought, always go to pieces.

Marie was smiling softly at him, unwittingly. She observed his blushes with faint affectionate amusement.  Marie found she was perhaps slightly charmed by him. He was no oil painting, but she found his general disposition and shyness wonderfully refreshing and she was surprised to find his lack of confidence the main source of his charm. 

Her mind fell onto Andy, the polar opposite and for a fleeting moment she felt a tinge of bitterness.

“So what I want to know Geoff, is how do you do it?”

Geoff was momentarily paralysed by the question. It wasn’t so much what he’d been asked but his train of thought was wandering, potentially into areas that were unhealthy when it came to his boss. “How do I do what, sorry I……. hey what a lovely office you have here!” Geoff shouted in reply. He was aware at this point of how loud and wrong that sounded as each word tumbled and clunked clumsily from his mouth, like he was spitting out nails and screws

Marie smiled warmly across the desk. “Geoff, you are not in any trouble ok. I would really just like to know your secret to such high levels of output, I was thinking a time and motion analysis to see if we could copy your formula. Oh and yes thanks, I do rather like my office,” Marie added a little playfully.

Geoff got a grip and managed to finally provide a suitable answer of sorts to the question. “I don’t know how I do it to be honest. Well, I have like a photographic memory I guess, so I don’t have to refer back each time to the information to input.  Plus I type quickly, um you know, like quicker than most. Ooh and the basement is a real plus as I have no distractions down there. Though I will have to move of course,” Geoff finished.

“Ok well perhaps I’ll send down one of the process mappers to record your methods.  It’s probably as I thought Geoff, you are just a rarity, a natural at what you do, but anything we can glean from your work that may help others is worth a try, don’t you agree?

“Sure yes, anything you want, as it were, sort of…yes sure Marie, anytime.”

“Geoff what was that about moving from the basement? I mean are you happy there on your own?” asked Marie.

“I am yes, I am sort of a loner and workwise it certainly helps me being there plus I have this annoying tinnitus problem so the servers whirring seems to balance that out for me. If you could perhaps see to it that I stay there I’d be really appreciative,” Geoff stated before worrying he was being too pushy, “But of course I respect your wishes entirely, anything you want as I said and you’ll know best.”

“Well I don’t know about knowing best Geoff but of course you can stay in the basement office. Who has told you differently as I’ve no intentions of moving you?” Marie enquired sharply. “Actually, let me guess Geoff, yabba dabba doo?”

Geoff laughed, “Yeah you got it though please don’t give him a hard time over that, he’ll end up visiting me or sending his snake, Nick the Lisp,” Geoff added before miming a shudder.

Marie clapped her hands together in delight. “Urgh! Nick, oh he is an awful thing isn’t he, seen him once or twice. This is I assume Steve’s little made up deputy. Well, rest assured Geoff, the Steve’s and Nick’s of this world will not prosper under my watch so don’t worry about moving and certainly don’t worry about reprisals from tweedledee or tweedledumber.

Geoff decided he definitely liked Marie.  Not only was she bright, powerful and witty, she also knew a wanker when she met one. Apart from Andy that was but perhaps he wasn’t always that way. Geoff was on the verge of asking Marie this exact question before realising how mental that would be, just as things were going so well. Zip it Geoff, he thought. “Well that’s great. Thank you so much Marie, I really do appreciate it,” Geoff replied.

“Good Geoff, I aim to please where I can. Ooh now how rude of me, Geoff would you like a coffee or a tea?”

“Oh now I wouldn’t want to take up more of your time, I’ll um you know, get going,” Geoff responded though he desperately wanted to stay for a little longer at least.

“Nonsense, my time gets wasted by all sorts, you are not a waste of time and the amount of effort you put in to your work Geoff means in my book you are more than entitled to a simple drink with the boss”, without further ado Marie pressed her intercom and requested her PA, Sandra, fetch Mr Smith a coffee.

Geoff didn’t like coffee but didn’t have the heart to say so, now that it was on the way.  Plus, he couldn’t deny to himself, he wanted to please Marie.  When the coffee arrived he sipped at it and relished it, not because he was suddenly a convert to the caffeine cause but because he got to spend more time with Marie whose company he was enjoying immensely.

They spent the next hour uninterrupted, talking about all those many perks Proactive Square offered and the excitement of all the discoveries and places of interest in the city.  

Marie talked about the theatres and how she and Andy had been to see the city’s very own production of Moulin Rouge, which Marie described as so bad it was good. Geoff noticed how Marie’s eyes glittered when she spoke about the things she liked. Theatre, her daughter’s new school and friends and how Jeanie was loving life here in the city.  She spoke about the retail therapy since being in the city and actually having time to shop pleasurably for clothes instead of the functional shopping she had to do before. Geoff noted though, that Marie barely mentioned Andy during the whole conversation.  Every time a natural part in the conversation opened for her to mention Andy, she skirted around him. 

Marie asked Geoff what he did with his spare time.  Geoff was a little reluctant to answer that one as he did very little that could be considered meaningful. He blushed as he talked about being a big fan of film and gaming and that as a single man, his diary wasn’t brimming over but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Geoff unwittingly then found himself talking about his parents recent demise. He didn’t know why or how he’d fallen into that particular topic but it just happened and it felt cathartic.

Marie didn’t feign sympathy or patronise him in any way. She just sat back and listened.  Geoff informed her that moving here was the best decision he’d ever made and it had helped him get over the sudden loss of his parents.  Marie commented to Geoff that he showed an understated strength to cope so well, and bravery to move into an unknown venture such as the Square.  Geoff found himself blushing again, ever so slightly, before informing Marie that she should have seen him in the first few weeks after their death, he lived like, as he described it, a wretched pig. Marie laughed, a sound that Geoff had already grown fond of and then added, much to Geoff’s inward joy and slight disappointment, that he was far more a cuddly bear type than a pig.   Geoff wanted to be seen as an Adonis but that was unrealistic, so a bear he could live with. More than live with.  

“So who recruited you Geoff, do you remember? I had quite an odd fellow interview and recruit me.”

Geoff nodded then added, “Me too as it goes. Most odd, I think his name was Mr Stealth or something. To be honest I was so lost in self-pity that those details escape me. He was quite unnerving in a way though I guess he was also my saviour.  He had this high pitched sort of nasal voice and mad hair,” Geoff recalled.

Marie smiled and nodded enthusiastically.  “Yes! Same here, exactly the same! That was the guy, mad wiry ginger hair and he almost screeched when he spoke. Wow he must have really been a busy guy and got about a bit.  He wasn’t Mr Stealth though, I never got his name but the recruitment firm were called ‘Stealth Recruitment."

“Right I got it. God I think I even called him Mr Stealth directly you know, how embarrassing.”

“I wouldn’t worry Geoff” Marie replied. “He would have interviewed countless people so he wouldn’t remember those details I’m sure. Even if he did, that didn’t stop him offering you a contract did it?”

“True yes, oh it was a nightmare Marie. I called him Mr Stealth but, and I don’t know why I’m telling you this, I….no I can’t, its horribly embarrassing!” said Geoff as he dropped his head and placed his hand on his forehead as if trying to hide.

“Go on Geoff, spit it out, you’ve gone this far you may as well,” goaded Marie.

“Ok, well, I was so overcome with grief and so out of it on, well drink and drugs to help cope with my loss, which may I add is highly unusual for me (he was of course lying but he had in mind Marie’s glare at Andy in the country club when he downed a pint), that I’d been mistakenly wiping away my tears with a pasty I’d had in my hand the whole time he was there. God I cringe whenever I think about that. I think I even mumbled about the ‘pasty kerchief’ incident to him when I realised what I’d been doing and he sort of, well soothed me but in a creepy way.”

There was a silence that hung there for a moment before they looked at each other intently then Marie started to howl with sweet laughter. Geoff was momentarily taken aback and found his frailties were spiked just for second before joining in.

“Pasty kerchief!” cried Marie. “Oh Geoff that is priceless! Wonderful!”

Marie took a tissue from the little box on her desk and dabbed at her eyes.  Geoff caught himself gazing at those eyes as she dried them and found himself hoping he’d see a lot more of them in the coming months. 

“So same guy though hey? That is something. He was a bit creepy and now that I think of it, he never had a name that I knew of either. Perhaps he is one of the infamous four heads,” Marie joked.

“Perhaps yes, have you met any of them?” enquired Geoff.

“Little old me? Heaven’s no Geoff. I don’t think anyone here knows them directly or what they even look like from what I gather. I think Terry is the man closest to them but that is about it.”

“Terry Duran, now that is a scary man” commented Geoff.

“He certainly is but I have to say I like him. He’d like you Geoff, someone who is visibly good at what they do and gets the job done. It’s unprofessional of me to say but, well..” Marie leaned forward conspiratorially so that Geoff found himself delighted to be both trusted and swimming in her eyes, “He’ll likely eat Barney and Nick the Lisp up soon, they’re on his radar and not in a positive light either.”

“Well they do seem to rub people up the wrong way. I just hope I stay off Mr Duran’s radar, good or bad. I prefer it that way though do tip me the wink when he’s about to castrate them or do whatever it is he does, I’d like to see that,” Geoff beamed.

“It’s a deal Geoff,” Marie replied before looking around the room again in a secretive fashion “But do you think your Mr Stealth could be one of the four heads Geoff? We might actually be onto something?” she prompted.

“Sure, hell I could be one of them or even you, or Nick the Lisp gone undercover, or your PA even!” exclaimed Geoff.

“It’s not me I assure you, cross my heart,” said Marie smiling as she mimicked crossing her heart. “But if it’s you Geoff, I do hope you’ll go easy on me in the future should you decide to reveal your double life.”

“Marie I shall do my best when that day comes, but for now, I must be able to trust you with my secret identity. I don’t want to be beating any more women off with a stick. They’re already breaking my door down due to my super sexy data entry skills.”

“We have a deal” Marie said as she stretched her arm across the desk to shake on it. Geoff leaned forward and gently grasped her finely manicured hand and shook it. He felt a pleasant little skitter of a shiver dance up his arm as he did. They sat there for a few seconds hands clasped before Marie finally broke their bond, shaking her head quickly and saying, “Geoff it’s been a treat, a real treat seeing you again. I’ll sort that time and motion analysis and drop you a line or e-mail,” Marie slowly stood as she spoke this last.

Geoff pushed his chair back and told Marie he’d enjoyed meeting her too and anything else he could do to help just ask.  As Geoff opened Marie’s office door to exit, she spoke to him again. “Geoff, I was wondering, would you like to go for lunch sometime, you know a coffee or something? Just be nice to get away from here in the lunch hours sometimes and see a friendly face.”

Geoff was genuinely taken aback but inwardly gushing with unbridled delight.  “Marie, it would be my pleasure and an absolute honour.”

“Great, I’ll give you a shout soon then,” Marie responded.

Geoff nodded, aware that he was straining every face muscle not to explode into a gawping child-like smile and left Marie’s office and made for the lift. The P.A. on route gave him a funny little up and down look, a ‘who are you to spend all that time with the boss’ type of look, but Geoff didn’t care. 

As soon as Geoff was in the lift and the doors closed, he let out a victorious little yelp and shook his fist at the reflection in the lift’s mirror, noting his rosy cheeks and dopey grin before he felt butterflies lurch in his stomach at the thought of lunch with Marie.

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