This is a serialisation of the novel ‘Marcello: Love in the City’. Jess, Marcello’s friend, has just tried to set Marcello up with their work colleague, Charlotte.
Jess had done the heavy lifting with Charlotte, all that was left was for me to ask her out. I should have been overjoyed but I was concerned – rejection would mean a black mark against my name. I turned my desk fan up a notch.
“So Jessica,” I said loosening my tie. “What do you reckon? I’ll think I’ll drop Charlotte an email.”
“Are you serious? This isn’t a meeting you’re arranging, just go and speak to her.”
“Well, it is a meeting, technically.”
Steeling myself, I headed up to Finance. On the door a large sign announced (in Comic Sans): training day, Finance closed, please email your query. I walked through and up to the small reception desk where they kept the interns. A young girl looked up.
“Sorry, we’re closed today. They’re training.”
“Hi, yes, I knew that. I just thought they might be on a break, I heard Charlotte just came back.”
“I’m not sure. I could check, but really they did say…”
“It’s ok, I’m from HR. If she’s free, can you tell her Marcello is here?”
“Sorry, I didn’t realise you were HR. If she’s not available, shall I call one of the other managers?”
“No, it’s fine.”
Her hand rested on the phone.
“Actually, you know what,” I said. “I’ll just go. I’ll email her.”
I was turning to leave when the inner door opened. Charlotte emerged, coffee in hand, accompanied by her effeminate assistant, Tom.
“I heard that,” she said. “Using your HR powers for evil, eh?”
“Do they have any other use?”
“Probably not. What do you want? We’re training today.”
Tom shifted an armful of files.
I said, “Yes, sorry, can we talk?”
“Oh, right, is it confidential?”
“But not in the way you think. Not HR confidential, just confidential.”
No one said anything so I said: “You know, work stuff.”
The intern’s gaze was burning the side of my face.
I said, “It’s ok, I’ll just email. It’s nothing urgent.”
Blood pumped into my head – far more than required, it seemed. I felt a little seasick. And naked – like a sailor on a punishing stag-do. Why does it have to be so onerous, I thought? An image of my shrinking ego swam into view. It looked something like a small black diamond. I was considering my escape when Tom spoke up.
“We’ve got to go,” he said. And they left.
I turned to the intern.
“Can I say something?”
“That sign on the door, it’s great, very informative.”
“But we’re a FTSE 100 company not a jumble sale, do you mind not using comic sans?”
“The font, it’s not brand standard. We use bookman.”
She held my gaze as her fingers shuffled a pile of unopened mail.
“Old style, that’s it. We use bookman old style.”
She nodded. My phone vibrated, I looked – O2 wanted to make me aware of a new offer.
“I’m joking,” I said.
She didn’t say anything.
“Do me a favour,” I said. “Forget you saw me.”
She pointed her finger like a pretend six-shooter.
“Done,” she said, and started typing.
Even the interns have got a handle on this place, I thought.
A couple of hours later I received an email:
M, I know what you came up here for, you idiot. How’s Saturday for you? C.
See, I knew my powers were good for something, baby.
I meant to delete ‘baby’ but hit send without thinking. Straight away I texted Jess:
J, it’s a goer! We need to talk tactics.
She responded immediately with a rolling head emoji. Presumably, that was a good thing.
Next time: Marcello and Charlotte go on a date in Soho.
You can read more of Marcello’s book on WATC here.
You can purchase his book here.