‘The way you looked at me this morning suggests that you were feeling horny.’
‘It was subconscious,’ he said, ‘I didn’t deliberately set out to see you in a sexual way, but you did – look sexy. I think that they call it the autonomic nervous system reaction – an instinct that bypasses the brain – like feeling you want to punch someone.’
‘You’re quite a caveman, Jamie aren’t you,’ she said, ‘An unconstructed neanderthal beneath those designer chinos.’
‘Oh, God!’ he said, ‘Foot-in-mouth time!’
‘Let me tell you what I’ve been thinking,’ she said, ‘but first of all, another question. Who’s my boss – Tony, you or Lucy?’
‘Tony,’ he answered without hesitation.
‘So, what’s your role in relation to me? And why were you one of the interviewers?’
‘I’m just another colleague,’ he answered, ‘For the time being I’ve been asked to help you to settle in, and I was interviewing with Tony because he asked me to. He felt that, since we’d be working together, I should have a chance to see whether you’d be someone that I’d want to work with.’
‘Listen, Mel,’ he said, ‘If push comes to shove, once you’ve found your way around the stuff we sell, with your skills and personality, you’ll probably be more valuable to the shop than I am. That’s God’s honest truth.’
‘I’m not sure that we can still work together if you’re going to get a stiffy every time you look at me,’ she said.
He put his head in his hands, then bent and banged his forehead against the table.
‘It’s a fair point,’ she insisted, ‘I’m used to men fancying me – that’s not being big headed. They ask me to go out with them – it usually seems that all they really want is a chance to fuck me. Then they want to leave it at that. I’m just someone to feel and fuck. A pair of breasts and a vagina.’
She could see him squirming with embarrassment at the way the conversation was going.
‘Suppose you were to ask me to go out with you, and that we fucked. How would that relationship play out on the shopfloor? Would you be getting horny all the time and wanting to flip the Open sign to Closed?’
She waited, but he was lost for words, aware that he could provoke another accusation of being a sexist pig.
‘The next stage would usually be me losing my job because you were fed up with me and couldn’t deal with having to work with me,’ she said, ‘You’re family -I’m just a wage slave. Our relationship couldn’t be one of equals, could it?’
‘So, what are you saying?’ he asked, ‘that based on a hypothetical set of assumptions about my societal conditioning, you want to hand in your notice?’
‘I have to consider my future, Jamie,’ she said, ‘and I won’t always be fanciable.’
‘Jesus, Mel!’ he said, ‘I don’t know what to say to reassure you. I’ll be honest with you. Yes you are “fanciable” as you put it. You are unquestionably beautiful. It would be a real privilege for me if we were ever to start being in a relationship together. I adore everything about you. But I don’t think that I’d ever have asked you, because I can’t believe that you’d ever agree.’
She saw the hurt in his eyes.
‘Jamie,’ she said, ‘You’re putting me on a pedestal. That’s an uncomfortable place to be. People fall off pedestals and get hurt. Listen, don’t run yourself down. You’re fanciable too. If you weren’t my boss – sort of – and we were in a more equal relationship, I’d have snatched your arm off if you’d asked me. You’re a million times more my type than the gorillas I’ve been out with before.’
‘So, will you be coming in to work tomorrow?’ he asked.
‘You’ve heard what I have to say,’ she said, ‘Can you accept the conditions on which we’ll still be able to work together? No more embarrassing customers?’
She touched his hand.
‘Thanks for listening,’ she said, ‘I had to get that off my chest. You made it a lot easier than it could have been. I do like working with you, you know. I’ll see you tomorrow.’
She left him. He sat there, looking into his empty cup.
The photo that I’ve chosen today is the second of the series of nine that I’ll be posting in the next few days. There won’t be much changed between them – the idea was to capture the change in the light during the period that the Sun was setting.
I shot all but one of the photos in this series on 22 April this year, while I was stood on the pier at Southport, Merseyside waiting for the Sun to set. You wouldn’t believe it from the photos, but it was high tide around the time I was there. Southport beach seem to stretch out forever and seldom seems to come all the way in.
The EXIF data are as follows: Camera used for all the shots was my 36 MP Pentax K-1 full-frame camera paired with a Pentax 24-70 mm f/2.8 full-frame lens. In every case the ISO was 100. All shots were handheld and used only natural light. I post-processed all the shots in Lightroom.
For this shot the shutter speed was 1/800 secs @ f/8 and 24 mm.