‘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.
Thoughts when alone in the park
He sat there for ages, until the woman who’d been serving behind the counter came to collect his cup, clean the table and remind him that she had to close up.
She stood there for a moment, the back of her hands on her hips, one hand holding the cleaning cloth.
‘Lovers’ tiff?’ she said, ‘She didn’t look very happy with you.’
‘Thanks for pointing that out,’ he said, then, realised that it hadn’t been the woman’s fault.
‘Sorry,’ he said, ‘I’m not in the best of moods myself at the moment. ‘I’m sorry if I’ve kept you waiting.’
When he stood to leave, he realised how dark it was now outside. Mentally, he kicked himself. He’d let Mel walk through the park alone in the darkness.
“Idiot!” he said to himself.
He didn’t want to drive home just yet. He needed to gather his thoughts. He couldn’t stop thinking about the things that had been said. He felt sick. He walked across to a nearby park bench and sat down.
“Shit! Shit! Shit!” he thought. She’d seen his erection. He felt disgusted with himself and totally embarrassed. “But it wasn’t as if I could have helped it,” he tried to console himself. He thought back.
He’d been supposed to be checking the display of tripods and related accessories on a carousel, but he’d glanced up and seen her talking to a customer. She was nodding and smiling, pointing out features of the smartphone she was holding. Mel’s eyes were shining; her hair was backlit by sunlight streaming through the shop window; her pink, full, cupid’s bow lips were parted, revealing her small, white even teeth. One of her lower legs was crossed loosely behind the other. Her open necked blouse was unbuttoned low enough and positioned to reveal a little cleavage. She looked absolutely amazing: sexy and amazing.
He remembered thinking that, and that’s when it had happened. He’d been barely conscious of his erection when he saw the customer nodding her head to Mel in his direction. Mel had barely glanced towards him but the two women were trying in vain to suppress their giggles.
It had been a moment of stupidity when he should have been concentrating on what he’d been supposed to be doing. And now Mel was considering quitting her job. He’d liked to have been able to have dumped the blame on her half-witted ex-boyfriend, who’d undermined her happiness in getting the job by his comments about why she’d succeeded. But she was right – he was no better than many other men, driven by primal instincts. How else was she to interpret what she’d seen that morning? Why should she trust him?
“Then again,” he thought, “Wasn’t she over-reacting? How serious had the incident in the shop really been? Okay, he hadn’t been concentrating – but what was that to her? She was a trainee not his supervisor. Yes, he’d been looking at her and had thought that she looked sexy. Since when was that a crime? His body had responded to what he’d thought in his mind. How was he supposed to have prevented it? She’d called him a Neanderthal – but if it was natural for men and women to want to mate, wasn’t it normal and healthy to seek sexual partners and for their bodies to provide clues?”
He was confused.
He understood that it was wrong to stalk women, to rape them, not to accept No for a final answer. Things like that weren’t just illegal, they were plain wrong. Men usually had too great a physical advantage over women otherwise.
“But I hadn’t, wouldn’t have done any of those things,” he argued to himself.
He didn’t want her to pack in her job over what had happened, but he recognised that he should make it clear that he understood that their relationship was simply as colleagues and that he’d be keeping his mind strictly on business from now on – if she turned in for work.
Even as he sat there, he still squirmed with embarrassment.
He didn’t have a clue what to do – how to atone for what she’d seen; what he’d actually say to her when – if – she turned up for work the next day. Perhaps he should say nothing – hope that it had blown over. On the other hand, he needed to check that she was okay. He’d better play it by ear. He just hoped that she could forgive him. He’d never forgive himself if she were to decide to find another job.
The photo that I’ve chosen today is the third of this 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 two 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. Today’s image is one of those that’s different – looking at the pier from the roadway and across the beach. The shot shows the glow of the setting Sun lighting up the side of the pier and the high cloud starting to form..
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 3/5 secs @ f/16 and 48 mm.