“Red in the morning, sailor’s warning.”
I murmur the old saying to myself as I climb out of my car in the building’s car park. I take a moment to stare out at where the sun is just beginning to rise above the city skyline, staining the low-lying clouds a bloody scarlet. I don’t remember exactly what the hell that saying means, but my grandad used to say it all the time. Something about the weather, I think.
. . . . .
The ringing of the telephone startles me out of my paperwork and I glare at the stupid thing for interrupting me. I don’t know who thought it was clever for every desk to have a bright orange phone. This is a bank, for Christ’s sake. Orange phones are hardly professional looking, in my opinion.
Too bad I’m just a lowly investment banker with no say in the interior decorating.
“Zach, you gonna answer that?” Garrett asks from the next desk, arching an eyebrow at me pointedly. “That’s what you’re supposed to do when it rings.”
“Piss off,” I say, rolling my eyes as he laughs. I pick up the hideous orange handset. “Worthington Bank and Trust.”
. . . . .
“These are for you, Zach.”
I feel an unconscious smile steal across my face before I can stop it and I look up at the vision of perfection. Amanda, the office secretary and girl of my dreams. Her dress, the colour of summer sunshine, brings out the gold in her hair. She smiles brightly as she sets a stack of files on the corner of my desk. With a little wave she turns to walk away.
“Hey Amanda,” I call out impulsively.
“Yeah?” she asks, turning around.
My mouth goes dry and all of that moisture shoots instead to my palms. I rub them against my thighs below the desk and clear my throat. “I just – ” The words lodge in my oesophegus no matter how hard I try to force them out. “Uh, thanks.”
She looks a little confused, a narrow ridge appearing between her eyebrows, but she smiles again. “No problem.”
I wait until she disappears from sight and then I let my head fall forward onto my desk with a dull thunk.
. . . . .
I prod disinterestedly at the leftover spaghetti heaped in the tupperware bowl in front of me. The sound of a chair scraping across the tile makes me look up just as Garrett drops heavily into the plastic chair. It groans with the effort of supporting his weight. It’s not so much that he’s fat, he’s just – big. Okay, and a little fat. He’s built a bit like a linebacker who’s gone to seed, because that’s exactly what he is.
“Hey Zach,” he greets, opening up the crinkly plastic sack he’s brought with him. When he pulls out the tupperware he frowns. “Ugh, rabbit food again.”
Garrett’s wife, Kayla, has decided to take his doctor’s recommendations for losing weight to heart. She’s stripped him down to a practically vegetarian diet that the man of cheeseburgers is having a hard time dealing with. For the past three weeks, all of his lunches have come in varying shades of green.
“So, did you ask her out?” He changes the subject without preamble, his own nutritional woes forgotten in his eagerness for gossip. Apparently the look on my face is answer enough though because he sighs and rolls his eyes. “Dude, grow a pair, would ya?”
“Screw you,” I say, shaking my head.
Garrett laughs. “I don’t understand you, man. You rock an investment presentation and are pure confidence with clients, but you’ve got no game with the ladies. What gives?”
I twirl the spaghetti around the plastic fork and shove it in my mouth in what I hope is a dignified silence.
. . . . .
We all know what it means when Greg marches into the afternoon meeting in his blue suit. The power suit. We have an important client coming in today then and he’s trying to impress.
“Met with a big client this morning,” he announces to the room in general on his way to the head of the conference table. “Marshall Trent, billionaire. Made a shit ton of money in the water sports business, invented some new kind of surfboard. And now he’s looking to invest that money. We need to convince him that he should trust us with his tons of money, got it?
“Now I will be heading up tomorrow’s pitch to him, of course, but I want a wingman. Or wing-woman,” he adds diplomatically with a glance at Maggie, the office’s only female banker. “I want one of you in there to back me up. So I’ve been going over files all morning, checking your numbers and seeing who is my best choice. Miller.” I look up from the scrap of paper I’ve been doodling idly on. “You’re in the game.”
“Me?” I say in surprise before I can stop myself.
“Yes, you,” Greg says with the faintest hint of a smirk playing under his moustache. “Unless you keep asking stupid questions like that. In my office as soon as the meeting ends, we’ve got a pitch to plan.”
Across the table Garrett shoots me a grin and a subtle thumbs up. My chest swells. Two years working here, fighting my way to the top of the chain, and all that work’s finally paid off. Tag-teaming with the boss on a billionaire client. This is the big leagues.
I’ve finally made it.
. . . . .
I sling my shoulderbag over my back and head for the front of the office. I’m walking on air after my successful planning session with Greg and I’m psyched for tomorrow. I round the corner and the front counter comes into view. Amanda is sitting there, chatting on the phone. She spots me and smiles, gesturing for me to wait up for a minute.
“Alright, I will fax those over first thing, Mr. Kilpatrick,” she says into the ugly orange phone. “Thank you, and have a nice night.” She sets the headset down and then stands up, smoothing out her dress. I lean forward against the counter, crossing my arms on the cool granite surface. “I heard you got the Trent account. Congratulations.”
“Thanks,” I say, feeling a comfortable warmth blossom on my cheeks. “But I haven’t got the account yet. That all comes down to tomorrow.”
“You’ll do great, Zach,” she says with a confident nod. She reaches across the desk and sets her hand on my arm, sending my stomach on a roller coaster of flips and spins. “I just know it. You’re the best at this.”
“Thanks,” I repeat. This is it. I can do this. I glance down at her hand, still resting on my arm. Her fingernails are painted a bright indigo. “Amanda,” I start before I can lose my nerve. “Would you – I mean, if you’re not doing anything, of course. You wanna go to dinner sometime? With me?”
“I would love to,” she says almost before I’ve finished my question. “Friday?”
“Friday,” I agree a bit breathlessly.
“Great,” she says. She grabs one of the business cards from the desk and flips it over, scribbling something hastily across the back. “Here’s my address,” she says and hands it to me.
I glance down at her cramped, curly script and grin. “I’ll pick you up at seven.”
. . . . .
The temperature has dropped outside as I make my way back to my car and a wind has picked up. I pull up the zip on my jacket and shove my hands into the pockets to keep them warm. The sky has turned dark. Rolling clouds have covered the sky in a blanket of gray painted with pale lavenders where the sun is still struggling to break through. I can smell it in the air, that heady pressure of humidity clinging to my skin.
“Here comes the rain.”
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