I hear a step and turn in my chair. It’s Tristan, holding a piece of paper. He puts it down next to my keyboard.
‘Here you are.’
It only means one thing.
‘…are – are you sure? Because I – I don’t have anyone for it – I mean, I can probably find someone, but I don’t have anyone at the minute, and… don’t you want it?’
‘Oh, OK, well, thanks.’ I look down at the ticket, frowning. ‘Are – are you sure there’s no one else who wants it?’
‘No.’ He looks puzzled. ‘I got it from the design guys, so I don’t think any of them need it.’
In the top right-hand corner someone has scribbled his name: TRISTAN. He won’t be there.
‘OK, well, thank you. I’m sure I can find someone for it.’
Yesterday, over lunch, Tristan had mentioned that he might not make the gig as he had to pack for the weekend. I’d then enquired casually of the assembled company if anyone knew of a spare ticket going and Tristan immediately volunteered his.
‘Well, I don’t have anyone at the minute,’ I mumble, ‘but there might be someone…’
The night before, I’d got a message from Viable Prospect. He’s in London, well, Oxford, but the point is, he’s in the same country as me and has suggested a repeat of herbal tea. Not knowing this was going to be the case, I’d given my spare gig tickets to my brother. Now I’m a bit peeved that I can’t ask VP, not least because he’s actually a fan of the band.
I keep glancing at the piece of paper next to my computer, at the name scrawled across the top. I’d known from Tristan’s tone at lunch that he wouldn’t come, but still, it’s a pity. I was looking forward to spending some time with him outside of the office, and now he’s gone and dropped into my lap the means to enable me to invite VP. Tristan had been the one big reason against asking the guy, so there’s a neat irony to this turn of events. Not that I expect VP to come. By half 4 I’m certain he’ll say no, it’s too much hassle etc. That’s the cut-off I’ve given him.
At 16:36 I notice, out of the corner of my eye, my phone blinking. I’ve been on edge ever since I first texted him the suggestion, three hours before. What’s new is that now, for the first time, I’m certain: I want him to be there. I know he’d be brilliant company, that I’d laugh all night with him. It would be wonderful.
Shit. That’s my first thought. SHIT! And that’s my second. (My third is obviously, full stop???) I fire off an email to Colleague who is excited in the way only a person who isn’t currently facing a clothing/make-up crisis of gargantuan proportions could be.
‘Grey eye shadow – or anything darkish?’
‘I’ve got this.’
Zoe holds out what can only be described as pale pink shimmer.
Colleague comes in. ‘You OK?’
‘Er no! I am not prepared for this!’
She laughs. ‘Can I help with anything?’
‘What do you need?’
‘Everything! Eye shadow? Grey?’
Zoe reoffers pearly pink. ‘It’s kind of shimmery.’
And still pink.
‘How about this?’
I take Colleague’s grey eyeliner pencil and set to work.
I leave through the main entrance, which takes me past Tristan’s desk. I remember, as a child, always reading the phrase ‘he gave her an appraising glance’ in books, and never quite knowing what it meant. What Tristan gives me is undoubtedly appraising, but it ain’t a glance, it’s a look. I flash a smile.
‘Thank you for the ticket, Tristan.’
‘No worries. Have fun.’
I don’t catch the last words. ‘Sorry?’ I say, coming to a halt. The effect is entirely ruined.
Too late I realise what he said.
‘Oh – thanks.’
But he’s already looked away. Or has he?
Standing on the landing, waiting for the lift to arrive, a scene plays out in my head. It’s a cross between the moment in The Office when Dawn comes back to the party and kisses Tim, and something altogether more dramatic. It involves Tristan rushing towards the doors, pushing them open, starting to say something, only to break off and kiss me.
The lift doors open, and close on me. I hit the button for the ground floor.
The Voice Of Reason
Getting To Know You
Boys, Boys, Boys