Ok, he thought, she's not beautiful in the traditional way, neither is she ugly pretty, she's something else, really something else and he couldn't put a finger to it or quite find the word. Her clothes were well chosen, intelligently you would say, her grooming and make up just right; he wanted to touch that hair, feel it. She was attractive and fascinating, maybe that was it, maybe it was the fascination that she engendered just in bucket loads, she was no model but she was fascinating. He couldn't stop thinking about her. That's where it gets a man, when he can't lose a woman in his thoughts. She kept on invading them and he was chasing her in them but chasing her through a maze, her back to her. She wasn't running fast or sprinting or sweating, she was just ahead of him, all the time. Out of touch, out of reach, elusive, but he had to catch her.
She was a regular visitor to another department in the building, he watched her come and go from his office, he looked for a pattern in times, he planned to bump into her in the foyer or the corridor or in the lift, get a few words in, say hello and take it from there. He had seen her now about a dozen times in the past few weeks, a couple of times quite close, no wedding ring, no companions hanging about. He'd made a few discreet enquiries with reception and with a couple of girls across the office. Not much was known about her but she always came and went alone. She was working for a consultancy, advising on a project, something to do with financial structures, she was in demand by all accounts. Good, she'll keep on coming back. His feelings were...err...galvanising.
It was on a Wednesday that she next arrived, she was driving a silver Golf, he saw her down across the car park making her way in across the car park. It was drizzling, she was wearing a tan mac and holding one of those transparent umbrellas. We watched her weave around the cars, down the block paved path, under the entrance canopy and into reception out of sight. He could've watched her move like that all day. He gave a cough, nodded across to a colleague and pointed towards the door. “Water!”
By the time he'd got down to reception the swing doors leading to accounts and the financial directors office were swinging closed. Missed her. He smiled at the glum receptionist and point to the door, she nodded, “missed her.” He gulped, turned on his heels and headed through the doors towards finance. He was blinking and felt a hot sweat across his back, perhaps he would catch up, perhaps she'd be waiting on one of the couches or at the cooler or something. He was headed down the corridor, all the doors were closed, nobody in sight. The corridor ended with two fire doors and led into an open office full of workstations, headsets and at the far end partitioned private offices. He had momentum now, he kept going, this was the maze, this was the daydream coming true, this was the chase, this was blurring at the edges but hot, purposeful and focused right there at the molten centre. A man searching for a mate, quarry, a prize, a tilt, a chance, an opportunity. “Winners make their chances and winners take their chances”, said an inner voice. The voice overpowered any office noise, chatter or hellos that were swirling around, he was travelling with a purpose.
Ahead was the door of the financial directors office, it was closed. He could hear voices. Not now, he couldn't go in now. He was stuck like a bloodhound that couldn't follow the scent across the water. Stuck. He stood for a few seconds mentally marking the boundary of his territory and headed back to his desk, a bit more slowly this time. As his thoughts settled he felt good, he had acted and taken a sensible course of action in not bursting into the meeting to say...what? Now he knew where she was, knew she'd be here most likely all, she's on his turf and he can wait, at least wait till four or five or whenever she leaves. Today he will hover, he will bide time and then he will act.
His idea, when it arrived seemed simple. Get to the car park and park close to or next to her but the silver Golf was in a visitor’s space along way from his parking spot. He needed to get in there, into that space, parallel parked. At about three thirty he made a lame excuse about his reading glasses being in the car and left the office. He walked lowly past her parked vehicle, no spaces close by yet. Ok, there's time, I can do this, I'll get my car over here and loiter until a space comes up.
Two hours later he's hoped out of eight spaces and is two cars away from the Golf, there is sweat building on his brow and he needs to pee, to eat and to drink. The radio is driving him crazy, he punches the wheel, still she does not appear. In the building office lights are slowly going out, more staff and visitors have left, now there are more spaces than cars. Her's still sits there, stubbornly defiant. It's dulling over and the rain has returned. He wakes up in the dark, he's cold, really does need to pee now and the dashboard clock says 01:30. Bugger.
Next morning he arrives a little late, the Golf is gone, strange cars occupy all the visitors spaces, the world has turned; things have moved on. He goes up to the office, sits at his desk and picks up a mail and new appointment from his manager. “please see me when you come in.” He shuffles over to the other side of the office, his manager gestures for him to come in and sit down. “Last night's CCTV is quite interesting, the security company forwarded me a link, can you tell me what's going on here?” He explains, not in detail that he's taken a shine to this woman, maybe gone about it the wrong way, sorry for any confusion created...and so on. The manager grins, “maybe I can help you a little on this one, she's in to audit some project team, with us for about another week, her name is Maria Bennet, I think, don't know much more, the girls in supplies were giggling about her, I overheard a bit of it.”
That night he drove home, she hadn't been into the office today so today seemed extra empty. He thought he needed to find some phrase, some term to hold onto to describe the feeling. It was as if humiliation was orbiting around the planet of frustration where he lived in a house called inadequate doing a job called futile working for a firm named uncaring whilst living a life called empty. Then his phone rang, the number was withheld.
“Hello?” “ Hi, my name is Maria...”.