Ah, those heady days of blushes, stammering, stepping on someone’s foot, and thinking maybe he likes me too…
“Morning!” That was all he said, this cheery young manager, but it came as a two-for-one with a friendly smile – something I desperately needed in those early days of my first job.
It was enough to push me – an awkward seventeen-year-old – into the jelly-legs-and-pink-cheeks situation I tried so hard to avoid.
Gosh, was he gorgeous…
Later that morning, he was in the all-staff meeting.
I felt the heat spread into my cheeks when I glanced up and caught his eye. That teasing, friendly grin again.
I stared at the floor for the entirety of the motivational speeches and sales graphs.
And so it went for the first three or four weeks.
It made work a harrowing and wonderful experience: would I see him that day? Would he notice me?
Would he smile? Would I respond without sounding like an overwhelmed simpleton?
If he’d brushed past me in the Tonkin and Sons corridors, I would’ve collapsed in a dead faint.
Everyone must have known.
You can’t stop a blush. Or a sudden inability to put words in the right order.
“Take this to Daniel, would you?” my line manager said, days later. “He works in the export department, but he’ll probably be in the staff room right now.”
Miss Lucas was maternal without having had children of her own. She wrote something and sealed it in an envelope.
I tried not to over-think it. All I needed to do was act like a normal person, which is always a stretch, taking a message to your crush.
I’d have to edge into a crowded room and sidle close to him. I might even have to say his name. Aloud.
Then I’d have to clear my throat and say it again because my “aloud” wasn’t usually loud enough when I was nervous.
The second time it’d be bound to come out too loud, like on that advert when the music stopped just as the guy had raised his voice.
I looked down in dismay: what was I even wearing?
“Go on then. Shoo!”
Miss Lucas hurried me on my way.
So I edged in, did the sidling thing, got through saying his name in one take and managed to add croakily, “Miss Lucas sent this. She says it’s important.”
Dan took it with a distracted smile and opened it.
He looked as if he wasn’t sure what to do with his face.
“Do you want to send a message back?”
“No,” he said, after a long look at me. “But thanks… er…?”
“Julie.” I stepped on someone’s foot and walked as steadily as I could to the door.
That was more or less our only contact for a while. He sometimes said “hello” as we passed in the foyer, but that was all.
Until the office Christmas party. In finery that belied my disquiet, I sat on my hands to stop them fluttering nervously.
I was picking up the crumbs from my paper plate with a dampened finger when suddenly he was leaning over me.
“Do you need a few minutes to finish your supper or shall we dance?”
He was grinning. So we danced and I was a mess of self-consciousness, but it was lovely in an excruciating kind of way.
He pulled a face. “I’ve got to mingle, but I’ll find you later on, OK?” He smiled.
We shared the last dance, swaying as we circled slowly.
It was odd and delicious being so close to him, taking in his faint cologne and the smoothness of his smart jacket. I relaxed and enjoyed the moment.
He walked me home and we chatted most of the night away.
No one stays seventeen forever, thank goodness. Time moves on and Dan and I moved with it, together.
We’ve remained friends with lots of people from the company, including Jill Lucas, now godmother to our baby son. She’s at her maternally bossy best in the role.
We’ve just celebrated our first anniversary: paper.
“Thanks a bunch!” he said, as I handed him a stack of A4 pads and sticky memos.
For my present, he’d had a locket made. Inside was a photo of me and a tiny piece of paper. I must have looked quizzical.
“It’s a scrap,” he said, “of the note you brought me in the staff room.”
“That’s nice,” I said, thinking, this is weird. I’d forgotten about it.
He laughed. “You never read it, did you? Look, I saved it.”
He opened his wallet and extracted a page from a Tonkin and Sons memo pad.
As he unfolded it, I could see in Miss Lucas’s neat-but-hurried handwriting, the words: The girl delivering this note is mad about you. Be kind.
Our My Weekly Favourites series of short fiction from our archives continues on Mondays and Thursdays. Look out for the next one.
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