The Last Meeting

There’s a flutter in my belly. I protectively cup my hands over it. Could the hormones be sensitive to the significance of the day? There is no doubt that I’m on edge, eagerly anticipating his arrival yet a little anxious at the same time.

We met, five years ago, me a mere order clerk, he the new salesman with first-day nerves, casting about for a friendly face. My smile was fleeting, barely noticeable surely, but in the briefest of glances our eyes met, just for a moment, then I continued tapping keys and he continued following the MD on the obligatory rookie’s tour of the office.

A week later he was in the office again. He’d been shadowing the MD, being introduced to major UK clients. He should have looked weary. It had been an exhausting itinerary. I knew, I’d typed it. But he didn’t look at all tired, rather he seemed more… animated and fired up. The MD called me over.

‘This is Brian Wood, Isobel. He’ll be covering the UK from now on while I concentrate on building up our presence in Europe.’ Then he explained that he wanted me to attend to all Brian’s admin in future and initially, help him settle-in. To my embarrassment I felt a blush rise from my chin and hoped fervently that Brian hadn’t noticed. This had to be a promotion of sorts. At the very least I was elevated from the order office. Chin on chest I thanked Mr Swift, though he probably never heard me as he strode away, his mind already elsewhere.

So that was how Brian and I became a team. Working together to keep clients happy and orders flowing in. And we soon grew to be a good team, to the extent that we almost knew what the other was thinking, even though Brian spent most of the time on the road and I spent my working day in the office. He tried to be at base for a couple of hours each week and I began to find I was looking forward to those visits. The day perked up when I heard his sprightly tread on the stairs. I’d brew coffee and we’d get down to work planning his diary, dictating letters, progressing his orders. But it wasn’t all work, we’d have a laugh together too. I’d update him on the office gossip and he’d keep me posted on the amusing antics of his two small children. Then, before we knew it, it would be time for him to leave for his next appointment. So I had to be content to wait for his daily briefing phone calls and next week’s visit.

It was the touch that made me realise I was more to him than his assistant. He was about to leave after one of his office mornings, laptop packed away, suit jacket slung over his shoulder, when he touched my arm. Barely a touch at all, but there was no doubt it was intended. Our eyes locked, for no more than a second.

He coughed, a dry embarrassed cough, ‘See you next Tuesday,’ he said and swung out of the door, tapping down the stairs to the car park.

For a moment I could barely breathe. I’d recognised I had feelings for him, but he couldn’t possibly have feelings for me. He had a wife and two lovely children. He was devoted to them. There could never be any room in his life for me. But that touch, that look, told a very different story.

But I was wrongl. Before long we were meeting regularly after work. It was easy really, his job took him all over the country and his wife never knew when to expect him home. My fiancé worked long and unsociable hours, often not getting home until late evening. The strangest thing was, though we both knew we were cheating our partners, it didn’t feel like cheating. It simply felt like loving two people at the same time and finding time in our lives for both of them. The only bit that left a bitter taste in the mouth was the children. We neither of us wanted to hurt his children. For that reason we both knew that we could never move the relationship onto another level.

And then I became pregnant. We knew it couldn’t be Brian’s baby. His wife had insisted on a vasectomy after their second child. My fiancé had to be the father. My emotions were totally upside-down. I was delighted to be pregnant. I wanted to be a mum. My fiancé wanted to be a dad. We were beside ourselves with excitement. Morning sickness came and went, we furnished the nursery and made plans like any other expectant parents. Except, of course, there was a complication too many. A complication other expectant mums don’t have to overcome. There were three people in this relationship.

Brian was loving and supportive, as I knew he would be. We talked it through. This didn’t change the love we had for each other, but it did change the way forward.

I’m home from work for the last time today. I’ve come home loaded with gifts from work colleagues. Teeny weeny baby outfits, soft toys, picture books all lovingly bought as leaving presents. It’s been a bit of a tearful day but an exciting one too. I hear the gate click and go to the window to watch Brian stride up the path. I open the door to let him in then shut the door behind him. We can’t wait to embrace, to touch, to kiss...

Afterwards hold hands tightly over mugs of coffee and peer into each other’s eyes. Those eyes forever drawn together, as if magnetised.

Then, time is up. He stands to leave. I take his hand and hold it against my belly.

‘For him, this has to be our last meeting,’ he says. Our hands break apart and he is gone.

Angela C

995 Words

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