Authors: Sarah Michelle Lynch
The man was seriously drop-dead. My heart thwacked while he stirred his drink. His profile had me mesmerized. He was actually pretty, just in a totally masculine way.
“Is the machine coffee always this horrific?” I somehow managed to say.
He busied himself with his drink and nodded a lot, gesticulating with his stirring stick. “Yeah, real nasty. What you had was probably a good day. Most times, it tries to pass a few greasy drops off as coffee… you were probably lucky not to get spat at in your shiny new suit.”
I groaned, scrubbing my cheeks with my knuckles. “Please, don’t mention this fucking thing, okay?”
His lips were pink and perfect but a slight overbite had me thinking about nibbling his mouth and just…
You know when they say when you meet
, you just know, well I knew that day I had been struck. His shoulders, his chest… just… his voice. I dared not let my gaze drift elsewhere. I might have lost control of myself.
“I have a spare mug and a jar of coffee here, if you want…?”
Four or more inches taller than me.
He could barely look me in the eye either.
“Really?” I said, like the sad, desperate woman I was. I gushed, “That’d be great!”
He swung a plain white mug from a cupboard and tipped some coffee from a jar. He raised the mug to the hot water dispenser and I watched, enraptured, while this gorgeous man made me coffee. I didn’t even know his name. All I knew was that he was the first person to be kind that day.
“Creamer? Sugar?” His tone was sardonic. “We got it all going on now.”
“Yes!” It was all I knew to say.
He walked toward me to hand me the drink and as he got closer, I saw how blue his eyes really were, magnified against the light streaming through the blinds. He smelled like roots, I don’t know, like earth and spice. His eyes—I wished he’d pin them on me all the time. They were deep-blue, decorated with emerald-green flecks. His pinkie accidentally brushed my hand when he gave me the cup and I swear, I nearly dropped the damn thing. It’d look good if I scolded someone on my first day, wouldn’t it?
We both looked down to where we had momentarily touched and the electricity was almost blinding. That stupid voice of reason shouted me down from Cloud Nine.
I thought quickly. An introduction. “I’m Chloe.”
I needed to know his bloody name.
I held my hand out and he looked at my outstretched fingers like they were a temptation he should avoid. He scratched the imaginary rash on his neck but shook my hand anyway.
With a slight wink he revealed, “Kincaid, the coffee man. Friends call me Cai… or jerk-off. Depending on what city I’m in.”
“Kincaid. Wow. Never heard that name before.” Great name. Great. All manner of expletives were joining with that name in my sick, depraved little inner-imagination. Could he see my thoughts? Could people tell when I zoned out and went to my world of self-amusement?
“It’s what the American elite do… give their darlings surnames as forenames to make them seem more mighty,” he explained, looking amused from behind his coffee cup. “Cai for short is a subversion of that, I guess.”
He sniggered, proud of his alleged subversion. I sensed he was clutching at any words he could muster. If he was as attracted to me as I was to him, he was struggling with it more.
I laughed nervously. “New Yorker?”
“That obvious?” He grinned.
“You have that unapologetic attitude
thing going on, plus you actually know what irony is. Most Americans don’t,” I said, thinking back to all the foreign students I’d met in university—though they probably weren’t a good sample spread.
He spat out his drink a little. “Might have to watch my back, in case the irony police catch up with me now you’ve had words downtown.”
We smiled that awkward, genial exchange of pleasantries again, before someone else came into the kitchen. I wondered how long we’d actually been in there. It could have been five minutes or five hours. Time skidded unsteadily while I was in his presence. Anyway we took our cue to leave, and without words, he virtually walked me back to my desk.
“Later,” he said, and strode off to wherever he was headed.
I lost sight of him amongst the masses of people, desks, TV screens and room dividers, but soon enough found myself back at my desk. I might have kicked myself a little for saying he had attitude and all that. Anyway, Kip was still there faffing with all my accounts and passwords.
“Hey, I hope I didn’t miss anything important?” I said, my teeth chattering. The air conditioning combined with the loss of warmth Kincaid evoked was inexorable.
“I’ve got you all kitted out here,” Kip’s voice cut through the cool air to remind me I was at work—it was still my first day and I was meant to be making a good impression. He motioned to my iMac and to an assortment of other devices he’d produced since I’d been in the kitchen. “Handset, iPad, headset, chargers… we don’t usually hand out laptops at this stage, but you might be able to get one further down the line. Just depends on your requirements.”
His treatment of me was so mechanical, it almost hurt my feelings. Almost. I was used to a bit of banter and a chuckle, you know, but these technical minds were more concerned with achieving results I guess.
“At the end of the day I leave all this stuff here, right?”
He just looked at me like I was some crazed loon—and there was that grunt again. I fiddled with some of it and got lost thinking about how hard this job might be.
“I’ve written all your passwords down on this,” he passed me a post-it, replacing a wad of them back in his pocket, “I also put my extension on there. You just key in those four digits on your landline. Honestly, though, it’s all a piece of piss. Just… get yourself accustomed and away you go.”
Kip rose from his chair and I moved mine back into position to sit in front of my monitor.
“Okay, thanks,” I said hesitantly, and he vanished behind a door, or a room divider, somewhere.
Finally, something to do
I looked around the Mac and found it accessible, easy. Opening my email I found I already had 36 mails to go through. I was on a ton of mailing lists.
I looked at my watch and saw it was already 10.23a.m. Didn’t leave me long to consider how much I was shitting that meeting.
I drained my coffee cup and wondered whether Kincaid would be working with me. Whether he was elsewhere… whether he might be even in this bloody editorial meeting!
When Ash wandered over, a mug in his grasp, he gestured with his eyes that it was time and I followed him.
WHEN I was asked to stand up and introduce myself, I said, “I’m Chloe Harmon… and well, I don’t have anything interesting to say about myself. I haven’t met or dated anyone famous. I shagged a teacher, but, I was an adult. So it wasn’t that amazing. God, anyway, I hate football. Maybe that’s cos I’m from Barnsley or it might just be that I can’t kick to save my life. Anyway, I worked for the
for nine years before I came here. I celebrated my 30th birthday last week… and to tell you the truth, I’ve only just woken from the fog of the world’s worst hangover…”
I knew I came across as a total freak but mouth lurched into action before brain sometimes. Especially with several pairs of eyes either trained on me, or trained away. Those looking at me might have thought me a dickhead, those looking away were obviously bored.
I was just an ordinary girl with a talent and didn’t really know how to get round all these professional fuckers who were looking at me like my shit stank.
I looked at my audience and realised nobody was impressed. Neither was I, really. I was talking drivel. I sat back down with a thump and drowned in my seat.
Ash cleared his throat and politely thanked me for sharing. (Yeah, sharing a little too much I reckon!)
The rest of the meeting passed in a blur. In one respect, I was glad Kincaid wasn’t in that room with us. God knows what he’d think of me otherwise. Then again, it led me to consider what his job was.
During the meeting various members of staff made their input at whatever point they felt like, which meant I had no idea what was going on between all the criss-crossing and to-ing and fro-ing of conversations and exchanges. It was a free-for-all. I was in a room with researchers, editors, managers and the lackeys at the bottom like me—the content writers.
“That’s it for this week then guys,” Ash said.
Everyone left the room quickly but Ash waited behind and we were the last ones.
“Kind of don’t like talking in front of people,” I explained sheepishly. “I sort of have shit for brains sometimes.”
He patted my shoulder, laughing. “Actually kind of made my day knowing someone new can see straight through these boring old tossers. Now, let’s get you and Trevor acquainted.”
Back at my desk, Trevor was waiting. I didn’t know if he’d been in the meeting—like I said it’d all passed in a blur and there were too many people’s names to remember. Trevor had rocker hair, he was 50-odd years old and rake thin.
“Right Chloe… Trev’ll get you started.”
I nodded like I knew what he was saying, when really I was still in a daze of confusion. They knew I had nearly ten years under my belt, right? Right!? When Trevor and I were alone, he talked like I knew what the hell he was going on about.
He started passing me bundles of paper. “Here is a copy of the in-house style guide, you know? A guide to familiarising with the systems… a guide to exceptions to the rules… oh, and I’ll mail you a favourites list to add to your browser… email contacts, too. So, there’s lots to get yourself accustomed with…” and the list went on.
His voice was so quiet, so low, almost a hiss. I had to move closer so I could hear and I ended up like he was—hunched over the desk with my elbows propping my head up. At one point we even sighed in unison. He seemed like an okay guy so I said off the bat, “Is this place gonna be my worst nightmare?”
His laughter was like his voice—a comical hiss, his eyes closed, his hair and fuzz making most of his features indistinguishable—his face squeezed tight with amusement.
He whispered, “Nah. You’ll be fine.”
BY LUNCHTIME I was exhausted. I’d been awake since six a.m., run the gauntlet of my own stupid nerves—and Trevor had just about tested me with as many facts and figures as he could. I had a mere half an hour for lunch and would have preferred to use that time to have a snooze under my desk!
Instead I sat Googling stuff to do for free in London. I held a ham sandwich with very curly lettuce in my hand and looked down at the empty coffee cup by my side, wondering how I might procure some more. Which is when I realised I had my email system up and running. I navigated the internal address book and typed,
—, when his name came up in the list.
. One Kincaid in the entire company. Alongside was an extension number and his job title, ‘Freelance Photographer’. That got me all excited—thinking he might be a bit more than artistic.
I pasted his name into a new mail and typed:
Subject: Hi there
Coffee man, new girl here.
I’m lacking in black gold and I’m hoping…
I nervously waited for a response, chewing my nail, pretending to absorb what was on the screen in front. I was so distracted thinking he wouldn’t mail back that I missed him sidle up to my desk, jar of coffee and mug in hand.
When I saw his shadow standing behind me, I must have flushed a thousand shades of red. His scent invaded my nostrils again and just his presence made me wildly happy.
When I dared to look up at him, he gestured without words that we head to the kitchen, grabbing my mug for me. Some of my colleagues sitting at the more populated side of the desk looked on as if what was happening was their latest news piece.
Kincaid and I rocked up at the kitchen without any awkwardness, despite the silence between us. He busied himself cleaning my cup and making me a fresh coffee (yes!).