Basic Attraction

Basic Attraction by Chris Green

When Eve pushes the cloakroom door shut, and with a rippling of her flame coloured dress, turns towards him, Dean knows he is in trouble.

I feel naughty today, Mr Jones,’ Eve says, rubbing her hand up her stockinged leg. ‘Don’t you think it’s time we got to know one another a little better?’

Dean is lost for words. What does she mean, exactly? Something is happening here, but he doesn’t know what it is. Not so much what is happening perhaps as why it is happening. This sort of behaviour isn’t permitted at Herschel Quinn. Maybe it’s acceptable at office Christmas parties, but outside of that, it’s a definite no-no. It’s even written into the contract of employment. Dean is Eve’s boss. Who knows what allegations could arise at a later date? A romp in the closet would represent a perfect blackmailing opportunity for a would-be femme fatale. Not that Dean has noticed Eve exhibiting any femme fatale qualities, but these days, a fellow has to be aware of all possibilities. The sheer number of TV shows exploring this theme is certain to have some resonance around the metaphorical photocopier and offer something for staff to talk about as light relief from databases and spreadsheets. For instance, Basic Attraction, a steamy new six-part neo-bunny-boiler started on Netflix just last night. And the blockbuster, Vamp, is up for eight Academy Awards. A middle manager such as Dean Jones has to be careful about his behaviour in the office. He needs to be vigilant, watch his step. He needs to be aware of the shifting sands of office allegiances and developing friendships. Gossip travels fast, and jealousies last a long time. And whether or not he subscribes to political correctness and woke politics, he has to be aware of the inroads they have made into everyday life.

Dean knows he shouldn’t respond to Eve’s overtures, but he can’t seem to help himself. Eve is an attractive woman, nicely rounded in all the right places. She is perfectly aware of the effect she has on men. She shops at Big Girls Blouse. He has seen the catalogues on her desk. Dean has been short of female company these past weeks. Miranda is in Mauritius trying to clinch a new deal for Caprice Holidays, the travel company she works for, and this seems to be taking longer than she expected. In all the years they have been married, this is the longest they have been apart. He misses her terribly. With their daughter Donna at uni in Leeds, their big house has felt sad and empty. And the company at the Harry Shakespeare in the evenings does nothing to lift the spirits. The clientele all seem to be drowning their sorrows or mourning the death of a best friend and Big Len the landlord has stopped serving his favourite beer, Old Thumper. Even the new leisure centre where he goes for his twice-weekly workouts seems down in the dumps.

Eve is all over him. This is not a spur of the moment impulse, she tells him. She has been thinking about it for some time. He wonders briefly if instead of a wham bang thankyou ma’am in the closet, it would be wise to take a rain check and invite Eve round later this evening instead, but this idea quickly passes. Eve clearly does not want to leave it that long. Conveniently, there are just enough soft furnishings to facilitate the manoeuvre. Before he knows it, they have reached the point of no return.

Ten minutes later, they are back at their desks.

Can I have a word, Dean?’ Stanton Polk says. He leers maliciously.

Dean catches the look and instinctively tenses. He takes a step back.

The video footage may not be too clear, Dean,’ Polk says. ‘But I have some pretty steamy audio of your little romp with your busty babe. I think it is obvious who we can hear, at least or it will be once it is edited. It might be worth a favour or two, if you know what I mean. Perhaps even quite soon. After all, you wouldn’t want me to share this around the office, would you?’

Dean is momentarily disarmed. It is no secret that Stanton Polk has had it in for him since he got the promotion ahead of him last year. But this revelation about the recording is still a bolt out of the blue. Admittedly, he had dropped Polk in it to get the position, so it should not be a surprise that the bastard wants to get back at him. Might Polk and Eve even have colluded in this episode for Polk to get some leverage over him? Blackmail can be a powerful tool in the cut-throat world of office politics. To a greater or lesser degree, it goes on all the time. But why would Eve go along with Polk’s plan? What would they be in it for her?

Besides, she didn’t seem to be faking it when she seduced him earlier. Most likely, Polk is just trying it on. He can’t have good footage, video or audio unless he was in the cloakroom. And this definitely wasn’t the case. Polk probably has nothing at all. He is just flashing his phone at him and sounding off about the trouble he could cause to scare him. But he doesn’t scare that easily. Dean Jones didn’t get where he is today by being a shrinking violet. It’s dog-eat-dog here at Herschel Quinn. Shrinking violets don’t get far in a commercial office environment in the twenty-twenties.

With this in mind, Dean steels himself.

Do your worst, loser,’ he says, hoping to call his colleague’s bluff. With this, he slides off.

Job well done, he thinks, putting Polk in his place. He needs to tackle Eve next. How should he play this? Act like nothing has happened between the two of them? Act like he has not just had the conversation with Stanton Polk? Or call Eve’s bluff and play it cool and say that as a result of their coupling earlier, he has become attracted to her and wants to take it further, perhaps as soon as later on? But which strategy would be most likely to confirm her innocence or guilt without it becoming too drawn out? Which would be the best for him? He needs to give this some careful thought. How much can he remember about staff management psychology from the Leadership Skills course he went on as part of the Herschel Quinn management training programme last year? Very little, he suspects. It was deadly. And it was in Slough. Not the fun capital of the Home Counties by any stretch.

Role-playing is all very well, but here is a real-life situation. This is not an exercise in management training. Eve is not necessarily working with the same script. Dean decides on the first option, act like nothing has happened between them. This way, he reasons, Eve is going to have to show her hand. It also had the advantage that he can change tactics at any time.

He calls Eve into his office and asks her to fetch the Dante Holstein file from the archives and to be quick about it. Something’s come up about a legal issue with the contract, he tells her, and it needs sorting. She does not give a hint of any change in their normal everyday office relationship. She still addresses him in a formal way as Mr Jones and returns quickly with the file. He wonders if now she is trying to call his bluff. He decides it is time for a change of tack.

I enjoyed our little get-together a lot, you know, Eve,’ he says. ‘So much so, I’ve been thinking it would be nice to repeat it. In a more comfortable setting. Perhaps you could come around this evening? What do you think? About eight? I could cook us something nice. Oriental perhaps. Or Middle Eastern. It’s OK. Miranda won’t be there.’

Eve accepts his invitation and expresses a preference for Chinese. As he drives home from the Wai Yu Fat Chinese supermarket with the ingredients for a tasty chow mien, Dean is still not sure whether Eve is trying to call his bluff or whether she is genuinely enamoured by him. Surprise or not, he may as well enjoy it. He gets the meal started, showers and changes into some casual clothes and chooses the music for the evening. Being so wrapped up in the preparations, Dean does not hear the pinging of the text messages on his phone. If he had, he would have been aware that Miranda had landed in the UK and was on her way home from the airport.

Timing is key in certain situations. Bad timing can be fatal. Miranda’s arrival and Eve’s arrival within a minute of one another could easily have been avoided had Dean been less preoccupied. Even if Miranda had arrived a minute or two earlier, Dean might have been able to pretend the cooking smells coming from the kitchen, the soft lighting, Marvin Gaye playing in the background, and the incense burning were all part of a welcome home surprise. He might have also had the opportunity to alert Eve to the unexpected development with a quick text message.

As it is, when Miranda’s key enters the lock, Eve is in the hallway hanging up her coat to reveal a woman evidently dressed for an assignation. The front door opens slowly to reveal Miranda loaded down with luggage. She looks like someone who has travelled a long way. Someone who might not be completely understanding about her husband entertaining a frisky young thing in a little leather skirt. She kicks the front door shut and tries to take in what she is seeing. It doesn’t look good. Dean does not know where to put himself. With a face like thunder, Eve bears down on him. When she grabs hold of the baseball bat that he has carelessly left lying in the hall, Dean knows he is in trouble.

Copyright © Chris Green, 2023: All rights reserved


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