In a rare violation of the rules, I decided to wear a different top from the dull shirt, which was part of the uniform. I picked out a fabulous white Indian muslin shirt, with delicate embroidery in the same colour. My face flushed with pleasure as I checked my appearance in the mirror. My light complexion was glowingly set off by the brightness of the white colour, which served as a powerful contrast to the darkness of my hair and my eyes, besides enhancing the effect produced by my change of make-up. The first positive response to my carefully decked-out appearance came from the eyes of the male co-workers when I got into the bus; my feminine satisfaction soared. Fury smiled, and poked me with her elbow as I sat down next to her, ‘Hmm, what’s going on kiddo?’ A meaning smile was my only response.
As we drew up to the office buildings, Fury spouted out in her usual lovable manner, ‘Go get him, kiddo’. She jested, holding her head high, fist clenched in the air, as if she were at a rally of the Bathist ‘ready to die’ brigades, pledging war against the ‘power of evil’. ‘The arena is all yours’, she continued, ‘show those “imperialists” how effective the Iraqi weapons are’. I couldn’t help but crack up with laughter, watching her seriously engaged in an amusing oration, which was subtly inflected by her lovable Kurdish accent, and accompanied with vigilant but funny left and right turns, so as to ensure she was not overheard by one of those sentinels. She eventually took leave of me with one of her ever ready witty remarks, and I walked through the main entrance. A combination of fear and thrilling anticipation was driving my callow heart crazy; I was tentative, with a tangible trace of anger, but my mind was contemplating revenge, resolute in its aim of teaching him some vital lessons. This, nonetheless, wasn’t the entire truth. I was excited, exhilarated and aspired to win more of his attention. I wanted him to see how beautiful I looked: ‘If he went crazy seeing me yesterday, let’s see how well he would cope with this change’. The green female within me was engaged in waging a war with one solo weapon, her beauty. I found myself unequivocally inviting the unquestionably sophisticated experience of a male who wasn’t even an Iraqi. Although I knew beforehand that I had not the slightest capability for such a match, the sensation seemed so irresistibly alluring. My body was shivering; my heart was enraptured. But I was still puzzled and confounded, and unable to fathom my feelings or my weird actions.
I saw him sitting behind Gerhard’s desk, chatting with Jack when I opened the main door. I passed through the corridor. ‘Good morning’, I said, and walked inside, absolutely shunning his side. It took even Jack, the reserved and faithful husband, a few moments to figure out the reply to my morning wishes. Jack replied smiling; he didn’t. The impact of my transformation was obvious. I sat in my chair, unlocked my drawers, slid my purse in, pulled my papers out and went quickly through, prioritising my tasks, as I would do every morning.
A few minutes later, the phone rang. I picked it up, and engaged in conversation for nearly five minutes, but I could sense through fleeting glimpses how effective was the blow. Jack was still talking, but I hardly heard him utter a word. I hung up, and gathered some paperwork to exchange with Fury as was common every morning. She, from her side, was watching with amused interest this episode of retaliation. I entered her office, heart leaping with exhilaration and face glowing with joy. I stood talking to her, while I positioned myself where I could watch and enjoy his impuissance, just as he watched and enjoyed mine the day before. ‘Tar-reech it-o’r-feen itkhar-bi-sheen, and all the time I thought you were a clawless kitten’, Fury said, disbelieving her eyes for the soaring confidence that I was manifesting for the very first time. And, to be honest, I could not believe my own assurance. It was the sort of self-confidence that was mainly empowered by sweet feminine gratification, and which was bolstered by his obsessed looks. I seemed like a female shelling off her puerility, and it tasted just sensational.
My visit to Fury’s took some five minutes, and I was back again in my office. My heart was still quivering with exultation and satisfaction, and, no less, with apprehension. Jack kept talking to the 'best' listener. I sat in my place keeping myself focused on my work. The phone rang again, and I picked it up. It was for Jack. I turned to him, ‘Sorry for interrupting Jack, it’s for you’. Jack picked up the extension line, and I resumed where I had left off. Suddenly I heard him, talking, addressing me, and introducing himself, ‘My name is Martin, Martin Mondelli, what’s yours?’
I lifted my head. A pair of the most beautiful hazel eyes that I had ever seen was smiling. Yes, his eyes smiled ahead of his lips, so tender, so passionate and so warm. ‘What happened to that confidence and dominance of yesterday, started giving up already?’ I wondered triumphantly.
Head down, flipping through my papers, ‘Liana’, I replied.
He didn’t seem to catch it right. ‘Ilana?’ he asked
‘Liana’, I corrected, with a one-word reply, not even bothering a single look towards his side, busy with my papers, or feigning busyness rather.
‘Beautiful… name’, he said, stressing the first word, and dividing it from the second, by some lapse of time.
Decorum, in any ordinary situation, necessitates the reciprocation of courtesy or civility, but, I suppose, this was unlike any other. My unwillingness to carry on with the conversation was obvious. In other words, I was deliberately disregarding him. Striking further with my apparent nonchalance, I grabbed some papers and walked to the storeroom, and commenced my morning’s photocopying task earlier than usual. I could still hear Jack talking on the phone over the noise of the copier. All of a sudden, I saw him strolling to the coffee machine. He fixed himself a cup, and stood there sipping. A few moments later, he followed me to the storeroom. He leaned against the door watching me, in silence. I carried on with my copying task, while he, in an attitude of immense calmness, one hand holding the cup, the other in his pocket, seemed diverted, as he watched a kitten struggling hard to assume the role of a lioness.
‘Sorry, for yesterday Liana’.
It was first time I heard him utter my name, and somehow I enjoyed it.
‘Apologies are accepted only for accidents’, I replied head down, copying, and ignoring him still.
‘So you think it was intentional?’ he asked, laughing.
I stopped what I was doing and replied with a meaningful look, ‘You said it’, and I resumed my work. He remained silent, sipping the coffee.
‘So I take it, my apology is not accepted’, he said a few moments later.
I didn’t reply, struggling with the jammed copier that had swallowed one of my papers. With one casual look I could sense how much he was enjoying my helplessness with the unregenerate machine, hoping, perhaps, that I’d somehow ask for help. But that seemed way beyond what my feigned hostility allowed, let alone my uncompromising ego. Before long, I sensed him stepping inside the room; he put his cup on the side desk, and moved towards me
‘Allow me, please’. I looked up; his eyes were burning with more of that crazy obsession. He worked adeptly, while I stood aside, watching his beautifully shaped body. His muscles were bursting out through his shirt, strong, manly and most appealing. It took him a few minutes to fix the copier. He pressed the on-button, and the copier resumed its function. Wordlessly, he handed over the paper that the copier had swallowed. ‘Thanks’, I said, avoiding his eyes.
I moved to the side desk and began, head down, sorting my papers. He grabbed his cup and stood aside, immersed, watching, not the copier, but me. The copier was still running. Ill at ease because of his besieging gaze, I hastily grabbed some of my papers, preparing for flight. On realizing my intention, he lightly stepped to the middle of the doorway, and stood there, leaving insufficient space on both sides for anyone to pass through, apparently determined to abort my attempt at escape. His eyes were fixed challengingly upon me. I looked at him, my jaws falling open, unable to hide my shock at the audacious behaviour he’d manifested for the second time. He smiled with an annoying air of confidence. ‘May I?’ I asked frowning, with patience running thin. His unwillingness to move was evident. He stood watching delightedly my childish fit of anger, and enjoying his coffee. And I stood facing him, defenceless, and holding my papers to my chest, but, strangely enough, enjoying every bit of this contest of powers, and wishing for more of his obduracy. On his part he was patently trying to escalate my nervousness, hoping, perhaps, for some sort of surrender, a smile, for instance, even a faint one, to reciprocate his warm loving looks. Both of us, however, sustained our obstinacy.
‘Machine is done, take your papers’, he commanded gently, nodding towards the copier, and curiously enough, I not only obeyed, but I enjoyed obeying too. I grabbed those extra copies, which I had intended to collect when he was gone, and I turned to leave again, and once more faced the blocked door. I stood waiting, but still avoiding his eyes by busying mine with a roaming gaze that took in his shirt, my papers, and the other offices beyond the door.
‘Please’, I eventually pleaded. He smiled with satisfaction. He seemingly took this subtle shift of attitude for an unproclaimed surrender. He stepped slightly aside, leaving a narrow passage with barely enough room for me to pass through, so narrow that despite squeezing myself strongly against the doorframe, our arms touched, while his captivated eyes devoured my face.
He followed me, stood at the doorway to my office, waved to Jack, and left hurriedly.
To Be Continued.......