Are you okay?” Katy’s question was pitched so none of their fellow accountants could hear. “There’ve been no literary quotes for days, and you haven’t been correcting my grammar.” She pinned Henry with grey eyes that seemed to see more than she let on.
Henry always found her difficult to read; only her expressive hands sometimes gave him hints. Now loosely clasped on the table, they told him nothing. She had been his colleague for years, he owed her the truth.
“Fancy some air?”
“Sure, I’ll get my coat.”
They walked in silence for a while before Katy turned those eyes on him. “Well?”
Henry took a deep breath. “Do you mind if I say something personal?”
“I guess we’ve worked together long enough.”
It was permission of sorts. “I’ve been.” He stopped, took a deep breath and screwed up his courage. “Look, can I hold your hand?” She frowned, with a curious tilt of her head, then took his outstretched hand in cool, dry fingers. “I have this theory,” he explained, “you can’t lie to someone if you’re holding their hand.”
“How did you come up with that one?”
“I read a thriller, all about lie detectors.”
She laughed. “I didn’t think you read anything written in the last two hundred years. If that’s what is making you act funny then I think you should go back to the classics.”
Henry looked down at her fingers. The tip of one nail was cracked. She never used make up, it was all part of her no nonsense, what you see is what you get approach to life. He may as well just come out and say it.
“I’m sorry I’ve been a bit hot and cold. The thing is, I’m trying to regulate my behaviour towards you to just colleagues and work friends.” He squirmed; he should have just sent her an email, the words had been more elegant in his head. “Because I’ve realised I feel more for you than that. I’ve been checking to see if what I am doing or saying is over the line. I don’t want what I feel to spoil things.” His shoulders drooped in defeat; the whole speech was a disaster. “Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything.”
A gentle tug on his hand pulled his head up to face her perceptive eyes.
“That’s the least romantic declaration I’ve ever heard. Shakespeare must be turning in his grave.”
Shakespeare. He could always rely on the bard. “Would you have preferred: ‘Before God, Kate, I cannot look greenly’?”
She silenced him by squeezing his hand and she did not let go. “Yes.”
Ali Abbas is the author of Like Clockwork, a steampunk mystery published by Transmundane Press; Image and Other Stories, a collection of seven short stories that examine themes of love, loss and the haunting nature of bad decisions; and Hajj – My Pilgrimage, a light-hearted and secular look at the pilgrimage to Mecca that is at the heart of the Islamic faith. His short stories have also been published by Mad Scientist Journal and Transmundane Press. Ali maintains a blog at www.aliabbasali.com.