Daniel met me for lunch, after we were assigned desks. His eyebrow shot up as he scanned the titles of my CDs. I plugged in my little stereo under my desk, stood, and dusted off my hands.
'What kind of music do you like?” He said, “I'm trying to get into this younger generation of music.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, “You can't be a day over twenty-five.”
He chuckled gently. “Thank you for that,” he said and thumbed through the selection of music.
“Well if you're not twenty-five and happy with the compliment, I'd have to guess that you're older.”
“A bit yes,” he said and laughed again.
“Aussie or English?” I asked, curious.
“I'm more than peckish. You can ask me over sandwiches.”
There were others in the cafeteria, but no males aside from the two teen boys from Orientation. Daniel sat in his seat, radiating sunshine, and the women were drawn by it. I rolled my eyes and took a gaping bite out of my roast beef sandwich.
“Daniel, our team is having a meeting at ten,” one plump woman said as she waddled by. I watched her undress him with her piggish eyes. I sighed through my nose and she jerked her hawkish nose at me, narrowing her gaze to pinpoint lasers.
“You're not on our team,” she growled and stalked off.
“That's right Claire, I was going to tell you, I was picked for the other Admin team.”
“Customer?” I mumbled around a full mouth. He nodded and laughed again. He laughed a lot.
“Ah,” I said with a shrug, “I think I'll prefer Client Admin anyway.”
He nodded quickly and folded his used plastic wrap into a square, to deposit it in the recycling bin. I watched this with interest. A man with manners. No wonder the women loved him.
I came to call his team of overly round, ugly, lonely women, his hens.
“Does that make me the cock?” he asked one afternoon as we stood outside the back doors. I smoked, he didn't. He stood there with his hands in his pockets and watched the teen boys walk around the narrow edge of the fountain, holding their arms out for balance.
“I remember being that young,” he said, and I studied him to determine just what was wrong with him. He had wild chestnut hair, those ice-blue eyes. Big hands. My artist's eye appreciated their astounding grace. His fingers were slender and exquisite, like a concert pianist's.
“So how old are you anyway?” I asked. It was abrupt of me but he merely shrugged.
“I'll be thirty-two in August,” he said, his eyes meeting mine. “And you?”
I snorted. “Just turned twenty-three. Looks like neither of us is exactly our age huh?”
We shared gentle laughter. I opened my purse and pulled out a square sleeve.
“Here, before I forget,” I said. I had to smuggle the damned thing out of the house to avoid Ed's questions. He always assumed that I was seeing someone, on top of his other nonsense.
“What's this?' Daniel asked, taking it from me and turning it over.
“You asked about recent music.”
“I asked you what you liked.”
“You asked both,” I said, scowling in exasperation. “I made you a disc.”
His eyebrows pulled together and he looked from the envelope to me. His face erupted in a brilliant smile. I was tempted to look away, it was that grateful.
“Yeah, you're welcome. But if you're wanting the kids' stuff, best to ask Tweedledee and Tweedledum,” I said jerking my head in the fountain's direction. One of the teens almost fell in, but got his pants leg wet. I could hear him cursing from where I stood.
“No, I believe I'll stick with your material first,” he said and shook his head at the explicit language filtering over to us through waves of evening breeze. The sun set in that moment, setting the sky ablaze in a kaleidescope of vibrant hues.
We stood there, marveling at the display in our own separate way, Daniel rubbing his chin, me just standing there slack-jawed. My boyfriend and I never did anything remotely as compatible. I smiled, in spite of myself. It was a small comfort, and I realized that Daniel and I had potential to be good friends.