Cass got in at her obsessively early time in the morning. She found it too difficult to sleep and it seemed stupid to stay in bed when she could be doing something. She also hoped that she might be able to get in unseen by Julian.
She had spent the previous evening talking to Sabina on the telephone. Sabina was worried something very bad had happened to Cass. Cass was touched by her concern. Sabina finally got to the truth and assured Cass that there was nothing to worry about, but Cass was still not too sure.
Julian walked into Cass’ office. She tried to pretend that she was engrossed in an email and hoped he would go away. Dolores walked in behind him, and for the first time Cass was happy to see her. Julian said good morning and retreated.
“You won’t get any points for being earlier than me,” sneared Dolores.
“Nice weekend?” Cass asked casually.
“I worked at my parent’s restaurant,” Dolores stated flatly.
“Don’t you work enough?” Cass said not looking up.
Something changed in Dolores at this question, she softened. Sadly she said, ”You wouldn’t understand, you don’t have parents that I do.”
Cass looked up and saw a very lonely tired young woman looking intently at her computer screen, “Is there anything I can do?”
“Coffee would be nice,” smiled the sad pretty face. She had light rings around her eyes.
When Cass returned after battling with the over complicated coffee machine, Dolores told her that she had to go every other weekend to help with her parents’ business. The business was doing well but she still had to go and help. Sometimes it was the business accounts, others it was waiting tables.
This revelation bewildered Cass, then angered her when Dolores told her that the restaurant was in Birmingham. Why did they expect so much from her? They should be proud of their daughter working hard in the City, didn’t they know the hours she did already. “I am never good enough,” Dolores confessed flatly.
“You are, in fact you are better than most,” said Cass. Oddly she was glad to listen to something, which put her problems into perspective. Cass’ problems were her own doing, not some psychotic parent destroying their child, through emotional blackmail and control.
Cass did not know why some people had children. The emotional cruelty met on this young woman, was blocking her development. Dolores may have been smart and successful but deep down she was the little girl desperate for approval from monstrous parents, she could never satisfy.
Suddenly an email appeared from Julian. “My office now, please.” How can something so simple, sound so menacing. Cass was annoyed that this stupid problem was interrupting her getting to know this complex human being. She apologized for having to leave, but explained that if Dolores wanted to talk on her return, she could.
Julian was trying to be affable and relaxed. The exaggeration and swiftness of his hand movements, gave his nervousness away.
Cass sat down in one of the enormous armchairs. She tried to calm him by smiling. He reached for his glass of milk and drank deeply. Cass took in the expensive paintings, school and university photographs. There was a large oil portrait behind his chair of a beautiful blond in a 1970’s pantsuit and pussy bow. Cass assumed it to be his wife.
He then fixed her with his hazel glassy eyes, “Here’s the thing, what do you want?”
“You asked me in here. What do you want?” she retorted. Cass desperate not to be in this room, not to be having this conversation. She was trying to ignore that any of it ever happened, she was hoping he would take the hint.
Julian persisted in feigned camaraderie,” Please do not pretend Cassandra. What do I need to give you to keep your mouth shut?”
Cass replied shortly, ”Nothing.” Her pride was bruised at the thought of being bought.
“You are an unusual creature, you are the first person not wanting something from me. Ivana said that you are intelligent and trustworthy,” he said softly, smiling again.
The implied threat was unnecessary but Cass did not rise to it, “Look I need a job and I like it here. I think it is best that we forget about the whole thing. We both have private lives and what we do with them is none of each other’s business. ”
“Very good to hear,” he took another long sip from his milk. He wiped the milk moustache away with the back of his hand. His head secretary walked in and placed some toast cut into squares next to him. “Thank you Jess,” pushing the plate towards Cass, he offered her a quarter “Do you want some?”
He reminded Cass of a toddler, a genius over-pampered man-child. There was nothing sinister about him. She found it hard to be annoyed. This ridiculous situation and his impudence made him cheeky and charming.
Cass smiled and shook her head. “You really don’t want anything from me,” he smiled and munched contentedly at the same time. “I want to take you to Moscow next month,” he said with a mouth of toast. “I think it would be good for you to meet some of the clients. Also I want you to use one of my secretaries, she will handle all your registrations. You just concentrate on the reports and she can do the donkey work.”
“Thank you,” Cass said slightly flattered. She had never had a secretary before. All her work was outsourced to South Africa and came back too late for it to go out, so she stopped using it. Suddenly she added, “Can Dolores use the secretary as well? She might need some support.”
“If you want,” Julian was amused. “I knew you two would start to like each other. I am a good judge of character.”
Cass got up to leave. “One last thing,” Julian asked through a shower of crumbs. “Are you going to remain on Sabina and Ulric’s guest list.”
“Yes but I will be checking it before accepting an invite.”
“Very discrete, very wise,” he said beaming at her. “You will definitely go far, my dear.”
Cass bumped into Luke at the gym that evening. He was doing “Man” exercises in the weights part of the gym. Cass would normally avoid this area. The grunting, sweating and singlets could have turned her to the muff-side forever. She thought it funny that females were considered the vainer of the species. The masculine flesh, flexing and pouting in the mirror as she approached Luke, was not for her benefit. Luke was completely unaware that she was behind him, as he flexed the dumbbell up and down.
“Look at those guns, want me to spot.” Cass said mannishly.
“I have never found you more attractive than right now,” Luke said sarcastically. “Everything sorted out from Saturday? What did he offer to shut you up?”
“Yes it is sorted and I did not ask for anything,” Cass said sitting on the mat near him, attempting to stretch between the enormous torture instruments of male vanity.
“You are a lovely idiot,” he smiled warmly at her in the mirror and changed arms.
Cass found Luke’s amoral simplicity bizarrely comforting. Luke secretly hoped that if she stayed around him long enough, he would finally become a real boy. They worked out in happy silence until home time.