This is my new secretary, Loora. Actually she is the only secretary I have ever had, she got appointed when I was made regional partner and they moved me out to Nottingham. She is twenty-five and has no experience but seems capable and efficient so far. She certainly looks that part, and she had her work totally under control within about two hours of starting.
The first time I saw her I was struck by those eyes, but didn’t notice the smell of her until later that morning when she’d gotten everything sorted, and she came over to my desk with some coffee. The smell from her body wafted over me – musky and dry and reminding me of leaves and forest floor, but it was also faint and elusive and it disappeared after the first scent of it.
Then she went back to work and got the computer filing system sorted out.
That afternoon she came over again to show me how the new system worked, and leaned over my desk so I was surrounded by the scent of her, this time more like pine needles and dust and sun on the grass. I had to ask her about it.
‘That’s a nice perfume you are wearing,’ I said.
‘I’m not wearing perfume,’ she says, deadpan, still with those big eyes on me.
‘I am wearing some, but it is supposed to be odorless,’ she says, a faint smile on her face. ‘I’m allergic to perfumes.’
‘Oh. Well, um…’
What the hell do I say now? “You smell amazing?” That would be totally sleazy. It’s only her first day for Christ’s sake.
And, I am nearly ten years older and divorced with kids, and looking the way she does she probably already has a boyfriend. In fact she could probably have eight of them if she felt like it, one for each weekday and two on Sundays.
She helps me out of my verbal impasse. ‘I’ll just go and finish this, sir,’ she says, and walks off, leaving me with that smell; licorice, wine, dry tea, salt? I just want to keep smelling it so I can get a fix on exactly what it is.
Later that afternoon I find reason to call her in again and we sit down together in the armchairs. I tell myself I am doing this because it is less formal than being on the other side of a desk, but I know full well it’s actually so I can get closer to her.
‘So, Miss Pennington. May I call you Loora?’
‘Yes,’ she says, deadpan again, no hint that she is either pleased or irritated with this advance.
‘I don’t mean to be rude, but I’d like to ask what interests you in this job. I mean, you don’t have any qualifications in this area – although you obviously do not seem to need them – but I notice you got excellent marks at school, enough to get into law or medicine in fact, and that you are also widely travelled and have worked as both a paralegal and a research librarian. So it seems strange that you would want a clerical job like this.’
‘Thanks, but it’s fine, sir,’ she says.
That’s all. I’ve said more than eighty words, she has replied with five, and one of them was ‘sir.’
‘Well, that’s good,’I stammered on. ‘I mean, I’m very happy to have you here and you appear to be very competent, but I don’t want you to get bored, Loora.’
‘No sir,’ she says, and I can smell her again and this time it is like leaves after rain, mixed with something more musky from further down her body. She looks at me, with that half smile that seems to say something and nothing, and I just wish she’d say something, say whether she felt anything, say what she really wanted, why she was here.
And then I see the ring on her fourth finger.
That was when I realised that I was falling in lust, if not slightly in love, with my new secretary.