It’s easier this way, now that I have a job to do. I wasn’t sure how to get out of my seat before, how to get past the two of you and slip out. My hands flex on the great carved claws that form the arms of the Viking chair. I push myself up, careful not to bump Leo. He’s endured enough for one evening. Carefully skirting the heavy edge of your desk, I move toward the tiny room that acts as a kitchen to your office on days and nights when we work in.
“Yes, half a tin at least. Of the tea. Half a tin of green jasmine.”
Shelli turns at the sound of my voice, her face rearranging itself into the kind of look she saves for the women who work for the men who are her lovers.
“What a good idea, Gil,” Shelli says. “It’s so damp out tonight…Can I help at all, Miss Harris?”
I smile her offer away, shuddering at the thought of her crimson coat cuffs dangling over the gas ring. An errant spark and poof—she’d kindle like a candle and go up in flames. Too risky to have her kind in the kitchen, even for something as simple as tea. Leo follows me, knowing the fridge holds greater promise than your office.
You settle Shelli into the recesses of your chair; I hear the faint squeak of the leather and the grate of its feet on the floor as you turn it toward the fire. Shelli protests your action with a low laugh, murmuring words that I can’t quite reach. As if I wanted to. Groping with one hand against the cabinets, I bat around in the dark to find the pull-string that turns the light on. Leo inquires of my progress with a single throaty note.
Blink, stutter, buzz—the florescent bulb flutters to dismal life at my command. The tea kettle is a battered enamel one that I found at a junk shop; its hopeful little pattern of dented daisies made me unable to leave it behind. I imagine it was a wedding present once, boxed and bowed and presented with love to some happy couple. The wear and tear might have occurred over the years, or perhaps the bride pitched it at the groom’s head when he forgot their anniversary.