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The Red Dress – Chapter 5 – Catherine 

Chapter 5 – Catherine

Still nothing. Catherine had been desperately scouring eBay every two days, this being the most likely place to turn up a new item within her budget within the time frame. A fruitless day of shopping last Saturday had left her feeling exhausted, sore and frustrated. She was tired of spending her lunch breaks in the office, it was the only time she had to search as the team had been going out for drinks after work almost every night in the run up to the party and she didn’t want to miss an opportunity to hang out with, or, more accurately, near Ben. Charlotte, a pretty girl who worked with Ben in Features (you know, the adverts that don’t look like adverts, more like full page articles?) had been getting a little too giggly and flirty for Catherine’s liking. That’s to say, she was even more giggly and flirty than the gaggle of women that seemed to follow him around with a macabre curiosity.

He had been leaving the Editor’s office this morning, stopping close by to talk to Olivia, who was an instant whirlwind of hair twirling and flicking, when Catherine had spotted her chance: “Hey,” she said, feeling it almost immediately too abrupt. It was too colloquial for the fact that they barely spoke, and instead sounded more like a command to stop, perhaps an opportunity for a question. He glanced up sharply and for a second she was delighted to have pulled his attention away from Olivia who was now slowly twirling her hair in an expectant fashion having swung around on her chair and fixed her with the same confused gaze as Ben. “Yeah?” he said, sounding vaguely accusatory in his tone. “Shit, shit, shit” she panicked, realising that she had only meant to sound casual, a passing ‘hey’ with a warm smile, not a barked command which was going to draw attention to her for all the wrong reasons. She froze, suddenly realising that her work and his barely crossed paths and so any work based query was going to sound completely immaterial. The pause became instantly uncomfortable, like everyone knew this whole situation was a sham. “Just… hi” she proffered, hoping it would be the verbal equivalent of flirtatious hair twirling.  It wasn’t. Olivia looked up at Ben, her eyes looking bigger and more doe-eyed than normal. “Awkward” she mouthed at him and then swiveled her chair back around. Ben looked a mixture of irritated and humiliated. “Hi” he said flatly, and then strode past her, a cloud of musky aftershave persisting long after the lingering silence had faded. Chance blown. She hammered angrily into her keyboard and declined the invitation to drinks later that evening, despite knowing her absence would only add lighter fuel to the glowing embers of touch paper that was today’s uncomfortable exchange.

Still nothing. Catherine had been desperately scouring eBay every two days, this being the most likely place to turn up a new item within her budget within the time frame. A fruitless day of shopping last Saturday had left her feeling exhausted, sore and frustrated. She was tired of spending her lunch breaks in the office, it was the only time she had to search as the team had been going out for drinks after work almost every night in the run up to the party and she didn’t want to miss an opportunity to hang out with, or, more accurately, near Ben. Charlotte, a pretty girl who worked with Ben in Features (you know, the adverts that don’t look like adverts, more like full page articles?) had been getting a little too giggly and flirty for Catherine’s liking. That’s to say, she was even more giggly and flirty than the gaggle of women that seemed to follow him around with a macabre curiosity.

He had been leaving the Editor’s office this morning, stopping close by to talk to Olivia, who was an instant whirlwind of hair twirling and flicking, when Catherine had spotted her chance: “Hey,” she said, feeling it almost immediately too abrupt. It was too colloquial for the fact that they barely spoke, and instead sounded more like a command to stop, perhaps an opportunity for a question. He glanced up sharply and for a second she was delighted to have pulled his attention away from Olivia who was now slowly twirling her hair in an expectant fashion having swung around on her chair and fixed her with the same confused gaze as Ben. “Yeah?” he said, sounding vaguely accusatory in his tone. “Shit, shit, shit” she panicked, realising that she had only meant to sound casual, a passing ‘hey’ with a warm smile, not a barked command which was going to draw attention to her for all the wrong reasons. She froze, suddenly realising that her work and his barely crossed paths and so any work based query was going to sound completely immaterial. The pause became instantly uncomfortable, like everyone knew this whole situation was a sham. “Just… hi” she proffered, hoping it would be the verbal equivalent of flirtatious hair twirling.  It wasn’t. Olivia looked up at Ben, her eyes looking bigger and more doe-eyed than normal. “Awkward” she mouthed at him and then swiveled her chair back around. Ben looked a mixture of irritated and humiliated. “Hi” he said flatly, and then strode past her, a cloud of musky aftershave persisting long after the lingering silence had faded. Chance blown. She hammered angrily into her keyboard and declined the invitation to drinks later that evening, despite knowing her absence would only add lighter fuel to the glowing embers of touch paper that was today’s uncomfortable exchange.

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