Hot though he undoubtedly was, the randomness of hooking up with someone you met on the bus is more freaky than fun. You suspect he might be slightly unhinged. And if you’re after a little romance, there are more likely prospects for you to pursue closer to home.

 So far this month you have delivered on everything you were asked to do, except one task. You have to map out your marketing strategy for the next 3 months in powerpoint. You know your boss likes lots of arrows and meaningful shapes and symbols. Sadly your marketing plans are woefully short of any meaning that’s worth expressing in shapes and arrows.

You spent most of last week procrastinating. You file all your old documents, throw away the ones you filed this time last year, and clear your inbox down. It was dull (especially because Finance guy was mysteriously absent at the end of the week, depriving you of flirting distractions) but worthwhile. By 3pm Monday your inbox is half a screen deep, your desk is a miracle of organisation, and you can put off the job no longer. It’s time to enter the realm of power point.

‘Aargh!’ you say. ‘Why won’t it line up? Stupid bloody box.’ you mutter at your screen.

The stupid bloody boxes refuse to align properly. Your strategy is weak enough without the boxes being all disorderly.

‘Have you tried drawing a new one and copying the text in?’ asks Joan, looking over your shoulder.

You tut, and try drawing a new one. Big sigh. It’s a world of pain.

‘Hello there,’ says a familiar voice from behind you, a welcome distraction from the powerpoint.

‘Mark, hi,’ you say, turning to see him. ‘Oh my god, what happened to you?’

‘I fell off my bike,’ he grimaces.

You accept his unspoken invitation to get a little closer, and stand up so you can take a better look.

‘You look like you’ve had a fight – ouch. That’s quite a shiner. When was this?’

‘Oh it was Thursday – you were right to get on the bus. I’d have felt terrible if I’d had a passenger, I’m sure it was sort of my fault.’

‘And are you okay?’

‘I’m fine, it looks worse than it is.’

‘I hope so, because it looks pretty bad. Did the bike come off better or worse?’

‘Ah, the bike’s a bit of a mess but it’s still running.’

Mark tells you in a little too much detail about the work his scooter now requires. Boring though it is he is a heck of a lot more interesting than your weak marketing strategy. Especially looking all battered like that. He’s channelling Brad Pitt in Fight Club, and it’s an oddly hot look.

 

News of Nita and Jay’s engagement doesn’t surprise anyone. They’ve been together so long everyone had just about given up on them ever taking the plunge. For the sake of their parents’ moral sensibilities they’ve been maintaining 2 flats, despite effectively living together for the last few years. And Nita’s so into her job it seemed possible that she’d never really settle down and do the whole marriage and kids thing. Still, you and Alice receive the news with knowing smiles, and toast to the inevitability of marriage.

You know Charlie will be at their impromptu engagement party, and hope it’s all okay. You haven’t seen him since those drunken texts. As you wait for Alice to return from the bar with your drinks, you see him arrive. It takes him a second to spot you, but as soon as he does he crosses the room and you greet each other like the good friends you should become.

Surrounded by their friends, Nita and Jay tell the story of him asking her dad for permission, grudgingly given as soon as Jay had given reassurances that yes, she could continue to work, and yes, they definitely wanted children, and no, they had no plans to emigrate. To much laughter they ran through their families’ reactions to the news. Although his family is from the wrong part of India, her mother was pleased because ‘well, at least he isn’t white’. Their siblings, on both sides, were relieved at this proof that Jay wasn’t gay and that Nita had found a man who wasn’t put off by her workaholism.

They’re planning a spring wedding. ‘As soon as possible,’ says Jay.

‘God knows you’ve waited long enough to get around to it,’ says Charlie, ‘I’m glad you’re not going to be one of these couples that are engaged for ever before you finally get married.’

For the fourteenth time that evening you toast to their long wait – and their long future together.

It’s nice to see Charlie but your heart doesn’t exactly skip a beat. He’s lovely but London is full of men like him. Surely there’s something more exciting out there?

 

Well, in the absence of something more exciting, there’s an idle office flirtation to be had, at least. The lovely bruised Mark, his black eye now turning bluey-green, asks you if you’re coming out for Stefan’s leaving drinks on Thursday. You assume Stefan is the bloke with the bad jumpers who sits in Finance – and who you’ve seen sleeping at his desk more than once – and decide that yes, the office will be poorer without him, and you really ought to send him off. Of course the fact that Mark will be there plays only a very small part in your decision.

Having said that, it’s Mark who you keep making eye contact with across the crowd outside the pub. You’re standing with Joan and Keith talking about musicals, again, and everytime you glance his way he’s looking at you. After a couple of drinks you gravitate towards him, leaving Joan and Keith to it.

‘I guess you’re not driving home tonight,’ you say, gesturing at his full pint. ‘That’s your third, isn’t it?’

‘Been keeping an eye on me have you?’

‘No,’ you blush, annoyed for betraying your interest so easily. ‘I’m just good at counting is all. I’m considering a career move into Finance.’

It’s a good recovery, and Mark laughs. He’s so obviously flirty with you it’s hardly a crime to give a little back, after all.

‘Well, don’t you worry your pretty little head about me,’ he says, smirking. ‘I’ll be fine.’

‘That’s good to know…. If a little patronising,’ you say, pretending, ineffectually, to be cross.

‘How can calling you pretty be patronising? It’s just a nice compliment.’

‘It’s the ‘little’ I object to.’

‘Ah, so you don’t mind being called pretty?’

You blush, and give him your best coquettish look. ‘No, I don’t mind that.’

‘Well maybe I should have said you needn’t worry your pretty big head about me.’

‘Tch!’ you say, giving him a gentle push.

Or at least, you thought it was gentle – but Mark winces as if he’s just had salt rubbed into a paper cut. You remember, of course, he’s wounded. Poor boy. The least you can do is buy him a drink.

So it is that you’re the last two drinking after the others from the office float off home, or for burgers, or to watch the match. As usual, post-work drinking on an empty stomach has left you feeling late Saturday night drunk – and it’s only 9pm on Thursday…

You decide to head home, and by a happy coincidence, Mark decides to hop on a bus with you to North London. He just needs to pop back to the office to pick up some stuff so he can work from home tomorrow. It’s a 5 minute detour and well worth making for the opportunity to flirt with him for another half an hour or so.

There’s something about the sterile office environment – especially now, with the lights off and the place deserted – that makes you suddenly feel even drunker. You sit on Mark’s desk and play with his Newton’s cradle, swinging your leg, your tipsiness, and your thighs, showing.

Mark’s clearly feeling it too, for he slurs slightly as he says,

‘There’s not a soul around.’

He sways and grabs the desk – on either side of you – to steady himself. He stays there, his face inches from yours.

‘Hello’ you murmur.

He moves in for a kiss, and you throw your arms around his neck and abandon yourself to him like the minx you are. He pulls you forward on the desk so he’s standing right between your thighs, pressed against you. Your skirt is pushed up, your legs wrapped around him as he starts to tug at the buttons on your shirt and you pull his tie so he's even closer and unbutton his shirt. You wince in sympathy as you see the large graze across his chest, and start to kiss –and lick – it better. Before you know it you’re half naked, his trousers are round his ankles, and you’re about to…

Are you? Right here in the office?

‘Hey, have you got any condoms?’ he asks, pulling your knickers off.

‘Yes. But maybe we should take this back to my place?’

‘Mmmm’, he says, moving your hands to help pull his boxers down.

 Quick! Make a call….

If you go ahead and have sex with him right there on the desk, go to Chapter Six III to face the consequences.

If you say no, let’s go somewhere more private, go to Chapter Six IV  to face the consequences.