Home > Anybody Out There? (Walsh Family #4)(9)

Anybody Out There? (Walsh Family #4)(9)
Marian Keyes

We straightened up, and despite the fact that he’d burned my hand and ruined my shirt, I liked the look of him.

“May I?” He indicated my burned hand but didn’t touch it because sexual-harassment lawsuits are so rife in New York that often a man won’t get into an elevator with a lone woman, just in case he gets landed with a witness-free accusation of trying to see up her skirt.

“Please.” I thrust my hand at him. Apart from the red scald marks, it was a hand to be proud of. I’d rarely seen it looking better. I’d been moisturizing regularly with Candy Grrrl’s Hands Up, our superhydrating hand cream, my acrylic nails had been filled and were painted in Candy Wrapper (silver), and I’d just been de-gorilla’d, an event that always makes me feel joyous and skippy and carefree. I have quite hairy arms and—and God knows, this is not easy to talk about—but some of my arm hairs kind of…well…extend to the backs of my hands. The naked truth of the matter is that unchecked, they resemble hobbit feet.

In New York, waxing is as necessary to survival as breathing and you are only really acceptable in polite company if you’re almost entirely bald. You can have head hair, eyelashes, and two sliverettes of eyebrows, but that’s it. Everything else must go. Even your nasal hairs, which I hadn’t yet been able to face. I would have to, though—if I was planning on having a successful career in beauty.

“I am so sorry,” the man said.

“A mere flesh wound,” I said. “Don’t apologize, it was no one’s fault. Just a terrible, terrible, terrible accident. Forget it.”

“But you’re burned. Will you ever play the violin again?”

Then I noticed his forehead: it looked like an egg was trying to push out through his skin.

“Oh God, you’ve a lump.”

“I do?”

He shifted the light brown hair that fell across his forehead. His right eyebrow was split in two by a tiny, silvery thread of a scar. I noticed it, because so is mine.

Tenderly he rubbed the lump.

“Ouch,” I said, wincing on his behalf. “One of the finest brains of our time.”

“On the verge of breakthrough research. Lost forever.” He pronounced “forever” as “forevah” like he was from Boston. Then he looked at my temporary ID badge. “You’re a visitor here? [“visitah”]. Would you like me to show you the bathroom?”

“I’m fine.”

“What about your shirt?”

“I’ll pretend it’s a fashion statement. Really, I’m fine.”

“You are? You promise?”

I promised, he asked if I was sure, I promised again, I asked if he was okay, he said he was, then he went off with what remained of his coffee and I felt a little deflated as I carried on my way and found Mr. Coaster’s office.

I tried to get Nita to explain to Mr. Coaster why I was splattered with coffee but she had zero interest. “Did you bring the stuff? The base in—”

“—Cookie Dough,” we said together. There was a waiting list a month long for the base in Cookie Dough.

“Yes, it’s in there. Lots of other stuff, too.”

She began tearing the Candy Grrrl box apart. I stood there. A while later she looked up and saw that I was still standing there. “Yeah, go on in,” she said irritably, waving her hand in the direction of a closed door.

I knocked and took myself and my dirty shirt into Mr. Coaster’s office.

Mr. Coaster was a short, big-swinging-dick superflirt. As soon as I introduced myself, he gave me an overly twinkly grin and said, “Hey! Is that an accent I hear?”

“Mmm.” I gave the photo of him—and who I can only presume were his wife and two children—a hard stare.

“British? Irish?”

“Irish.” I gave the photo another meaningful eye flick and he shifted it slightly so that I could no longer see it.

“Now, Mr. Coaster, about these futures.”

“‘Now, Misthur Coasther, about dese fewchurs.’ I love it! Keep talking!”

“Ha-ha-ha.” I laughed politely, while thinking Fuckhead.

It was a little while before I managed to get him to take me seriously and then it was only a matter of seconds before I discovered that “futures” were more of a conceptual thing, that I couldn’t just waltz out the door with a handful of gorgeous futures, take them back to the office, wrap them in handwoven boxes from Kate’s Paperie, and have them messengered over to ten of the city’s most powerful beauty editors.

I’d have to come up with some other bright idea, but I wasn’t as disappointed as I should have been because I was thinking about the guy I’d bumped into. There had been something. And not just the synchronicity of our his ’n’ hers scars. But when I walked out of this building today the chances were that I would never see him again. Not unless I did something about it. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. (And even then it doesn’t always work.)

First I’d have to find him, and this bank was a big place. And if I did manage to locate him, then what should I do? Stick my finger in his coffee and suck it suggestively? Immediately I ruled this out. (A) the heat of the coffee might melt the glue on my acrylic nail, causing it to fall off and swim around in the cup like a shark’s fin and (b) It was a revolting thing to do anyway.

Mr. Coaster was explaining expansively and I was nodding and smiling, but I was far away inside my head, riveted by indecision.

Then, like a switch had been flicked, I fixed on a plan of action. I was suddenly certain: I was going to be up-front and honest, and I decided to enlist the help of Mr. Coaster. Yes, unprofessional. Yes, inappropriate. But what was to be lost?

“Mr. Coaster, sir,” I interrupted politely. “On my way in here, I bumped into a gentleman, which resulted in him spilling his coffee. I’d like the opportunity to apologize before I leave. I didn’t get his name but I can describe him.” I spoke quickly. “He’s tall, at least I think he is, although I’m so short everyone looks tall to me. Even you.”

Shite.

Mr. Coaster’s expression went instantly very stony. But I pressed on, I had to. How to describe my mystery man? “He’s kind of pale, but not in a bad way, not like he’s sick. His hair is light brown now, but you can tell he was blond as a baby. And his eyes, I think they might be green…”

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