Word count, start of day -- 5,201
I don't think he was hitting on me. I mean, he seems like such a cool guy, not a, I don't know. Not that kind of guy. He's married, he knows I'm married, we both have kids, for Pete's sake. Just because he's the only man under forty I've spoken to in years, doesn't mean, no he was definitely not hitting on me.
The thought preoccupied me for too long after lunch. I eventually got my head back into work. I updated November's books for the standing monthly adjustments until it was time to go. My husband picked up Erin regularly fro her day care. He flexed two hours every day and was home with Erin whenever I got there.
Dennis was a great father. When I first spoke to him that very first time, something told me he would be a great dad. You can just tell, sometimes. I never used birth control with him after he married. It took less than a year for me to get pregnant. Erin made me feel complete. She filled a place in my heart left empty all the time I was growing up.
I stopped by the conference room on my way out for the day. "Goodnight, Brian." He seemed to be packing up for the day, too. "Ready to walk out?" I asked. Just being polite. No big deal.
"No, I need to wait for a few. Thanks."
"All right. See you tomorrow." I turned away and towards the exit of the department.
I passed a woman two steps out from the conference room. I was sure I'd never seen her before. That was odd. She was in my department. Maybe another auditor with Brian's firm.
"Annie!" I heard Brian call my name from inside the conference room.
I spun back and ducked back in the room. "Yes?"
Brian was standing now, next to the woman. They stood very close together. She was not an auditor. No. She was-
"Annie," said Brian, "This is my wife, Gwen. Gwen Shea Norton. Gwen, this is Annie Bainbridge, one of the accountants here."
I nodded and smiled. We were too far apart to shake hands. That was fine anyway. I did not like shaking women's hands. "Nice to meet you."
"And you," she said curtly. Her attitude reflected her looks. Two inches shorter than me. Maybe five, two. But still, she probably had me by twenty pounds, maybe twenty-five. And ten years. I made a promise right then and there to not look like that after ten years of marriage.
"Bye again, Brian. See you tomorrow." I left again, and this time made it all the way out.
I try not to judge other women. I was no great shakes, either, and not as young as I used to be. I'd had a baby, too. Norton's wife did have longer, wavier hair than me. More like I used to have. Well, it's his choice, not mine. Still, the stood close together and looked happy. Brian probably made her laugh. He was just like that. That had to help.
I was at Canterbury eight weeks later for the field work portion of the audit. Inventory went well enough on the thirty-first. Along with a first-year auditor, I got there at seven o'clock, well after the accounting department had called it a day. We counted supplies in the gift shop, pharmacy, and food service.
I sent the rookie, a nice young woman named Kathy West, into the deep freeze portion of the food service department. We were both dressed casually in jeans, which was especially providential for Kathy. Neither a skirt nor dress would have worked well for her. Of course, if she exposed legs, I probably would have shown mercy and taken care of the deep freeze counts myself. The coats and gloves an boots were warm, but the less exposed skin the better. So Kathy showed up in pants and was rewarded for her foresight by counting cartons of frozen peas. It was so cold that it took her three separate trips into the cold to finish the counts, as the safe limit was five minutes at a time. In between, I entertained the young lady with stories of my previous work as an auditor, which included once spending the last day of the year counting caskets at a funeral home. Kathy seemed a little skittish, and offered the opinion that she would rather be here than there.
In the six weeks since, I worked on a number of small projects for the firm and put together the flowcharts for Canterbury's accounting systems. As I'd promised, I faxed a copy of the flowcharts to Annie Bainbridge at Canterbury, and as a courtesy I sent a copy to her boss, Carrie Conroy. I didn't necessarily expect to hear from Annie, but I did specifically notice that she had not called to thank me.
My plan was to spend the week here with Kathy knocking out the basic field work and maybe pop back in for a few days next week to wrap it up.
We were set up in the conference again, at opposite ends of the long table. Kathy was near the door, with her back to it. I was in charge, so I got the end of the table next against the back wall, complete with a view of the door.
I began by giving Kathy a quick tour of the accounting office, with a promise of a tour of the entire facility later in the week. We met Conroy and the others before heading to Annie's office. "Here is where most of the documents and all of the computer records are stored."
She nodded and scribbled a note on a pad of paper she had been carrying with her during the tour.
I knocked and poked my head in. "Annie. You have a second?"
"Of course," she said, rising to shake my hand.
"This is another auditor on the team," I said, introducing her to Gwen. Annie had stepped back, so she just nodded at Gwen.
I was going to ask about the computer printouts, but something on the wall caught my attention. "You didn't need to hang them on the wall," I said, referring to my flowcharts, which she had indeed taped to the wall adjacent to her desk.
"They are helpful. Thank you very much."
Kathy stepped in to take a look. "What are they?"
Annie answered before I could. "Brian put these together for me. They are flowcharts of how things work in the office. They give me a real big picture overview."
"We have copies in the files," I said. "Pretty standard stuff."
Kathy nodded, satisfied. But Annie reiterated how helpful they were and I again said how pleased I was to help. We grabbed some computer binds and returned to the conference room.
"She's very pretty." Kathy said, once we were in the room.
"Excuse me?" I said, not sure of what she had said.
"The accountant." She flipped through her notebook. "Anne Bainbridge. She's very pretty."
"Not Anne. Annie."
"Oh." She noted this on her pad and pushed on. "Annie. She's very pretty."
"I guess so," I said, fumbling for appropriate, professional-sounding words.
Kathy laughed. "At least you didn't say you hadn't noticed. That I wouldn't have believed."
"Well, I mean," I said, still struggling.
"I think it's great," Kathy went on. "Accountants are always stereotyped as button-down, boring, conservative, people. The men and women almost all dress alike." She stood and waved her hands dramatically in front of her. "Blue suit, white shirt, you have a red tie, I have a red scarf. Pretty boring."
This was true. "Well, we are pretty conservative. Our dress follows our attitude, I guess."
She nodded. "Anyway, I think it's great when an woman can be an accountant and still dress well and look good. I think it makes us all look good."
I agreed. I had no complaints about pretty women being accountants. Who would complain?
"Am I interrupting?"
They were hard at work. The girl turned her neck around to see who it was, but got back to work.
"Not at all," Brian said with his easy smile. "What can we do for you?"
"Just taking a break."
"Not smoking stinks."
It was a joke we had for a few days now. People who didn't smoke took two or three less breaks than people who did. At five or ten minutes each, it added up. So when the smokers headed to the porch, I headed to the conference room. It was a recent habit. Three days now.
"Mind if I?" the girl asked.
"Sure, Kath. You at a good breaking point?"
"Good point for taking a break? Or am I at my breaking point?" She laughed at her little joke. Kathy looked like you'd expect an accountant to look. Only in a skirt. Tailored business suit, dark, pinstripe gray today. Pink blouse and one of those hideous scarfs. Gag me. She did have nice hair, though. Too bad she didn't know what to do with it. Or maybe in her job she had to look like an accountant. that would be a shame.
She grabbed her purse, dug for a lighter and headed down the hallway to join the rest of the smokers. I sat halfway down one of the long sides of the table.
"Can I ask you a question?"
"Sure," he said, finally looking up from his work.
"Do you guys do taxes?"
"The firm? Sure do."
"Minimum fee of $500."
I laughed. "You're kidding."
He shook his head. "No. We don't do many individual returns off the street. We focus on business people or very complicated returns."
Bummer. "I understand."
"You and your husband?"
I nodded. "He's been doing them, but I thought we had accountants at work now, you guys I mean. You know, it would be nice to get a professional."
"Sure," he said. "Sorry."
I eyed him carefully. "You can't do it on your own?"
"No. Sorry." He was firmer this time.
"Too bad." I shook my hair out just a little. Nothing too flirty.
"I mean, maybe. I don't know." He was halfway mumbling. "Maybe on the side."
One more hair flip. "That would be great."
"But you have to sign it. I can't."
That seemed okay to me and I agreed. "When can I bring the stuff in?"
"Not here," he said softly. Then his eyes lit up. "Maybe we can go out to dinner?" I was startled. Maybe I flirted too good. But then he blurted out, "No. I meant all of us. Husband and wife, you know. I didn't mean--"
I stopped him. "I know you didn't."
"Whew." He actually said it, like it was a word. "Maybe next week some time."
"I'll check." I stood. "Thanks."
"Sure, I'll check, too."
I played the conversation over on the short walk back to my office. Did he mean? No. Probably not. Definitely not. But it was fun thinking--