The office
L’Ufficio. Acrylic on canvas, 89x58cm, Craig Bingham, 2014.


Jane waited until late to see Andrew, so his team members wouldn’t be there. His desk faced the window at the far side of the room, and Jane watched him from the doorway for a moment as he hunched over his computer. She made a few rustling noises, but he didn’t turn around. She went closer.


He held up a hand for a moment, then went on typing.


Andrew sighed and turned. His lips smiled with that false friendliness Jane disliked so much.

“I’m sorry to interrupt, but I wanted to catch you before I went.”

“Is it late?” Andrew said. He looked up at the clock. “Not really. Good. What’s up?”

His attention was already drifting back to the screen, his chair slowly swivelling away from her.

“We have a problem. I’d like you to come to a meeting tomorrow, with Naomi and Joel.”

It wasn’t how she had planned to start, but she couldn’t let him slip away.

Andrew’s hands pulled back from the keyboard. He shot a glance at Jane’s face, then fixed his gaze somewhere off to her left.

“Ah, Naomi. I thought this might happen. She’s difficult, isn’t she? I asked Joel to be careful with her. You know I thought it was risky assigning them both to this project.”

“Did you?” Jane said.

“I told you. Joel is very outgoing and casual. Naomi is much more uptight —”

“I wouldn’t say that —”

“Well, rules-focused. Say conscientious. I thought there would be a clash of work styles, at the very least.”

“That’s not the problem.”

Hearing the anger in her voice, Jane determined to dial it down.

Andrew looked at her and immediately glanced away. His face coloured. He swivelled to his desk, but instantly turned back again. He put his hands together, interlocking his fingers, and waited. He might have been looking at the hem of her skirt, or the fileboxes beyond.

“Naomi and Joel have both complained about you.”

“About me?”

Andrew’s head flew up. Jane enjoyed the surprise on his face.

“To be frank, they feel bullied.”

“They said that?”

“Naomi was very distressed after the team meeting —”

“I thought so. I asked Joel —”

“Joel was upset to be put in that position.”

Andrew gave his head a quick shake.

“To be put in what position?”

“People who report to you have a right to feel respected.”

Andrew looked at her.

“I know.”

He kept looking. Jane had to resist the urge to look away.

The colour was still rising in Andrew’s face. His hands were shaking. Jane felt she had made her point.

“So. Two pm, in Diane’s office —”

Andrew gasped. He would not have expected an escalation to Diane.

“— and in the meantime, I am instructing you not to speak to Naomi or Joel. They already feel pressured enough.”

“You’re kidding.”

“No. If I were you, I’d be very careful not to make it worse for myself.”

Andrew pushed his chair back a bit and held out his arms.

“What’s this about?”

Jane thought it best not to get entangled. Let Andrew stew on it. She turned away.

“Jane, can we just talk this through for a moment?”

Jane turned back.

“No, Andrew, we can’t. That’s why we’re having a meeting.”

© 2018 Craig Bingham

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