Susanne was one of the new summer interns, and she was cute. Not the kind of cute that drew attention from most people and resentment from some. The kind of cute that made you smile when she smiled and made you look away as soon as she saw you looking at her. She floated about the office with a glow, always eager to learn and willing to help, and Bob could not stop thinking about her. It had only been a few days, and he was already finding himself needing to grab something from the printer if she were heading that way, or possibly drop something with the receptionist if he saw they were having a chat. Anything he could do to catch a small breath of her perfume or a glance of eye contact with a smile.
But he had never been introduced. It ate at him, and it ate at him in such a way that he grew concerned over a thin awkwardness that seemed to be forming. She was friendly, he smiled. Small bubbles of chemistry seemed to float about between them. Yet he had not said an official word to her.
Thursday morning changed all of that for good.
A small meeting was called, and the interns were invited. The topic was dull, another sales report focusing on customer satisfaction or some shit like that. By chance, Bob was able to land a spot sitting across from Susanne. She looked up from her notes and smiled when he took the seat. Bob smiled in return, unable to resist those dimples in her cheeks. The meeting droned on, and Bob did his best to keep a professional composure. She appeared to do the same. But there were moments, brief moments, when the two would drop the charade, catch each other’s eye and smile.
The meeting ended and Bob did not want to leave. Immediately after, as was far too common with these dreadful things, the attendees broke into small groups for additional discussion. Susanne was with the interns, and Bob was stuck listening to Brian babble on about some new monthly sales promotion. The idea was horrific, piecemealed from other ideas stolen throughout the office, and would likely never work. But that didn’t matter. The only topic of importance that remained was meeting Susanne in a proper fashion.
Fate turned in Bob’s favor.
The groups departed and Bob chanced upon three of the interns. Susanne was with them. He smiled and she smiled and Bob introduced himself, saving Susanne for last. She gave her name and extended her hand. Bob felt the smoothness of her skin in his palm as they engaged in a formal shake.
The sneeze was one of those sneezes that comes out of nowhere, with no reason, no warning. We’ve all been there. You’re home alone, eating a bowl of Cheerios on your couch and watching ESPN. You get a good mouthful, always a good mouthful, and your face inexplicably begins exploding, spraying bits of Cheerios and milk all over your sweat pants, your couch, the remote, the bowl itself, your hand. Everywhere.
Bob was fortunate in that his face only exploded once. He was unfortunate in that this face-explosion was very effective. When he looked down at Susanne’s bare forearm, her hand still in his, he saw the glisten of fresh mucous on her skin.
He never forgot that sour look on her face, one of sadness, pity and disappointment.