The latest installment of the story of Beth, who has moved to Geneva to further her career as a lawyer. Here she moves into her new flat and meets her neighbour.
For earlier chapters look here:
On her first day at the new office, Beth walked to work. It was quite the contrast to her previous commute, stuck in a stifling tube for thirty minutes with other stressed travellers. Here in Geneva she left her flat, strolled down to the lakeside and instead of the smell of stale sweat, breathed in the scent of freshly cut grass.
Slipping her sunglasses on, she watched the staff of a pleasure steamer carry supplies onto the boat. Although there were a few tourists on the lakeside, most of the people around her seemed to be locals on their way to work, easily distinguishable from the holidaymakers by their serious clothes and lack of backpacks.
Beth smoothed her suit jacket nervously. She had dressed with care that morning, aware that the other women in the office were the epitome of European chic. The severity of the grey suit was lifted by the flowered silk blouse. Her favourite grey Ferragamos clicked on the pavement as she turned reluctantly from the lakeside towards the town.
Entering the office building, she greeted the receptionist and showed her pass before heading for the elevator. Due to her early arrival time, there was no one around to greet her so she walked down the hall to her office. Pushing the door open, she studied her new workplace. The room was bare of personal touches, a modern print on the wall behind her desk was not to her taste, but she could live with it for now. Skirting around the boxes piled on the carpet, she slipped behind her desk, put her slim leather briefcase on the floor beneath it and sank into her seat.
She took a deep breath. This was it.
Before she could gather her thoughts, a short tap at the door heralded her first visitor.
‘Good morning, Beth. Welcome to Carnegie Geneva’, Anthony smiled in welcome.
‘Oh, good morning. Thank you. I am happy to be here’, Beth replied.
‘The weekly staff meeting is at 11 am this morning in the board room. You will meet the other staff. We can have a chat afterwards about your caseload. Until then, take the time to settle in and get your boxes unpacked’, Anthony nodded towards the cardboard mountain.
‘Thank you. Yes, it will be good to have some familiar things around me. I will see you at 11 am’, Beth assured her new boss. He really was attractive, she mused as he closed the door behind himself. She had described him to Alex the evening before, at which point Anthony had been given the nickname Silver Fox. They had giggled like teenagers, completely distracting Beth from the nerves that had been plaguing her all day, which was Alex’s intention.
Punctually at 8a am, the receptionist Mme Galliard knocked on her door, bringing Beth’s new assistant, Pierre Dechant. As they exchanged pleasantries, Beth surreptitiously observed her assistant. They would be working closely together over the coming months. He was wearing slim cut trousers that emphasised his slim build, a very fitted striped shirt and a gorgeous leather belt. Glancing down at his shoes – Beth always noticed shoes as they told you a lot about a person – she tried not to show her surprise. Gosh, she wondered, how much were assistants paid in Geneva if he could afford to dress like that. If she was not mistaken, they were Bottega Veneta.
“Shall we have a seat and you can tell me a bit about yourself”, she asked. “Would you like a coffee?”
“Yes, that would be nice. Shall I show you where the kitchen is, if you want to make coffee when I am not around?”, Pierre offered.
In the small kitchen, Pierre explained how the machines worked while he made coffee. As the scent of fresh coffee filled the small room, Beth asked how long Pierre had worked for Carnegie.
“Three years now”, Pierre replied in slightly accented English, “It is a good job, I like it here”.
“You speak really good English, Pierre. Did you learn at school or have you lived in America? That is a slight American twang I hear there, isn’t it?”
“I studied art and history in Chicago before moving back to Geneva”, he explained. “A friend was working here and he told me that there was a job available. I had never done work like this before, so was not sure if I would like it but I do. And it gives me time in the evenings to paint.”
They walked back down the hushed corridor to Beth’s office. “Have you exhibited your work in Geneva?” she asked.
“I’m putting together a show at the moment”, he answered, “The Versnissage is next week. Would you like to come? I can get you tickets.”
“I’d love to. Is your work suitable for an office environment? The insipid painting on my wall has to go but I can’t hang anything too risqué.”
“You can see for yourself next week but I think so, yes. I paint abstracts at the moment, inspired by the lake and the mountains around Geneva. I love the changing light and colours. No two days are the same, no two views are the same”.
“Right, sounds good. Let’s get back to unpacking then”, Beth announced as she set her coffee cup on the desk. “Would you see about getting my computer connected, please”.
Pierre made a quick phone call in rapid French then picked up one of the boxes, “Where do you want these books?” he gestured.
Shortly afterwards a French colleage from IT arrived to set up her computer and explain the systems. Once she had her email program running, she shot off a quick email to Alex and her parents to let them know that she was in the office, and to give them her contact details.
Beth’s assistant knocked and entered her office to remind her of her 11 am meeting just as Beth was pulling a comb through her hair and securing her hair into a neat bun again. Her curly red hair seldom looked neat for long, but she wanted to make a good first impression. She checked her reflection, grimaced to make sure she did not have lipstick stains on her teeth and popped a mint in her mouth to ward off coffee breath.
“Good luck”, Pierre held out a hand, “Wait. Your belt is twisted”. He slipped his hands under her jacket and adjusted the slim leather band. Beth froze in shock at his actions. That was a bit fresh, was it not? He took a step back and tilted his head as he scanned her. “Don’t look so surprised, I was not – how do you say? copping a feel? You don’t want to look untidy when you go into your first meeting. Your blouse is a lovely colour, by the way. Is it Donna Karan?”
“Yes. Yes, it is” slightly flustered she took a step back.
“Beth, I’m gay. You don’t have to look as if I am going to attack you. If my sexuality is going to be a problem for you then please let me know so that I can request a transfer”.
“Of course it is not a problem. I was just taken aback when you touched my waist.” Beth realised that she had overreacted but did not have time to explain it to Pierre. “I have to go. We will talk after the meeting”.
Walking into the boardroom, she was greeted by Anthony who took her by the arm, ‘Has everyone met Beth already?’
He introduced Beth to the team as she tried to remember names and titles. Some of them she had met before, others she knew from working on cases together, one or two were completely new to her. She poured herself a glass of water, noting to her horror that her hands were shaking. Clasping her hands together, she forced herself to concentrate on Anthony. He was talking about her new role in the company.
Everything will be fine, she told herself. Everything will be fine.