Serena sighed as she opened her zoom account. Time for the weekly team meeting and Henrik had only gone and got a bug (just a bug, not the bug) and left her chairing – and running it – with barely any notice. He’d sent her all of his notes. Many, many, meticulously detailed notes, so as long as she stuck to them and didn’t get distracted, she’d be fine.
That was the problem though; she was very easily distracted. She would swear she hadn’t been so bad in the office but then of course in the office somebody would probably notice if you were staring at them slack-jawed for a whole meeting. But on a zoom call, with fifteen other people on the screen? Nobody would notice. She’d just have to hope that Bernie was wearing something less alluring than the sharply pressed black shirt she’d been wearing at their first zoom meeting last week.
She closed her eyes, hoped for the best, and started the meeting.
Bernie jumped as her chat notification pinged.
Dominic: alright Wolfe?
A private message. Of course it was from Dom, he was always more interested in chatting than working.
Yes? You? She double checked she was sending it only to him – god that would be embarrassing – and hit reply.
Dominic: your mouth is hanging open.
She shut it with a snap.
Dominic: crush going well then? ;)
Bernie: I’m ignoring you. You’re being ignored.
Dominic: looking gorgeous today isn’t she. that leopard print…
Bernie: Stop it, Dom!
Bernie bit back a growl and tried to look as though she was paying attention to whatever Morven was talking about.
Dominic: missing staring at her in the office?
Bernie gave up. Dom was in one of those moods.
Bernie: Very much so.
Dominic: why don’t you just ask her out?
Dominic: and don’t give me all that rubbish about her being your superior. she’s not.
Bernie sighed, then jumped as a question was addressed to her. She fumbled for a second to get her mind back onto task, swore she saw Serena’s eyes narrowing. Not that it was easy to tell with that many people on the screen, of course.
Bernie was not wearing the black shirt. Heaven help Serena, she was wearing a white one. And did it look good on her. While some of their colleagues had taken to turning up to meetings wearing what looked like pyjamas, Bernie seemed to be going in the opposite direction. This morning her curls were shining and neat, very unlike the mop that could usually be seen around the office, and her shirt looked freshly ironed. She also seemed very distracted. Serena frowned as Bernie jumped at being asked a question. What was going on?
Serena’s chat pinged.
Sacha: Sorry, my computer’s playing up. I’ll have to chat here.
Of course Sacha was having problems. Sacha always had problems.
For a few minutes the meeting proceeded, but then Jasmine, frustrated at being talked over by Guy yet again, started using the chat function to get her points across. Very rapidly, Serena found herself conducting half a meeting through video and half through chat and being distracted every thirty seconds by that damned shirt. She could have torn her hair out.
Dominic: Serena looks stressed
Bernie: Wouldn’t you be?
Dominic: you should offer to help her relieve that headache she’s got coming
Dominic: give her a massage
Bernie: Are you paying any attention to this meeting at all?
Dominic: playing matchmaker is much more entertaining
Bernie: There’s no match to be made! She’s straight!
Dominic: is she though? I heard there was a girl in Stepney once
Serena closed the meeting with a huge sigh of relief and frowned at her notes. Her minutes had been going quite well until the chat had started and she hadn’t caught half of that. Then she perked up. Of course! There was a transcript. She downloaded the file, opened it and frowned in confusion.
Alright Wolfe? So Dom and Bernie had been having a little chat of their own. And Bernie had a crush? Just fantastic. Serena screwed her eyes shut; just one more thing to make the day that little bit worse.
She rubbed her head wearily and scanned down, hoping they’d shut up quickly - she’d be having words with the team about chatting between each other instead of concentrating on the meeting – when her eyes caught the words leopard print. She glanced down at herself, as though she didn’t remember what she’d put on that morning, and her heart gave a funny little jump.
So maybe this wasn’t the one-sided affair she’d imagined it to be. She scanned through the transcript, ignoring the dull work conversation, searching for Bernie and Dom again. And there! And – oh, of course Bernie thought she was straight. After being married to a bloke, it was the usual assumption. But she wasn’t, and Bernie wasn’t and she wasn’t actually her superior, Dom was quite right.
One of them was going to have to be brave and Serena thought, perhaps, it would have to be her.
She opened up her skype and called Bernie.
Bernie was staring idly out of the window when her skype buzzed. Serena calling. She gulped, tucked her curls behind her ears and wondered whether it had been obvious she hadn’t been paying attention in the meeting.
“Serena,” she answered brightly, “How can I help you?”
Serena tapped the pile of notes beside her. “I’ve just gone through the transcript of the chat in our zoom meeting.”
“Right?” Bernie felt the first faint flutter of alarm.
“Did you know it includes all private messages as well as the ones to the group?”
Shit. Bernie gripped hold of her desk. “Serena – Serena, I’m so sorry. It was… we...”
“Bernie, listen.” Serena interrupted Bernie’s fumbling words. “Dom – and believe me, I hate to say this – Dom was right. I’m not your superior. And I’m not straight.”
The small, shy smile that Serena offered had Bernie leaning in to her screen.
“While officially I ought to caution you against chatting during meetings, unofficially...”
Serena’s eyebrow raised and a thrill ran through Bernie. “Serena,” she said, carefully. “Would you like to go out with me?”
“Very much. I know a nice little Italian with an extensive wine list, once we’re allowed to go out again.”
“That could be a while,” Bernie sighed regretfully.
“Well, in the meantime, we can video call. Out of office hours, of course. Have a drink and a chat.”
“And technology is so good these days,” Bernie said thoughtfully.
“How about this evening?” Serena suggested. “I ought to get on with work now. I thought this was rather more urgent though.” She winked and Bernie laughed.
“Later,” Serena said, with a smile that promised everything.