“Please, Caroline, turn down your voice, I’ve got a terrible headache” Jason lamented painfully, laying his head on the desk full of booklets and documents.
“I’m just listing your engagements for today. You have to meet Sandra Foster in the conference room in less than an hour, while you are due at the court in a couple of hours for the Bradshaw vs. Haton case. I hope you have studied the final address you got ready on Friday, since you said you wanted to close the case”.
“Oh God, my head is aching so much I can’t even remember where I put the documents”
“You’re resting on them” answered his assistant coldly, prepared not to be moved. She was used to her boss’s crazy nights and binges after five years. It was quite usual to see him arrive at the office every Monday with one of his headaches. Even if she tried to avoid meetings and conferences in court at the beginning of the week, she didn’t always succeed.
“My head is bursting…”.
“This is the third time you have said that… If you are thinking of behaving like this in court, I must tell Michael Bradshaw he is done for”.
“Caroline, you are heartless. I’m suffering…”.
“Like every Monday. Jason Ezechiele Walsh, you are thirty-five and nobody has still taught you the existence of non-alcoholic drinks to avoid drunkenness?” Caroline scolded him, calling him by his full name and knowing how much that annoyed him.
“I don’t like that bitter irony in your voice”.
“Then sack me”.
“I would have already done so, if I had time to loose in long and boring job interviews to find a new assistant with your competences”.
“Actually you already know you will never find anyone as good as me” she replied defiantly.
Jason finally lifted his head from the desk to address her one of his fascinating and provoking looks by which he had got dozens of women fall in love with him.
“You are right” he admitted with a large smile. Jason couldn’t really get rid of Caroline. She was the only one who understood him just by a glance and he completely relied on her. In fact, when he left the law firm Bronson & Bronson where he had met Caroline who was then working as secretary for him and another member, he asked her to follow him to Sailman & Baker, one of the most famous law firms in the City, to go on working together.
Five years had passed since then and neither Jason nor Caroline had ever regretted this choice. They were like one soul and they knew everything about each other. However, there had never been anything personal and intimate between them, apart from some skirmishes between confidents and they had never met after working time, which sometimes covered more than ten hours daily.
“I’m always right” declared rapidly Caroline, who loved pretending to be superior.
“And now I wish to advise you to drink a very strong coffee and have a look at the Foster file before the meeting”.
“You will go and get it for me, won’t you?” he prayed her with a charming sulk.
“Of course not, you know!”.
“I’m your boss and…” he tried to look threatening, knowing that it was completely useless.
“Must I produce to you the employment contract you made me sign? It is not specified in my duties that I have to bring you coffee”.
“I know, you have already told me thousands of times, but I thought this time you would have bent the rules. If you were then so kind as to bring me also a glass of water and an aspirin, I would be in debt to you for my life” he prayed her sweetly, sure to make her give in… as usual.
“Let’s go for an aspirin” Caroline surrendered going out of the office.
“But only because I care about you cutting a fair figure in front of Baker, since Sandra Foster is his sister-in-law”.
Remembering that one of the founders of the law firm was going to take part in the meeting made Jason rouse from his headache all at once.
He immediately opened the papers relating to the client who wanted to lodge a complaint against her ex-partner, who had taken all the company’s customers away when she had set up business on her own, spreading gossips and slanders about Mrs Foster, who had always based her success on moral integrity.
He hardly noticed his assistant putting on the desk a glass of water with an aspirin and… coffee.
“With this it’s one hundred and sixty-four”.
“One hundred and sixty-four what?”
“Favors you owe to me” she recalled, reminding him his prayers.
“I tremble when I think that you will want to draw… I’m in your usurer hands by now” Jason laughed amused at the thought that she was always able to have everything under control.
Caroline replied with a devilish smile before she went out of the room.
The meeting lasted longer than usual, but Caroline had already prepared all the documents for the case at the court and she had made a copy of the final speech Jason would have held in front of the judge, so as to put one copy of it in the pocket of his coat and keep it at hand while the driver took him to the court of justice.
She also sorted all the mails arriving and she finally transferred to an external box all the private emails (which were always many) he received on his office address, knowing how much this mix irritated her boss.
Besides it was now three years since she had unde
rstood what she could eliminate and what she had to keep instead. Jason accepted this intrusion into his private life with relief since he hated the emails from broken hearts or old flames coming back, while Caroline faced that task with a mix of curiosity and frustration because they constantly reminded her what she could never have.
However, that morning she found in the mail box also two bookings for the Christmas holidays in one of the most charming resorts in Italy, in one of the most prestigious skiing locations, Cervinia.
Caroline was forced to bite her tongue in order to avoid crying painfully at the thought of how much she had indulged in fancies when Jason had asked her to find the five best places in Europe where to spend the Christmas holidays.
She had spent all the previous week surfing on Trivago, Lastminute and Edreams, looking for the most romantic, charming and famous resorts for the holiday period.
She had finally chosen Paris, Florence, Nuremberg, Prague and Cervinia.
During her search she had dreamt of walking on the Champs Elysées and of sipping the vin brulé sold at Christmas markets in Paris, instead of the usual gathering in Trafalgar Square under the tree and the fireworks.
She had imagined walking in Santa Croce Place in Florence, among markets, museums and events, such as the “Horse ride of the Magi” until she got to the Ponte Vecchio during the Festival of lights under a starry sky tinted by the projected images jumping from one building to another.
She had indulged in fancies about being overwhelmed in one of the most famous and ancient Christmas markets in Europe, in Nuremberg, tasting the holidays in a relaxed but at the same time exciting and cheerful setting.
She had deluded herself for a moment of being caught in an ancient, gothic and still very traditional atmosphere like the one in Prague, with its streets lighted by illuminations and smelling roast chestnuts, chocolate, typical cakes and toasted dried fruit, eating one of the famous Bohemian “tridelniks” still hot and listening to a gospel choir.
And she had finally chosen a simpler and less chaotic holiday in Cervinia, at a relaxing, luxury resort surrounded by nature and close to one of the best and most panoramic skiing areas in Italy, where a special torch-light procession took place to celebrate the end of the year.
Still lost in those sweet fancies, Caroline printed the bookings with half a smile due to the fact she had almost bet Jason would have chosen that resort since he hated confusion during the holidays and, even if he loved Paris, he would never have taken the risk to go there with a woman, fearing to give her a wrong message because of the romantic atmosphere that would have arisen in the city known as “the city of love”.
She had just finished doing her task when she heard him call her.
“Caroline, I need you” Jason warned her tense and furious passing by her position to slip into his office before anyone could see him.
Caroline immediately followed him worried and as soon as she closed the door and looked towards her boss, she burst out laughing.
“Has the coffee machine burst on you?” she pulled his leg noticing Jason’s white shirt completely soaked and dirty.
“That idiot boy…”.
“Mrs. Foster’s son. He took a coffee for his mother and while I was coming out, he stumbled on his own feet and fell on me. It wasn’t enough to be already late for the hearing, now I must also find some new clothes in a record’s time!” he spoke out furiously, undressing fast, without noticing the blush on his assistant’s cheeks.
Luckily, before Jason could notice the slight uneasiness hovering about her face, Caroline recovered rapidly and went back carelessly to her desk, where she always held an emergency suit for circumstances like that. When she went back to him, she found him on his mobile, with a copy of his speech in one hand while the other was carrying to his mouth the by now cold coffee he had left on his desk before the meeting.
A nod of her boss was enough to make her understand she should help him to put the shirt on until he finished the conversation with his client.
With an impassible glance, developed in years of muscular face control, Caroline approached and without letting herself be overwhelmed by the smell of his skin mixed to that of his usual eau-de-Cologne and of stained coffee, she slipped his arm into the sleeve of the starched shirt.
“Am I quite presentable?” Jason asked her as soon as she finished the phone call, while Caroline was trying to button up his shirt.
“Acceptable” grumbled his secretary, trying to control her breath and heart-beat.
“Women find me charming, you know? None of them has ever used the world acceptable with me”.
“Maybe that’s because no woman has ever understood that your suntan comes from the tanning lamps you have every week. If they knew, you would lose ten points of charm for your excessive narcissism”.
“I work almost sixty hours per week. Where do you think I could find time to sunbathe?”.
“You shouldn’t tell me that. I just restrict myself to booking your sessions at the beauty centre”.
“Other women wouldn’t understand me”.
“If you only started to choose women with a IQ superior to the one of a roasted turkey”.
“You are too strict… You are always objecting to every woman I go out with. If I didn’t know you so well, I would think you were jealous”.
“Jealous of a man who can’t distinguish between a woman and a goose? I really don’t think so”.
“I hate you when you are like that”.
“You’ve got three minutes to go out and run to the court” Caroline reminded him, starting to feel the weight of that conversation.
“Damn!” Jason burst, putting on his jacket and coat in a hurry.
“Ah, I was forgetting… The tickets for the booking at the resort have arrived…”.
“Oh, I forgot. I don’t need them anymore. I’ve got a meeting with the men of the Marshall Company on Christmas Eve. Please cancel the journey” he could just tell her before rushing into the lift and running to the hearing.