Mr Johnson,fresh from a visit to Hardy Amis for a fitting of his new three piece,was in a good mood that morning.”Morning Miss Brown”,as he placed his bowler hat with almost the efficiency of a circus juggler on the company hat stand.Mitchell and Green of Beaufort Gardens,was an established certified accountancy firm in SW3,serving a busy client base from South Kensington ,stretching to Knightsbridge and green park.Mr Johnson had long aspired to be made a partner,and his new made to measure suit was in anticipation of this event.Conversations with Mr Mitchell with him had indicated to him that an official announcement would be made at any time.To him,his profession was the outward sign of success,the symbol of respectability that he had craved ever since he had left school.
Miss Brown,his secretary,dressed in her modest pencil skirt and silk blouse,reflected the mood of late in the office.She had worked there since she had left school,starting at 16,sailing through her Pitman shorthand,and excelling in touch typing.She was now an asset to Peter,well,Mr Johnson as he had to be addressed as .Never,in the ten years that she had worked there,as she ever had a piece of work returned for bad spelling or grammar.She prided herself on her excellence.Last Christmas,he had given her a Harrods voucher as a thank you for all her work.She had made over 20 visits to the store or more until she redeemed it for her prize ,her ear rings.She wondered if he ever noticed that she was wearing them,but as she never spoke of her visits to the store,she assumed he didn’t care.In fact,Mr Johnson gave off an air of not caring about anything accept his work,his desperate need for recognition and position.
Melanie picked up from his demeanour this morning that he was excited about something,and his diary only had one appointment in it,for 10 o clock,and that simply read meeting with Mr Mitchell.As the senior partners rarely if ever,communed with the lesser underlings,she wondered why Peter had managed to fix a meeting of this nature,but as he had been taciturn about the whole thing,she carried in typing.
The office clock ticked in its metronomic way with Melanie quite forgetting that Peter hadn’t had his morning coffee as yet:”I’m so sorry Mr Johnson,I’m late with your coffee”He seemed to brush off the delay ,preferring to remark on the weather and how the spring cherry trees looked beautiful in Green Park.Melanie looked sort of perplexed ,as she never noticed these things in parks and trees and such like,only the Harrods shop window as she passed from the underground station in her way to the office.
As the clock struck 10 precisely ,Mr Mitchell arrived.Melanie showed him into the office where Mr Johnson was standing erect.Melanie retreated to her desk,aware,that they must not be disturbed.She became flustered ,agitated almost,unable to concentrate.Her fantasy was that one day Peter would remark on her appearance,the smartest of her dress,the care by which she deported herself,but he never ever did.Yes,he always remarked in the standard of her work,her consciousness,but never her appearance.
After only a few minutes,Mr Mitchell appeared,looking pensive,confused almost,but he quickly left ,leaving Peter at the threshold.He looked ashen,woebegone,sad and beaten down.Melanie wondered what could have affected such a change in his demeanour from this morning as he had been so vibrant and gay.This inward questioning burst out into an outer entreaty:”Mr Johnson,are you alright,you look ill”
He looked into her eyes,there was water in his,and he said this:”I’m leaving Melanie,you have a new boss and he starts on Monday”
“But But But……..why?
Melanie had never been so bold in her whole life ,ever.She had only ever been an obedient employee,doing the bidding of her company.Now,her boss since she had left school was leaving .Where he was going,she didn’t know.
“But why,Mr Johnson”.
Melanie was now completely emboldened by the events of the morning and questioned Mr Johnson further.His response was so kind,so understanding,that she realised that her job here was to continue and that Mr Johnson had provided an excellent reference about here abilities.Granted,he had assumed that in this day,May 25th,1976,as the cherry trees bloomed in Green Park,that he would be made a full partner in his firm,but,instead,Mr Mitchell had decided that his son ,Graham,a very junior assistant ,inexperienced and not an able accountant in his opinion,should be trained in the further application of company accounts by Mr Johnson.That was the premise of the meeting.No hint of being made a partner,no promise of promotion,no honourarium for his training of Graham.
As Melanie looked at him,he composed himself,looked intently into her eyes:”Melanie,I know that I have appeared very formal in our relationship up until now,but that is the order of things in a firm such as this.However,as I am moving on,I wonder if you would accompany me this lunchtime as I have a little something that I want to show you.”
Melanie,shocked to the core,not by the invitation as such,but that he called her Melanie,that he articulated the three syllables of her name in such a wonderful way.This emotional daze left her reply appearing to be stilted,but still quite desperate:”Why yes,Peter,I’m sorry,I meant,Mr Johnson”.Its alright Melanie,you can call me Peter.”
As the metronome clock ticked on towards 12,Peter came out of his office,and asked if Melanie was free to accompany him.Really,she had been free for the past hour or so,having finished the only piece of work that Mr Johnson had given her to do that day.
They walked out of the office,turning right towards Harrods: Melanie somehow trusted in Peter sensibleness,his order,his integrity.She walked with him,as as she did,her mind started to think about the huge shop windows of her favourite store in the whole of London.It didn’t take them long to reach it .As they did,Peter stopped,looked at her and remarked:”Melanie,you have been my personal assistant for over ten years,you have been the most industrious and loyal of people and I want for you to purchase something for yourself in the store and I will honour it .Please,don’t be shy,don’t skimp on the quality “.
“But what about your money Mr Johnson,”,you are leaving the firm “.
“Yes,this is true,but I have always been prudent with my ,money and I want to mark this occasion very much.”
Melanie was so much younger that him,but she looked to him and she would miss him dreadfully.She couldn’t ever envisage working for anyone else.
“Can I ask Peter,what you will do,and can I help you.?”
Peter looked at her,well after you have chosen your gift,I will buy us some lunch and then we can talk about my plans ”
After he had said that,she felt more at ease,she felt that he was in control,that he would be alright,and that helped her so much.
She had often wondered why he had not married,but had always kept a discreet tongue in that regard as it wasn’t really any of her business.
Now,her choice was very conservative as regards a gift and when she had made it ,Peter then looked at her again:What about an outfit from the window?
She melted in a dream world of couture and silk and wool,and fine fabric.
“Your going to need to look smart if you come to work for me in my new venture,that is,if I can prize you away from Mitchell”
Melanie felt her heart miss a beat ,and the clock in the office stopped at that,moment,and they both felt the beats of their new life hearts in sync ,a new balance sheet,a clean ledger as it were.