The movies call first meetings, in romantic comedies, the Meet Cute. I think that’s a stupid term and didn’t even know what it was, until I heard it mentioned in some program and had to go look it up. Even if I’m not a fan of the Meet Cute term, I am a big fan of first meetings. How the characters react to one another often tells readers a lot about them. First meetings don’t always go well. In the case of Lionel Pettigrew and Arista Lockhart, their first meeting hits a few snags—mostly because Lionel is the epitome of the absent minded professor. He’s brilliant, a certified genius, who possess very few social skills. Sadly, they always abandon him at the very worst of times.
He entered the sanctity of his office, sighing happily as he leaned against the closed door. It took a few moments to realize he wasn’t alone after all. Someone sat in a chair in front of his desk. He stared, mouth agape.
“I let myself in,”he young woman said quietly. “I’m sorry. The girl at the desk said it was okay.”
“Did you need to see me?” He wandered in the general direction of his cluttered desk, setting things in random spots as he passed.
“I’m your new research assistant,” she said quietly. “Arista Lockhart.” She leaned across the desk, her hand extended.
Lionel, whose right hand was still full, handed her the object instead of shaking her hand. Arista gazed at his left shoe with a puzzled frown. He took the shoe, dropping it on the floor beside his desk. After rubbing his hand on the seat of his brown corduroy pants, he took her hand.
“Research assistant? I’ve got one of those?”
“I didn’t think so. But they could have given me one and not told me. Or they could have told me….” His voice trailed off uncomfortably. “And your name is?”
“Arista,” she pronounced slowly. “Lockhart.”
“Like the small spikes on grain,” he said with a grin, making pointy fingers like spikes.
“Your name. The little spikes on wheat—they’re called Arista. Or some kinds of insect antennae…. Uh….”
She gave him a very puzzled frown. “If you say so.”
“So, research—um—assistant?” Lionel cleared his throat, frowning.
“Doctor Murphy said it was all arranged. You requested an assistant? I thought the other girl might be.”
“No. She wouldn’t know how to go about research. Do you?”
“Do I what?”
“Know how to research?”
“Depends on the subject, but yes, I’m fairly proficient. I’m here to learn how to do it better.” A strained smile pasted itself on her lips. “Doctor Murphy had the impression it was imperative that I start immediately.”
“Oh! Oh. I wonder when I requested you.”
“Less than three weeks ago. You walked in, told him you needed a research assistant immediately and left. He got me as fast as he could….”
“Oh. How odd. I wonder what I was thinking?”
“But you do need me?”
“I’m sure I do. I must, if I asked for you.”
“Excuse me, Mr. Pettigrew.”
“Doctor,” he corrected.
“Doctor Pettigrew. Not—not Mister. Doctor.” He gestured feebly with his hands. Scratching his head, he twirled some hair around his finger.
Arista tried very hard not to roll her eyes. She almost succeeded. “Right. We need to talk about what my duties are.”
“I’ll have to figure that out, Miss…. Um….” The scent of her perfume had finally drifted over to his sensitive nostrils. It was sweet, sultry, enticing—a little spicy. He found it very hard to concentrate.
“Lockhart. Are you okay? You seem really distracted.”
“I’m fine. Just fine Miss—Miss Lockhart,” he said slowly and deliberately. “I have to figure out what I needed you for, then I can tell you what I want.”
“Are you always like this?”
“Like what?” He gathered up a handful of loose papers, trying to stack them. He failed, scattering them all over the floor. Lionel stared at them helplessly.
Miss Lockhart rose, gathering the papers on her side of the desk. Her skirt was short, but not alarmingly so. It was soft, dark chocolate fabric that clung to her hips, flaring at her knees. Her long legs were shapely, encased in some sort of patterned tights. Her top was a rich, rose pink with a high neck and long sleeves. A matching brown jacket was draped over the back of her chair.
Lionel took all this in as she picked up papers. He fumbled awhile with those on his side of the desk, wondering who she was and where she came from.
“I bet if you told me what projects you’re working on, we could figure out what you need me for.” Her voice was slightly muffled because she faced away from him, still picking up his papers.
She grabbed the last page from the floor. Straightening up, she went through them, putting them in order. Fortunately, they seemed to be numbered. Lionel didn’t realize he was staring until her eyes met his with an unnerving, withering glare.
“They match your skirt,” he babbled, not realizing he’d said it aloud.
“Your—um—your eyes.” He cleared his throat again. “Match.” He waved his hand between his eyes and his pants, indicating they matched her skirt.
She cut her eyes at him suspiciously. What’s with this guy? Is he retarded or what? “Your project,” she said patiently.
“I—I’m between projects at the—at the moment.” Dammit! He thought he’d conquered that stammer. Indulging in mental profanity, he cleared his throat again.
“Coffee?” he asked suddenly.
“Want some coffee?”
“Do you want me to get you some?” She looked around in confusion.
“No. No, I can make some. I won’t drink what they produce down in the lounge. It reeks of chemicals. Mine’s organic.”
“You a vegan?”
“No.” He looked puzzled, then his frown cleared. “No. I don’t trust the crap they put in coffee. Never know where it’s been.”
“Organic is grown in manure,” she said politely.
“But at least we know where that’s been.” He laughed rather awkwardly.
© 2019 Dellani Oakes