A young man walked out through the huge revolving door. He was suited in navy with a shirt so brilliant white, it was clearly it’s first official outing. A royal-blue tie hung limply around his neck and was instantly caught by the wind, throwing it over his right shoulder where it stayed.
His stare was fixed upon a woman across the street leaning against rusty, white railings. Although she was facing the ocean, her stance told of her disheartenment. He made his way over to her, barely checking the dark road for traffic.
It was a dry evening and a cruel wind masked the sound of the solemn ocean. The man stood for a moment accompanying the woman in her silence. He followed the line of her gaze far out to sea. Dark grey waves buffeted violently against Brighton’s deserted West Pier.
“I thought I might find you out here.”
“Well done, Sean,” she returned flatly.
He rubbed her arm in an attempt to comfort her. Her thin suit jacket wasn’t keeping the wind out and goose bumps manifested on her slender wrist.
“Don’t be like that, Kate. Look, I know things didn’t go too well in there. They’re a bunch of idiots. Just because you’re a woman they feel the need to put you down. They’re a bunch of egotistical pigs.”
“You’re telling me!”
“I know it’s hard but you can’t let it get to you.” He pulled a pack of cigarettes out his jacket pocket and offered her one.
“Easier said than done.”
She placed the cigarette between her lips and took a deep drag, relishing the feeling of smoke in her lungs.
“It’s a man’s world, Sean. I suppose the sooner I except that the better.” Her bottom lip quivered at the memory of her humiliation at the conference just moments earlier. She’d been leered at and taunted by her peers as she nervously tried to give a professional presentation in front of the board of directors.
This was her first conference. She’d been so pleased to be promoted from Marketing Executive to Marketing Manager in such a short space of time, and for such a prestigious company too. But things had been harder than she’d anticipated. Not the work; that was her forte. It was dealing with the chauvinist pigs on the board that had been so difficult. Sean was different. He’d only been with the company a little while and had been a breath of fresh air for Kate.
She found him attractive and could tell that the attraction was mutual, but she’d promised herself to keep it all above board. After all, she was a ‘professional’.
“Look, I know what you’re doing and I think you’re really sweet – I mean that, but I can’t go out with you. You’re head of Sales and I’m head of Marketing, it would be impossible.” Her words didn’t betray her true temptation at the situation.
“No it wouldn’t. I think you underestimate how persistent salesmen can be.” His lip hinted towards a smile and tried to lead hers to do the same. His hair was being battered by the strong wind and he turned from the ocean to gain a little relief from its relentlessness.
Kate’s gaze fell upon the West Pier. “So pretty,” she said. “I love Victorian Architecture, it’s such a shame it’s been left like that.”
“What, the pier? Yeah, I guess it is a shame. It’s been like that for the past nine years. They dismantled part of it back in ‘75, health and safety I suppose. They’re going to re-build it though, work is supposed to start later this year. If you like piers I could take you over to the Palace Pier, there are a couple of bars on it, it could be romantic.” His eyes widened and his brow lifted.
Kate tutted and shook her head. “No thanks Sean. Give it a rest, you’re no better than that lot in there.”
He sighed. “I’m not being crass, Kate. Look I know you think all men are arses right now, how can I show you I’m different?”
“I don’t know. Try giving me something to work with.”
“Okay … give me a moment.” He drew a breath. “ Alright, I’ll tell you about my last girlfriend. The one I try not to talk about. Well, her name was Steph. We’d been living together for three years and out of the blue she walked out on me.” He dropped his gaze and his voice softened. “She completely broke my heart. And it’s actually taken me eighteen months to pluck up the courage to ask anyone else out, and now I’m asking you.”
Kate could see his cheeks flush slightly. She realised he had always avoided the subject, and she hadn’t known him date anyone else.
Her resolve started to dilute a little. “I’m sorry. I suppose I never thought of you as the ‘nursing a broken heart’ type. You’ve made me feel cruel now.”
“Good, but I don’t need your pity, I just wanted you to know that I’m genuine that’s all.”
Kate smiled. She looked into Sean’s eyes and could see he was being honest. After one last drag on her cigarette she dropped the butt to the floor and crushed it into the pavement with her stiletto. “Let me sleep on it. We’ve still got another day of this damn conference. If I can get through that I will let you take me out for a drink tomorrow night. Deal?”
“Deal.” He grinned.
“So, why are there so many security guards in the hotel lobby this evening? After all this is a telecommunications conference, it hardly warrants that kind of attention.”
“No, it’s not for us. There’s some big political thing going on here tomorrow. The Conservative party are sharing conference facilities with the likes of us. Just think you could be sleeping in the room next door to the Prime Minister tonight. How’s that for important? Just remember Kate, she’s a woman too and she’s also surrounded by male chauvinists. So there’s hope for you yet.”
Kate laughed. “Okay, tomorrow then. I promise.” They turned and made their way back into the warmth and shelter of The Grand Hotel, Brighton.