“Will you look at that!”
Obediently, but reluctantly, Jenny looked up, focussing on the strange man who had addressed the near-empty coffee shop so imperiously.
“You don't often see that!” he said, staring at the newspaper. He sat several places away, at the long, curved serving bar.
“What?” she said, annoyance creeping into her voice.
“Some stupid woman is claiming unfair dismissal on the grounds that she was pregnant.”
“So, what's wrong with that?”
“She's an astronaut with the space programme, how thick can you get?”
“Thick? My God, you patronising bastard, how much do you know about her to make such a judgement?”
“How much does one need to know? I mean, she's an astronaut, so duh, she should have known better!”
“Duh yourself, what if she didn't know or even plan it?”
“Oh, come on, women have been screaming for equality for so long, they have to accept some responsibility for having sex.”
“So, what if she was the victim of date rape?”
The man was silent.
“Even so, she could have had it terminated,” he said after some thought.
“Are you seriously telling me that she should have an abortion, regardless of her religious or moral views on the subject?”
“If she didn't mean to get pregnant and her terms of employment dictated pregnancy as a sackable condition, then yes. It sounds reasonable to me.”
“Reasonable! You think it's reasonable? My God, what tree did you swing from?”
“I'm sorry?” the man asked, clearly bewildered by Jenny's aggressive attitude.
“Is it not reasonable to understand the full story before you start accusing someone of being stupid, thick and morally vacant?”
“Hey, how come you instantly defend her, just because she's a woman?”
“It's not that, it's your immediate assumption that she's in the wrong without seeing the full picture?”
“Give me a break, if she was in the right, do you think the papers would have run with the story?”
“On seeing what you call a paper, then yes, I do. They aren't interested in news, just sensationalising people's misfortune for their owner's profit. It's got nothing to do with truth and real news, but everything in making dumb schmucks buy their comics, regardless as to where the truth lies!”
“Are you calling me dumb?”
“If the cap fits,” she said, turning away and stirring her cappuccino.
“Look, I'm sorry, I seem to have been a bit of a dumb schmuck, is there any chance you could give a guy a second chance?”
He'd moved closer, to sit next to her.
“Judging on your performance so far, you'd have to give me a bloody good reason,” she said.
“How about if I buy you a coffee?”
“I don't think so.”
“A weekend in Paris?”
“How do you fancy flying to Paris for the weekend?”
“Are you for real?”
“Why shouldn't I be?”
“It's hardly the sort of offer you make to a total stranger,” she said, smiling in spite of herself.
“I've known you for six minutes, so we're not total strangers, and besides, you're the first in three weeks,” he said looking at his watch.
“The first what?”
“The first girl to stand up for herself and give me a hard time over my throw away comments. I've sat here every day for the last three weeks to see if there was anyone out there with enough gumption to stand up and fight for her corner. I'm so fed up with girls who just go with the flow and don't actually have opinions of their own. I came up with the idea and, well, here you are.”
Jenny stared at him, speechless for the first time.
“Are you for real?” she asked.
“Absolutely. My name's Richard, by the way. Richard Maynard.”
“Not Richard Maynard of Maynard Publishing?”
His silence was deafening.
“Oh, my God, this just doesn't happen.”
“What?” she asked.
“You're not serious?”
“Why shouldn't I be?”
“People just don't do this sort of thing!”
“I'm not people. Do you have a name?”
“Um, yes, I'm Jenny, but, oh shit, this is ridiculous.”
“Jenny, look, I've to pop back to the office, here's my card, just ring me when you want me to pick you up. Just grab your passport and a change of clothes, and nous allons, as they say.”
Jenny stared at the closing door and then glanced down at the card in her hand.
“Bloody hell!” she said.
The girl behind the bar grinned at her.
“Are you going?” she asked.
Jenny stared at her.
“I'm not sure, do you think I should?” she said.
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