Maria had just paid for her vegetable spring rolls when she glanced across the canteen and saw Peter. He had chosen a table and just put down his tray. The tray contained a plate of what looked like pasta with tomato sauce and a carton of apple juice. Maria blushed. Perhaps she was a little attracted to her boss. It had been a while since she had broken up with Frank and she had needed time to get over it so she naturally hadn't considered dating anyone else, at least, not until now.
She wondered if Frank would mind if she dated Peter.
Why should he mind? I called off the wedding not Frank and though heartbroken he did his best to adjust at work and to try and be a friend to me. Besides, I'm almost sure there's something between Frank and Charlene. Neither have said anything to me but I've noticed them being together a lot more than usual.
A polite cough reminded her that she was still standing in the queue and there were people behind her waiting.
"Oh, sorry." She was about to put her purse back when she noticed some cartons at the counter. She picked up a carton of orange juice. "This too please." She paid quickly and then headed for Peter's table.
"May I join you Sir?"
Maria sat down next to Peter, who tried to think of something to say.
"I really like your hair".
"Thanks Sir. I.."
She had been about to say she liked his hair too but stopped herself, not wanting to seem presumptious.
Instead she started on one of her spring rolls.
"You like vegetable spring rolls then?" Peter asked.
Maria swallowed what she had in her mouth.
"Yes, well at least I love the ones here. You can't really get this type in the shops. I've looked millions of times."
"I know what you mean" Peter replied quietly. "They probably get them directly from the manufacturers.
He put his straw in his carton of apple juice and sipped.
"You like pasta then?" Maria asked in her turn.
"Don't most people?" he responded.
"Sure". She had now dropped the "Sir" but Peter didn't seem to mind. Perhaps it was because it was lunchtime and they were both sitting and eating ike equals rather than her working for him.
"I was impressed with the statement Frank made to the press".
Maria nodded, her mouth full again. Peter began on his pasta.
"There's not much to go on unfortunately. I hope Frank and Charlene don't get too frustrated."
Peter looked at her. "Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?"
Maria's heart skipped a beat. "No Sir".
"Is everything completely over between you and Frank?"
"Yes" Maria replied emphatically.
"No chance of a reconciliation between you two?"
"No chance of anything more than friendship betwen me and Frank, that is to say it's definitely over on my side and I have suspected for a while it's over on his side too."
"Hmm" Peter said thoughtfully.
"Why did you ask?"
"What? Oh I just wondered when if ever it would be safe to put you two on a case again". Peter laughed casually. Maria laughed with him.
"Don't forget to eat your pasta" she teased.
There was silence while they continued eating. Peter looked sideways at Maria's last spring roll. Maria noticed and laughed, eyeing Peter's plate.
"Let's swap" she suggested.
"Let's" he agreed.
"I can see why you like these spring rolls".
"I can say the same about this pasta."
They caught each other's eye and looked away.
"Maria.." Peter began.
"Call me Peter for now, but..." he changed his tone to mock reproval "Only outside of work hours".
Maria laughed. "It's a deal."
"I was about to ask how you would feel about dinner on Friday night?"
Maria looked at him. "Are you serious?"
"Yes". Peter spoke sincerely, looking straight into Maria's eyes.
Maria smiled. "Yes Peter, I will."