the temp

Mark and Susie virtually never exchange glances, though their eyes are constantly following each other's backs. It couldn't be more obvious they are having an affair if they were to flop over the desktop and start pawing at each other

Mark stops at Susie's desk, puts a hand on the surface and says, "Hi, there," while gazing at a point in the far distance. "Hi," says Susie, and stares down at her desk. "Urr," says Mark, "have you got a copy of that feasibility report lurking around? I thought I ought to make a copy of it, maybe." A couple of tiny points of colour dot the tips of Susie's cheekbones. "Yes," she says, "hold on."

She dips down into her filing drawer and Mark glances briefly at her back, snapping his eyes back upward when she resurfaces. "Here we are," she says, holding out a bound document. "I'll need it back, though." For a moment she continues to hold one side while he grips the other, and their eyes lock. A tiny, secret smile passes between them. "Of course," he says. "I'll bring it back in a second."

It couldn't be much more obvious that Susie and Mark are having an affair if they were to flop over the desktop and start pawing at each other. No one has said anything to me (sometimes people like to use the temp as the office confessional, as they know she will move on and no harm will be done), but a few days observing her has left me in no doubt. Of course, a high proportion of people meet their partner through work these days, so a relationship going on in the office is hardly unusual. But it's funny how controlled people manage to be, on the whole, about sticking to the proprieties. My flat-mate Trish had been at her job for six weeks before she realised that two of the people she worked with were actually married - and to each other.

It's not the things they do, you see, but the things they don't. Anglo- Saxon culture requires that anyone who wants to establish trust, or co- operation - a fairly basic thing in colleagues - will attempt to meet eyes every 10 seconds or so. Mark and Susie virtually never exchange glances, though their eyes are constantly following each other's backs. They never tell each other jokes, or swap information that's not strictly related to the job in hand. They rarely leaven what they are saying with a smile, but talk, instead, very seriously, very wide-eyed. Lunchtime comes and they will always leave and return within five minutes of each other, though never at the same time. And Mark needs to learn to dial Susie's full direct line number, not her extension: there is no greater giveaway to an office affair than when a phone makes that single ring of the internal line and the person who picks it up goes all pretty and giggly when they answer.

As Mark scratches his head by the photocopier, I can see Susie watching his backside slyly out of the corner of her eye. Mark has a nice bum, even in a cheap suit, and I've occasionally cheered up the odd dull moment admiring it myself. But Susie fiddles with her pen for a full 30 seconds while her pupils point sideways, before sighing and pulling her piece of paper back into the fray.

He comes back to her desk. "I'm sorry to bother you," he says, "but I can't work out how it works. You couldn't ..." Susie has gained her feet before he finishes the request. "Sure," she says, and they cross the floor in step, hands swinging exactly in time. Looking at the control panel, she leans on to her forearms and rests one foot up on its toes, looking down, hair dropping into her eyes. Seconds later, Mark has assumed the same position, only he looks at her face rather than the display. He says something quiet, and she gets a foxy little "aren't we naughty?" smile.

Susie punches a couple of keys, then hits the start button. They stay there, ostensibly making sure everything's working right, but facing each other, arms crossed casually over their stomachs, chatting. Susie reaches over and picks some imaginary fluff off his shoulder, two fingers, flicks it away, and he doesn't even look to see what it is. When she walks back to her seat, the dimples either side of her mouth are about an inch deep.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future