There is something, Samantha thinks, that she’s forgotten about Catherine. Maybe that’s why every time she sees her, she just has to give her a second look. Catherine, Catherine. It’s the kind of name that needs an echo. Catherine in flowery blouses with her hair pulled back, with her tall red shoes and her nice smooth hands, nails usually manicured. There is something about Catherine that always does make Sam look twice.
She asks Philip what he thinks about it. “Philip, do you ever look twice at Catherine?”
Philip thinks about it. “I’ve seen her more than once.”
“No, I mean, do you feel like you have to look at her, sometimes? Like…there’s something about her.”
“No. Not really.” Philip’s brow furrows. “Wait, Sam. Is that how you feel about Catherine?”
“Maybe you’re in love,” Philip suggests.
Sam thinks about it for a moment. Oh. That really must be it.
“For example, I once got really worried because I kept looking at someone,” Philip says. “But it turned out I was in love with them, so it was okay.”
Sam nods. “…me, in love with Catherine?”
“Sure. Why not?”
“I’m just not sure it will work,” Sam says. “I’m not sure what I should do about it.”
Philip shrugs. His use is at an end.
Sam thinks very hard.
The good thing about liking Catherine is that it at least is not illogical. Catherine works at the same office as Sam. They see each other every day, and they get along fine. If they do get together, then it would be very convenient.
On the other hand, Sam has heard that it’s a bad idea to date work friends. So that’s something to think about. If Catherine stopped liking her because something went wrong between them or they had a fight, it could be awkward. One of them might have to stop working there, and Catherine had to stop working there a while ago already, and Sam likes her job. She does not want to have to give up her job because of Catherine, even though she likes Catherine very much.
“Sam, are you thinking about something?” Catherine asks.
Sam startles, but she hides it. Catherine is peering over her shoulder at the computer. She has a way of leaning over Sam’s chair that is somewhat forceful. Sam likes it. “You have a nice stance.”
“Thank you,” Catherine says, “I learned it at leadership training.” She smiles. “Is something wrong?”
“Wrong? Why would something be wrong?”
“You didn’t look happy.”
“I was thinking hard about work.”
“Oh. I guess I think hard about work too sometimes.” Catherine continues to lean. “Maybe if you tell me what the problem is, we can work through it together.”
Sam doesn’t want to tell Catherine about her real problem—that could be very awkward—but truthfully, before she got distracted, she was having trouble with her math. “Okay.”
Catherine listens as she describes the problem. “Huh. That’s complicated.”
“Let me get some paper, I think we can work it out.”
Sam waits, breathless, for her to return. She does return, and with paper, everything is much simpler.
“We make a good team,” Catherine says, and Sam agrees.
Catherine really is nice, and they work well together, and they probably wouldn’t fight even if things didn’t work out. Sam decides, all right, she’s going to go for it.
Sam doesn’t know everything Catherine likes. That’s not the sort of working relationship they have. The one thing she does know is that Catherine likes sandwiches with toast and butter. Sometimes people steal her sandwiches before she eats them, and this makes her sad because she has to skip lunch.
Sam just happens to be in charge of lunches. This is why she knows what kind of lunch Catherine likes, and also why she knows how to make this lunch just slightly better.
The next day, on the phone, ordering the lunches, she asks for two sandwiches with toast and butter instead of one. Two. In fact, she might go a couple dollars over budget but she’ll make it up with her own money. This is her secret gift.
At lunch she says, after announcing all the other sandwiches, “And we have two sandwiches of toast and butter.”
Catherine says, “One of those are mine. I don’t know about the other.”
There is also an extra apple, but it can be ignored. Sam knows for a fact she did not order it and she will not let it ruin her moment.
She says, “Maybe they’re both for you, Catherine.”
“No, I only asked for one.”
“Maybe they gave a second one by accident. Or maybe someone ordered a second one for you because they know you love your lunch and they love you.”
Catherine raises her eyebrows.
Sam shrugs defensively. “It’s possible.”
Catherine laughs. “Yeah, maybe. But I can’t eat two sandwiches. Uh, maybe you could share the second one with me? You have a light lunch.”
Everyone in the office does, but Catherine thinks of Sam. Sam’s face heats up. “Sure. I guess I could share it with you.”
She doesn’t like toast and butter that much, but she tries her best to hide it, and as they eat, she sits in a chair next to Catherine’s desk.
She orders an extra sandwich for Catherine whenever she remembers to. A couple times she sees Catherine eyeing her as she orders, so Catherine must know what she’s doing. She’ll look over to Catherine when that happens, and Catherine will immediately look away. Or sometimes their eyes do meet, and it’s tense.
She looks at Catherine too often, but she can’t help it. Probably because she’s in love, right? There’s a scar on Catherine’s knee from where she fell a couple months ago. It shows when she crosses her legs or spreads them too much and her skirt rides up. Sam thinks about that scar sometimes. Maybe she even thinks about it a lot.
Catherine, Catherine, Catherine.
Sam thinks, romantically, that it’s a name suitable for a queen.
Then one evening it happens. Sam is packing up after work and Catherine comes over to her. She watches Sam put away her notebook, her folders, her pencils. She watches Sam check that all her things are in her bag. Then she says, when Sam finally looks at her, “Hey Sam, are you doing anything for dinner?”
“I have leftovers at home,” Sam says.
“Oh. Well, I was wondering if you’d like to buy dinner with me,” Catherine says.
Sam, ever thrifty, almost suggests that they go back to her house and eat the leftovers instead. But it occurs to her that this might be too forward. Catherine doesn’t like people being too forward; just see how that turned out for Ian. Now Ian doesn’t even work here anymore.
“I’d like that,” she says.
“Okay. Well, I thought we could get Chinese.”
“You like Chinese?”
Sam is learning so many things about Catherine. She smiles. “I like Chinese too. Should we take my car, or yours?”
“I thought we could both drive to the place, and meet up inside. Here, I’ll give you the address.”
She writes the address down on a scrap of paper. Sam puts it in a pocket. They both go outside and get in their cars. Sam smiles in her rearview mirror as she turns the key in the engine. It is a very good day, and it will be an even better evening.
There is something about Catherine, she thinks, as she turns out of the driveway. Something she’s forgotten. But she’s sure that one way or another it must be something very good, because Catherine is the woman she’s in love with, and she is absolutely perfect.