London had taught her about all the shades of grey. People were not necessarily good, nor were they bad. They held both goodness and badness in them, and the people you wanted in your life were those trying to balance more of the good chips on the one side, even if the side with badness piled on to it kept looking as though it may topple over.
She remembers learning one of these lessons when finding herself alone somehow, at 5pm, with a 40-something married man in his office, looking out a window on to cobbled streets. She watched people rushing home, on the other side of the glass, and suddenly realised, by the turn of the conversation, that he was not eager to help her work on her CV after all, that he did not have her future career in his best interests. She had been foolish and this whole thing was a cliché.
He was 20 years older than her. When he said something about his wife not understanding him, that he was searching for more magic and beauty in life, and then tried to lean over and kiss her – she was immediately bored by this tired situation (and not at all attracted to him). Luckily she was not threatened either, for he was not that sort of man. Instead, he reminded her of a plant that had not seen enough light while it was growing.
She knew magic and beauty, and this was not it.
She pushed him away firmly and left without collecting her coat, and so she shivered all the way back home, rushing to the tube, and then from the station to her front door as well. She was upset about her naivety of course, but she was probably most upset about that coat, because someone had remarked that it had brought out the green of her eyes. She had bought it on sale from Benetton for the princely sum of 50 quid, and for the rest of her life she would try and replicate the feeling of wearing that coat, walking over Waterloo Bridge one new morning with the collar up, and the whole world waiting for her on the other side.
She never found another coat like it. And she ensured that was never alone in a room with a married man, after working hours, again.