Boomerang of Happiness - 18
They were both good people, just bad for each other
A week later, Anna reported for the first day of work as an accountant for the Border Guards. She produced a mixed first impression: While looking through the books to familiarize herself with the specifics, Anna found several significant mistakes and discrepancies, which both upset and impressed the chief accountant. Upset because the newcomer was so quick to pick up on her younger associates’ sloppiness and impressed because they had time to correct everything before the audit looming in two days.
In addition to the chief accountant, there were two more accountants in the department, all females. Not one of them liked Anna’s chattiness. At first they all thought she was just overly excited and perhaps compensating for the first-day-on-the-job nervousness, but once they figured out her chatty mouth was a default feature and not a bug, they all fell silent and started to pretend to work. She became acutely aware of when exactly it happened.
In a nonchalant manner, Anna started to ask about colonel Grushevsky: who he was, where he came from, what his family status was, and what the people thought of him. It turned out that even though he was de-jure second-in-command at the base, he was the first de-facto and everyone loved him. He really cared about the soldiers, loved his work, and was entirely devoted to his wife and daughters. An exemplary officer and exceptional husband and father. While the women were telling her all the details, Anna noticed that the two younger ones talked of him dreamily, as if he was a movie star.
“Is he handsome?” Anna asked.
“Oh, more than that,” Olga, the youngest of the three, replied. She was single, and Anna noticed her eyes turned a little foggy when she spoke of the colonel, “He is like a Greek god.”
“Why all these questions?” the chief accountant finally asked bluntly. She was a married woman in her early 50s, with a fitting name of Natalia Petrovna.
“I don’t know,” Anna replied, shrugging her shoulders, “I guess just to talk about something, to kill time. Not that we have much actual work to do here. I already looked at your books and found and corrected the mistakes. So, what else can we do, if not chat? Read books, maybe? Or solve crossword puzzles?”
Olga nearly jumped out of her seat. She always kept an open book in her desk drawer that she sneakily read while no one was looking. Currently, she was on the second volume of the French “Angelica” historical romance novels. The second young accountant Mila rearranged her work papers to make sure the crossword puzzle beneath them was not visible. Natalia Petrovna looked at both of them knowingly.
Anna smirked and continued in her rapid-fire mode, “Does anyone here knit? I personally don’t, never had the patience for it, even though my mom tried to teach me when I was like 10. Or maybe 11 or 12. Maybe I should try again now that I am much older and maybe, just maybe, a little more patient… Anyway, where I worked before, women in the accounting department had entire knitting competitions. You could probably stock up a whole store with the stuff they made while working.”
Natalia Petrovna immediately thought of the half-finished scarf she was knitting for her little grandson, to go with the hat she finished the week before. It was in the top drawer of her work desk. And then she chased that thought with realization that Anna’s brutal honesty was not something anyone would appreciate on the first day of work. There were some unwritten decency rules, after all, suggesting that you can only be honestly brutal or brutally honest with the people you know well.
The women shifted in their seats uncomfortably and started to look at their workbooks. Anna finally noticed that and to make the situation light, added, “But in all honesty, I’m also asking because I’ve never seen colonel Grushevsky in person. Just talked with him on the phone.”
“Well, you are in for a treat then,” Olga replied, quickly cut off by Natalia Petrovna’s stern look. “What? I’m just saying he is objectively handsome, even men say that.”
“What’s his name?” Anna asked.
“Gennadiy Petrovich,” Olga replied.
“But everyone here calls him colonel Grushevsky,” Natalia Petrovna added.
“Too formal and too long, and I’m a civilian, so I don’t have to abide by the military rules,” Anna said. “To think of it, even Gennadiy Petrovich is too long. I’ll call him Genpet.”
“What?” Natalia Petrovna said indignantly, as if she was offended on behalf of colonel Grushevsky.
“Genpet,” Anna repeated resolutely.
“But why?” Natalia Petrovna asked, her eyebrows furrowed.
“If you take the first parts of his name GENnady and PETrovich and put them together, you’ll get Genpet,” Anna gestured with her hands as if she took two bricks, cut them in half and put two first halves together. “Much shorter and simpler to remember.”
“Sounds stupid, more like an insult,” Natalia Petrovna pressed.
“Well, I personally think it’s sweet and endearing. You, of course, can think whatever you want, wherever your… mind takes you,” Anna retorted, pausing before the word ‘mind’ as if she wanted to add ‘dirty.’ Natalia Petrovna had a nagging feeling that she was being insulted in a very subtle form. They were about twenty years away from the time the term ‘passive-aggressive communication’ became a part of everyday vocabulary, but the chief accountant was experienced enough in life to know Anna was not being kind to her in the moment.
“I guess it depends on what meaning you actually put into the word,” Anna continued and then added, smiling, “And I have yet to see the man.”
This was the moment when all the women fell silent, and Anna realized it was something she said. Obviously, Genpet for some reason was a touchy topic.
Colonel Grushevsky stopped by late in the afternoon, to check on how Anna was doing on her first day. When Anna saw him, she stood up from her chair, stretched her hand toward him, and said, appreciating his solid but gentle handshake, “Everyone’s right, you are strong, tender, and handsome.”
Grushevsky smiled at her awkwardly, not knowing what to say.
Anna added, “I guess it’s a good thing we both are married. And not to each other.”
No one smiled this time. To end the awkwardness that only Anna was oblivious to, Grushevsky asked how Anna was doing. She gave him a detailed report of her first day and he suddenly thought that he might have made a mistake by hiring her. He felt she’d be a disruptive chatty force on their quiet orderly base. But then he thought it was a good thing for his new friend Alex and decided it was worth a try.