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‘READY FOR THAT DRINK, DEBS?’

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Debbie Matthews on the perils of blurring the line between work and, er, pleasure

Having got back from court, I dump the file on my desk and am looking forward to heading home when the sleazy middle-aged lawyer I foolishly agreed to go out for a drink with enters my office.

Trying to look breezy, he asks: “Ready for that drink, Debs?”

I shudder. Without a pre-prepared excuse to hand, I reply equally breezily: “Yeah, certainly!’

“Right, then,” he gestures. I get my coat, and sigh.

Striding through Hull city centre, he walks briskly as he straightens down his balding hair. I struggle to keep up. Cobble stones and stiletto heels do not a match make.

I tell myself that to remain professional I will buy my own drink, or the first round anyway, so there isn’t any hint of this being a date. No, it’s simply two professionals having a drink together in a public place. I repeat that thought to myself all the way there. He opens the door of the bar for me. “Damn!” I think.

Inside, I’m about to say, “I’ll get these”, when he orders me a glass of white wine (large) and a pint of bitter for himself. I realise I must stay alert or I will be devoured. I take a sip of my wine. Somehow it ends up being a mouthful, as I find myself swallowing half the glass.

I’m a woman of the world, I tell myself, I go out every weekend with my friends and battle against the tigers and hyenas of mankind. But this is something else. This is solitary confinement mixed with office power dynamics, and the middle-aged man is now sidling up to me on the leather sofa and I’m struggling to keep my skirt at the right side of my knees. He talks of nothing law or office-related, but fixates on either my chest or legs, while also checking out the young legal secretaries sitting at the bar.

“Come here often?” he asks me at one point, inadvertently slipping into auto-pilot mode. I sigh. How on earth will this evening pan out?

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