"You want to beat me because I told you it's your fault, it would not have occurred," he says. "Ok, go ahead. Just remember before you throw your first blow, I'm not afraid of you."
John looks at him in amazement while working his mind to control the anger that is rising in him.
"Are you insane?" asks James in deep-angry voice. "Do you think I will do something as stupid as that?"
"Yes. If it's not the case, why is your fist being pointed in my direction?"
John doesn't respond. He continues staring at James in awe.
"You have an anger issue that you need to resolve," James tells him. "Why not see a psychiatrist? I can help find one for you?"
John, unable to contain James' mockery, jumps from a visitor's chair and hits James' desk with his fist. Leaning slightly forward, he drills his eyes at him, and says, "Don't try it again or else you will regret it."
Straightening himself, he walks to the window and glares at a skyscraper that is in front of him. "You delight yourself getting into my nerves," he says in a calm voice.
"No one can try to reason with you. You get mad all of a sudden even for unimportant things," James says, turning his head to look at him.
John laughs then turns and looks at James. "Who doesn't know you like getting into other people's nerves when you disagree with them, or they defeat you in an argument."
James doesn't say anything.
They both hear a knock and before John says, "Come in," a middle-aged woman opens and closes the door after her.
"Good evening, gentlemen," she says, her smile warming both of their faces for different reasons.
John doesn't say anything while James says, "It's good to see you, Miranda."
"Here is the file you had requested," she says as she places it on his desk.
"Thank you, Miranda. You can now leave," James says.
"What's that about?" John asks after Miranda has left.
"What do you mean?"
"Why did you dismiss her as if you didn't care she's a human being?"
"What did you want me to do next? Engage her in a chat of the world's ten most touristic destinations a person should visit before reaching the age of eighty?"
John looks at him in disgust. It isn't the first time James has treated Miranda with dishonour.
Unable to contain the dislike he had had for his friend, asks him, "Why do you treat her like that?"
"Don't you see I treat her with utmost respect,?" he says in his usual ironical voice.
He puts the file in the drawer and looks at his watch. "I only keep her here because of you. If it weren't the case, I would have chased her away."
"Don't pretend you've still retained her position because of me. Who doesn't know why you're still keeping her in the HR department?" John says as he returns to sit on the black-leather chair.
"Will we be wasting time discussing useless things? So what if I treat her badly? I pay her for the job."
John can't believe what he has heard. Even though he respects James like a brother, he has never reconciled with himself whether that term ever fits the connection they have shared for more than fifteen years.
He wonders what he should to get Miranda to work for him. He had convinced Miranda several times to work for him but she had refused till a week ago.
She had sought to resign but James reminded her what it would cost if she did so. He reminded her by signing the contract to work for the company for five years, she is obligated to complete her duties in the agreed period. If she failed to do so, she would be required to pay a certain percentage of her salary to the company for the months she's not working leading up to final month of the fifth year.
He pictures her in his mind. She is slim, probably weighing fifty-five kilograms. When she smiles, her dimples become evident, further beautified by her blue eyes and blond hair.
"You've always wanted her to work for you, isn't that true?" James asks.
"On the contrary," he lies. "Why would I do that when she's working for you?"
James leans on his swinging-leather chair and folds his hands on his chest.
Suddenly, he leans slightly forward. "I know your craftiness, John. You've been devising every means possible to have her work for you. I will not allow that to happen. Never. And I wouldn't care if you're my childhood friend."
In his still relaxed posture, he turns his head slightly to face his childhood friend. "Isn't it true you've been trying all you can even raising her salary so that you can sleep with her? Hasn't that been your intention all along?"
"You're closing the lines, John. Why would I do something like that? In any case, weren't we through this before she came in? When you intended to fight me?"
"Fight you!" John says raising his eyebrows. "I fight you because of a woman!"
"Then why are you so concerned with how I treat her?" James asks
"Because workers are supposed to be treated with dignity," John replies.
James looks at his office's clock then signals at John that he wants to leave. "I have a meeting to catch up across the street in less than thirty minutes. If you can excuse me, I have some work I would like to finish before I leave the office."
"No problem," John says. "Consider my proposal and get back in touch within a week."
"I will let you know if I agree with your proposal," James says, turning on his office computer.
John closes the door after him and walks towards the elevator. He hears a female voice behind him as he awaits for the lift.
"What were you adults arguing about in the office?" she asks.
"Business," he says as a matter-of-fact.
"Don't lie to me," she says. "Tell me the truth."
"You," he says, avoiding her stare.
"Why can't you guys leave me alone? Why do you treat me as if I'm not a human?"
"I have no bad intention for you," he says.
"I have no problem with you John to a certain level. James has been all over my nerves. I wish I had not signed that contract."
Miranda has been their friends since high school. She had made it clear to them on several occasions, individually, that she doesn't want to get married, have children or sleep with men.
On the other hand, James and John, still bachelors, have always wanted to have a family of their own. James had always sought some comfort under the covers of a sheet.
"Please, John, I trust you more than James, and hold your friendship in high regard. If you would like to help me do so as a friend; not as a stepping stone to get to me."
John places a hand on her shoulder. "I'm sorry. It has never occured in my mind to sleep with you. However, I have always desired to have you as a wife. Since you've cleared things out, my projection of you will change for the better," he says, smiling.
"Thank you," she says. "I know I can trust you."
She leaves to get back to her office as John enters the elevator.