I leapt from my stool with excitement.
'Look! The females are depositing their egg sacs!'
Brenda ran over from her desk, tights swishing against her labcoat with no heed paid to upsetting the readings on the equipment scattered around the lab. She removed her specs and placed her eye to the microscope, gasping the moment the eggs came into focus.
'This is fantastic,' she beamed. 'We're months ahead of Cambridge. The research award is as good as ours, now.'
She looked hot and flushed, like she'd just exfoliated with peppercorns and meths, and whether it was pheromones or hormones, or merely the way her earrings dangled as she slipped her specs back on, I took a risk and pecked her on the cheek; just friendly, just to celebrate. She backed off awkwardly, upsetting a rack of pipettes on the centrifuge, her expression a synthesis of appalled technical assistant and emerging witch-queen slapper. Twenty years a fruitfly reproduction analyst and I still hadn't figured out the fairer sex.
'Quentin,' she said tremulously, flattening her lapels, 'there's something I've been meaning to ask you.’ I wanted to reply responsibly, concerned that I may have been foolish and abused my position as Head Of Team, but my eyebrows tugged with shock at the back of my neck and I couldn’t move my lips for fear of popping out my eyeballs.
‘There’s a new Italian restaurant just opened in the High Street. We could try it out one lunchtime...maybe?’
‘Yes. Yes,’ I said. ‘That would be nice.’
The two of us worked diligently for the rest of the afternoon, transferring the samples a batch at a time into their culture dishes and decanting the various experimental fluids with meticulous attention. The sterile walls of the lab had never teemed with such life.