“No.” Samantha replied through the letterbox.
“Why not? What’s the matter?” Derek knew people respond better to questions than demands.
“Because you can’t keep your pants on.”
Derek spread his arms in bemusement. Derek knew people communicate more by gesture than with words.
Then he remembered that with her mouth at the level of the letterbox, her eyes would be at the level of the wooden panel and she couldn’t see him.
He took a breath and lowered his voice to reply. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Derek knew people regard low voices as authoritative and are more likely to believe them.
“You know bloody well what I’m talking about,” said Samantha.
“All right, I’ll go.” Derek knew confrontation does not make people amenable to discussion. “But I need the book. You know I need to read a passage or two every evening.”
“Look down, you idiot,” said Samantha.
Derek looked down. If it hadn’t been for the rain in his eyes, he’d have seen his copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People on the doorstep before he found Samantha had deadlocked the front door.
He let out a cry of anguish as he sank to his knees.
“What have you done?” He lifted it gently. “It’s completely waterlogged!”
“I knew you’d need it,” said Samantha. “I couldn’t lock you out without it, could I?”
“It’s ruined.” Derek had forgotten how to get people to respond to him.
“It’s as much use to you now as it ever was,” said Samantha.
“But I can’t read it.”
“Exactly. You’ve read it from cover to cover a dozen times and you haven’t learned a thing from it.”
“I learned how to make friends,” he said. “That’s all I did. She’s just a friend. She needed a friend.”
Samantha snorted. “That book didn’t teach you the really important thing. If you’re going to text your bit on the side about how she tastes better than a caramelatte, you need a better password on your phone than one-two-three-four-five. Now piss off.”
Derek knew he needed a more up-to-date book.