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Chapter 13

THIS IS BAD. I mean, I’m not just being paranoid, am I? This is really bad.

As I sit on the tube on my way home, I stare at my reflection—outwardly calm and relaxed. But inside, my mind’s scurrying around like a spider, trying to find a way out. Round and round and round, legs flailing, no escape . . . OK, stop. Stop! Calm down and let’s go through the options one more time.

Option One:Go to meeting and tell the truth.

I just can’t. Ican’t go along on Monday morning and admit that there isn’t £1,000 from my aunt and there never will be. What will they do to me? They’ll get all serious, won’t they? They’ll sit me down and start going through all my expenditures and . . . Oh God, I feel sick at the thought of it. I can’t do it. I can’t go. End of story.

Option Two:Go to meeting and lie.

So, what, tell them the £1,000 is absolutely on its way, and that further funds will be coming through soon. Hmm. Possible. The trouble is, I don’t think they’ll believe me. So they’ll still get all serious, sit me down, give me a lecture. No way.

Option Three:Don’t go to meeting.

But if I don’t, Derek Smeath will phone Philip and they’ll start talking. Maybe the whole story will come out, and he’ll find out I didn’t actually break my leg. Or have glandular fever. And after that I won’t ever be able to go back into the office. I’ll be unem-ployed. My life will be over at the age of twenty-five.

Option Four:Go to meeting with check for £1,000.

Perfect. Waltz in, hand over the check, say “Will there be anything else?” and waltz out again.

But how do I get £1,000 before Monday morning?How?

Option Five:Run away.

Which would be very childish and immature. Not worth considering.

I wonder where I could go? Maybe abroad somewhere. Las Vegas. Yes, and I could win a fortune at the casinos. A million pounds or something. Even more, perhaps. And then, yes, then I’d fax Derek Smeath, saying I’m closing my bank account due to his lack of faith in me.

God yes! Wouldn’t that be great? “Dear Mr. Smeath, I was a little surprised at your recent implication that I have insuffi-cient funds to cover my overdraft. As this check for £1.2 million shows, I have ample funds at my disposal, which I will shortly be moving to one of your competitors. Perhaps they will treat me with more respect. P.S., I am copying this letter to your superiors.”

I love this idea so much, I lean back and wallow in it for a while, amending the letter over and over in my head. “Dear Mr. Smeath, as I tried to inform you discreetly at our last encounter, I am in fact a millionairess. If only you had trusted me, things might have been different.”

God, he’ll be sorry, won’t he? He’ll probably phone up and apologize. Try and keep my business and say he hadn’t meant to offend me. But it’ll be too late. Hah! Ha-ha-ha-ha . . .

Oh blast. Missed my stop.



When I get home, Suze is sitting on the floor, surrounded by magazines.

“Hi!” she says brightly. “Guess what? I’m going to be inVogue !”

“What?” I say disbelievingly “Were you spotted on the streets or something?” Suze has got an excellent figure. She could easily be a model. But still . . .Vogue !

“Not me, silly!” she says. “My frames.”

“Yourframes are going to be inVogue ?” Now I really am disbelieving.

“In the June issue! I’m going to be in a piece called Just Relax: Designers Who Are Bringing the Fun Back into Interiors.’ It’s cool, isn’t it? The only thing is, I’ve only made two frames so far, so I need to make a few more in case people want to buy them.”

“Right,” I say, trying to grasp all this. “So—how comeVogue is doing a piece about you? Did they . . . hear about you?” I mean, she only started making frames four days ago!

“No, silly!” she says, and laughs. “I phoned up Lally. Have you met Lally?” I shake my head. “Well, she’s fashion editor ofVogue now, and she spoke to Perdy, who’s the interiors editor, and Perdy phoned me back—and when I told her what my frames were like, she just went wild.”

“Gosh,” I say. “Well done.”

“She told me what to say in my interview, too,” Suze adds, and clears her throat importantly. “I want to create spaces for people to enjoy, not admire. There’s a bit of the child in all of us. Life’s too short for minimalism.”

“Oh right,” I say. “Great!”

“No, wait, there was something else, too.” Suze frowns thoughtfully. “Oh yes, my designs are inspired by the imaginative spirit of Gaudi. I’m going to phone up Charlie now,” she adds happily. “I’m sure he’s something atTatler.”

“Great,” I say again.

And it is great.

I’m really glad for Suze. Of course I am. If Suze gets inVogue , I’ll be the proudest person in the world.

But at the same time there’s a part of me that’s thinking, How come everything happens so easily for her? I bet Suze has never had to face a nasty bank manager in her life. And I bet she never will have to, either.

Immediately I feel a huge spasm of guilt. Why can’t I just be glad for Suze and nothing else? Dispiritedly I sink down onto the floor and begin to flip through a magazine.

“By the way,” says Suze, looking up from the phone. “Tarquin rang about an hour ago, to arrange your date.” She grins wick-edly. “Are you looking forward to it?”

“Oh,” I say dully. “Of course I am.”

I’d forgotten all about it, to be honest. But it’s OK—I’ll just wait until tomorrow afternoon and say I’ve got period pain. Easy. No one ever questions that, especially men.

“Oh yes,” says Suze, gesturing to aHarper’s and Queen open on the floor. “And look who I came across just now in the Hundred Richest Bachelors list! Oh hi, Charlie,” she says into the phone. “It’s Suze! Listen—”

I look down at the openHarper’s and Queen and freeze. Luke Brandon is staring out of the page at me, an easy smile on his face.

Number 31,reads the caption.Age 32. Estimated wealth: £10 million. Scarily intelligent entrepreneur. Lives in Chelsea; currently dating Sacha de Bonneville, daughter of the French billionaire.

I don’t want to know this. Why would I be interested in who Luke Brandon is dating? Not remotely interested.

Sacha.Sacha, with her million-pound suitcase and perfect figure and whole wardrobe full of Prada. She’ll have immaculate nails, won’t she? Of course she will. And hair that never goes wrong. And some really sexy French accent, and incredibly long legs . . .

Anyway, I’m not interested. Savagely I flip the page backward and start reading about Number 17, who sounds much nicer.

Dave Kington. Age 28. Estimated wealth: £20 million. Former striker for Manchester United, now management guru and sportswear entrepreneur. Lives in Hertfordshire, recently split from girlfriend, model Cherisse.

And anyway, Luke Brandon’s boring. Everyone says so. All he does is work. Obsessed with money, probably.

Number 16, Ernest Flight. Age52.Estimated wealth: £22 million. Chairman and major shareholder of the Flight Foods Corporation. Lives in Nottinghamshire, recently divorced from third wife Susan .

I don’t even think he’s that ............

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