“No.” I hunch my shoulders. “He’d just think… he’d think I was…” I break off, feeling my eyes grow hot.
I can’t believe Luke’s been back for three days and hasn’t called. I mean — I knew it was over. Of course I did. But secretly, a tiny part of me thought…
Anyway. Obviously not.
“What would he think?” probes Michael.
“I dunno,” I mutter gruffly. “The point is, it’s all over between us. So I’d rather just… not be involved.”
“Well, I guess I can understand that.” Michael gives me a kind look. “Shall we order?”
While we eat, we talk about other things. Michael tells me about his advertising agency in Washington, and makes me laugh with stories of all the politicians he knows and all the trouble they get themselves into. I tell him in turn about my family, and Suze, and the way I got my job on Morning Coffee.
“It’s all going really well, actually,” I say boldly as I dig into a chocolate mousse. “I’ve got great prospects, and the producers really like me… they’re thinking of expanding my slot…”
“Becky,” interrupts Michael gently. “I heard. I know about your job.”
I stare at him dumbly, feeling my whole face prickle in shame.
“I felt really bad for you,” continues Michael. “That shouldn’t have happened.”
“Does… does Luke know?” I say huskily.
“Yes. I believe he does.”
I take a deep swig of my drink. I can’t bear the idea of Luke pitying me.
“Well, I’ve got lots of options open,” I say desperately. “I mean, maybe not on television… but I’m applying for a number of financial journalism posts…”
“On the FT?”
“On… well… on Personal Investment Periodical… and Annuities Today…”
“Annuities Today,” echoes Michael disbelievingly. At his expression I can’t help giving a snort of shaky laughter. “Becky, do any of these jobs really excite you?”
I’m about to trot out my stock answer—“Personal finance is more interesting than you’d think, actually!” But suddenly I realize I can’t be bothered to pretend anymore. Personal finance isn’t more interesting than you’d think. It’s just as boring as you’d think. Even on Morning Coffee, it was only really when callers started talking about their relationships and family lives that I used to enjoy it.
“What do you think?” I say instead, and take another swig of gin and tonic.
Michael sits back in his chair and dabs his mouth with a napkin. “So why are you going for them?”
“I don’t know what else to do.” I give a hopeless shrug. “Personal finance is the only thing I’ve ever done. I’m kind of… pigeonholed.”
“How old are you, Becky? If you don’t mind my asking?”
“Pigeonholed at twenty-six.” Michael shakes his head. “I don’t think so.” He takes a sip of coffee and gives me an appraising look.
“If some opportunity came up for you in America,” he says, “would you take it?”
“I’d take anything,” I say frankly. “But what’s going to come up for me in America now?”
There’s silence. Thoughtfully, Michael reaches for a chocolate mint, unwraps it, and puts it in his mouth.
“Becky, I have a proposition for you,” he says, looking up. “We have an opening at the advertising agency for a head of corporate communications.”
I stare at him, glass halfway to my lips. Not daring to hope he’s saying what I think he is.
“We want someone with editorial skills, who can coordinate a monthly newsletter. You’d be ideal on those counts. But we also want someone who’s good with people. Someone who can pick up on the buzz, make sure people are happy, report to the board on any problems…” He shrugs. “Frankly, I can’t think of anyone better suited to it.”
“You’re… you’re offering me a job,” I say disbelievingly, trying to ignore the little leaps of hope inside my chest, the little stabs of excitement. “But… but what about The Daily World? The… shopping?”
“So what?” Michael shrugs. “So you like to shop. I like to eat. Nobody’s perfect. As long as you’re not on some international ‘most wanted’ blacklist…”
“No. No,” I say hurriedly. “In fact, I’m about to sort all that out.”