“OK!” I retort, feeling slightly rattled. “OK, I will!”
Oh, for goodness’ sake. It’s probably easier just to serve it. Then at least it’ll be gone, and I can sit down. Hesitantly I approach the nearest table.
“Erm… would anyone like some smoked fish? I think this is salmon… and this is trout…”
The elegantly coiffured head in front of me swivels round and I give a startled leap. Elinor is staring up at me, her eyes like daggers.
“Hi,” I say nervously. “Would you like some fish?”
“What do you think you’re doing?” she says in a low, furious voice.
“Oh!” I swallow. “Well, I was just, you know, helping out…”
“I’ll have some smoked salmon, thanks,” says a woman in a gold jacket. “Do you have any nonfat French dressing?”
“Erm… well, the thing is, I’m not actually…”
“Rebecca!” Elinor’s voice comes shooting out of her barely opened mouth. “Put it down. Just… sit down.”
“Right. Of course.” I glance uncertainly at the platter. “Or should I serve it, since I’m here anyway…”
“Put it down. Now!”
“Right.” I look helplessly about for a moment, then see a waiter coming toward me with an empty tray. Before he can protest I deposit the smoked fish platter on his tray, then hurry round with trembling legs to my empty chair, smoothing down my hair.
As I sit down, and spread my thick napkin over my knees, there’s silence around the table. I try a friendly little smile, but nobody responds. Then an old lady wearing about six rows of huge pearls and a hearing aid leans toward Elinor and whispers, so audibly we can all hear, “Your son is dating… a waitress?”
“SHE DID?” There’s a long pause. Luke frowns and glances at me. “Well, I’m sure she didn’t…” He breaks off into silence and I feel a flutter of apprehension.
It’s a couple of days later, and on the other end of the phone, speaking to Luke, is Elinor. God only knows what she’s saying about me. I wish we had a speaker phone.
On second thought, no, I don’t.
“Really?” Luke looks surprised. “I see. Interesting.” He clears his throat. “And on that matter — what about the two of us trying to meet up?”
Thank goodness. They’ve stopped talking about me.
“Oh, I see.” The deflation in Luke’s voice is unmistakable. “No, of course I understand. Yes, I will. Bye, then.” He puts down the phone and gazes down at it for a few seconds.
“So!” I say, trying to sound relaxed. “What did your mother think of me?”
“Oh! Well…” Luke screws up his face puzzledly. “She said you were… overzealous. What did she mean by that?”
“I’ve no idea!” I give a shrill laugh. “Probably just… you know… hardworking! So, erm… did she mention your gift?” I add, changing the subject.
“No,” says Luke after a pause. “As a matter of fact, she didn’t.”
“Oh,” I say, feeling a pang of indignation toward Elinor. “Well, you know, she did absolutely love it.”
“Do you think?”
“Absolutely!” I say emphatically. “She… she almost cried, she was so pleased. And she said you were the best son in the whole world.”
“Really?” Luke’s face glows with pleasure. “She said that?”
I smile vaguely and reach down for my shoes. Maybe that wasn’t quite true. But I mean, I can’t tell him she just shoved it back into the box as though it were a pair of socks from Woolworth’s, can I?
“See you later.” Luke picks up his briefcase and gives me a kiss. “And good luck this morning.”
“Thanks!” I beam back, and feel a small trickle of excitement.
All of a sudden, things have started to happen over here. I keep getting phone calls from people who want to meet me, which Luke says is the “snowball effect” and he expected it all along. Yesterday I had three meetings with different sets of TV executives — today I’ve got a breakfast meeting with a Greg Walters from Blue River Productions. He’s the one who sent me the basket of fruit and was “desperate” to see me. I’ve never had anyone desperate to see me before in my entire life!
An hour later, I’m sitting in the Four Seasons restaurant, feeling like a movie star. Greg Walters is tall and tanned and has already dropped the name of every TV network I’ve ever heard of.