Shopaholic Takes Manhattan

Page 99

With a sudden surge of determination I scoop up the pile of letters and head to my room. I’m not going to let all this defeat me. I’m going to wash my face, and put on some makeup, and get my life back in order.

“What will you say?” says Suze, following me down the corridor.

“I’ll explain the situation to him honestly, and ask him for a bigger overdraft… and take it from there. I’m going to be independent and strong, and stand on my own two feet.”

“Good for you, Bex!” says Suze. “That’s really fantastic. Independent and strong. That’s really great!” She watches as I try to open my suitcase with shaking fingers. As I struggle with the clasp for the third time, she comes over and puts a hand on my arm. “Bex — would you like me to come too?”

“Yes, please,” I say in a small voice.

Suze won’t let me go anywhere until I’ve sat down and had a couple of brandies for Dutch courage. Then she tells me how she read an article the other day that said your best negotiating weapon is your appearance — so I must choose my outfit for seeing John Gavin very carefully. We go right through my wardrobe and end up with a plain black skirt and gray cardigan which I reckon shouts “frugal, sober, and steady.” Then she has to choose her own “sensible, supportive friend” outfit (navy trousers and a white shirt). And we’re almost ready to go when Suze decides that if nothing else works, we might have to flirt outrageously with him, so we both change into sexy underwear. Then I look at myself in the mirror and suddenly decide I look too drab. So I quickly change into a pale pink cardigan, which means changing my lipstick.

At last we get out of the house and arrive at the Fulham branch of Endwich Bank. As we go in, Derek Smeath’s old assistant, Erica Parnell, is showing out a middle-aged couple. Between you and me, she and I have never exactly got on. I don’t think she can be quite human — she’s been wearing exactly the same navy blue shoes every time I’ve seen her.

“Oh, hello,” she says, shooting me a look of dislike. “What do you want?”

“I’d like to see John Gavin, please,” I say, trying to sound matter-of-fact. “Is he available?”

“I shouldn’t think so,” she says coldly. “Not without notice.”

“Well… could you possibly just check?”

Erica Parnell rolls her eyes.

“Wait there,” she says and disappears behind a door marked “Private.”

“God, they’re horrible here!” says Suze, lolling against a glass partition. “When I go to see my bank manager he gives me a glass of sherry and asks me about all the family! You know, Bex, I really think you should move to Coutts.”

“Yes, well,” I say. “Maybe.”

I’m feeling slightly jittery as I leaf through a pile of insurance brochures. I’m remembering what Derek Smeath said about John Gavin being rigorous and inflexible. Oh God, I miss old Smeathie.

Oh God, I miss Luke.

The feeling hits me like a hammer blow. Since I got back from New York I’ve been trying not to think about him at all. But as I stand here, all I wish is that I could talk to him. I wish I could see him looking at me like he used to before everything went wrong. With that quizzical little smile on his face, and his arms wrapped tightly around me.

I wonder what he’s doing now. I wonder how his meetings are going.

“Come this way,” comes Erica Parnell’s voice, and my head jerks up. Feeling slightly sick, I follow her down a blue-carpeted corridor, into a chilly little room furnished with a table and plastic chairs. As the door closes behind her, Suze and I look at each other.

“Shall we run away?” I say, only half-joking.

“It’s going to be fine!” says Suze. “He’ll probably turn out to be really nice! You know, my parents once had this gardener, and he seemed really grumpy — but then we found out he had a pet rabbit! And it was like, he was a completely different—”

She breaks off as the door swings open and in strides a guy of about thirty. He’s got thinning dark hair, is wearing a rather nasty suit, and is holding a plastic cup of coffee.

He doesn’t look as though he’s got a friendly bone in his body. Suddenly I wish we hadn’t come.

“Right,” he says with a frown. “I haven’t got all day. Which of you is Rebecca Bloomwood?”

The way he says it, it’s like he’s asking which one of us threw up on the carpet.

“Erm… I am,” I say nervously.

“And who’s this?”

“Suze is my—”

Tip: You can use left and right keyboard keys to browse between pages.