Charade of the Heart(5)

By: Cathy Williams

David, she assured Beth with a note of bitterness, although he worked in the company, which was where she had met him, had applied and got a transfer abroad.

"Running as far away as he could from me," she said with an attempt at bravado.

"Isn't that easier than if he had been around?" Beth enquired mildly, and her sister shrugged agreement.

By the end of the week, Laura had managed to find herself a temp job, but her work at the Adrino corporation had obviously spoiled her. She rattled off what she would have to do now and was clearly appalled by the prospect.

Beth tactfully refrained from another lecture on it all being her fault, and that as she had made her bed, so would she have to lie on it.

She herself had successfully managed to resign from her job without having to give the obligatory one-month notice. She had pleaded an unfortunate family matter and tactfully left it to her boss to decipher whatever he wanted from that obscure statement.

It had hurt a lot less than she had expected. Had she really spent so much time in a job that she had shed without too many tears? Or maybe it was the stirrings of what was awaiting her.

Laura had made the whole scheme sound like a marvellous adventure, but the following Monday morning, as Beth stood outside the impressive Adrino building, she felt far from adventurous.

‘She felt an impostor, dressed in her sister's jade-green suit. Was there a law against this sort of thing? she wondered.

She smoothed her hair back nervously and chewed on her lip. All around her people rushed past, lots of little soldier ants hurrying to their jobs.

A dull sun was attempting to break the stranglehold of grey clouds but it was easy to see that it was a losing battle.

She felt a light spitting of rain and merged into the line of soldier ants, finding herself swept into the massive building.

If I don't look at anyone, she thought, then I won't risk ignoring any recognisable faces.

But she was perspiring with nerves as the lift whooshed up to the top floor, disgorging her into the plushest set of offices she had ever seen in her life before.

The carpet was of muted grey-blue and thick enough to make footsteps soundless. The offices lay behind smoke-coloured glass.

One of the secretaries looked up as she walked past and waved, and Beth waved back. Marian, secretary to Ron Wood, the financial director.

"Nice week off?" Marian asked, stopping her in her tracks, and Beth smiled and nodded.

"A little eventful," she said, inwardly grinning at the accuracy of the description, "but relaxing on the whole."

"Good. I wish I had a week off coming up. I'm up to my ears in it. You've had your hair cut?"

Beth ran her fingers self-consciously through her bob. "Spur-of-the-moment," she said vaguely.

"Suits you. Makes you look more businesslike. Not," Marian continued hurriedly, "that you didn't look great with long hair."

Beth accepted the compliment with a smile. She liked Marian straight away. She was in her middle thirties, tending towards plumpness and quite plain to look at with her short wavy brown hair and spectacles, until she smiled. Then her face lit up and was really very attractive.

"See you later, anyway," she said with another wave, and Beth nodded, walking confidently towards her office which she knew was at the end of the corridor.

First hurdle, she thought, successfully manoeuvred and out of the way. It surely couldn't be as simple as this. Life was never that simple. It always insisted on throwing in a few complications to making the going more interesting.

But right now her self-confidence was a notch higher.

There would be a stack of typing awaiting her—she knew that from what Laura had explained—-but that would be no problem. She had spent a long time working with the same computer system.

She pushed open the door to her office and gasped.

It was a large room, carpeted in the same shade of muted grey, but the walls were covered by an elegant dove-grey wallpaper. Her desk was an impressive mahogany affair, and the filing cabinets, also in mahogany, were stacked neatly against the wall.

Opposite, a large abstract painting dominated the wall. It wasn't the sort of thing she would have chosen herself, but she decided that she rather liked it. It was soothing.

Marcos Adrino had probably hand-picked it. She had had to revise some of her ideas on his appearance. From the picture in the company magazine, he was younger than she had originally thought, but she had no doubt that the paunch was still there. The handful of wealthy men she had met had all seemed to be slightly overweight. Products of too much access to rich food.

She hung her coat on the coat-stand and settled comfortably into her chair, browsing through the pile of letters, most of which she could tell at a glance, from experience, simply needed filing. Faxed letters from the boss were awaiting typing.