In Separate Bedrooms(6)

By: Carole Mortimer

Her mother’s blonde brows rose almost to her hairline; none of Mattie’s confessions had ever merited whisky before! But over the years there had certainly been a lot of them; more often than not the impulsive Mattie acted first and thought later. This definitely sounded like one of those occasions.

‘Back to the house, I think,’ her mother decided ruefully.

Mattie followed reluctantly, knowing the next few minutes were going to be far from pleasant. Not least because she now suspected her mother might have been right in her initial summing up of the situation. Mattie probably had overreacted to Jonathan Beauchamp—because of the two-timing Richard!

Not that she had changed her mind about Jonathan Beauchamp’s behaviour—not in the least!—but maybe she wouldn’t have done quite what she had done if it weren’t for her own humiliating experience where Richard had been concerned.

Her mother made them both tea rather than the suggested whisky, the two of them sitting down at the table in their cluttered but comfortable kitchen, four dogs milling affectionately around their feet.

‘Well, Matilda-May?’ her mother prompted after several minutes of Mattie sitting staring broodingly into her teacup.

Mattie winced at the use of her full name. ‘I wish you wouldn’t call me that,’ she protested. ‘In fact, I think it was very unkind of you to name me that at all. Just because your mother was named Matilda, and Dad’s was called May, was really no reason—’

‘Mattie, you can delay this as long as you like,’ her mother cut in crisply, ‘but in the end you’re still going to have to tell me what it is you’ve done,’ she reasoned.

Mattie swallowed hard, sighing deeply before speaking. ‘You remember the womaniser?’

‘The woma—? Oh, you mean the man you were telling me about earlier, the one who has four girlfriends?’ her mother recalled.

‘That’s the one,’ Mattie confirmed awkwardly. ‘Well, Jack Beauchamp is Jonathan Beauchamp!’ she burst out. ‘Him. It. He’s the womaniser!’ she revealed reluctantly. ‘What I mean is—’

‘I think I get your drift, Mattie,’ her mother acknowledged dryly. ‘He’s the man you were so angry about earlier today? The man whose secretary placed his order with you yesterday to send out four bouquets to his numerous girlfriends?’

Mattie took a quick swallow of her tea, burning her mouth in the process. But, in the circumstances, she decided, she probably deserved the discomfort!

How could she have been so stupid? So unprofessional? At the time she had thought she was being so clever; having now met Jack Beauchamp she had no idea how he was going to react to what she had done. But she could probably take a pretty good guess …!

So much for her own job of running a successful florists, for some lucrative contracts she also had to service the plants and greenery at half a dozen office complexes—JB Industries being one of them. And Jack Beauchamp was JB Industries!

If he decided to turn nasty over what she had done, she might just find herself losing all of those contracts, and the florist’s shop too! As for her mother being allowed to look after the man’s dog—!

‘Yes,’ Mattie confirmed flatly.

‘But you dealt with his order, didn’t you?’ Her mother looked puzzled.

‘Oh, I dealt with it, all right,’ Mattie agreed, giving another wince at what else she had done. ‘You see, I had delivered four bouquets for him to those four women at Christmas—’

‘I suppose that shows he’s been involved with the same four women for the last four months at least,’ her mother reasoned.

‘The thing is,’ Mattie began reluctantly, ‘his secretary gave me the order, and he—he had already written out four cards to go with each bouquet. And I—Mum—I changed the cards around!’ she admitted guiltily, utterly dismayed herself now to realize exactly what she had done.

She was twenty-three years old; it was high time she stopped doing things like this!

‘And he wasn’t even original,’ she continued in her own defence as her mother looked stunned by the admission. ‘He had written “Sandy, much love, J”, “Tina, much love, J”, “Sally, much love, J”, and “Cally, much love, J”, and so I—well, I thought perhaps they ought to be made aware of each other’s existence. So I put Tina’s card in with Cally’s bouquet, Sandy’s card in with Tina’s, Sally’s card in with Sandy’s, and Cally’s in with Sally’s. I know it was a stupid thing to do, but I— Mum, you aren’t crying, are you?’ She looked worriedly across the table at her mother as she suddenly buried her face in her hands, her shoulders shaking emotionally. ‘I’ll go to him, I’ll explain what I did, tell him—’ Mattie broke off as her mother dropped her hands to look across at her, her own eyes widening incredulously as she saw her mother was laughing, not crying!