In Separate Bedrooms(7)

By: Carole Mortimer

‘Oh, Mattie, Mattie.’ Her mother shook her head, still choked with laughter. ‘You most certainly will have to go and explain things to him. Quite how you’re going to do that, I have no idea.’ She sobered slightly. ‘I thought the Richard incident was disastrous, expected his fiancée to turn up on our doorstep demanding an explanation right up to the morning of the wedding!’ She shook her head wearily. ‘But this …!’

‘Be fair, Mum,’ Mattie protested. ‘The Richard thing wasn’t exactly my fault. There was no way I could have guessed he was already engaged.’

‘No,’ her mother acceded with affection. ‘But, you have to admit, this latest escapade is certainly the biggest Mattie mess-up so far.’ She gave another shake of her head as she obviously tried to contain the laughter.

So far? After this Mattie never intended interfering again! Ever!

‘It isn’t funny, Mum,’ she responded reprovingly at her mother as Diana lost the battle with her laughter and began to chuckle once again.

‘No, it isn’t,’ her mother agreed, tears of laughter falling softly down her cheeks now.

‘Then I wish you would stop laughing!’ Mattie sighed, then even her own mouth began to twitch with the same laughter. ‘He’s going to kill me,’ she realized. ‘String me up by my thumbs. Hang me from the nearest tree—’

‘Darling, if he does the first one he really won’t need to bother with the second and third,’ her mother reasoned, wiping the dampness from her cheeks with a tissue before offering the box to Mattie.

‘He looks the type who would do them just for the fun of it!’ Mattie muttered, blowing her nose noisily with one of the tissues, not sure now whether she wanted to laugh or cry herself; Jack Beauchamp, if he chose, had the power to ruin her!

Her mother gave a rueful shake of her head. ‘I suppose you did definitely deliver those bouquets yesterday?’

But they both knew her question was rhetorical. Mattie made a point of always delivering bouquets and floral arrangements at the time requested. It was one of the reasons that she had so many regular customers. Although she doubted she would be able to continue to list Jack Beauchamp amongst their number after this weekend’s deliberate mix-up!

‘If it’s any consolation, Mattie, Jack Beauchamp wasn’t sporting any visible wounds this afternoon that could have been given to him by an outraged girlfriend!’ Her mother grinned.

‘It isn’t,’ Mattie returned heavily; she might feel a little less devastated if she knew something positive had resulted from her—she admitted it now!—latest reckless action. A black eye, at least from one of the women might have made her feel her actions had been justified! ‘I absolutely hate the thought of having to go to the man and telling him what I’ve done,’ she admitted.

Her mother nodded. ‘Having met Jack Beauchamp, I can understand that. But I also have a feeling that if you don’t go and see him then he’ll be coming in to the florist’s to see you tomorrow, anyway!’

Mattie had the same feeling. And it was probably better to be at least half in charge of the situation rather than completely on the defensive. Besides, this didn’t just affect her; possibly she had also jeopardized her mother’s booking to board Jack Beauchamp’s dog over the Easter weekend.

The weekend. When he was going away to Paris with his family.

His family …

Maybe she wouldn’t have to go quite so apologetically on bended knee, after all; if Jack Beauchamp already had a wife and family, then he shouldn’t be sending flowers to other women in the first place!

She began to hope that, perhaps, she might be able to salvage her own professional reputation from this mess, after all. Jack Beauchamp could hardly make too much of a fuss over those wrongly addressed cards on the flowers without causing some domestic discomfort to himself.

Better to think positively, she told herself firmly. After all, what could the man really do to her …?

She felt rather less sure of herself the following day when she faced Jack Beauchamp across the width of the imposing desk in his equally impressive office!

She had intended going to his home the previous evening, but the address and telephone number he had given her mother were those of his offices in the City, leaving Mattie with no choice but to wait until Monday to speak to him.

She had worried all evening, and hardly slept through the night, as she imagined at least one of his girlfriends having contacted him concerning the wrongly named card attached to her bouquet.

Her mother had looked at her across the breakfast table this morning, had taken in at a glance the heaviness of Mattie’s eyes, and the strained look on her face, handed her a cup of coffee, and, without speaking a word, gone outside to feed her canine guests.