In the Rich Man's World(4)

By: Carol Marinelli


Staring into Taylor’s brown eyes, Amelia felt as if she were choking on her own humiliation—remembering with total recall the shattered remains their whirlwind romance had left in its wake and the almost impossible task of rebuilding her professional reputation. Colleagues had been only too happy to believe that every scoop she got, every inside piece of information she was privy to, must somehow have been gleaned between the sheets.

But she’d learnt from her mistake.

For the following five months she’d been with the Tribute Amelia had been the epitome of professionalism. All her articles had been in before their deadline, she had researched her subjects carefully, and, though friendly and personable, she had maintained a respectable distance, despite a couple of rather surprising offers, determined that by the time Maria returned from her maternity leave Taylor Dean would be a vague memory.

At least in her editor Paul’s eyes!

Tears she simply refused to shed were blinked firmly back and the magazine tossed onto the floor. Taylor’s features blurred as a sympathetic puddle on the floor licked at the front page—only not quickly enough for Amelia. Taylor’s cheating eyes were still staring out at her, the wounds he had inflicted on her once-trusting heart still too raw not to hurt when touched, and she gave up on her relaxing bath, pulled out the plug and padded into the living room.

‘No!’

Her wail went unheard as, standing shivering in a towel, she saw her computer—despite frantic pressing of Control-Alt-Delete, remain frozen. Its only movement was a red sign appearing, warning of Trojan horses galloping towards her and worms poking their heads out of the woodwork at the most inopportune time.

‘No!’ she wailed again, dragging a chair over with her wrinkled bath-soaked foot and with chattering teeth trying to wrestle with the unforgiving screen of her computer.

It was twenty to five!

Thoughts of Paul’s reaction were the only thing that ran through Amelia’s mind as she rang her computer guru—only to be told that it was happening to everyone, that computers were crashing with more speed than a pile-up on a freeway.

If she missed the deadline…she’d be dead!

Not even bothering to replace the receiver, not even remembering to thank him, Amelia gulped in air, picturing the scenario. Okay, the piece she was filing so urgently today wouldn’t actually appear until next week’s colour supplement, but in the cut-throat world of journalism deadlines came second only to a pulse.

First, actually.

Without fulfilling one’s deadlines, your pulse didn’t even matter.

She could almost see Paul’s raised eyebrow as she stammered her way through an apology. Could almost feel the breeze from his dismissive wave as he assured her it didn’t matter a jot, that of course this was a one-off and they’d naturally take into consideration when deciding her fate that every other piece she’d filed had been delivered before deadline…

No problem, Amelia. He’d smile. Don’t worry about it, Amelia, he’d say, waving away her stammering excuses. These things happen to the best of us.

Oh, he’d make all the right noises, insist that it didn’t really matter, while simultaneously checking with Personnel just how long it would be till the impossibly efficient Maria came back.

A whimper of horror escaped Amelia’s chattering lips as she pressed every last key on her computer, watching with mounting horror as each page she attempted to open froze on top of the other, as words dropped like autumn leaves from her screen, replaced instead with the horror of empty white squares on empty white squares, as the stupid, defunct, way-too-late virus warning alerted her of impending doom.

Doom!

Raking fingers through aromatic oiled hair that badly needed a rinse, she squeezed a breath into her lungs.

Back-up.

‘Please…’ Amelia whimpered, pushing the eject button on her computer and pulling out the disc. Thank God she’d remembered to press ‘save’! If she got dressed now, forgot make-up and managed to hail a cab in record time, she’d be just ten minutes late.

Rummaging through her wardrobe, berating the fact that her usual boxy suits were all stacked in a pile at the dry cleaners, Amelia pulled on some weekend jeans and pushed her damp body into a sheer lilac top that, had time allowed, would definitely have benefited from a bra. But time was of the essence. Hailing a cab, she dragged a comb through her short, spiky blonde hair as she rattled around on the back seat, making vague conversation with the driver and attempting a slick of mascara as they swung into George Street.

She was ready to hand over her disk to Clara the receptionist with a quick smile and then beat a hasty retreat, absolutely determined not to be caught looking anything other than the smart, efficient, business-woman she always portrayed.