Can't Help Falling(8)

By: Kara Isaac


Something crossed Ms. Bradman’s face. She didn’t say anything but paused, seeming to really look at Emelia for the first time.

Emelia scrambled to explain without lying. “We weren’t close but I promise you, I will do everything in my power to get her charity back on its feet.”

The woman’s face softened at the mention of SpringBoard’s founder. “So this is personal.”

It couldn’t get any more personal. “Very much so.”

Ms. Bradman pursed her lips, tapped her capped fountain pen on the blotter in front of her. “You’ve seen the salary?”

Emelia could understand her hesitation. “Salary” was a generous term for the pittance they were offering. If she were still in LA it wouldn’t have even covered her mortgage payments. “Yes, ma’am.”

“When are you available from?”

“I just moved to Oxford. I can start as soon as you want.” The desperation practically leached out of her pores.

“Okay.” Ms. Bradman scribbled something on the piece of paper in front of her. “Tell me about your references.”

“Ava Brownley is the event co-coordinator for LA Lit, which is a charity for inner-city children in LA. It has a number of similarities with SpringBoard’s work. I worked on a number of fund-raising events for her. Kevin Wright is the chair of Outside the Box, which is a foundation that assists people with mental illness. I did some communications and PR work for them.”

Not for the first time, she gave thanks that she’d kept her charity work and her real job completely separate. Neither Ava nor Kevin knew anything about Mia Caldwell, so there was no chance of their inadvertently dropping the name that would ruin everything.

“Okay. Assuming your references check out, let’s go with starting on Monday. I’ll take a copy of your passport and I’ll be in touch tomorrow with what further information we require.”

What? That was it? Emelia couldn’t have been more surprised if the woman had offered to fly her to the moon. “Um, yes. That would be fine. Thank you.” The woman didn’t even look up from what she was writing. Right. Dismissed then.

Emelia crept out of the room, hardly daring to breathe until she was out the door lest the woman inside change her mind.

Once in the hallway, she sagged against the wall. She’d done it. Gotten the job that she’d thrown her whole life in for. Now she just had to work out how on earth to do the impossible.





Five

PETER WALKED IN HIS FRONT door and stifled a groan. Not again. From his entryway, he could see his brother’s feet hanging off the end of his couch.

He was cold. He was soaked through from two hours in the freezing February rain. It had not been a good rowing session. The team had spent most of the time struggling to get into a good rhythm on the lake, all of them growing more frustrated when they failed. And now he knew, without a doubt, he would get into the shower and discover Victor had used up all the hot water.

He’d just seen Victor all of an hour ago at training. Funny how his brother hadn’t thought to mention then he was planning to take up residency on his couch. Again. It had only been three days since his last stint. But then, Victor had always lived by the motto that it was easier to ask forgiveness than permission. Not that he ever bothered with the former either.

Stomping into his living room, Peter found his brother balancing a bag of potato crisps on his torso and a beer in his hand. Both of them Peter’s. Because that was what his brother specialized in: taking.

And he was done.

“What did you do this time?” Peter picked up his brother’s keys off the coffee table and started flipping through them. Finding his house key, he started twisting it off the ring.

“I— Hey! What are you doing?” Victor lifted his head to watch Peter extract his key and stuff it in his pocket.

“We’re done with this being a halfway house. I have an actual flatmate. And both of us like having hot showers and not having our food eaten. So I don’t care what kind of girlfriend troubles you have, I’m no longer your alternate for when she kicks you out.”

“Wow, look at you, little bro. Gone and grown a backbone and everything.” Victor cast him a sardonic smile as he reached for another handful of crisps. “And here I was just enjoying some of your moments of glory.”

Peter looked toward the TV to find some kind of sports highlights show on and saw his team, faces taut with agony, pulling back against the oars. The yellow Team Great Britain boat chasing Germany’s green one.

In a split second, he was back in the previous June. Out on the water in Varese, Italy. With his guys. Lungs burning. Body screaming. Sun beating down. The longest five minutes and twenty-seven seconds of his life as they’d fought to take the lead and then hold it against the powerful Germans, who took the fight right to the end. A third of a second was all that separated them at the finish line.