Business Spotlight

The Impression­s (5)

Die Dinge scheinen sich vielverspr­echend zu entwickeln. Aber zu welchem Preis? Und dann kommt es auch noch zu einem Zwischenfa­ll, der alles zunichte machen könnte.

- Von JAMES SCHOFIELD

That’s the first thing he said?” asked Julie that evening as the friends sat around the kitchen table drinking some wine. “You look ‘tired’? Charming! Just what you want to hear from an ex-boyfriend, I’m sure!” “That’s why he’s Aiden the Douchebag, isn’t it?” said Paula. “Yes, but I think he meant it nicely,” said Felicity, pouring herself a third glass of wine. She was a little bit drunk. “He sounded genuinely worried about me. Anyway, we’re having a coffee tomorrow morning before work. I think he feels bad about what happened between us before.”

Julie and Paula looked at each other. It had not been an easy job dealing with Felicity’s breakdown over Aiden the year before. They did not want to have to go through that again.

“When I hear the word ‘genuinely’ before a verb,” said Julie, “I know the person using it doesn’t believe it themselves. He isn’t worried about you. He’s just putting you down again. How can you be so… ?”

“Why don’t you tell us about that man who brought you home the other night?” interrupte­d Paula, anxious to change the topic. “Here, have some more wine.”

“Cheers,” said Felicity, who was more than a little bit drunk by now. “You’ll never believe this…”

The next morning on the bus to work, Felicity wore dark glasses to hide the circles under her eyes. The tablets had got her headache under control, but her stomach was still complainin­g bitterly about the remains of the wine. Unexpected­ly, Julie and Paula had believed her about Frederick Tumble and the rest of the Impression­s.

“Why not? Makes sense to me. There are all sorts of things going on that we don’t understand,” said Paula. “I know this because my granny was a spirit medium. Our family parties were always a bit, well, special.”

“I’ll say,” said Julie, who had known Paula since primary school. “You had eight generation­s there singing songs around the Christmas tree. And the arguments!”

Felicity shook her head. Those two girls were full of surprises. But if they believed her, maybe others would, too.

When Felicity arrived at the cafe in Garlick Hill, Aiden was already waiting for her with a coffee and croissant in front of him. She ordered herself a large cappuccino and told Aiden about her job at the bank while she sipped at it.

“…so, I do hope they don’t sell that lovely old building and move outside London to somewhere awful like Milton Keynes,” she said. “But what about you? How long have you been working for the Historical Buildings Associatio­n?” she asked.

“About six months. It’s very interestin­g inspecting all these buildings instead of just teaching students

THOSE TWO GIRLS WERE FULL OF SURPRISES. BUT IF THEY BELIEVED HER, MAYBE OTHERS WOULD, TOO

about architectu­re, as I was when we first met. And you wouldn’t believe what the owners will sometimes offer you in order to get a favourable report!” “What do you mean?”

“The last thing most people want is to have their building listed. It limits what they’re able to do with it. So, sometimes, they try and influence the person who writes the report.” He leaned forward. “Between you and me, Felicity, your bank directors were very unhappy when I told them why I was visiting yesterday. But as I explained to them, it’s a very nice piece of architectu­re.”

“Oh, that’s wonderful! So, you’ll recommend it be listed?”

“Well, I don’t know yet. I really need to speak to Frederick Tumble, the person who sent in the applicatio­n.”

Felicity swallowed hard. “That might be a little difficult,” she began…

After she’d finished her explanatio­n, Aiden sat back in his chair with a strange look on his face.

“Interestin­g,” he said finally. “Well, I can see this building is very important to you. So much so that you invent this extraordin­ary story to try to influence my report.”

“But honestly, I haven’t invented…” interrupte­d Felicity. Aiden held up a hand.

“No, don’t worry, Felicity. You were always very imaginativ­e. That’s what I found — find — so attractive about you,” he leaned forward and touched the back of her hand with his finger. “You know, I’ve missed seeing you. But perhaps this report gives us an opportunit­y to come to a little arrangemen­t… a fun arrangemen­t.”

Felicity felt a little sick.

“Are you suggesting… ?”

“I think you know what I’m suggesting.”

“I…, I…”

Crash! A waiter going past their table tripped and dropped his tray of coffee and cakes on to Aiden’s lap. Aiden howled, and chaos broke out as he began shouting and swearing while the waiter tried to wipe the cakes off his jacket.

“Come on,” said a voice in Felicity’s ear. It was Smudge, who had been secretly listening to their conversati­on from the neighbouri­ng table. “Let’s get out of here before the waiter realizes I tripped him.”

Once outside, they ran down Watling Street until they got to the entrance to the bank. Despite everything, Felicity found herself laughing.

“I know what he wanted, Miss Appleby,” said Smudge. “Mr Tumble would never allow it.” “Thanks, Smudge! Oh, his face when…”

“Felicity, who are you talking to?” demanded Tricia, who was standing next to the security guard and telling him off for something. “Coming in late for work, talking to yourself and laughing like a crazy person? You’d better get up to your desk. There’s a lot going on this morning.”

When Aiden appeared in front of her desk an hour later — his suit still covered in coffee and cake smears — Felicity put on her most poised expression.

“You just had to say no!” he hissed at her. “You didn’t have to trip that waiter. But hear this: there will be consequenc­es!”

And with that, he turned around and marched into the boardroom.

The last part of the story will be published in the next issue.

AIDEN HOWLED, AND CHAOS BROKE OUT AS HE BEGAN SHOUTING AND SWEARING

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 ??  ?? JAMES SCHOFIELD is the co-author of the Double
Dealing series. You can find more of his stories and his blog at http://jrtschofie­ld.blogspot.de
JAMES SCHOFIELD is the co-author of the Double Dealing series. You can find more of his stories and his blog at http://jrtschofie­ld.blogspot.de

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