Janet Pywell ellie BravoIt’s Friday afternoon. It’s bank holiday weekend and I am sitting in Simon’s office. Like the tekkies downstairs he is wearing his new white lab coat. Maria and I said we would save the company money, we didn’t want one…

“Business has certainly improved since you’ve been here, Elly. We got the OUT Magazine contract and now the ITG contract. They are both big deals and that’s in the space of a month.”

He rubs his palms together and I feel a surge of elation.

“Perhaps you’d think about staying on permanently?”

“That’s a big decision to make,” I say. “I have my flat in London and my home is over there.” As I speak I am wondering if it would be better to relocate on a more permanent basis. I don’t tell him that the change and the challenge have been interesting and different but I have no friends and no social life.

“Promise me you’ll think about it, Elly. Now that we have closed the deal on the ITG project things can only get better. We’re on a roller coaster and I know it’s a long way away but if things are this good by Christmas I’d like to offer you a more secure future in the company, financially speaking, of course, shares or directorship. Something that would make it worth your while.”

“That sounds interesting Simon, thank you, but what about John and Maria? How would they feel? They’ve obviously been here much longer than me and if you were to offer me something more–”

“Don’t worry! I’ll sort it. Maria will be pleased anyway and I’ll speak to John nearer the time. It is just something for you to think about and something for you to work towards. I don’t want you to feel you are not appreciated and that you have made a difference to the company without being financially rewarded. I know I cannot match the salary you were earning in London but I hope that the long term prospects of staying here will be an enticement for you.”

“So long as the business is out there, I feel that we can compete and win more accounts.”

“The sales course John has been on this week might be the making of him. You know that I am often out of the office, um and, it makes sense for you to take over. You’re a natural-born leader.”

I have been concerned about the amount he travels but I say nothing. I haven’t decided on my future. It is all up in the air but I feel happy that he has been upfront enough to entice me into staying.

It was more than Kat had done at Gower and Proctor in London.

Fifteen minutes later I am sitting at my desk mulling over our conversation when Lily’s face appears at the door.

“Nice haircut!” I say.

It has been cut into a neat brown bob and it makes her look serious.

“It’s horrible!” She scowls and flicks her fringe roughly. “I would love long straight hair like yours,” she says wistfully. She is wearing her school uniform. One sock is gathered around her ankle, her blouse is open at the neck, and her tie is pulled off centre.

“You look like St Trinian meets Harry Potter,” I laugh. I look forward to her weekly visit and our chats.

She wiggles onto the chair opposite me. Her feet don’t touch the ground and she swings them energetically thumping them against my desk.

“Mum’s on the phone and Dad’s in Dublin and he’s going to be there all bank holiday weekend,” she groans. “There’s nothing exciting happening and I’m bored. Will you take me for a ride on the Harley?”

“Not unless you want me to fall out with your mother.”

“No, I don’t want that! You’re the only one who makes her laugh.”

“I’m sure that’s not true,” I reply but my stomach flutters.

“Mum’s always happy with you. She’s always laughing. She tells me you sometimes have lunch together in the park and you went out for dinner. Dad never takes us out! We never do anything or go anywhere apart from Grandma’s.”

I rearrange pens and paper and put the calculator, ruler and stapler in a neat line before flicking imaginary dust from my keyboard. I don’t know what to say.

“Have you asked her then?” Maria appears in the doorway. She wears a printed floral dress with short sleeves and she looks radiant. She stares expectantly at Lily who shakes her head.

“Go on then, ask her quickly, or we’ll be late for your ballet classes.”

“Ask me what?”

“Have you seen the new Disney film?”

“If you mean the very latest one that’s on at the cinema, then no!”

“Would you like to see it with us?” There’s something in Lily’s manner that holds her back. Is it shyness?  Is it the fear of being turned down?

She’s like me and like Maria. We all lack confidence.

“I’d have to consult my busy diary,” I say.

“Tomorrow night?” Lily looks hopeful.

“Great! That’s precisely the evening I had nothing planned!” I reply quickly and she giggles.

“It’s only that Michael’s in Dublin,” Maria explains and she nods at Lily as if wanting to please her. “And it is bank holiday weekend so we should do something special.”

“Without Grandma!”

“Well, that sounds like a plan, but only on one condition,” I say.

Lily’s eyes shine warily from behind her glasses and she blinks quickly.

“That I take you both for dinner. We can try one of those restaurants in the Odyssey, there’s the Indian or the Chinese?”

A smile spreads across Lily’s face and her feet bang rhythmically against my desk in perfect time with my own rapidly beating heart.

“Charlie said the Indian is great. She goes there all the time.”