Delaney is ferocious today. Monday’s are notoriously bad anyway; I’m convinced she’s not a ‘morning’ person. Nor maybe an ‘afternoon’ person either. AJ is staring at her screen when as I bustle through the ‘open plan‘ to my desk and I can’t fail to notice how tidy and organised her desk is compared to mine – which I can barely see beneath a completely non organic pile of papers. Delaney has been chucking leads at me like wet sponges at a school fayre and this week alone I need to finish 1500 words on Why Women Write More Letters Than They Post – which I believe is the subject on which a book has already been written – so why I need to write it again is beyond me. There’s also the new Kate Moss at Top Shop collection that I need to talk to Fashion about – Delaney wants me on the streets to interview women on their opinions about it. I get the feeling she has something cooking too – on the singles front. As if the speed and wine dating weren’t bad enough – I know there are still numerous dodgy options out there waiting for me to road test!
“Regan! Five minutes. In my office.”
I grin feebly, aware that the remains of my curls are still bouncing from the confines of my hair grip as I plonk into my chair.
“Oh,” AJ’s sinewy voice squeaks from somewhere behind me, “sounds like you’re in demand already.”
I spin on my chair to face her. We have to get through this strained stage of our working relationship, so I make an effort to smile at her,
“Yeah, hope she doesn’t have any more ideas about speed dating – that was an horrendous experience.”
“Oh,” AJ smirks, “I’m sure she has plenty of ideas. Especially after that, what shall we say, unfortunate, episode with your uncompromising photograph in the nationals.”
And do you know what? For a fleeting second I would put my hand on my heart and think that she was somehow in on that. There is something strangely creepy about her and yet, I realise that it’s paranoia to even think that she could have instigated something like that. But, then again, is it?
My thought bubble is shattered at the gritty sounds of Delaney again.
I leap from my chair and head for her office, unable to resist a quick look back at AJ, who is already craning her neck and watching me trot toward Delaney’s office.
Something’s not right with her.
“OK,” Delaney is leaning forward in her chair and I think she’s fiddling with her foot under her desk. Actually I think she might be pulling off a plaster, given her grimace as she talks. I try to pretend I don’t notice that she’s bent over like the werewolf from Harry Potter, “we’re on for Sky. This week.”
“We? What do you mean, ‘we’?”
“OK,” she cackles, “you! They want you there on Thursday morning at 7.30am – so make sure you have Relationship Rehab ready well in advance this week. You’re probably going to want to give some time to preparing what you’re going to say too. Don’t forget, Regan, you’re going to lay on the emotions about why you decided to stay single and all those awful guys that you dated. They’re going to dig about your relationship with Ben Scott, you already know that, so it’s up to you what you divulge, but remember this, Regan. Play this card right for Woman To Woman, don’t forget how we are the magazine for women in the noughties and that Woman To Woman are at the cutting edge of women and their lives.”
I’ve heard that speech a thousand times – it’s the masthead of the magazine and Delaney fires it off at random moments on a weekly basis.
“The Ben Scott thing worries me. I don’t want to talk about my personal relationship with him.”
“Then don’t. But be prepared. The morning show is live and they might throw in some awkward questions.”
“Great.” I’m not impressed with this. I wanted to stay single to get out of the carnival of relationships and their foibles, not stand as a Pied Piper to lead all the rats out of the city on behalf of the bra burners.
“Right, we’ll talk again on Wednesday. Come straight into the office after you’ve finished at Sky. We’ll have a debrief.”
I’m sure she has aspirations to be an army sergeant sometimes. I leave her office and walk back to my desk as she calls me back,
I notice AJ lift her head to listen in as I turn back to face Delaney,
“I want you to look into singles holidays too. See what you can find.”
I’d started the week realising that I haven’t once thought about Danny Mullins again, with a slight glimmer of hope that being so busy with Relationship Rehab had kept me blissfully unaware of his existence. So when I get back to my desk to find his voice on my voicemail, I’m more than surprised,
“Hey, babe. Saw your pics in papers last week. I’d forgotten how great you looked. Anyway, maybe I was a bit hasty. I mean, Sophie, I’m missing you. Fancy meeting up for a beer or a meal one night? Call me babe.”
Ade heard Trevor on his phone as he passed his desk, so thought about not bothering to stop and ask him whether he wanted an ice lolly from the shop. It was a ritual in the Geezer offices that whoever was the earliest in to work, had to buy the ices on a Monday morning. And Ade had arrived way before the others. He’d been struggling to write Ade Gets Laid, deciding to focus on a woman named Tina that he’d dated when he was about 17, and pretend that it was one of his latest dates instead. She’d been 32 and had taught him an entire repertoire of moves that he’d improved on over the years. He stopped beside Trevor’s desk, listening to his call, waiting for him to come off.
“Yes, 20. OK, yes, no, I have my card details here. OK, ready?”
Ade listened to Trevor read the numbers out – he’d listened to it so many times he virtually knew his banking details off by heart – Trevor was always ordering things over the phone or shopping online.
“No – they have to be delivered today. Before 12 please. You have the address? Great.”
He put down the phone and looked up at Ade, “Buying more crap are you, Trev?”
“No, bruv,” he smiled, licking his lips like the proverbial cat, “not crap. Nothing like crap.”
Ade shook his head, “Want a lolly?”
“Yeah, cheers,” he replied vacantly, pulling back his shirt sleeve to check his watch. 10.45 already.
I want to get ahead of myself a bit with Relationship Rehab. I’ve already taken three calls from London radio programmes who are intrigued by my decision to stay single. Delaney is in raptures about the media hype. It looks like I’ll be on LBC and Heart 106.2 FM later in the week and this is all kind of exciting but it’s as if my staying single promise has taken it’s own legs. The strangest thing is though, I found myself looking for Adrian today when I came into work. How ironic that I’d decide to stay single, so publicly too, and find a guy that I would really really like to get to know better… Maybe I should write that up for this week’s column, how the cliché could be true – when you’re not looking for somebody, that’s when they find you!
I’m staring at my screen, trying to put together the final touches to my column. I’m desperate to get started on the other features that I want to write up for this week and am hoping that Delaney will agree to my idea to interview Paul Ashkuri when he arrives in London on Friday. He’s the hottest new actor to head for Hollywood from Croydon, he’s promised Woman To Woman an interview, and I know I’m competing with AJ on the interviewing stakes. I check Outlook to count how many days I have left to book my highlights before my Sky appearance. Hmmm, and I should really buy myself something nice to wear for the television appearance too. There was that lovely dress in Monsoon’s window.
I turn around to see a huge bunch of lilies approaching me. I’m stunned when they are placed onto my desk. Everybody looks as I rage a furious red.
“Go on then,” AJ spits, “check the card! Is there a card?”
“Yeah,” I reply, delving between the glorious silken petals and knocking dusts of orange pollen onto my keyboard.
“So! What does it say? Who are they from?”
I know I have a vacant expression as I read the name. “I don’t have a clue. Somebody called Trevor.”Chapter Eighteen