“Sophie, you were fantastic. Everybody’s talking about it. You were just a natural. A complete natural. Well done!”
“Wow, thanks! I still haven’t seen it. Did I have too much make-up on?”
“No! You looked great.”
Still smiling I turn to walk towards the lift and crash straight into a man’s chest. My teeth clunk together and I bite my lip. Great – that’s a good start to the working day – I can taste blood immediately.
“Sorry! I’m so sorry!”
I bring my hand to my mouth and see the red blobs on my hand. This is awful. I look up to see Adrian. I’m devastated!
“I’m so sorry, Sophie. Here, let me help you.”
He marches over to Ellie and pulls a couple of tissues from the complimentary box that sits beside the vase of flowers. I hadn’t noticed them before….
“Look, I’m sorry. Here,” he passes me the tissues and I hold them to my lips. I look up at him with one eyebrow raised and his face melts into a knicker-quivering smile,
“Hey,” his voice is warm and soft, “I bought you these.”
He points across to the huge bouquet of crimson tulips that sit on Ellie’s reception desk.
“You did? Why?”
“Well, they were to say well done last night, but now I think they have to be as apology for nearly knocking your teeth out. I’ll buy you some more to say well done for last night!”
I’m blushing again. Even more so when he puts his arm around me lightly and asks me if I’m really OK. I shuffle towards the lift and as the doors close I see him turn to face Ellie. I catch the beginning of his sentence. I’m certain it’s something like, ‘Messed that up didn’t I?’
I’m stunned when I walk into the office. You can hardly see my desk for flowers! Here I am, never received flowers unless I was in hospital, and my desk is hidden beneath at least 4 bouquets. AJ has a face that could curdle milk whilst still in the cow’s udder. Delaney appears from her office, a huge smile confusing me. I’ve never seen her smile. Ever.
“You did so well, Sophie. And look at these flowers?”
“Who are they from?” I’m still mopping my cut lip with a, now red, polka dotted tissue.
“Admirers, Sophie! You went down a storm last night. Come into my office we need to talk.” She turns to AJ and says, “AJ? Get Sophie and I a couple of coffees would you, please?” I’m not sure who is more horrified – AJ, for being asked to fetch me a coffee, or me for being grouped into Delaney’s gang of Those Of Elevated Status and invited into her office for a talk. We get in there and she actually pulls a chair out for me.
“You OK? What’s with the lip?”
I draw the tissue away and check that it has stopped bleeding. I tell her it was just an accident that happened in reception. She nods, desperate to get to the exciting stuff.
She’s actually calling me Sophie and not ‘Regan’! She continues, shuffling papers on her desk and then clicking her mouse which sits on her Barry White mouse mat.
“This is exploding. And you’re at the centre of it. I’ve been inundated this morning with calls from Stephanie in the Press Room. Loads of researchers want to talk to you. The Daily Mail want to speak with you, Marie Claire and even the Philadelphia Inquirer are interested in your story about staying single. It’s inspired, Sophie. And you were a complete natural on the television. But there’s something else too. The website? It’s been loaded with hits throughout the night. Be prepared for this, but you’re going to have to answer these people. Some of them are empowered by your confidence and outlook. There are some who want to ask you questions about why you’re staying single, others want to share their stories, but there are some too who want to be your ‘man’!” She says the word ‘man’ with a comical slow drawl – which somehow is lost on me. I’ve never seen her like this before – all kind of light hearted and full of, em, personality?
“Anyway, I just wanted to say well done. You’re due at the Dorchester at 2, Ashkuri’s team are expecting you – you’ll have about 5 mins max. I’ve booked a cab for you at 1.30 – should give you plenty of time. So for this morning I’d like to you have a check of the website and see whether you can start shaping it a little. Reply to some of the comments and start getting your Relationship Rehab pieces online too. Will be a great way to keep them alive.”
My head is spinning. This is ludicrous. I wrote a few pieces about staying single. I went on a chat show and talked about why I’m disillusioned. And now? I have a website?
AJ enters the room and I can feel her seething as she lowers the coffee cups onto the table. I’m so tempted to smile up at her and tell her that I’d prefer tea, but decide it’s not wise to.
She’d probably tip it over my head!
This website is mind-blowing. I can’t believe how many people have sent in comments. Look at this,
‘How are you doing today my lovely one? I was channel hopping last night and had to stop when I saw you. I was lucky to remember the website address and couldn’t resist dropping by and saying ‘hi’. I promise I’m not like all those other guys – please reply me back if you would like us to date. I am a single Man and a Dad.’ - Dennis, Yorkshire
‘ Hello, I the look of you and your articles are brilliant. I really trip for your pictures.... I want to know more about you. I am looking for real love.... just get back and I will tell you more about me. You won’t regret it.’ – James, Portsmouth
‘Hello - you have a beautiful face and a warm heart. Your beauty and smile have captured my imagination and my heart started falling for you the very minute I saw you on William Montelson’s sofa. You have a beauty that runs deep and is hard to find. Your eyes hold a sexiness and a passion others can only long for. As long as my heart beats, I shall seek out your soul and be fulfilled you’re your beauty. Live with me and you will not regret staying single.’ - Darryl, Wokingham
‘I could make you change your mind. Email me back and I bet I’ll have you changing your mind within days…’ - Rick, Cardiff
This is outrageous – everything bad that speed dating and Wine Not? was – only a million times worse! And it continues,
‘I’m gonna rock your world babe. What’s a stunna like you staying single for? No-one snapped you up yet? I’m your man!’ - Kevin, Bath
‘Hi Sophie, I am also trying to stay single. I have been let down by women all my life and think that you are brave and independent by making that decision. Single is all about choices and those choices are eradicated by relationships. You know that it makes sense and I praise your wisdom.’ – Maurice, Aberdeen
I’m completely overwhelmed. This is a freak show. What have I started?
Two hours later I’m still trawling through the comments and emails. The smell of flowers beside my desk is heady and I realise that I haven’t looked at any of the cards yet. I rub my eyes and lift the first card from the mini envelope. It says,
‘You were fabulous last night. Get used to these flowers – I will continue to send them until you see sense. You interviewing Paul Ashkuri later? I’ll be there to talk to Summer Lawson. Fancy a drink afterwards? Trevor, Geezer magazine’
He was the one who sent the lilies yesterday? It must be! Unless that’s a coincidence. But they were from Trevor weren’t they? And he did say that he’ll continue to send them. I must be him. Now I’m nervous about the Ashkuri interview. It almost feels as though he’s kind of stalking me.
The other cards read,
‘I want you. You are the most beautiful and passionate woman that I have ever seen. Please, be mine. G’
G? What kind of a sign off is that? I have no idea who they are from. The other bouquet is equally as baffling – it simply reads RL. The fourth bouquet is from Ben. I recognise his writing and the message is simple but sweet,
‘Sophie – thank you. Your kind heart rang true. Thank you for being a friend. I am eternally thankful to you. B.S.’
I was surprised actually, at how I dodged the questions about Ben last night. I simply smiled and said that Ben and I were still great friends and we realised a little too late that we were better off that way. I even managed to get a sympathetic giggle from the audience. But I have to admit, I was terrified about any particularly aggressive types of questions about Ben.
I am going to have to avoid the subject of Ben Scott at all costs…
Chapter Twenty Two
Chapter Twenty Four