I stare at her in disbelief. “You mean—”

“Not every week,” says Zelda. “But fairly regularly. We thought maybe three times a month. Do you think your work would allow you to do that?”

“I. . I don’t know,” I say dazedly. “I expect it would.”

“Excellent!” says Zelda. “We could probably plug your magazine as well, keep them happy.” She scribbles something on a piece of paper and looks up. “Now, you don’t have an agent, do you? So I’ll have to talk money directly with you.” She pauses, and looks down at her clipboard. “What we’re offering, per slot, is—”

Twenty-three

I PUT MY KEY in the lock and slowly open the door of the flat. It seems like about a million years since I was here last, and I feel like a completely different person. I’ve grown up. Or changed. Or something.

“Hi,” I say cautiously into the silence, and drop my bag onto the floor. “Is anyone—”

“Bex!” gasps Suze, appearing at the door of the sitting room. She’s wearing tight black leggings and holding a half-made denim photograph frame in one hand. “Oh my God! Where’ve you been? What have you been doing? I saw you on Morning Coffee and I couldn’t believe my eyes! I tried to phone in and speak to you, but they said I had to have a financial problem. So I said, OK, how should I invest half a million? but they said that wasn’t really. .” She breaks off. “Bex, what happened?”

I don’t reply straight away. My attention has been grabbed by the pile of letters addressed to me on the table. White, official-looking envelopes, brown window envelopes, envelopes marked menacingly “Final Reminder.” The scariest pile of letters you’ve ever seen.

Except somehow. . they don’t seem quite so scary anymore.

“I was at my parents’ house,” I say, looking up. “And then I was on television.”

“But I phoned your parents! They said they didn’t know where you were!”

“I know,” I say, flushing slightly. “They were. . protecting me from a stalker.” I look up, to see Suze staring at me in utter incomprehension. Which I suppose is fair enough. “Anyway,” I add defensively, “I left you a message on the machine, saying not to worry, I was fine.”

“I know,” wails Suze, “but that’s what they always do in films. And it means the baddies have got you and you’ve got a gun jammed against your head. Honestly, I thought you were dead! I thought you were, like, cut up into a million pieces somewhere.”

I look at her face again. She isn’t kidding, she really was worried. I feel awful. I should never have vanished like that. It was completely thoughtless and irresponsible and selfish.

“Oh, Suze.” On impulse, I hurry forward and hug her tightly. “I’m really sorry. I never meant to worry you.”

“It’s OK,” says Suze, hugging me back. “I was worried for a bit — but then I knew you must be all right when I saw you on the telly. You were fantastic, by the way.”

“Really?” I say, a tiny smile flickering round the corners of my mouth. “Did you really think so?”

“Oh yes!” says Suze. “Much better than whatshisface. Luke Brandon. God, he’s arrogant.”

“Yes,” I say after a tiny pause. “Yes, I suppose he is. But he was actually quite nice to me afterward.”

“Really?” says Suze indifferently. “Well, you were brilliant, anyway. Do you want some coffee?”

“Love some,” I say, and she disappears into the kitchen.

I pick up my letters and bills and begin slowly to leaf through them. Once upon a time, this lot would have sent me into a blind panic. In fact, they would have gone straight into the bin, unread. But you know what? Today I don’t feel a flicker of fear. Honestly, how could I have been so silly about my financial affairs? How could I have been so cowardly? This time I’m just going to face up to them properly. I’m going to sit down with my checkbook and my latest bank statements, and sort methodically through the whole mess.

Staring at the clutch of envelopes in my hand, I feel suddenly very grown-up and responsible. Farsighted and sensible. I’m going to sort my life out and keep my finances in order from now on. I’ve completely and utterly changed my attitude toward money.

Plus. .

OK, I wasn’t actually going to tell you this. But Morning Coffee is paying me absolute loads. Loads. You won’t believe it, but for every single phone-in I do, I’m going to get—

Oh, I’m all embarrassed now. Let’s just say it’s. . it’s quite a lot!

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