Around us there is an excited buzz of conversation; the Sacrum people are still clustered at the front. This is great. We’ll be able to natter for hours.

“So listen,” I say to Elly. “Have you applied for any jobs recently?” I take a sip of coffee. “Because I saw one for New Woman the other day in the Media Guardian, and I meant to ring you. It said it was essential to have experience on a consumer title, but I thought you could say—”

“Becky,” interrupts Elly in an odd voice, “you know which job I’ve been going for.”

“What?” I stare at her. “Not that fund manager job. But that wasn’t serious. That was just a bargaining tool.”

“I took it,” she says, and I gaze at her in shock.

Suddenly a voice comes from the podium, and we both look up.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Maria is saying. “If you would like to resume your seats. .”

I’m sorry, but I can’t go and sit back down there. I have to hear about this.

“Come on,” I say quickly to Elly. “We don’t need to stay. We’ve got our press packs. Let’s go and have lunch.”

There’s a pause — and for an awful moment I think she’s going to say no, she wants to stay and hear about personal pensions. But then she grins and takes my arm — and to the obvious dismay of the girl at the door, we waltz out of the room.

There’s a Café Rouge around the corner, and we go straight in and order a bottle of white wine. I’m still in slight shock, to tell you the truth. Elly Granger is going to become a Wetherby’s fund manager. She’s deserting me. I won’t have anyone to play with anymore.

And how can she? She wanted to be beauty editor on Marie-Claire, for God’s sake!

“So, what decided you?” I say cautiously as our wine arrives.

“Oh, I don’t know,” she says, and sighs. “I just kept thinking, where am I going? You know, I keep applying for all these glam jobs in journalism and never even getting an interview. .”

“You would have got one eventually,” I say robustly. “I know you would.”

“Maybe,” she says. “Or maybe not. And in the meantime, I’m writing about all this boring financial stuff — and I suddenly thought, why not just sod it and do boring financial stuff? At least I’ll have a proper career.”

“You were in a proper career!”

“No I wasn’t, I was hopeless! I was paddling around with no aim, no game plan, no prospects. .” Elly breaks off as she sees my face. “I mean, I was quite different from you,” she adds hurriedly. “You’re much more sorted out than I was.”

Sorted out? Is she joking?

“So when do you start?” I say, to change the subject — because to be honest, I feel a bit thrown by all this. I don’t have a game plan, I don’t have prospects. Maybe I’m hopeless, too. Maybe I should rethink my career. Oh God, this is depressing.

“Next week,” says Elly, and takes a swig of wine. “I’m going to be based at the Silk Street office.”

“Oh right,” I say miserably.

“And I’ve had to buy loads of new clothes,” she adds, and pulls a little face. “They’re all really smart at Wetherby’s.”

New clothes? New clothes? Right, now I really am jealous.

“I went into Karen Millen and practically bought it out,” she says, eating a marinated olive. “Spent about a thousand quid.”

“Blimey,” I say, feeling slightly awestricken. “A thousand quid, all at once?”

“Well, I had to,” she says apologetically. “And anyway, I’ll be earning more now.”

“Really?”

“Oh yes,” she says, and gives a little laugh. “Lots more.”

“Like. . how much?” I ask, feeling tweaks of curiosity.

“I’m starting off on forty grand,” she says, and gives a careless shrug. “After that, who knows? What they said is. .”

And she starts talking about career structures and ladders and bonuses. But I can’t hear a word, I’m too shell-shocked.

Forty grand?

Forty grand? But I only earn—

Actually, should I be telling you how much I earn? Isn’t it one of those things like religion, you’re not supposed to mention in polite company? Or maybe we’re all allowed to talk about money these days. Suze would know.

Oh well, sod it. You know everything else, don’t you? The truth is, I earn £21,000. And I thought that was a lot! I remember really well, when I moved jobs, I jumped from £18,000 to £21,000, and I thought I’d made the big time. I was so excited about it, I used to write endless lists of what I would buy with all that extra money.

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