But I can’t stand still on the pavement outside William Green all day. People will start thinking I’m a piece of installation art or something. So eventually I begin walking along the street, figuring I’ll arrive at a tube soon enough and then I can decide what to do. I come to a corner and I’m just waiting for the traffic to stop, when a taxi pulls up beside me.
“I know you’re a very busy woman, with a lot to do,” comes Luke Brandon’s voice, and my head jerks up in shock. There he is, leaning out of the taxi window, his dark eyes crinkled up in a little smile. “But if you had the odd half-hour to spare — you wouldn’t be interested in doing a little shopping, would you?”
This day is unreal. Completely and utterly unreal.
I get into the taxi, put my clunky briefcase on the floor, and shoot a nervous look at Luke as I sit down. I’m already slightly regretting this. What if he asks me a question about interest rates? What if he wants to talk about the Bundesbank or American growth prospects? But all he says is “Harrods, please,” to the driver.
As we zoom off, I can’t stop a smile coming to my face. I thought I was going to have to go home and be all miserable on my own — and instead, I’m on my way to Harrods, and someone else is paying. I mean, you can’t get more perfect than that.
As we drive along, I look out of the window at the crowded streets. Although it’s March, there are still a few sale signs in the shop windows left over from January, and I find myself peering at the displays, wondering if there are any bargains I might have missed. We pause outside a branch of Lloyds Bank. I look idly at the window, and at the queue of people inside, and hear myself saying “You know what? Banks should run January sales. Everyone else does.”
There’s silence and I look up, to see a look of amusement on Luke Brandon’s face.
“Banks?” he says.
“Why not?” I say defensively. “They could reduce their charges for a month or something. And so could building societies. Big posters in the windows, ‘Prices Slashed’. .” I think for a moment. “Or maybe they should have April sales, after the end of the tax year. Investment houses could do it, too. ‘Fifty percent off a selected range of funds.’ ”
“A unit trust sale,” says Luke Brandon slowly. “Reductions on all upfront charges.”
“Exactly,” I say. “Everyone’s a sucker for a sale. Even rich people.”
The taxi moves on again, and I gaze out at a woman in a gorgeous white coat, wondering where she got it. Maybe at Harrods. Maybe I should buy a white coat, too. I’ll wear nothing but white all winter. A snowy white coat and a white fur hat. People will start calling me the Girl in the White Coat.
When I look back again, Luke’s writing something down in a little notebook. He looks up and meets my eye for a moment, then says, “Rebecca, are you serious about leaving journalism?”
“Oh,” I say vaguely. To be honest, I’d forgotten all about leaving journalism. “I don’t know. Maybe.”
“And you really think banking would suit you better?”
“Who knows?” I say, feeling a bit rattled at his tone. It’s all right for him. He doesn’t have to worry about his career — he’s got his own multimillion-pound company. I’ve only got my own multimillion-pound overdraft. “Elly Granger is leaving Investor’s Weekly News,” I add. “She’s joining Wetherby’s as a fund manager.”
“I heard,” he says. “Doesn’t surprise me. But you’re nothing like Elly Granger.”
Really? This comment intrigues me. If I’m not like Elly, who am I like, then? Someone really cool like Kristin Scott Thomas, maybe.
“You have imagination,” adds Luke. “She doesn’t.”
Wow! Now I really am gobsmacked. Luke Brandon thinks I have imagination? Gosh. That’s good, isn’t it. That’s quite flattering, really. You have imagination. Mmm, yes, I like that. Unless. .
Hang on. It’s not some polite way of saying he thinks I’m stupid, is it? Or a liar? Like “creative accounting.” Perhaps he’s trying to say that none of my articles is accurate.
Oh God, now I don’t know whether to look pleased or not.
To cover up my embarrassment, I look out of the window. We’ve stopped at a traffic light, and a very large lady in a pink velour jogging suit is trying to cross the road. She’s holding several bags of shopping and a pug dog, and she keeps losing grasp of one or other of them and having to put something down. I almost want to leap out and help her. Then, suddenly, she loses her grasp of one of the bags, and drops it on the ground. It falls open — and three huge tubs of ice cream come out of it and start rolling down the road.