Well, of course she will. Who wouldn’t be amused by hearing about the girl who spent her entire morning testing out suitcases for another woman? The girl who got completely the wrong end of the stick. The girl who was so stupid, she thought Luke Brandon might actually like her.

I swallow hard, feeling sick with humiliation. For the first time, I’m realizing how Luke Brandon sees me. How they all see me. I’m just the comedy turn, aren’t I? I’m the scatty girl who gets things wrong and makes people laugh. The girl who didn’t know SBG and Rutland Bank had merged. The girl no one would ever think of taking seriously. Luke didn’t bother telling me we were choosing a suitcase for his girlfriend because I don’t matter. He’s only buying me lunch because he hasn’t got anything else to do — and probably because he thinks I might do something entertaining like drop my fork, which he can laugh about when he gets back to the office.

“I’m sorry,” I say in a wobbly voice, and stand up. “I haven’t got time for lunch after all.”

“Rebecca, don’t be silly!” says Luke. “Look, I’m sorry you didn’t know about my girlfriend.” He raises his eyebrows quizzically, and I almost want to hit him. “But we can still be friends, can’t we?”

“No,” I say stiffly, aware that my voice is thick and my eyes smarting. “No, we can’t. Friends treat each other with respect. But you don’t respect me, do you, Luke? You just think I’m a joke. A nothing. Well. .” I swallow hard. “Well, I’m not.”

And before he can say anything else I turn and quickly make my way out of the restaurant, half blinded by disappointed tears.

PGNI FIRST BANK VISA 7 Camel Square

Liverpool L1 5NP

Ms. Rebecca Bloomwood

Flat 24 Burney Rd.London SW6 8FD

15 March 2000

Dear Ms. Bloomwood: PGNI First Bank VISA Card No. 1475839204847586 Thank you for your payment of £10.00, received on 13 March.As I have pointed out several times, the minimum payment required was in fact £105.40.The balance currently overdue is therefore £95.40. I look forward to receiving your payment as soon as possible.If satisfactory payment is not received within seven days, further action will have to be taken.Yours sincerely,Peter Johnson Customer Accounts Executive

BANK OF LONDON

London House, Mill Street, EC3R 4DW

Ms. Rebecca Boomwood

Flat 24 Burney Rd.London SW6 8FD

18 March 2000

Dear Ms. Boomwood: Just think. .What kind of difference would a personal loan make to your life?A new car, perhaps. Improvements to the home. A boat for those weekend breaks. Or maybe just the peace of mind, knowing that all those bills can easily be taken care of.Bank of London will offer loans for almost any purpose — so don’t wait any longer! Turn your life into the lifestyle you deserve.With a Bank of London Easifone Loan, you don’t even have to fill in any forms. Simply call one of our friendly 24-hour operators on 0100 45 46 47 48 and let us do the rest.Just think. .We look forward to hearing from you.Yours sincerely,Sue Skepper Marketing Executive

P.S. Why delay? Pick up the phone now and dial 0100 45 46 4748. It couldn’t be easier!

Twelve

I ARRIVE HOME THAT afternoon, feeling weary and miserable. Suddenly, triple-A-rated jobs in banking and Harrods with Luke Brandon seem miles away. Real life isn’t swanning round Knightsbridge in a taxi, choosing £1,000 suitcases, is it? This is real life. Home to a tiny flat which still smells of curry, and a pile of nasty letters from the bank, and no idea what to do about them.

I put my key in the lock, and as I open the door, I hear Suze cry, “Bex? Is that you?”

“Yes!” I say, trying to sound cheerful. “Where are you?”

“Here,” she says, appearing at the door of my bedroom. Her face is all pink, and there’s a shine in her eyes. “Guess what! I’ve got a surprise for you!”

“What is it?” I say, putting down my briefcase. To be honest, I’m not in the mood for one of Suze’s surprises. She’ll just have moved my bed to a different place, or something. And all I want is to sit down and have a cup of tea and something to eat. I never did get any lunch.

“Come and see. No, no, shut your eyes, first. I’ll lead you.”

“OK,” I say reluctantly. I close my eyes and allow her to take my hand. We start to walk along the corridor — and of course, as we near my bedroom door, I start feeling a little tingle of anticipation in spite of myself. I always fall for things like this.

“Da-daaa! You can look now!”

I open my eyes and look dazedly around my room, wondering what mad thing Suze has done. At least she hasn’t painted the walls or touched the curtains, and my computer’s safely switched off. So what on earth can she have. .

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