“Oh, right,” I say, and pause. “But they’re not your client, are they?”

“I’m sure that won’t matter in this case,” she says, and gives a little laugh. “What did you want to know?”

“Right,” I say, and look at my list. “Was it a deliberate strategy for Flagstaff Life to invite their investors to move out of with-profits just before they announced windfalls? Some people lost out a lot, you know.”

“Right. .” she says. “Thanks, Camilla, I’ll have smoked salmon and lettuce.”

“What?” I say.

“Sorry, yes, I am with you,” she says. “Just jotting it down. . I’ll have to get back to you on that, I’m afraid.”

“Well, I need a response soon!” I say, giving her my number. “My deadline’s in a few hours.”

“Got that,” says Alicia. Suddenly her voice goes muffled. “No, smoked salmon. OK then, Chinese chicken. Yes.” The muffle disappears. “So, Rebecca, any other questions? Tell you what, shall I send you our latest press pack? That’s bound to answer any other queries. Or you could fax in your questions.”

“Fine,” I say curtly. “Fine, I’ll do that.” And I put the phone down.

For a while I stare straight ahead in brooding silence. Stupid patronizing cow. Can’t even be bothered to take my questions seriously.

Then gradually it comes to me that this is the way I always get treated when I ring up press offices. No one’s ever in any hurry to answer my questions, are they? People are always putting me on hold, saying they’ll ring me back and not bothering. I’ve never minded before — I’ve rather enjoyed hanging on to a phone, listening to “Greensleeves.” I’ve never cared before whether people took me seriously or not.

But today I do care. Today what I’m doing does seem important, and I do want to be taken seriously. This article isn’t just about a press release and a bunch of numbers. Martin and Janice aren’t hypothetical examples dreamed up by some marketing department. They’re real people with real lives. That money would have made a huge difference to them.

I’ll show Alicia, I think fiercely. I’ll show them all, Luke Brandon included. Show them that I, Rebecca Bloomwood, am not a joke.

With a sudden determination I reach for my dad’s typewriter. I feed in some paper, switch on my Dictaphone, take a deep breath, and begin to type.

Two hours later, I fax my 950-word article to Eric Foreman.

Eighteen

THE NEXT MORNING, I wake at six o’clock. It’s pathetic, I know, but I’m as excited as a little kid on Christmas Day (or as me on Christmas Day, to be perfectly honest).

I lie in bed, telling myself to be grown-up and laid-back and not think about it — but I just can’t resist it. My mind swims with images of the piles of newspapers in newsstands all over the country. Of the copies of The Daily World being dropped on people’s doormats this morning; all the people who are going to be opening their papers, yawning, wondering what’s in the news.

And what are they going to see?

They’re going to see my name! Rebecca Bloomwood in print in The Daily World! My first national byline: “By Rebecca Bloomwood.” Doesn’t that sound cool? “By Rebecca Bloomwood.”

I know the piece has gone in, because Eric Foreman phoned me up yesterday afternoon and told me the editor was really pleased with it. And they’ve got it on a color page — so the picture of Janice and Martin will be in full color. Really high profile. I can’t quite believe it. The Daily World!

Even as I’m lying here, it occurs to me, there’s already a whole pile of Daily Worlds at the newsstand in the parade of shops round the corner. A whole pile of pristine, unopened copies. And the newsstand opens at. . what time? Six, I seem to remember. And now it’s five past six. So in theory, I could go and buy one right now if I wanted to. I could just get up, slip on some clothes, go down to the newsstand, and buy one.

Not that I would, of course. I’m not quite so sad and desperate that I’m going to rush down as soon as the shop’s opened, just to see my name. I mean, what do you take me for? No, what I’ll do is just saunter down casually later on — perhaps at eleven or midday — pick up the paper and flip through it in mild interest and then saunter home again. I probably won’t even bother to buy a copy. I mean — I’ve seen my name in print before. It’s hardly a big deal. No need to make a song and dance about it.

I’m going to turn over now and go back to sleep. I can’t think why I’m awake so early. Must be the birds or something. Hmm. . close my eyes, plump up my pillow, think about something else. . I wonder what I’ll have for breakfast when I get up?

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