Ellie joined Noni at the coffee table, plonking down their coffees. It was the same spot where they had first met, and where Ellie had received the call about Kate, a week earlier.
“Hi, at least we get a coffee in this time?” Noni said, how does she always look so polished, she thought looking at her across the table? “How’s Kate?”
“She’s much better, I think she’s being moved to Highgate today, her mum is back from Majorca, so she will arrange all that. Emma’s with her now, her kids are at school!” Ellie added, rolling her eyes. “I got night duty at the hospital, as everyone else was either out of the country or have darling, spoilt, cherubs at home!”
“Oh, that’s right, Emma has two doesn’t she?”
“No, she’s got three now. The baby is in care when the other two are at school! But I made some use of the time at the hospital, I met a nice young doctor, Mike!”
“Oh, cute then?” Nina asked, interested.
“Mmm not bad, but Sergio is due back in a couple of days so just as well Kate is being moved to Highgate.”
“Yeah, Sergio, my boyfriend, he’s one of the Siracusa family line, they own half of Tuscany! He’s been in Italy for a funeral” Ellie continued, “He’s over there quite regularly for funerals.”
“Oh, I don’t think I’ve heard of that family.”
“You’ll have to google them! Thanks for getting that photocopying done for me, I was able to get the invites out, and I’ve had most of them confirm they are attending the author talks next week.”
“Oh, no problem, pleased I could be of help. Anytime.”
“Well actually I have got a couple of other things I’ll bring down, spending all this time at the hospital with Kate has really put me behind on some of my deadlines.”
“Yeah, no worries.”
They drank their coffees in silence, Noni wondering what she could say to spark up the conversation again, when Ellie’s phone rang.
“Hi, Morgan, yeah just getting a coffee. No I didn’t know you had called a meeting about Gregory James’s itinerary, ok I’m heading back now.” Ellie looked at Noni, “Sorry go to go, but at least we managed a coffee this time. Catch you at work later.” Ellie bustled off, a blur of black overcoat and navy suit, leaving behind a scent of designer perfume.
* * *
Noni’s return to work was greeted by piles of photocopying and requests for work that had been left five minutes earlier.
“Hey, Noni” it was Billy,
“Oh hi Billy. How are you?”
“Pretty good, I have this urgent photocopying from the publishing department upstairs, I think it’s from Ellie.”
“Yeah, no worries, give it to me, I’ll get it done now.”
“What are you doing for lunch?”
“Mmm, think I’ll be here,” Noni waved her arm toward the piles of paper stacked up around the copiers.
“How about a drink tonight then, a group of us are heading to the Coach and Horses, why don’t you join us?”
“Yeah, ok.” Noni answered briskly, trying to get rid of him rather than agreeing to a social event at the end of the day.
* * *
“Hey, Noni!” Billy ran up to Noni, on the darkening street outside their publishing building, “I thought you were going to stand me up!”
“Oh hi, yeah, I forgot, sorry,” Noni, looked around, “where are the others?”
“They went ahead, I was just going to join them, I’m glad you decided to join us.”
They walked along the busy London street, dodging patrons rushing to get to one of many productions being shown along the busy Shaftesbury Avenue.
* * *
It was standing room only inside the busy pub, the outside tables were no better, with smokers leaning casually against the brightly painted striped red and white columns, reminiscent of days gone past. Not even the cool spring evening air could put a dampener on the spirits of the Londoners.
“Hey, Noni, do you know these guys?” Billy asked, waving toward a group of the production team’s familiar faces propping up the bar. She had seen them in the office but hadn’t really chatted with any of them, she felt they didn’t think she was important enough. She said hi to them and then climbed onto a high bar stool beside Billy.
“So how are you finding the job?” Billy asked her.
“Ok, it’s not exactly intellectual! But I guess I have to start somewhere!” she smiled at him. She really did like his face, it was an open generous face with full lips, rounded bright blue eyes that smiled and a firm jaw.
“So what types of jobs have you done in the past?” he asked.
“Well I’ve worked at a couple of the publishing houses in London and my last job was at Grazing Magazine.”
“The gossip mag?”
“Well it’s actually more like a fashion mag, but yeah there’s a bit of goss as well.”
“Where were you working, which department?” Billy was curious now.
“I was on the production team,” Noni looked away.
“Oh, I could put in the good word for you here. Why did you leave?”
“Well I had to have a few weeks off, sick. They needed someone to fill my position and in the end she got to keep my job!”
“Oh, that’s too bad, but you should have had sick leave?”
“I hadn’t been there too long, so it wasn’t that straight forward.”
Billy looked at her, she seemed so much like a little helpless girl at that moment, “do you want something to eat?”
Billy reached across her to the other side of the bar for a menu, their arms touched, Noni expected to flinch as she normally did when touched, but she didn’t. Their eyes met, and for once Noni felt comfortable being so close to someone else.
* * *
Noni was beginning to relax after a generous plate of vegetarian food and a half pint of beer, when Billy’s mobile rang, he went outside to take the call. Her eyes followed him, as he pushed past drinkers in the doorway, his mousy blonde crop and broad shoulders disappearing into the blackness of the night outside.
Noni continued to watch the door and within a few minutes he returned looking a little edgy.
“Hey, I’m sorry, I’ve got to go. My mum’s not well, she’s just come out of hospital and I’m sharing shifts with my brother and sister. It’s supposed to be my sister’s shift but she forgot about my niece’s recital at school. Do you want me to drop you home or something?”
Noni’s eyes opened wide, she didn’t want him to see where she lived,
“Nope that’s fine. I’ll finish this drink and then I’ll head off, I hope all is okay with your mum.”
“Alright, I’ll get Dan to keep an eye on you and put you in a cab, how’s that?”
“That’s ok, I can get a bus from here.” She watched him hurriedly leave, wondering if what he had said was true. Somehow she knew it was, he didn’t seem like the type of guy to lie about his mum being unwell.
* * *
Despite the night being mild, Noni shivered as she left the pub, Dan had offered to cab it home with her but she felt awkward having the cabbie drop her off a few streets from her place, she certainly didn’t look like she lived on King Street and she didn’t want him to see her get out at the estate, she really did need to move out and find her own place. Well if this job goes okay that would be her next task, she thought to herself.
Suddenly she felt an arm around her shoulders and turned to see Jerry from the art department. “Need a knight in shining armour to walk you home?”
“No, that’s okay, I’m going to catch a bus from Charing Cross Road, I’ll be fine.”
“No, I can see you’re not fine, you need a man in your life and I’m that guy, right here, right now!” He laughed.
Noni began to breathe heavily, her palms became sweaty, should she scream, she didn’t want to draw attention to herself if she didn’t need too.
“You’ve been following me for a long time, why can’t you just leave me alone? I haven’t done anything to you!” Noni’s voice was shrill and it became louder as she continued, “I know what you want but you won’t get it from me. I m a good girl!”
A couple walking across the road stopped and looked over, “Hey, is everything ok?” the young man called.
“Yeah, it’s fine, just a quarrel,” Jerry said, waving them on. He turned back to Noni.
“I’ve told you before don’t keep following me, leave me alone, leave me alone!” she continued.
“Okay, okay. Look I’m going, alright!” Jerry turned in the opposite direction and walked briskly away.
* * *