By Fruitcake @barjan
The bright yellow taxi pulled up outside Patsy’s flat and sounded the horn, she was rushing around grabbing her coat and baggage and then remembered that she hadn’t left her flatmate the note about the plumber coming tomorrow morning, she opened the door and yelled to the taxi driver “I’m just coming, give me two minutes please”, she quickly scribbled the note and propped it up on the worktop in the kitchen, where she knew that Lindsey would find it when she got back tonight.
She stood in the hallway, before opening the door, took a deep breath and said “Okay come on Patsy think positive, this is not the end of anything but the start of a new beginning” she took a final quick glance around the flat, gathered her things, went out of the door, pulling it resolutely shut behind her, and got into the taxi.
“Where to miss?” asked the taxi driver, a rather nice looking young man she briefly noticed, “Um, er c-could you head towards Gatwick airport please?” she stammered, “You alright miss?” he asked. Patsy’s head was buzzing, what had she done? Will it work out? Why couldn’t she be more positive about her actions?
“Sorry? Oh yes, yes I’m okay thank you, well – actually not really” and for some reason she could not understand, although thinking about it afterwards decided it was because he was totally neutral, nothing to do with her life, didn’t know her from Adam and so – safe, she poured out the whole story to the poor chap all the way to the airport!
Jamie looked in the rear view mirror at the attractive, not pretty he decided, but very attractive, brunette, she looked quite troubled with a distant look in her eyes, which were a beautiful brown with flecks of green, he imagined that, when not troubled, those eyes, under certain circumstances, could flash with fire. He was a good listener was Jamie, it came with the job he always thought and besides he found her story interesting.
The bright yellow taxi pulled up at the airport drop off point and Jamie jumped out to help his passenger out with her luggage, Patsy paid Jamie for her fare and held out her hand “Thank you so much Jamie for listening and for your advice” she said, Jamie took her hand in his, held it briefly and said “No problem Patsy, I wish you good luck with everything”, “Thank you” she said, and glancing briefly at his face, with the chiselled good looks and striking blue eyes, in which she caught sight of a, barely noticeable, twinkle, she turned and walked away. “So” she thought, “This is it, this is me, starting a whole new life and do you know what? I’m ready for it!”
The receptionist at the hotel confirmed her reservation and directed her to her room, after giving her the three messages which had been left for her, there was one from Lindsay, dear Lindsay, wishing her all the luck in the world and saying, “Missing you already”,
one from the coordinator welcoming her to the “team” and would she meet her in the foyer at 9 am tomorrow, “Blimey talk about no time to think” thought Patsy, the third message was from Hugh, why did even the name still make her stomach lurch? Why had she, in a moment of weakness, given Hugh her hotel details? She knew the answer, because he needed to keep in touch with business matters, but, more importantly to Patsy, because she wanted to know that she could deal with it. Hugh’s message was brief and to the point, “Patsy, can you contact me as soon as you’ve had your 1st meeting with Caroline please – Hugh”
Patsy looked around her room, it was comfortable, not exactly luxurious but rather more than basic with a full sized double bed, which had a rattan headboard, a functional rattan bedside table either side of the bed, good quality drapes at the window in a deep orchid colour with diagonal deep blue stripes running through them, two comfortable deep blue wing backed armchairs, one either side of the window, with cushions covered in material to match the drapes, a built in wardrobe in the corner and a practical chest of drawers facing the bed. From the window she could see the bustling Madrid street below and she got quite excited about the prospect of exploring it later.
The bathroom was small but functional, with all the facilities she required and the walls were entirely tiled with cream tiles in a diagonal pattern and in which were placed at strategic intervals several diamond patterns of deep blue tiles, following the theme from the bedroom, “This will all do nicely until I can organise somewhere to rent” Patsy thought.
After she had arranged her belongings she checked the time and judged it would probably be the right time in England for her to ring Lindsay, “Hi Lin it’s me, – yes fine, I had no problems with the journey, thank you for your message, it was really sweet of you, – yes it’s not bad at all, very pleasant and comfortable actually, will suit me until I find somewhere. Lin did you see the message I left about the plumber? – yes I know you’re out in the afternoon but he promised he’d be there by 10am at the latest – huh? Oh it shouldn’t be too expensive he said around the?100 mark, give or take a bit, and it’ll make such a difference to the bathroom won’t it? I have included ?50 in the cheque I left for utilities but, of course, if I owe you more we’ll sort it out later – oh bless you honey!, yes don’t worry I’ll let you know how things go, bye for now then”.
Patsy suddenly felt hungry and after a quick freshen up went down to the hotel restaurant to have some supper and a, well deserved she thought, glass of wine, she couldn’t believe that she had made this big step on her own and couldn’t really believe that she was actually here in Madrid “Who’d have thought it?” she asked herself!
She thought back to when this opportunity first presented itself to her, the fashion buyer was having to take enforced leave for 6 months due to a complication in her recovery from a routine operation and Hugh had asked Patsy if she would like to take on the task for the 6 months. She remembered with embarrassment how she had stuttered and stammered her reply “Me? Oh no Hugh I – I c -couldn’t, I have no experience internationally, I have only bought locally” she always got so flustered when she was around Hugh, much to her own annoyance, but only she (and now Jamie, who, she suddenly realised, knew more about her than anyone else, even her best friend Lindsay! But, she thought, it didn‘t matter as he was a complete stranger ) knew the reason for her reactions to Hugh. Eventually Hugh had persuaded her to go home and think about it and give him her final answer the next morning and that night she had, very slowly, begun to think that perhaps this was an opportunity given to her to help her sort out the situation she found herself in.
Sitting here in the restaurant she still could not believe that she had actually said yes, that she was actually here in Madrid and that she was actually going to meet the famous (or infamous, however you looked at it!) Caroline Edwards, she had another glass of wine to steady her nerves! She had thought that, after she’d eaten, she would have a stroll along the street she’d seen from her bedroom window but thought better of it, opting instead for a luxurious soak in the generous bath and an early night, as she wanted to look her best in the morning for her meeting with Caroline.
Her alarm went off at 7am, after a surprisingly good night’s sleep! She’d ordered breakfast in her room at 7.30am and had a brisk shower while she waited. She didn’t really feel very hungry but made herself eat the light breakfast and then set out to try and decide what to wear, clothes came out, went back, came out in a different order, went back again, she couldn’t decide what sort of look she wanted to aim for, in the end she decided on an emerald green dress in fine linen, which picked out the green flecks in her eyes, it was plain but elegant, straight cut ending just below the knee and with little cap sleeves and a square neckline, which showed off to perfection Patsy’s creamy skin, she decided against jewellery, apart from a narrow black bangle for her wrist and the small emerald earrings which had been her grandmother’s, She wore her very comfortable strappy black sandals with a medium heel (the last thing she wanted was her feet aching!)
She checked her carefully applied make up, gave her hair a final tweak with the hot brush and had a long hard look at herself in the mirror, “Well Patsy, this is it, I think you’ll do – yes I think you’ll do” she was quite pleased with the finished effect and, drawing a deep breath, made her way down to the foyer, arriving at 8.50am.
At 9am precisely Caroline Edwards stepped out of the lift into the foyer, even if Patsy had not known who Caroline was there was no mistaking her when she made her entrance, for a second Patsy’s confidence dropped as her stomach lurched, but she regained her composure and, before Caroline noticed her, she strode purposefully up to her with outstretched hand and said, “Good morning Caroline, Patsy Bailey from La Mode en Vie, I got your message last night, thank you, I’m very pleased to meet you”, Caroline lightly grasped the tips of Patsy’s fingers and let her hand drop away in a fairly dismissive fashion, whilst at the same time her brooding dark brown eyes swooped from Patsy’s head down to her toes and back again in one swift appraising movement, “Likewise” was her clipped reply, Patsy could not tell from her expressionless eyes whether she was pleased or displeased with what she saw. “We’ll get straight on if you don’t mind, I have a very tight schedule today, I have a car waiting to take us to the meeting and I’ll give you all the details of the other members who will be there on the way” Caroline said, as she headed out of the main door to the street beyond and into the said waiting car, Patsy had no choice but to meekly follow!
“Of course Fenella knows everyone, absolutely lovely girl, I hope she received the flowers I arranged to have sent, such a terrible shame that she’s been put out of action for 6 whole months, I cannot believe it, still Hugh assures me that you will be a good substitute, I hope his faith is warranted”, this last phrase said with a fairly disparaging glance at the, what was by now, fairly ashen face of Patsy, who could not summon the courage to utter a word at this moment!
The short trip to the building where the meeting was to be held was filled by Caroline’s constant stream of conversation, “… From Paris, who will be on your left …. from Rome, he usually sits to my right” Patsy followed none of it and was constantly just thinking “What am I doing here?, whatever am I doing here?” then suddenly Jamie’s voice came to her “Whatever happens be true to yourself, you are as important as anyone else you will deal with, just hold your head up high and believe in yourself” and so when, on their arrival at the venue, Caroline turned to Patsy and asked “So have you got all that ..um Patsy isn’t it?” Patsy looked her straight in the eye and said “Yes it is Patsy and yes, Caroline, I have got all that thank you”, “Mmm more gutsy than I gave you credit for” Caroline thought to herself.
“Oh Lin, I really don’t know how I bluffed my way through it, and bluffing was the operative word I can tell you!” Patsy had left a message for Hugh with his secretary, detailing her meeting, she didn’t trust herself to actually speak to him personally, and was now curled up on her bed in her bathrobe chatting to Lindsay, who wanted to know every detail of her day, she said “I’m so proud of you Patsy, you see I told you that you could do it didn’t I?” the girls chatted on for quite some time, Patsy making Lindsay laugh several times when she described the very camp and over the top antics of some of the other buyers at the meeting, “Oh Lin it’s been lovely to chat” said Patsy, wiping her eyes from a bout of chuckling, “I’ll give you a call in a few days to update you, oh crumbs! I nearly forgot with all my stories, how did it go with the plumber?” Patsy listened for a few minutes and then said “Okay Lin, now I know all about the handsome plumber but did he do a good job? Oh great, I bet it looks good? so when are you seeing him then? No I know you didn’t say you were, but I know you too well Lindsay McNally, yes okay then, tell me all next time, bye!” Patsy laughed. She poured herself a nightcap, looked at herself in the mirror and said, “Cheers! I think you deserve that, you did good today” and wrapped her arms around herself in a satisfied hug!
The next day Caroline had organised a car to take Patsy to several fashion houses in the afternoon, so she decided to spend the morning flat hunting, she trailed round several agencies but couldn’t find anything that suited, or if it did was not available until next month, she was going to see one more and then give it up for today and have an early lunch to be ready for when the car collected her.
She was in the agency leafing through their folder with the young girl when she spotted something at the beginning of the folder, “Can I have a look at that?” she asked “But you asked to see furnished apartments and that is really a bed-sit” the girl said in perfect English, “Yes I know but I’d like to see it anyway if I could please”, the girl said that she could show Patsy straight away if she had the time, as it was not very busy this morning.
When Patsy saw the bed-sit she fell in love with it, as it was on the ground floor it had a charming, tiny little courtyard with a little wrought iron table and two chairs, there was a tiny patch of earth where a gorgeous rosemary plant was growing, the entry to the courtyard, which led to the bed-sit, was via a huge wooden gate at the side of the property. The entrance door to the bed-sit was off of the courtyard and, once inside, the little kitchenette was bright and cheerful, the walls were tiled in small terracotta coloured tiles, beyond this was a small round table and four chairs, to the right was a door which led into the small but functional bathroom, the bed was screened from the living area by a wall made of ornate open work square bricks so that it separated the areas but still let in some light from the window at the rear, this bedroom area housed a double bed, chest of drawers and a large wooden wardrobe. It was all that Pasty wanted and had the bonus of being walking distance from the new market Mercado Torrijos.
Patsy went back to the agency with Loreto, the agent, and discussed finances and availability, the agency charged one month’s rent as their fee but Patsy thought it was well worth it as Loreto did everything for her, completing all necessary paperwork and went out of her way to help. The bed-sit was available straight away and, to save Patsy waiting for a bank guarantee, Loreto persuaded the landlord to accept a higher than average deposit so that Patsy could move in sooner, it was all well within the budget allowed by the Company.
She had got so carried away with sorting out her place to live that she only had time for a quick snack before her tour of the fashion houses began! She floundered a little to begin with but as different styles and models caught her eye she began to feel more confident and by the end of the afternoon was choosing designs like a seasoned buyer, she felt quite pleased with herself!
Once Patsy had moved into her bed-sit she found her life here in Madrid busy, challenging but enjoyable, she made a few new friends, went out to lunch sometimes, or an evening meal, the odd festival here and there and her confidence grew daily.
In about the middle of her 2nd week in Madrid she received a call on her mobile phone, “Hello Patsy!” she recognised the man’s voice immediately, and there was the stomach lurch, she took a deep breath and said, as calmly and as casually as she could, “Hello there” and in reply to his enquiry said “Yes, it’s all going very well thanks – oh I think perhaps congratulations are a bit premature yet, I have to get the 1st shipment to the emporium and have Janet’s approval first!” her heart beat a little faster as she said “Yes okay of course I’ll ring you with an update next week, Wednesday evening? okay fine“.
And so a pattern was set, he would ring her one week, she him the next, Patsy convinced herself that it was okay, she was here in Madrid and he was in the UK, what harm could it do just to chat once a week?
She caught up regularly with Lindsay, who, Patsy thought, was probably not missing her as much as she professed as Paul (the plumber) seemed to feature a lot in her phone calls! Patsy was genuinely pleased for her, she’d had a couple of disappointments in recent months so deserved some happy times she thought.
The time passed quickly for Patsy and before she knew it the 6 months had flown by and she was having her final meeting with Caroline, “Well Patsy, I must say that when we first met I wondered if Hugh had lost his mind and was swayed by your looks rather than your ability”, Patsy said nothing and waited for Caroline to continue “But I have to say that I have been pleasantly surprised at some of the quality styles and designs that you have found in your time here, of course not quite up to Fenella’s standard but I think you did well, all things considered”, “That”, thought Patsy, “Is as near a compliment as I’m going to get from Caroline”, she knew that her response had to be fitting and worded it carefully, “Well, I’m sure that I would not have progressed as far as I have, had it not been for your knowledge and guidance Caroline”, “Quite so” came Caroline’s swift reply, but Patsy took note that, when they said their goodbyes, Caroline did not limply touch her finger tips in the dismissive fashion that she had when they had first met, but instead shook her hand firmly, then with a clipped “I’m sure Hugh will be in touch” she was gone. Pasty couldn’t help inwardly thinking “Yes! I did it!”
Her mind was working overtime on the flight home, he’d offered to collect her from the airport and, when she had protested “Oh it’s okay I can get a cab from the rank” he had waived it aside with a “No, no it’s no problem, I’ll be happy to” and so it was done.
As she entered the arrivals lounge she received a text on her mobile “Hi sorry held up in tail back, r u in arrivals yet?” she sent one back to say that she was already out of the building “gr8, here now, go to pick up point, will come straight to you” she stood looking at the line of traffic and then she saw it – the bright yellow taxi making it’s way purposefully towards her, there was the stomach lurch, there was the heart racing and there was Jamie, “Hi Patsy” he said brightly, Patsy suddenly felt a little shy for some reason and said “Hi Jamie” Jamie, sensing her shyness, started loading her luggage in the cab, “Blimey! there’s a bit more than when you left!” he chuckled, Patsy relaxed and grinned back “I did do a little bit of shopping!”
She went to get into the back of the cab, Jamie said, “I thought perhaps you might sit in the front with me?”, “Yes I’d like that”, she replied, she thought “We’re acting like a couple of teenagers” but, in a way, it was rather nice. Jamie opened the door and, as she went to get in, he touched her arm and said “Patsy, I haven’t asked when we’ve spoken on the phone, as I would rather ask you face to face, what about Hugh? Are you over him?” Patsy looked into Jamie’s eyes, full of question, while searching her face intently, “Jamie I can honestly say that I haven’t really thought about Hugh since your first phone call to me” Patsy was inexplicably filled with a warm happy feeling when Jamie’s face visibly relaxed and he gave her a beaming smile, he caught her elbow and guided her into the front seat of the cab, saying as he did so “I’m pretty pleased about that!”
The fact that Jamie had mentioned Hugh took Patsy’s mind back to, what she now thought of as, “The silliest episode of my life”. When she first started with the company she was immediately attracted to Hugh and he flirted mercilessly with her, however she knew he was married and had no wish to become “A bit on the side” but could not get her infatuation out of her head so enjoyed all his flirtatious advances and then sent that ridiculous Valentine card (she cringed at the thought now!) she had greatly disguised her writing so that he wouldn’t recognise it. Her face went hot even now when thinking of the acute embarrassment she felt when she watched, unseen, as he opened it, he roared with laughter and said, “Oh that’s brilliant1 I’m glad someone here has a sense of humour, I’ll show Melanie (wife) tonight , she’ll love it!”
Not long after that Patsy had occasion to meet Melanie at a function and, as they were introduced, Melanie had said “Oh I bet Hugh gives you a hard time with his flirting, he can’t resist a pretty face, he’s harmless though” she’d added fondly, as she glanced over to where he was, as usual surrounded by a group of people the majority of whom were women, he had looked up at that point, caught Melanie’s eye and winked and at that moment Patsy knew, by the look in his eyes, that there would never be another woman for him but Melanie.
The problem was Patsy could never stop feeling like a nervous, lovesick teenager when near him, “Until now” she thought, she had told no lie to Jamie when she’d said she’d had no thoughts of Hugh since Jamie’s first call. “Okay?” Jamie’s voice interrupted her thoughts, she looked across at him and smiled as she said “I couldn’t be better!” he grinned and, as the bright yellow taxi made it’s way home, they were both looking forward to new beginnings.