Autumn Collection 1999

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Three months later... For the first time in her working life, Faye felt as though she fitted in. Sometimes she caught her reflection in the frosted glass panels and shiny marble walls that epitomised the interior of Neenan's and marvelled at her own capacity to play the role of a sensible, professional woman. It almost came naturally. On the tube that morning she'd read an article about an actress who'd said she never fully believed in her characters until she was wearing their clothes. Faye understood exactly what she meant. It wasn't that Faye was pretending, just that it had all happened rather suddenly. And now here she was, gliding up the escalator of one of the most talked-about offices in London, on the way to her very own desk, feeling like it might still take a while before her old ideas about who she was managed to catch up with this surprising new reality. Despite the fact that Neenan's was probably the most gossipy office in the world, Faye had managed to keep her liaisons with Patrick secret. Jasmine was the only one who knew. Ever since the first date she'd insisted on full reports and, in return, had given advice and offered opinions on everything from Patrick's choice of restaurant to his taste in shirts. Jasmine followed the pair's romantic progress with the shameless avidity people normally reserve for soap operas. She

had a point: Patrick's behaviour was unusual enough to merit at least a mini-series, if not a feature length study by David Attenborough. 'So, you had each course in a different restaurant. You played pinball for two hours. And then you climbed into a park where he hid behind a tree and, when you went over to find him, he'd already climbed halfway up. Nice.' 'It was!' Faye had assured her. 'Very.' 'Oh my God! Faye, you're wearing trousers!' squawked Jasmine excitedly as she spotted her friend creeping back into the office a good twenty minutes late, laden down by a huge bunch of flowers. Typical of Jasmine. Few details of Faye's life were allowed to pass unremarked. Happily though, Jasmine's fascination with the new trousers dragged her attention away from the flowers.   'Yes,' replied Faye, trying not to sound defensive (and failing). 'Is there anything odd about that?'   'No. Not for most female inhabitants of the Twentieth Century. But you've never worn trousers, not once in three whole months, so it must mean something. And it's my job as certified office busybody to find out what.'   'Nothing!' protested Faye, her voice rising in tandem with the reddening of her cheeks. The reason for the trousers was simply that the nice, tall woman at Faye's favourite shop had said they looked great

on her and Faye had believed her. Strangely enough, it had also seemed to Faye to be true. Far from turning her into a waddling hippo, the trousers actually made her feel svelte. But that was in the shop. How silly of her to trust the biased opinion of the owner (however charming) when the real world was full of the beady, critical gazes of people like Jasmine.   'You look gorgeous!' said Jasmine, snapping Faye out of her spiralling self-doubt. 'They more than suit you. They could have been made for you.'   'They sort of were,' answered Faye, relieved.   'Look,' warned Jasmine as she disappeared back over to her own desk, 'I don't mind you bagging the only worthwhile man in the office within a fortnight of arriving. I don't even mind the fact that Joyce Neenan seems to think you're the future Einstein of corporate branding. But I'd be grateful if you'd at least look a bit scraggy at the edges once in a while, just to remind everyone you're human.' Faye laughed and sat down at her desk. Saved by a trouser suit! It had clearly distracted Jasmine so successfully she'd entirely forgotten to ask about the flowers. The note on the card simply read, 'See you at Cyra's.' Who on earth could it be? At six thirty Faye slipped downstairs and out of the office. She'd catch the bus to Cyra's - the dinner

wasn't until seven thirty. The thought of the flowers made her more than slightly nervous. Who was she going to find when she got there?