First Page: Teaching Donkeys to Dance – A romance with a mystery
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As from today, I would like to hand in my notice at AMS. I understand that I have a three-month notice period, and will therefore finish my employment on 04.04.00.
“It’s a bit bald, isn’t it?” Martin Blackburn looked up from the letter.
“Yes, I know,” Katie replied, “But what else is there to say?”
“You’ve enjoyed working here? You’ve had a great set of colleagues? You’ll miss us all?”
“Well, that’s all true, but it doesn’t seem to fit in a letter of resignation that’s going to go to HR. I’ll say all that at my leaving do.”
Martin tossed the letter onto his desk.
“Leaving do? You think we’re going to fork out for a leaving do when you’re abandoning us. Traitor!” His smile took the sting out of his words. “I can only assume that this means that you’ve actually found it then?”
“Oh yes, we have. And it is absolutely perfect. It’s not at all what we imagined we’d be buying but yes, we’ve found it…” Katie smiled, as a red head popped up from the next cubicle.
“Sorry, Katie, Martin – I couldn’t help overhearing-“
“Couldn’t help listening in, more like.”
“Yes, OK, but open plan offices don’t make for privacy. If you’re going to complain, you need to tell the upper echelons of power that you need a private office to stop your minions from listening in.” Beth Swann, Katie’s best friend and work colleague at Asset Management Solutions, grinned and turned to her.
“Come on then, spit it out. I was desperate to phone you last night to hear your news but I knew that the flight was quite late and that you’d probably rather catch up on sleep than talk to me.”
“Well, yes – and no,” Katie said. “ I did want to speak to you, but thought that my shrieks of excitement might wake the kids.”
“Shrieks of excitement, hey? Handing in your notice, hey? This can only mean that the French dream is becoming a reality. You’ve found the perfect house?”
Another huge grin split Katie’s face. She nodded, her eyes shining.
“We saw the house on 30th, put in an offer on 31st, waited desperately to hear if it had been accepted and hours before the flight yesterday we heard it had been accepted! As long as everything goes according to plan we should be ready to move out there at the beginning of May. I can’t believe it!”
“So your New Millennium really is going to be brand new and sparkly! I will miss you so much but I am thrilled for you and Rob. Look, it’s just gone twelve – Martin, please can we take an early and slightly elongated lunch break. We’ve got loads of gossip to do. And I’ll stay later this afternoon – honest!” Beth’s disarming grin somehow helped Martin to forget the fact that she needed to leave at five o’clock on the dot every evening in order to collect her children from their After School Club“
“Go on then. Have a drink for me – I’ve got a meeting with David Gambol that I can’t get out of. Some of us need to work even if you don’t.”
The two women grabbed their handbags and headed for the coat rack. As Beth wound her chenille scarf round her neck she suddenly paused and looked at her friend.
“You are sure, aren’t you? It’s not a spur of the moment, mad people off the TV kind of act, is it?”
Katie faltered for only a moment.
“Oh come on, Beth. You know we’ve wanted to do this for years.”
Thinking back to the hours Katie had spent surfing the Internet looking at French estate agents’ sites, to the investment of time and money in language lessons with a chic French woman, whose ferocity over correct pronunciation had even caused her friend to have nightmares, Beth could only agree.
“OK, then. Sorry. Not mad people from off the TV. You have prepared for this, you have actually visited France –“
“Once or twice,” agreed Katie, mentally reviewing the twenty or so holidays across the channel with and without her fiancé Rob, learning to love the French way of life, the lack of stress, the joie de vivre; weeks spent sizing up different regions, wondering whether that old ruin would be their dream home, or whether this boulangerie would become their local baker.
“I just worry that, oh, I don’t know, that it’ll all go wrong, that you’ll come back in a couple of years, disillusioned and hating yourself for getting it wrong.”
“I won’t. I promise. I am so committed to this. I love France and I really want to live there.”
Beth wasn’t oblivious to the fact that Katie had neglected to mention Rob’s enthusiasm for the project, but didn’t say anything at that moment.
“ Come on, Beth,” Katie continued, “be happy for me; I can’t celebrate if you’re sitting there with a glum face, worrying that it’s going to be a miserable failure. Consider the up side – you won’t ever have to pay for holiday accommodation again!”
“Well, if you put it that way, it’s worth celebrating! Let’s get going, the first drink’s on me!”