This is an excerpt from one of my short contemporary stories:

The following Monday, Melanie was sitting at one of the tables in the dining room with a sales rep examining new wedding table-decorations when one of the waitresses brought her a business card.

Melanie turned the square of velum into the light and read, ‘Ms. Stephanie Curtis: Solicitor.’ She held it out to the waitress with a smile. ‘I think this is meant for Jack. He’s out to lunch. Why don’t you suggest she rings him later.’

The waitress shook her head, blond curls bouncing. ‘The lady asked for you.’

Melanie frowned. ‘Are you sure?’ When the young woman nodded, Melanie apologized to the sales rep and told him she’d consider his products and be in touch. With a hint of trepidation, she walked out to the reception area. She couldn’t imagine what Stephanie Curtis wanted with her. She’d only met the woman a few times. Mostly, she saw her from a distance as she came and went from Jack’s house. The last thing she wanted was to get caught up in the middle of their lovers’ squabble.

Stephanie Curtis rose elegantly from a floral settee by the huge stone fireplace in the entrance hall and offered her hand as Melanie approached. ‘May we talk?’

Melanie could hardly say no, so she led her visitor into the manager’s office and closed the door. ‘Please take a seat.’ Not sure if this call should be classed as business or personal, Melanie opted to take the second guest chair rather than sit on the other side of the desk. As soon as she sat and noticed Stephanie’s chilly expression, she wished she’d put the barrier of the desk between them. ‘How can I help you?’

Stephanie glanced around the room, her glossy, pink lips taut, her eyes narrowed. ‘Did you do it in here?’ She gave Melanie a derisive glance and laughed coldly. ‘No, you don’t look the sort to be risqué. I bet you’re an “in bed with the lights out” type of gal, aren’t you. What the hell did Jack see in you?’

For long moments Melanie couldn’t think. The quiet tick of the clock marked off the seconds as she stared at Stephanie, her mouth open and her brain frozen in shock. ‘I don’t—’

‘Please spare me the pointless denials.’ Stephanie jumped up and paced around the room, examining the furnishings as if she were picturing Melanie and Jack together in various places.

‘You really have got this wrong.’ Melanie stood and followed Stephanie. ‘There’s nothing between Jack and me. Nothing. Heavens…’ Melanie put her hand to her throat and flushed at the thought of Jack getting close to her, touching her…. ‘Whoever told you this is just causing trouble, I promise. There’s no truth in it. None. I’ve never touched Jack. He’s never touched me. How can you even imagine he’d be interested in me?’ She stopped, realizing she was babbling and needed to calm down.

Stephanie stared at her through narrowed eyes, her expression dangerous. ‘Don’t lie to me. Jack told me he’s in love with you himself.’

‘Jack? In love with me?’ Melanie stumbled back and caught hold of the edge of the desk. ‘Why would Jack say…?’

Stephanie stared at her. ‘Don’t think you’re going to get away with this you two-faced little bitch. Everyone thinks you’re such a nice person. And isn’t Jack lucky to have found someone he can trust to take care of his precious hotel. Looks like Jack got lucky in more ways than one. I’m going to make sure everyone knows exactly what sort of woman you really are.’

‘But I’m not…’ Melanie started, but one look at Stephanie’s face told her she was wasting her breath.

Stephanie paced toward the door. ‘Tell Jack I said hi when you see him.’ Then she slammed the door behind her.

Melanie stared blankly at the fireplace for a long time trying to absorb what had just happened. Gradually her shock turned to anger. Nothing had happened between her and Jack, which meant for some reason he’d lied and used her as an excuse to break off his engagement with Stephanie. When he got back from his lunch appointment, he was damn well going to explain why.

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  1. Sandra Cox // September 27, 2007 at 1:37 AM  

    Another good one, Helen.