‘What was that for?’ Hal asked.
‘Just thinking about my friend Sam, we had a big row.’
‘Just stuff. Stupid stuff really.’
‘Never mind, you’ve got me. I’m your friend now.’ Hal laughed and wandered towards the cellar. ‘How’s the spring?’
‘Fine,’ Ella said, picking up her coat, keys, bag. ‘Shall we go? I’m exhausted.’ Maybe she would ring Sam tonight. Maybe she should just pop round now. ‘What’s the time?’
‘Nearly six,’ Hal said, after consulting the Rolex on his wrist. Expensive. But everything about Hal was expensive.
‘I didn’t realise it was so late. Someone’s ringing me at half-six.’
‘Your friend, no ex-friend, Sam?’
‘No, my ex-colleague, Tiffy. The troll.’
Hal laughed; Ella adored his laugh, so deep and throaty, it managed to sound both sexy and friendly at the same time. It made her feel warm inside.
‘Phoebes is out tonight, cinema or something with her girlfriends, so I thought I could cook dinner for you,’ he paused. ‘At my place.’
‘That sounds great,’ Ella said as she got into her car and Hal closed her door for her.
‘About eight,’ he said, after she’d wound the window down.
Ella wondered if she’d last that long, she felt exhausted.
She nodded and started the engine, watched Hal saunter over to his car.
She just made it through the door when her phone rang. Tiffy. Right on time.
Tiffy started with small talk, how was Ella, what was she doing, was everything going well, wasn’t the weather getting nicer? Ella was tired, too tired for this nonsense.
‘Tiffy, why don’t you just tell me what you want. Make both our lives easier, won’t it.’
‘Right. Well. Where to begin.’ Tiffy sounded flustered now. She coughed. ‘We want you to come back, Ella. We need you to come back. You’re such an integral part of the team. We miss you. We all miss you.’
‘Look, Tiffy, I don’t know why Gwynnie has put you up to this, but I’ve already told her, I’m not coming back.’
‘Gwynnie hasn’t put me up to this.’ Tiffy coughed again. ‘Excuse me, I just need some water.’ Ella heard Tiffy swallow. ‘The truth is I need you to come back. We all do.’
‘I can’t believe you miss me that much. It’s not as though we were best friends, is it?’ Ella considered ending the call, but that would just be too rude.
‘No. I suppose not.’ Tiffy swallowed. ‘I need you to come back, even if it’s only for a short time because you’re the only one who knows how to do the work.’ Ella heard Tiffy swallow again.
Well that was true. It wasn’t a startling revelation; Ella had told everyone that was the case herself. What was surprising, shocking even, was the Tiffy was admitting it. ‘Oh, but there are written procedures, haven’t you looked at them?’ Ella said.
‘Yes. But…’ her voice trailed off. ‘They might have been mislaid when you left.’
‘Mislaid? What do you mean, mislaid? They were in the folders, in the cabinet.’
‘All your stuff was,’ Tiffy stalled again, ‘cleared away, when you went.’
‘You mean binned, don’t you. Well that’s not my fault. I left clear documentation, it’s always been my thing, very clear, you must have used it when I was off.’
‘I’m begging you,’ Tiffy said, not answering Ella, ‘on behalf of the whole team. We need you to come in and show us, especially me and Gwynnie, what to do.’
This is a first draft, so is subject to change and please excuse any errors.
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