Authors: Cathy Cole
The rest of the afternoon was lonely.
Josh had only returned Eve's smile once during afternoon classes, and ducked his head down again straight afterwards. It was extremely vexing. If Eve had blown her chances with the only guy in class worth her time and effort . . . well. It didn't bear thinking about what that said about her.
As for her former friends, they were all doing a good job of ignoring her. Lila, Polly, Rhi, Ollie. Even Max's eyes had slid away from her after class, despite Eve shooting him her most inviting smile. She was used to being invisible at home, but this was a different matter. School was Eve's kingdom. No one ignored her at school.
I have to figure out a way to get back on top,
she thought, packing away her books more fiercely than necessary at the end of class.
No one was waiting for her, the way they usually did. No one at all. Acting as though it didn't matter in the least, Eve shouldered her bag and left the school building with her head held high and thought about the problem.
Daddy says there's no such things as problems
, she reminded herself as she marched along the high street.
Only solutions no one's thought of yet.
And almost at once, the perfect solution came to her, blowing down the street with the leaves and the litter. Eve stopped, dazzled by her own brilliance.
Changing direction, she hurried towards her father's gleaming beachside office. The tips of the waves were whiter and frothier than than they had been at lunch, and the gulls were struggling to fly in a straight line. Eve didn't notice. She took the lift to the top floor to give herself a chance to catch her breath and check her reflection in the lift mirror. The wind had brightened her cheeks nicely.
Her father's suite of offices were bright and modern, humming with activity and the sound of rapid typing. Eve strode across the soft carpet to her dad's secretary's desk.
“Is Daddy free, Gloria? I have something really important that I want to ask him.”
Gloria peered at Eve over the top of her gold spectacle frames. “Hello to you too, Eve,” she said in her dry Scottish accent. “Your father's extremely busy today, but I'll let him know you're here. If you'd like to take a seat?”
Eve flung herself down into a big leather armchair her dad used for guests, and stared out of the windows, tapping her fingernails impatiently on the armrest. She could see the shopping centre from here. It looked as if it was almost finished.
Her father's office door opened.
“This is a nice surprise, Eve,” said her dad. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”
Eve jumped up and hugged her father affectionately. His hair looked extra-rumpled today, and his eyes were tired.
“You need a holiday, Daddy,” Eve said, looking up at him with concern.
Her father seemed distracted. “Be quick, Evie. I have a hundred things to do.”
“I know you do, Daddy,” Eve soothed. “But I just have a teensy favour I want to ask you.”
“Eve,” he said warningly, “I have a lotâ”
“I'll do everything,” Eve said quickly, before she lost his attention. “But I just need your permission.”
“Permission for what?”
Eve beamed. “To host a school trip to the office! It would be brilliant for everyone to see what you do here. It fits in really well with our careers training, and it would raise your profile and the profile of the new shopping centre. You're always saying how important it is to do that, right?”
She could see the whole day in her mind's eye already. Activities for her classmates, a project for them all to work on back in the classroom. It would impress everyone â not least of all Josh. She had a particular job in mind for Josh, a job that would prove how much she had been thinking about him and his career.
“We'll fit it in with you, of course.” Eve's mind was whirring at a hundred miles an hour through the endless benefits a trip like this would bring her. “But I was thinking we could do it next week?”
“You have a lot of appointments next week, Mr Somerstown,” Gloria called from behind her desk. “There's hardly any space at all for an event on the scale your daughter is proposing.”
Gloria could be a real killjoy sometimes, Eve thought. Couldn't the old trout see how good this would be?
“I'd just need a list of the businesses who are buying units in the shopping centre, Daddy,” she said, determined not to be thwarted. “I'll plan the whole event down to the last paper clip. And I thought maybe you could give a talk as well? We'll focus the trip on retailing and branding, and you'd be the perfect speaker because you're so brilliant at it.”
“Mr Somerstown, Iâ” Gloria began.
“Thank you, Gloria,” Mr Somerstown interrupted, raising his hand. “We can fit my daughter in somewhere, I'm sure. How about Wednesday?”
Eve gave Gloria her sunniest smile.
If anything, the old secretary looked more irritated than ever. “As you wish, Mr Somerstown,” she said tightly.
“Wednesday it is, then,” said Mr Somerstown, tapping Eve on the end of her nose. “And with my little girl in charge, I know it'll be the best school trip in the world.”
“Are you ready?” said Josh, staring into Eve's eyes.
“Ready is a state of mind, Josh,” Eve said. “And I am
It had been the busiest week and a half Eve had ever known. She'd loved every minute. Calling the shopping centre's future businesses and coaxing free gifts out of them for the goodie bags. Organizing the afternoon's activities. Designing the logo for the day. OK, so Josh had done the designing â and he'd done an incredible job, as Eve had known he would. But there was no escaping the fact that this whole day was down to her.
The Queen Bee was back.
“Then if you're ready,” said Josh, interrupting Eve's pleasant train of thought, “take it away.”
The noise of 10Y chattering in the downstairs reception area of Somerstown Developments was tremendous. Eve tugged her blazer into place, clapped her hands and raised her voice.
“Hello everyone, and welcome!”
Everyone quietened and faced her. Eve relished the way Rhi, Polly and Lila's eyes were, finally, fixed entirely on her. At the way Josh was standing by her side.
“I can't thank you enough for coming,” she said warmly. “I'm sure we'll all learn something new, and take away some great memories. Take the lifts to the top floor, or the stairs if you want a little exercise. Let's have some fun!”
Hosting an away day was just the same as hosting a party, Eve decided happily as they took the lifts and emerged in the top-floor offices of Somerstown Developments. No wonder she was so good at it.
“Help me to sort out the goodie bags, Josh,” she suggested. “Girls' bags are in the first box, boys' bags in the second.”
Josh stared at the boxes stacked by the office door. “There are different ones?”
“I don't suppose you've noticed,” Eve said patiently, “but girls and boys are entirely different species. Of
the bags are different. Goodie bags, everyone!”
The bags contained all the freebies Eve had sourced from the shopping centre's future businesses: hair accessories, beauty products and purses for the girls; gadgets, pens and headphones for the boys. There were T-shirts too, emblazoned with Josh's logo for the day: a heart shape containing the words ALL YOUR HEARTSIDE'S DESIRE in a cool font. The logo was on the bags themselves as well.
“You've thought of everything, haven't you?” Josh said.
“Everything apart from a tour of the shopping centre,” Eve said with a sigh. “That would have been perfect, but even I couldn't make it happen.”
She had tried every trick she could think of to wangle a tour of the building site, but to no avail. The excuses had been a mile long from everyone she had contacted.
“Still,” she said, straightening her shoulders, “the best party hosts should always be flexible.”
Josh shook his head. “You really are amazing.”
“I think you bring out the best in me, Josh,” Eve said, and patted his hand.
When he didn't snatch his hand away, she felt a warm tingle of anticipation in her belly. She almost had him. She was sure of it.
The goodie bags were an instant hit with the class.
“Nice,” said Lila, tugging out her T-shirt and holding it up against herself. “And these are really all free? You're something else, Eve.”
“I love it!” said Rhi as she slid a new hairclip into her thick dark hair.
“You've done really well, Eve,” said Polly.
Eve had been longing to hear kind words like these from her friends for ages. “Thanks,” she said, forcing back the tears that had made a sudden and unwelcome appearance in the back of her eyes.
Her heart skipped as her father came out of his office. There was no sign of tiredness or stress today. He was wearing his best suit, his Rolex gleaming on his wrist. She felt so proud of him, she thought she might burst.
“On behalf of us all, Mr Somerstown,” said her form teacher, Mr Morrison, warmly, “we'd like to say a huge thank you for allowing us the use of your offices and your staff today. We are so grateful for the opportunity to visit you here.”
“Hear, hear,” shouted Ollie Wright. Eve noticed he was wearing his T-shirt over his school uniform.
Mr Somerstown raised his hands to silence the burst of applause. “Thank you for coming. I'm delighted to offer you something to commemorate the first Somerstown Developments Business Away Day we have ever had. Here's to more in the future.”
Gloria produced a small wooden shield emblazoned with Josh's logo, which Mr Somerstown presented to Mr Morrison. Underneath were the words:
For 10Y, the Future of Heartside Bay. Warmest regards, Somerstown Developments.
Eve's heart swelled with pride as Mr Morrison accepted the shield with a surprised smile.
“There's one more thing before we move on to today's activities,” said Mr Somerstown. He moved over to a small blue curtain on one wall. “I'm delighted to present to you a list of Somerstown Developments' investors. I am sure you will recognize a good many names on this list. It is down to their generosity that Heartside Bay will soon have the retail centre that it needs and deserves. We're putting the finishing touches to the complex as I speak.”
At the tug of a little golden rope, the blue curtain fell away to reveal four columns of names etched into a plaque. Eve noticed the name
at the top of the first column â Max's mum. Rhi's parents were there too, and Ollie's. At least half the names on the plaque matched the names of local people and businesses that Eve had known her whole life.
“This will be hung at the retail centre when it opens in the summer,” said her father, “so that every visitor will know and understand the generosity of the people of Heartside Bay. Without them, our project would never have got off the ground.”
This brought the loudest round of applause so far. Eve had never realized how many of her friends' parents had invested in the development. It gave her a warm feeling to the tips of her toes.
Time for the next Josh phase, she decided.
She turned to him with her widest smile. “Let's get everything ready for this afternoon while the others take a tour of the office.”
Josh scratched his ear. “Where are we going to be this afternoon anyway?”
Eve pushed him through a door towards the back of the office. Josh flung his hand up to his eyes, startled at the burst of brilliant sunlight that greeted them.
They were in a large glass room that extended off the back of the office block like the stern of a ship. The cliffs, the town and the sea were all visible through the huge floor-to-ceiling windows. In here, Eve always felt high above everything, like a seagull coasting on the wind without a care in the world.
“This is what I call a meeting room,” said Josh, gazing round in amazement.
“It's Daddy's best conference room,” Eve said proudly. “I've given him strict instructions not to show anyone else this room until later, when we do the activity I've designed. We have to make everything perfect.”
Josh looked at the great glass table in the centre of the room, stacked neatly with paper, pencils and calculators. “Looks pretty perfect to me already.”
“We're dividing into fourteen pairs,” said Eve. She pointed. “The big table in the middle divides into lots of little tables. We'll line them up around the room. Make sure every table has the same number of pens, pencils, pads, calculators and water glasses.”
“Mustn't forget the water glasses,” said Josh.
Eve whacked him. Not too hard, but hard enough to show that she meant business. “Don't tease me,” she said. “Get to work.”
The conference table was like a big glass jigsaw. With a bit of coaxing, Eve and Josh managed to separate it into its constituent parts, which they arranged in four rows. They counted out pens and pencils, moved chairs, and straightened pads of paper.
“All done,” said Eve at last, standing back to admire their handiwork.
“Lila had it right,” Josh said. “You really are something.”
“I'm not sure Lila meant it as a compliment,” Eve said with a little laugh.
“Well, I do,” Josh said.
Eve examined her fingernails in a show of embarrassment. Peeking up through her eyelashes, she felt encouraged by the admiring look on Josh's face. Letting her triumph wash over her like a warm, scented bath, she put a gentle hand on Josh's sleeve.
“There's one more thing,” she said, gazing up into his green eyes. “I've convinced Daddy's advertising department to use you to design the official logo and signage for the shopping centre!”
Josh's mouth dropped open. “You what?”