Read A Date with Fate Online

Authors: Cathy Cole

A Date with Fate (4 page)

“You heard,” said Eve, delighted by Josh's reaction. “Daddy loves the logo you designed for today. He wants to use you, Josh. He'll pay you and everything. Isn't that brilliant?”

A whole range of emotions chased each other across Josh's face: disbelief, pride, excitement.

“You. . .” He threw his arms round Eve, hugging her so hard that for a moment she feared for her ribs. “You are amazing. Thank you,” he said into her neck. “A thousand times thank you.”

“It was nothing,” said Eve. She felt a little breathless.

Josh pulled back and looked at her. For a heartbeat, Eve stared at his lips. This was it. The kiss. She had been waiting for it. Longing for it. Hadn't she?

She felt herself stiffen and pull back. Josh released her at once.

“Is . . . everything OK?” he said, sounding a little startled.

Eve gazed at Josh's puzzled face in mortification. Why had she pulled away? What was wrong with her?

“Yes,” she said awkwardly. “Everything's fine. It's all . . . fine.”

He looked perplexed.

Eve wanted to grab herself by the shoulders and shake herself, hard. She had just wrecked the very moment she had been working towards. And she had no idea why.

FIVE

Got to push through the awkwardness
, Eve thought. She'd done it before. She could do it again. Nothing was going to ruin today. Not even her own stupidity.

She applied one last coat of mascara, and smoothed her hair so that it sat sleekly on her shoulders. No one could tell she had just had one of the most embarrassing experiences in her life. She would smile at Josh and act like everything was fine. Easy.

“Wow, Eve, you look . . . focused,” said Lila as Eve marched out of the bathroom, tucking her mascara into her bag.

“I'm always focused, Lila,” said Eve. “Does everyone have a partner for this afternoon's task?”

Lila had paired up with Ollie. Rhi and Max had drifted together, although Eve thought Rhi didn't look too pleased about it. Polly was with Ryan Jameson.

“Do I have to be with Ryan?” Polly said in a low voice to Eve. “Something tells me he'd prefer to be with Lila.”

Ryan was gazing across the glass conference room at Lila with a lovesick expression on his face.

“Sorry, Polly,” Eve said briskly. “Just do your best.”

Mr Morrison started issuing instructions about behaviour around the town centre as Eve made her way across the room to join her own partner. She was determined not to blush.

“Planned our victory yet, Josh?”

“I was waiting for you,” he said in surprise.

“Have you read the instructions?” Eve asked, despite knowing them by heart. She had, after all, designed this task specifically to her and Josh's strengths.

“‘Come up with a product to sell at the Heartside Shopping Centre',” Josh read. “‘You will need a product name and a print ad to advertise your product. Presentations in the boardroom at four o'clock.' I guess there isn't much we can do until we've done our research, right?”

10Y was already drifting out of the glass conference room in pairs, discussing their plans. Josh started forward to join them, but Eve held him back.

“We're not taking the lift with everyone else, silly,” she said. “We'll take Daddy's special lift. He brings all kinds of important people into his office that way. People that don't want to be stared at by the whole office, you know?”

“That lift is reserved for Mr Somerstown's guests, Eve,” Gloria said, starting up from her desk as Eve pressed the executive lift button.

“My whole class are Daddy's guests today, Gloria,” said Eve, pushing Josh into the lift. “He won't mind.”

The sun was out, and the weather was mild. Eve and Josh headed to a café to discuss some ideas.

“I was thinking maybe healthy snack bars,” Eve began. “We can put something together for everyone to try in the boardroom this afternoon. I can't think of anywhere in Heartside Bay that sells— what
are
you doing?”

Josh was doodling a mad-eyed seagull on the pad of paper between them on the café table. “Working on our product logo.” He turned his sketch to face Eve. “What do you think?”

A seagull stood guard over a pile of nuts and dried fruit. In a graffiti-style font, Josh had scrawled GO NUTS over the seagull's head.

“Are you mad?” said Eve, giggling. “We're not selling bird food.”

“Nuts and seeds
are
bird food,” Josh pointed out, grinning.

Eve scrunched up her nose. “I was thinking of something a little more elegant than a greedy seagull.”

Josh promptly drew three ladies sipping tea with the same logo over their heads. The absurdity of it made Eve laugh even more.
I don't laugh often enough
, she realized.
It felt good.

They left the café with a list of the town's food shops to visit, in order to sound out the competition. Eve's gut feeling had been right – there were very few places where you could buy healthy snacks in the town. When she finally persuaded Josh to ditch
Go Nuts
in favour of the more elegant-sounding
Fruitful
, everything was in place for what Eve felt sure would be a task-winner.

“We just need to invent candy floss made of carrots and we'll be millionaires,” Josh observed.

“I'm going to experiment with mixes,” Eve decided. “We can offer the results to everyone in the boardroom to taste.”

“I love how you keep things simple,” Josh said, rolling his eyes.

“Just concentrate on the logo. I'll do the rest.”

They carried a bag of ingredients back to the office, together with a few utensils and three shallow tins. As Eve mixed combinations of ingredients and pressed them into the tins to chill in the office fridge, Josh worked with Somerstown Developments' art department to produce their print ad: a graphic image of the word FRUITFUL in a colourful, blocky font.

“We are brilliant,” said Eve happily, standing back to admire their table in the glass conference room. Everything – the cranberry-and-cashew-butter squares, the banana-and-date-syrup bars, the peanut-butter-choc-and-chilli swirls and the FRUITFUL ad – looked amazing.

Now they had the product displayed so nicely, the pitch was easy to put together. When they finished, Eve checked her watch. “It's only three o'clock,” she said, surprised. “We're even better at this than I thought.”

Josh tried a peanut-butter-choc-and-chilli swirl, flapped his hand in front of his mouth and nodded in agreement at the same time. “Where's everyone else?” he said around a mouthful of swirl.

“Who knows,” said Eve, slapping his hand away and covering the snack bars in a layer of cling film. “They'd better hurry up if they want to get something together for the judges at four.”

“Let's go and see if we can find them,” Josh suggested. “We could help them if they're struggling. We've got plenty of time left.”

Helping the competition wasn't part of the plan. “I'm sure they're fine,” Eve said dismissively.

Josh raised his eyebrows at her. “Don't be mean, Eve. And we'll take the normal-people lift this time. I don't want to be responsible for giving your dad's secretary a heart attack.”

Feeling a little irritable, Eve let Josh drag her to the lifts and back into the town again. Her feet were starting to hurt, and she wasn't in the mood for bailing out any of her idiot friends. If they couldn't hold it together for a simple business task like this one, they didn't deserve her help.

They passed most of the pairs heading back to the Somerstown Developments offices, chattering through print-ad plans with their arms full of sample products. Max and Rhi however weren't carrying anything at all.

“Tech support,” said Max when Josh questioned them on their product. He thumbed himself in the chest. “The product is me.”

Eve felt irritated. Max Holmes had come up with Max Holmes? Typical.

“So where have you been all this time?” she accused.

“Sitting in the Heartbeat Café watching Tech Man put away three bowls of ice cream,” Rhi groaned. “Come
on
, Max, you've left me hardly any time to design the print ad.”

Eve and Josh heard Lila and Ollie before they saw them. They were squabbling like the gulls screaming over the bay.

“I can't
believe
you didn't ask them.”


You
were supposed to be asking them!”

“Don't you have ears, Ollie? I told you—”

“You told me, blah blah blah. Maybe I don't like being told, Lila. Has that ever occurred—”

It made a refreshing change, seeing Lila and Ollie at each other's throats.
Not such a perfect couple after all
, Eve thought.

Realizing they had an audience, Lila and Ollie stopped yelling at each other and regarded Eve and Josh warily. Ollie's face was red with anger. It wasn't a good look, Eve decided.

“We can't wait to see what you two are going to show us in the boardroom,” she drawled. “Squabblers United: we'll have all your arguments for you!”

Lila looked like she was almost in tears. “Shut up, Eve.”

“Is there anything we can do?” Josh asked.

Lila shot another poisonous look at Ollie. “Do you do assassinations?”

“What are we going to do?” Ollie said fretfully. “There's no time left.”

Eve sighed. Did she have to do all the thinking around here?

She nodded at an accessories shop across the road. “Go in there and get a handful of necklaces or something. You'll have to wing the rest. It's almost four o'clock and I don't want to be late for the presentations. Come on, Josh.”

Grabbing Josh's arm, she towed him back towards her dad's offices. They had a task to win.

Mr Morrison was chatting to two members of her dad's management team and – surprisingly – the principal of Heartside High, Mr Cartwright. What was he doing here? Eve glanced around for her dad. She checked her watch. Ten to four.

The big room was a riot of colour and conversation as people hung posters and arranged products on their tables in preparation for their presentations. Eve started feeling nervous.

“I've made a special detour to be here this afternoon on request,” called Mr Cartwright over 10Y's heads. “And I don't have much time. Shall we get started?”

“Mr Cartwright shouldn't be on the judging panel,” said Eve fretfully. “It should be Daddy.”

“Your father was called away about half an hour ago,” said Gloria, passing Eve with a sheaf of paper in her arms. “Urgent business. Your principal has kindly stepped in.”

Eve felt her eyes pricking with tears of disappointment. Her dad was supposed to be judging this, and seeing how brilliantly she had done everything. He was then supposed to round off her away day with one of his special speeches that would make everyone laugh. But he had left her all by herself.

Josh nudged her. “Are you OK?”

Eve was relieved she'd had the foresight to wear waterproof mascara. “Of course I'm OK. Now are we winning this thing or what?” she snapped.

The presentations weren't as much fun as Eve had hoped they would be. Everything had taken on the greyish tinge of disappointment. She smiled blindly for the room as she went through the pitch, letting Josh offer their healthy snack bars to the judges. The other teams presented a blur of accessories, beauty treatments and wash-off tattoos that made no impression on Eve at all. She didn't even have the energy to enjoy Ollie and Lila stuttering their way through a presentation about stacking bangles that they'd called – in a brief moment of inspiration – Off the Cuff. When she and Josh were called out as winners, she felt nothing at all, except the papery crinkle of a thousand pounds' worth of shopping vouchers for the future shopping centre pressed into her hand by Mr Cartwright.

“Thank you everyone for coming,” she said mechanically as the applause died down. “It's been a great day for Heartside High and Somerstown Developments.”

“A thousand pounds!” Polly said in awe as Eve joined Josh and the others munching through what was left of the Fruitful products. “I've never even seen a thousand pounds before.”

“It's not real,” Lila said. “It's just vouchers. And the shopping centre's not even finished yet anyway.”

“Looks real enough to me,” Max said, eyeing the wad of paper in Eve's hand.

“What do you want to do with it?” Josh asked Eve enthusiastically.

Eve couldn't muster any enthusiasm for the last part of her plan. She summoned a smile from somewhere.

“You take half, Josh,” she said. “You guys can take the rest.”

“Oh my God, Eve, seriously?” Lila gasped. “You're giving each of us a hundred pounds?”

“Real now, isn't it Lila?” said Ollie, taking two fifty-pound vouchers and slipping them into his pocket.

Lila's eyes narrowed. “Back off, Ollie.”

Rhi and Polly squealed and hugged Eve in delight, almost crushing her between them.

“You're the best, Eve!” said Rhi.

“I'll fix your computer any time you like,” Max said, rubbing his two fifties between his fingers. “For free.”

Eve had known the money would bring her friends back to her side. She felt a strange swell of resentment.
It's not just boys who are predictable
, she thought sourly.
It's girls too.

Suddenly there was the sound of a smash. Somerstown Developments staff and Heartside High kids alike instantly fell silent at the drama unfolding beside the main lifts.

“That is IT, Ollie Wright,” Lila screamed as Ollie stared in shock at the bangles Lila had thrown on the floor. “You and me are
over
.”

“Fine by me, you bossy cow,” Ollie shouted back angrily.

It looked as if Heartside High's golden couple had just broken up.

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