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Authors: Barbara Taylor Bradford

Treacherous

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TREACHEROUS

By Barbara Taylor Bradford

Copyright © 2014 by Barbara Taylor Bradford

“How easy it is, treachery. You just slide into it.”

Margaret Atwood

The Year of the Flood

PROLOGUE

It
was in the fifth grade, when they were ten, that Fiona Chambers crossed the soccer
field to stand with, and up for, the new girl. Skinny, awkward, out of place at
the posh prep school in New York, Hayley Martin had become a target for the establishment’s
well-heeled bullies.

She was taunted
about everything: her clothes, an unruly tangle of auburn curls, her status as
a scholarship student, and the street slang that popped out of her mouth at
inopportune times.

After an essay
Hayley wrote about her time living in a homeless shelter was deemed best in the
English class, and published in the school paper, the torment became almost intolerable.

Then one day Fiona
walked over to the embattled girl, put an arm around her, and asked if they
could sit together at lunch. That act of compassion changed everything for Hayley.

Fiona Chambers
was a superstar. It wasn’t simply her classic blonde beauty, or her sense of humor,
or the fact that she was very smart that drew people to her. Fiona had an inborn
shimmer that could not be counterfeited. It was called charisma.

From that day
forward, if anyone wanted to hang out with Fiona, they had to put up with this “rescue”
girl of hers. And just like that, Hayley was part of the in-crowd. In exchange,
Fiona garnered the lifelong devotion of her new friend.

Well,
lifelong
is perhaps an overstatement. There would come a time when Hayley Martin’s
raison
d’être
would be the complete and utter destruction of her former friend.

The
transformation from acolyte to enemy was complicated. And perhaps it was inevitable.

ONE

“I
just don't see how we can do it, Hayley,” Fiona said. “We have the Met Costume
Gala that Saturday, Cancer the following week, and the Whitney wedding two days
later.”

“For Luke
Thompson, we'll find a way. And could you say Cancer
Benefit
, please.” Hayley
wrinkled her nose. “Cancer next week doesn’t sound that festive. Just the
opposite.”

Fiona laughed.
“Point well taken.”

“Listen, I’d
set my hair on fire if Luke asked me to. He wants
us
to do this party, so
we do it. And that’s that.”

Still shy as a
fawn in public, Hayley was a different person when she and Fiona were alone. Smart,
accomplished and irreverent. The two girls had become inseparable at Miss
Porter’s School, and beyond. They were roommates in college, had backpacked around
Europe after graduation, and eventually landed in a tiny apartment in St Mark’s
Place on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

It was an
ancient railroad flat, which meant that in 1910 three rooms were lined up in a
row, like train carriages, and the bathtub was in the kitchen. It was a quirky
little place but the girls loved it. The combination of Fiona’s creative ideas,
and Hayley’s uncanny ability to transform dreams into reality, changed an
eyesore into a charming little gem. That rare blend of skills was to prove
invaluable, when later they launched their joint venture from the fifth-floor
walkup. They started an event planning company which they called
Celebration.

Outsiders wondered
what kind of glue made these two disparate personalities into such a cohesive
team. It was simple really. Fiona admired Hayley’s grit and determination to
overcome a background Dickensian in its bleakness. She took hard work and perseverance
to a new level.

Hayley, on the
other hand, was in awe of Fiona’s seemingly effortless ability to accomplish
whatever she set out to do. And instead of being full of herself because of it,
Fiona had a huge heart. She was capable of acts of profound compassion, such as
taking a lonely young girl under her wing and changing her life.

This morning,
twenty years after that event, the two women were sitting at the cluttered
round table that served as an operations center for
Celebration
. It was
the spring of 2013, and they had a burgeoning business.

“Could you not
set your hair on fire, no matter who requests it,” Fiona begged. “That blue
tint you thought was so cool has almost grown out.”

“If we do this
for Luke, I promise I’ll only dye it colors found in nature,” Hayley answered. “He's
family, Fiona. We taught each other how to kiss, underneath the stairs at that shelter
on 86
th
Street.”

“You never
told me you were romantically involved with the hunkiest newsman on the air!”

Hayley laughed
dismissively. “Hardly. I was eight, he was nine. And it wasn't romance, it was
a science experiment. When I was sent to Miss Porter’s, we swore to be friends
for life, and we have been. Plus he looked after Mikey the best he could, after
I'd gone.”

Fiona stiffened
at the mention of Hayley’s younger brother. Mikey was trouble. But Hayley, who
usually had an infallible radar about people, could not see it. She had
practically raised the boy, in the absence of their will-o’-the-wisp mother,
and in Hayley’s eyes he could do no wrong.

Fiona had an
urge to say that Luke Thompson would have done better to watch out for the
people Mikey conned, but she thought better of it. It would only upset Hayley. Instead,
she said, “When am I going to get to meet this wonder?”

The investigative
reporter was a household name, and Fiona admired him for the work he did. And he
was a champion of the underdog, which made him extra special to her.

“He’s
hard to pin down. He’s always flying around the globe, covering disasters. Or
exposing corruption,” Hayley replied. “But when we plan this party for him,
which we absolutely, positively
must
, you'll finally meet him.” Although
she was usually indifferent about such things, she was growing agitated. “His television
team is getting the Edward R. Murrow Award for their reporting on human trafficking.”

“Talk about
festive,” Fiona murmured, raising a brow.

“Figure it out,
Fiona. Please.”

Fiona studied
her friend. “You’re practically shaking, Hayley. Are you sure you don't have strong
feelings for Luke?”

“Of course I
have feelings for him. But not the kind you're thinking. He's like a brother. Romance
would be like incest! Ick.” She made a face, grimacing.

“Okay, okay.
Got it,” Fiona said, examining the huge calendar that was displayed on the wall
opposite. It was covered with neat printing which denoted events scheduled well
into the next year. It hadn’t always been that way.

For the first
few years,
Celebration'
s calendar was practically blank. A small wedding,
a party on election night. They had even agreed to do a child’s birthday party.
Anything to get them noticed by the people who gave the glittering events for
which New York was famous.

The girls had
supported themselves, and the fledgling business, by taking on any job they
could get, sometimes two jobs at a time. They did telemarketing, dog walking,
were even cocktail waitresses in a club that catered to “gentlemen in the
sanitation removal business.” More precisely, wise guys connected to the mob.

No one had told
them this, but it took Hayley, with her street background, only a few seconds to
make that call. But even though the guys were connected to the Mafia, they were
good tippers, and treated the girls with their version of respect. So they
stayed and worked at the club.

There was one
job Fiona had taken which was never, ever discussed, even by the two friends
who shared everything. At one moment in time, Hayley stumbled on the truth of
what Fiona had been doing on weekends, and it staggered her. “Why, Fiona? Why
would
you
, of all people, do something like that?” She had sounded
horrified.

Fiona’s
response had been dramatic. She had walked out of the apartment and disappeared
for two days. The subject was never broached again. Some things, Hayley knew
from experience, were best not spoken about.

There was no
need for second jobs to pay the rent these days. When someone was planning a
grand event in New York City,
Celebration
more often than not received the
first call. They had even been able to move their company uptown, to a building
with an elevator in the more socially acceptable East Sixties.

Oddly enough,
it was the birthday party for a ten-year-old that had put them on the map. The
child’s grandmother was a well-known socialite. She had a wonderful time
playing the old-fashioned carnival games the girls had rented and, with a word
from her, the bookings started to come pouring in.

“If it's so
important to you, Hayley, that we do Luke's party, I’ll make it work.” Fiona was
moving things around on the calendar. “Who do I speak with to confirm?”

“Oh, I already
told them we’d do it.” Hayley smiled innocently at Fiona. “I knew you’d make it
happen.”

“You’re incorrigible.”

“So I’ve been
told. Anyway, all you have to do is meet with Luke, and find out what sort of
evening he’ll be comfortable with. He doesn’t like a lot of fuss.”

“Hayley, he’s
your friend. You should meet with him.”

The color
drained from Hayley’s face. “You know I can’t do that! I don’t
do
meetings. That’s your department.”

Hayley and
Fiona were equal partners in their business, but the roles carved out in that
school yard long ago never changed. It seemed natural that Fiona, with her inventiveness
and easy way with people, would be the
face
of the business. She was the
one who met with potential clients to plan the event, was photographed
accepting thanks from socialites, senators and honorees for a perfectly planned
occasion.

It was Hayley
who, by choice, labored in the background, executing that perfect planning.
While Fiona escorted the guest of honor to his seat, Hayley was in the kitchen
making sure the caterer remembered which of the guests was lactose intolerant
or had other food issues.

Fiona never
meant to steal the spotlight. Like most truly magnetic people, she just walked
into a room and dazzled. Hayley, on the other hand, walked into a room and
disappeared. And she was content with that arrangement. Until one day she wasn’t.
And then everything changed.

“All right, don’t
panic,” Fiona now said. “I’ll meet with the great man. Who knows, maybe he’ll
teach me how to kiss, too. I could use a little help in that regard. I haven’t
had a date in three months.”

Fiona had turned
away, studying the calendar, and didn’t see the stricken look settle on Hayley’s
face.

TWO

It
was late when Hayley let herself into her apartment on East 86
th
Street.
The building was a luxury high-rise with a doorman. It was a far cry from the
shelter down the street where she, Mikey and Luke had spent far too much time
as children. She always shriveled inside when she thought of that place.

Once
Celebration
started making money, she and Fiona had decided to have separate apartments. When
they lived together they would come home from the office and talk business
until it was time to go to bed.

Even now they’d
spend half the evening on the phone, going over details of whatever event they
were planning. But this new living arrangement allowed them to think about
something else, at least for a few hours every day.

There was
another reason Hayley wanted her own place, but she would never admit it to
Fiona. She needed to have somewhere for her brother to crash when he got into
one of his scrapes, as he called them. Like getting evicted, or beaten up for
not paying a debt to the wrong people. She knew Mikey was a mess, but he was
her mess. And she wasn’t about to run away from her responsibilities, like
their mother had done.

Fiona was well
aware that Hayley was constantly rescuing her brother, and Hayley knew she
knew, but it was another one of those things they never discussed.

Hayley poured
a glass of wine, clicked on the television and curled up in her favorite spot.
It was an enormous wing chair, more suitable for a wrestler than a slender slip
of a girl who was all of five foot two with shoes on. She had paid thirty-two dollars
for the chair at one of the many charity thrift shops that dotted First Avenue,
and managed to get it home tied on top of a yellow cab. She had reupholstered it
herself in rich emerald-green velvet, the color of her eyes. When she had lived
at the shelter down the street, she had dreamed of having a real home one day, and
a special chair. Now she had both.

She was later than
usual, and Luke’s news show was almost over. She watched him every night. At
the end of every broadcast, he looked into the camera and said, “I’m Luke
Thompson and I wish you a goodnight.” She liked to fantasize that he was
talking only to her.

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