Unstitched(8)

By: Jacquie Underdown



She deserved someone better than me.

I didn’t sleep much after that.

***

I made my way down the white-walled corridor to the studio. Leith was already inside, the black bruises under his eyes now faded to a deep shade of green. I had to stop myself from smiling smugly when I saw him. I pushed through the doors and took my seat beside Leith at the desk, not even a hello offered.

Leith looked me square in the eyes. ‘I miss her, Brendt. I’m going to try and win her back.’

All went silent and the air in the room became glassy. I stood, breathing deeply in the icy shards, every muscle charged, and walked back out. I marched into my boss’s office and said, ‘I quit.’





Chapter 4


Anthea

I arrived at City Hall with Sabine before time. I felt beautiful when I stepped into the venue, but my stomach was a knot of nerves. This needs to go off without a hitch.

I had spent the entire morning primping myself for the occasion: painted nails, ringlets and a retro band of diamantes in my hair, along with the most stunning dress of red satin, deep plunging at the front and back, that skimmed down my thighs to meet my new three-inch-high silver Jimmy Choo’s.

Angela Barnes was Martin and Marshall’s biggest client. Tonight was one of her major fundraisers and, by far, the biggest I’d ever been in charge of.

I glanced over the expansive auditorium, the result of all my hard work. There were thirty round tables, each set for ten guests with crisp white linen and shiny tableware. The centrepiece of every table was a dozen blood-red roses that billowed from ornate gold vases. Each chair was white with gold brocade. Bundles of candles set on ostentatious gold candelabras crowded against the walls, while the entire ceiling space was strung with winking fairy lights, reminiscent of a star-dotted night sky.

It was romantic, magical, everything I intended and yet so different from how I left it, because now it had laughter, expectation and animation. Yesterday, it was still lonely in anticipation of nearly three hundred guests to breathe life into it.

Sabine smiled. ‘Holy shit, Anthea. You’re a bloody genius.’

I grinned, the knot in my tummy slowly loosening. ‘Thank you.’ My job was my art. This room my canvas. And my mind, the endless contractors, props and equipment, were my pallet. This space was a tiny representation of my soul and to have it accepted and loved by others reaffirmed that there was a part of me that was beautiful and loveable, too. I craved these moments like an addict craved cocaine, because when my seeming soul was appreciated, my constant yearning stopped, albeit ever so briefly.

Angela spied me from across the room and waddled over. She was an enormously successful property developer: mid-fifties, peroxide blonde hair and oversized, botoxed lips. She wore the most exquisite silver beaded gown, and expensive jewellery dripped from her wrists and neck. As well as being M & M’s biggest client and, not to mention, my favourite, Angela had the kindest heart.

‘Anthea, darling,’ cooed Angela, as she kissed each of my cheeks, smothering me in dense plumes of expensive perfume and hairspray fumes.

‘Mrs Barnes, you look stunning, as always.’

‘You’ve done such a wonderful job tonight. The use of roses and candles is simply fabulous. Well done.’

‘Thank you so much.’

Angela narrowed her eyes and frowned. ‘So where’s this date of yours? Leith, was it?’

My stomach curdled at the mere mention of his name. I’d forgotten he was my date for tonight. I glanced sidelong at Sabine, then back to Angela. ‘Ah, Leith couldn’t make it. He’s not feeling well.’

‘Oh well, dear. Never mind. Perhaps I’ll get to meet him next time.’

‘Yes, next time. I hope you have a successful evening, Mrs Barnes.’

‘I’m sure I will. Please enjoy yourselves tonight, ladies.’

Angela noticed someone else she knew and fluttered away, leaving behind a mist of glitter and eccentricity.

Sabine hissed. ‘Fucking Leith.’

I rolled my eyes and grinned. ‘Imagine if I told her the truth — sorry, Angela, but Leith’s a complete arse-wipe and was only with me as long as it took to get into my pants and win himself a tidy sum of money.’

Sabine laughed. ‘I think she’d enjoy that.’

***

All the guests had arrived. They were sipping champagne and nibbling canapés. The band was rocking it — bellowing out songs that had the guests singing and dancing. I looked upon the stage at Lucas and his band. He was dressed in faded ripped jeans, heavy black boots and a black t-shirt. My heart warmed with gratitude for him helping me out at such late notice.

Soon enough, Angela took to the podium and the formal processions began — speeches, an auction, and a five-course banquet. By midnight the majority of guests had moved on. Sabine had left early, leaving me behind to wrap up, but I was stuck, like a foot squelching around in sticky mud, chatting with Reese Spencer, a recently divorced solicitor. He was round, not tall enough and definitely too old for me. I wanted to brush him off, because he was plastered and gawked way too much at my breasts, but he approached me and I have the hardest time being rude to people. Yes, even overzealous perverts like Reese.

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