After twenty minutes of pinning down the differences between gluten allergy and wheat intolerance, Rose wrote the first paragraph of today’s feature.“The number of people self-diagnosing themselves as being wheat intolerant is growing and can lead to more harm than good, according to new nutritional research. Wheat aversion, a psychological condition, is also on the increase. Are the two trends connected?”
It was true, but she pressed the delete button and watched her words disappear. Sam would never approve it, all the space sold for this feature advertised wheat-free biscuits and free-from bread. She stared at the empty white page.
“Anyone wanting to avoid wheat in their diet today is going to have a hard time finding wheat-free and free-from products that don’t taste like sawdust.”
Noooo… he wouldn’t approve that either. She pressed the delete button again. She knew the signs, she needed a breather, she needed a fresh start to the feature, she needed coffee.
“Crap coffee?” she asked Frank, who nodded without a pause in his typing. He was on a tight deadline too, Sam had already shouted at him twice since lunch.
Rose wandered towards the coffee machine, enjoying stretching her legs.
“Coffee break already, Rosie?” A waft of smoke followed Sam down the corridor and around the corner.
This was beginning to feel like persecution. Couldn’t she even get a drink now? Did Sam have her tagged by GPS or something?
She carried two cups of brown liquid back to her desk. Frank exchanged his cup for a note. 2.15. Nick Maddox called.
“He sounded ve..rry disappointed that you weren’t here, said he’d ring back in five.” Frank studied Rose, his eyebrows furrowed.
The heat rose in Rose’s cheeks and she sat down behind her computer screen to hide her face, Frank promptly stood up and peered at her over the top. He waited, eyebrow raised.
“I just e-mailed him some queries. I’m surprised he didn’t get his assistant to call me though, you’d think someone like him’d be too busy.” I’m babbling, Rose thought as she watched a smile spread over Frank’s face. Her phone rang. With relief she grabbed it. Frank’s face didn’t disappear.
It was Nick Maddox. A bubble of excitement rose in her throat.
They both spoke at once. “Sorry, you first,” she said, feeling a fool.
“I hope you’re feeling better?”
“Yes. Thanks.” She was mortified. Why couldn’t he be a gentleman and not mention last week? She’d tried many times to forget how he’d put her to bed, now her cheeks blazed. Thank goodness for the telephone. But she was uncomfortably aware that Frank could hear everything she said.
She’d forgotten Nick. How could she forget Nick? Say something! “Thanks.” No, she’d already said that. Say something intelligent. “Er…”
“Good. Any news yet when my interview will be published?”
So that was why he’d rung. Her cheeks quickly cooled. “I think it’s scheduled for a couple of weeks’ time, but it could be put back. Nothing is written in stone. Features get pulled all the time to make way for breaking news – war, riot, someone dying.” She recited the standard Herald policy.
There was a slight pause. “I see.” His voice had cooled.
Oh no, she thought, here we go. His pause said it all, he was a complainer. She was disappointed and it made her snap more than she should. “Well, there’s no guarantee, you know, that anything’s going to be published at all.”
“At all? That would be, disappointing.”
Rose listened to his evenly-spaced breathing. She wasn’t going to apologise for the paper’s policy, she didn’t make it. She played the silent tactic, be unapologetic, let him speak first.
Rose’s heart pounded in her throat. And then she sneezed, a real snorter, right into the phone. Rose didn’t have a tissue so there was nothing for it. She sniffed. Her mother would have been mortified.
More silence as Rose contemplated wiping her nose on her sleeve.
“Rose, can I assume by your silence that you think I’m mad at you because you don’t know when the feature will be published.”
“Mmm.” She took the tissue which Frank was waving at her from the other side of the partition.
“I admit I am disappointed… disappointed because I won’t have an excuse to ring you for weeks, to say thank you when it’s finally in print.”
What? Is he was flirting with me?
“But really there’s no need to wait that long, is there? Would you like to go to dinner? Think of it as a ‘pre-publication thank you.”
Rose had never had a pre- or post-publication dinner invitation to Nobu. She wondered vaguely if the Sam had a rule about it.
Her heart sank. “Sorry, not tonight.” He was bound to be one of those sort of businessmen with no ‘windows’ in his diary. That was it, she’d blown it.
“Yes. Please.” She really must try and say words with more than a single syllable. He’d think she was vocabulary-challenged.
“Great.” She’d never been to Nobu. “I’ll see you there at 8.”
© Sandra Danby
…in IGNORING GRAVITY #36: Rose meets Mrs Greenaway of Social Services…
This is the 35th instalment of ‘Ignoring Gravity’ about identity detective Rose Haldane. To start reading from the beginning, please click on the category ‘My Novel: Ignoring Gravity’ in the right hand menu.