From Ainslie Paton
Petra and Andy met during a takeover. He was the corporate counsel, she was the communications consultant hired to manage the media.
They worked long hours, over many weekends, shared dozens of taxis, takeaway meals, plane trips, and stays in separate rooms in dodgy hotels together. They hit it off. They were both married. Petra’s husband joked that she and Andy spent so much time together if they were having an affair they’d already be sick of each other.
The takeover was a success. Andy got promoted and moved back home to England. Petra started her own company. They kept in touch, both for business and personal reasons.
Time passed. Petra’s husband had an affair. She forgave him, but he left her anyway. Andy kept being promoted. She heard on the grapevine that his marriage was in trouble.
One day Petra’s mother told her she should go after that man in England she’d liked so much. Petra laughed. It was so long ago and they’d only ever been colleagues, she’d probably imagined there was a spark between them.
But what if.
Petra sold her company. She was paid not to work in the industry for a full year. She didn’t know what to do with herself. Her mother said, “Go to him.”
She could do with a holiday. She bought a ticket. She booked herself into a nice hotel. She sent Andy an email saying she was coming to London on business and it would be fun to have a drink, if he was into it. He replied with a cheery hello and a that’d be great, but he was travelling a lot and wasn’t sure if he’d be in town.
She almost exchanged her ticket for somewhere else. An island, a deckchair. But her mother said, “What if.”
She emailed Andy with the dates she’d be in London. She made it look like she was busy and had limited time. She wasn’t going to throw herself at him. He might not even be around, and she was probably romanticising those nine weeks they’d spent working together seven years ago.
Awake in her business class seat on the plane while everyone else was asleep she cried. She was a forty year old fool. Andy hadn’t responded to her last email and even if he had, what did she think was going to happen? He was still married. They lived on opposite sides of the world. At best they’d have a drink, share a laugh, maybe a meal. They’d gossip about people they knew and he’d show her pictures of his grown-up kids.
At Heathrow there was a text message from him: a date, a time, a venue. He was excited to see her.
Two days later she went to the restaurant he’d chosen. She was shown to a table. She waited. An hour later he hadn’t shown. The waiter felt sorry for her and brought her a complimentary dessert. She didn’t feel like eating it, but he’d been so kind.
Petra had a mouth full of strawberry cream when Andy walked in. He was flustered, wet, embarrassed. His plane was late. His phone was out of charge. He was amazed she’d waited for him.
They had dinner. For Petra it was backwards, much like the idea of trying to recapture something vague and unspoken from a particular time and place. They gossiped. They shared pictures. She liked him so much, but her dash across the world to spend a couple of hours reminiscing with him was the most irrational and insane thing she’d ever done. She planned to shop like a fiend to make up for it.
As the restaurant emptied Petra admitted she’d sold her business and come to London on a whim. Andy admitted he’d left his wife. They stayed until the restaurant closed.
They’ve been married ten years now.
Ainslie Paton is a corporate storyteller working in marketing, public relations and advertising. She’s written about everything from the African refugee crisis and Toxic Shock Syndrome, to high-speed data networks and hamburgers, and for everyone from George Clooney to Barry Humphries – as Edna.She writes cracking, hyper-real romances about strong women and the exciting men who love them. And she dances when no one is looking.
Her latest novel, Detained, is a story about an international scandal, a billionaire, and a fearless reporter who might just save the day.