Home > My Not So Perfect Life(15)

My Not So Perfect Life(15)
Author: Sophie Kinsella

I don’t know what to say to that—so I give a kind of awkward nod and push my way into the stair shaft. I’m late enough as it is.

By the time I get back to Demeter’s office, she’s rinsed out the hair dye and is typing furiously at her computer.

“Sorry, I got delayed,” I say at her office door. “I’ll just get my laptop….”

She nods absently. “OK.”

I creep in, grab my laptop and printouts—then pause. Here goes.

“Demeter, can I come to the group meeting tomorrow?” I say, as forcefully as I can manage. “I think it would help my development. I’ll make up my work,” I add quickly. “I’ll only stay for an hour or whatever.”

Demeter lifts her head and surveys me for a nanosecond, then nods. “Fine.” She resumes typing. “Good idea.”

I stand there in stupefaction, wondering what I’ve missed. Good idea? Just like that? Good idea?

“Is there anything else?” She raises her head, and now she’s frowning faintly.

“No.” I come to. “I mean…thanks! Oh, and I got rid of that…Alex guy,” I add, feeling a faint flush come to my cheek. “At least, I don’t mean got rid of him. I didn’t throw him off the roof!” I give a high-pitched laugh, which makes me instantly wince and turn it into a fake-sounding cough.

(Note to self: Do not laugh in the vicinity of Demeter. Demeter never laughs. Can Demeter laugh? )

“Yes, I gathered,” says Demeter. “Thanks.” And now her expression so clearly says, Go away please, random junior person, that I back quickly out of her office before she can change her mind about the meeting. Or indeed about hiring me in the first place.

As I make my way back to my desk, I want to whoop. I’m in! I’m on a wave! I don’t mind doing a million surveys if I can start feeling that I’m getting somewhere.

I click on my emails—not that they’re ever very exciting—and blink in surprise. There’s a new one with the subject heading Hi from Alex.

Hi, great to meet you. Are you free tomorrow lunchtime? Want to meet again to talk branding/meaning of life/whatever?


A glow spreads over me. This day just gets better and better.

Sure! Would love to. Where? BTW, Demeter said yes re meeting!


I send off the email—and a moment later a reply arrives.

Well done you! Quick work!

Let’s meet at that Pop-up Christmas Cheer thing at Turnham Green. Say 1:00 P.M. and get a bite to eat?


A bite to eat. Get a bite to eat.

As I read the words over and over, my mind is skittering around in a cautious, hopeful way. A bite to eat. That means…

OK, it doesn’t mean anything exactly, but…

He could have said, I’ll book Old Kent Road. (All the meeting rooms at Cooper Clemmow are named after London Monopoly squares, because Monopoly was the first brand Adrian ever worked on.) That would have been the normal thing. But he’s suggested a bite to eat. So this is kind of a date. At least, it’s date-ish. It’s a date-like thing.

He’s asked me out! A really cool, good-looking guy has asked me out!

My heart surges with joy. I’m remembering his sharp eyes, his restless bony hands, his infectious laugh. His dazzling smile. His thrusting hair, disheveled by the breeze on the roof. I really like him, I admit to myself. And he must like me, or why else did he email me so quickly?


My joyous train of thought stops. What if he’s invited lots of other people too? I suddenly picture them, all sprawling round a table with drinks and laughter and in-jokes.

Well, I won’t know till I turn up, will I?

“What’s up?” asks Flora as she comes by with her mug of tea, and I realize there’s a massive, foolish beam on my face.

“Nothing,” I say at once. I like Flora, but she’s the last person I’m sharing this little nugget with. She’d tell everyone and tease me and it would all somehow get spoiled. “Hey, I’m coming to the group meeting tomorrow,” I say instead. “Demeter said I could. It’ll be really interesting.”

“Cool!” Flora glances at my desk. “How’s that awful inputting going? I still can’t believe Demeter asked you to do it. She’s such a cow.”

“Oh, it’s fine.” Nothing can dent my joy right now, not even a boxful of surveys.

“Well, see you,” says Flora. And she’s two steps away when I add, as casually as I can, “Oh, I met this guy called Alex just now, and I couldn’t work out what he does. Do you know him?”

“Alex?” She turns to me with narrowed brows. “Alex Astalis?”

I didn’t even look at his surname on the email, I realize.

“Maybe. He’s tall, dark hair….”

“Alex Astalis.” She gives a sudden snort of laughter. “You met Alex Astalis and you ‘couldn’t work out what he does’? Try, ‘He’s a partner.’ ”

“He— What?” I’m gobsmacked.

“Alex Astalis?” she repeats, as though to prompt my memory. “You know.”

“I’ve never heard of him,” I say defensively. “No one’s mentioned him.”

“Oh. Well, he’s been working abroad, so I suppose—” She gives me a closer look. “But you must have heard of the name Astalis.”

“As in…” I hesitate.

“Yup. Aaron Astalis is his father.”

“I see.” I’m in slight shock here. Because “Astalis” is one of those names like “Hoover” or “Biro.” It means something. It means: one of the most powerful advertising agencies in the world. In particular, “Aaron Astalis” means: supremely rich guy who changed the face of advertising in the 1980s and last year dated that supermodel. “Wow,” I say feebly. “What was her name again?”

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