Alice Brown's Lessons in the Curious Art of Dating

Alice Brown's Lessons in the Curious Art of Dating by Eleanor Prescott Read Free Book Online

Book: Alice Brown's Lessons in the Curious Art of Dating by Eleanor Prescott Read Free Book Online
Authors: Eleanor Prescott
Tags: Fiction, General, Romance, Contemporary
the words seemed to die in her mouth. She’d witter, desperately trying to fill the yawning silence whilst Audrey eyeballed her with derision. It had always been the same, and Alice had been at Table For Two for years. Six months into her job, she’d considered leaving. But she likedher clients too much. Clients come and go – or they should if she matched them successfully. The problem was that Alice
always
had clients she liked. She didn’t want to abandon them before she’d fixed them up. And as fast as she fixed them up new clients would come in. Before she knew it all thoughts of leaving had been forgotten.
    Alice reached her flat, dismounted her bike and carried the plants inside. She looked at her watch. Good – she had enough time to potter in the garden before cooking the Sunday roast. Ginny was coming round at three with Dan and the baby. Happy in the knowledge that she had a couple of hours of green-fingered pleasure ahead, she stepped into her garden with a smile.



KATE

    Monday morning had finally arrived.
    Kate took a deep breath, smoothed down her brand-new Reiss skirt-suit (nothing she already owned was quite right, she’d decided), and walked purposefully through the doors of the Table For Two dating agency. Inside was an open-plan office with several women talking busily on the phone. There was no nice, safe reception desk to walk towards, so Kate loitered awkwardly by the door, rocking unsteadily on her new heels.
    Eventually the woman at the nearest desk put down her phone and smiled.
    ‘Yes, love. Who are you here for?’
    ‘Alice.’ Despite her best intentions, Kate’s voice still came out sounding nervous.
    The woman twisted and looked across the office. As she moved, Kate noticed her belly. She was pregnant: hugely pregnant! Good, Kate thought excitedly. This was exactly the result she’d be paying for: a fast ticket through the games and nonsense. She’d obviously entered an arena of success. This was a place where women found boyfriendswho became husbands who became fathers. She hoped this success was infectious – ideally, airborne and immediate.
    The woman turned back.
    ‘She’s on the phone. Pop yourself down on the sofa and make yourself comfortable. She won’t be long.’
    She pointed towards a seating area that Kate hadn’t noticed before. Kate backed awkwardly into the sofa and tried not to look nervous.
    The pregnant woman immediately immersed herself in another phone call. Kate peered surreptitiously around. She’d been wondering what a dating agency would look like. Last night, just as she’d been drifting off to sleep, she’d been struck by the sudden, terrifying thought that it would have huge mugshots of its clients on the walls – like a giant police line-up of the most desperate people in town. The thought had kept her awake for hours. But there was no such gallery of shame. In fact, it looked disappointingly normal.
    Suddenly the door swung open and a delivery man burst in, brandishing a super-sized bouquet of flowers. He loitered, his head and upper body almost entirely obscured by the enormous, cascading blooms. Seconds passed. And then a loud knock made Kate jump in her seat, and the bunch-of-flowers-on-legs headed over to an area separated from the rest of the room by a glass wall. Rapping imperiously on the pane was Audrey Cracknell. Barely pausing in her telephone conversation, she ushered the walking flowers in, accepted them without so much as a blink and dismissed the delivery man with a wave of her hand. Kate felt amomentary sense of relief that she wasn’t signing up with Audrey today. There was something utterly terrifying about her. But the relief was immediately followed by awe. This was a place where women were sent bouquets of flowers from their admirers:
even women like Audrey
!
    ‘Hello again, Kate.’
    A friendly looking woman stood in front of her, smiling kindly.
    ‘Alice!’ Kate jumped up and nervously started pumping her hand. She was

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