There’s something unusual about Paula, the minute I meet her, I just can’t quite put my finger on it. Her tiny frame and delicate features, are striking, but it’s something about the way that she conducts herself. It makes her different to most of the people that I’ve met so far, the wisdom in her eyes making her seem older than she is. I’ve only been in her presence for a few minutes, though before I feel utterly at ease.
The luxurious surroundings, and the obvious wealth of the other diners, doesn’t seem as important anymore. She smiles, exposing perfectly straight and gleaming teeth. “I have to confess I’ve already ordered some food. I was starving,” A glance down at the menu, tells me what I really already knew, that I can only afford some of the side dishes. The waiter comes over, but he’s carrying a tray full of food. “I hope that you’ll join me, seeing as I ordered the Med Mezze,”
It takes a little while for the waiter to fit all the dishes onto the table, and I take the opportunity to switch the tape recorder on. “You wanted to speak about Alicia? It’s become a topic of some discussion between us all, we were surprised that Theo decided to commission this book,”
“Because there’s certain things that I wouldn’t have thought that he wants to let the world at large know.” Paula comments before she rips a piece off the herb falafel, popping the bread into her mouth.
The smell distracts me, and I’m unable to resist dumping a large spoonful of the babaganoush onto a plate. “Did you like Alicia?”
“I can’t imagine that you’ll find too many who didn’t like her, well if they actually knew her.” Paula laughs, “I knew from the moment that I met her that there was something special there, and that she would be a important part of my life.”
“I thought that she was a colleague of yours.” I rip a chunk off the falafel, dipping it in the babaganoush and take a bite.
“No.” Paula takes a sip of her water, and then reconsiders, “Well yes, we worked together but she also became a good friend. She actually introduced me to my husband.”
It’s only then that I spot the wide band on her fourth finger, the diamond big enough that I can’t believe that I missed it before. “How long did you work together?”
My phone goes off before she can reply, and I blush in embarrassment. I had thought that I had turned it off before. I’m about to do it, when I realise that it’s a message from Oriana, Alicia’s youngest daughter. She’s been uncertain about whether she wants to do the interview, but wants to set up a time. I quickly type a response, to set up a time to meet her tomorrow. “Sorry about that.” I glance up to see that Paula’s on her own phone, her tiny fingers flying across the keys.
“It’s fine, my husband actually wants me to meet him a little earlier than I thought.” She finishes her text. “I wrote the story I want to tell down, just in case though.” She drops her phone into her bag, and then produces some papers which she passes over.
Smoothing a nervous hand over my skirt, I shift once again on the hard chair. I’m not sure that I’m the right person for this position, given the statuesque and not exactly friendly women that otherwise seem to work here. Part of me wants to quit, despite the fact that it’s only my second day. My stomach growls, loudly as I realise that it’s probably now safe to go to the cafeteria, given that the other girls on the floor will have had their salads.
The instant I push open the door, though I realise that it’s not late enough. There’s a brunette queuing up, and I brace myself for the same comments as I got yesterday, as I take a tray. “You wanted to avoid the DD’s too?” she asks the instant that I’m next to her.
“The other girls in the PR department. There’s a competition between them as who can lose the most weight before the summer, and it doesn’t exactly make them the nicest people.” The brunette takes a bowl, and fills it with the delicious smelling clam chowder. “You’re Paula right?”
“Alicia.” She swipes her card at the till, “I’ve worked here for a couple of months, and know some of the things to avoid, if you want some advice,” I fill my own bowl and follow her over to the nearest table, already knowing that she’s the first friendly person I’ve met here.