“I hope we're going to have enough food.”
Connie swept into the large banqueting hall of London's prestigious Royale Hotel, clutching an elaborately decorated cake towering high above her head. If she held her arms any lower, she would trip over the flounced hem of her long dress.
“What're you talking about?” Lucy gestured towards the table. “We've mountains of food. I think you're forgetting we only have five people on our books; the four of us, who set up the whole thing in the first place plus my elderly aunt and she only joined for a laugh.”
“Yes, I know all that,” Connie huffed. “But don't you see, this is what the launch is all about – getting more people to join and…” Unfortunately at that point, she trod on the hem of her dress and stumbled forward. The cake wobbled dangerously in her outstretched arms while she fought to regain her balance.
Seeing what was happening, Lucy rushed forward and managed to grab the cake before it crashed to the floor. “For goodness sake, your dress is far too long. Haven't you something else you can wear?”
“No!” Connie replied. She hitched up her dress. “Well – not with me, anyway. Besides, I paid a fortune for this creation and I'm going to wear it if it kills me.”
The midnight-blue dress, with its sequined bodice had looked gorgeous draped on the model in the shop window. She knew it would accentuate her blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes perfectly. It was a dress to die for. She simply had to have it, no matter what it cost. But Connie hadn't taken into account that the display model was several inches taller than she was.
Even the sales assistant, mindful of her commission, had felt duty-bound to point out there might be a problem when it came to actually walking. Yet Connie waved the advice aside, feeling sure it would be the right length when she wore her brand new, platform shoes. However that wasn't the case: the dress was still so long, she kept treading on it with every step she took.
It wasn't so bad when she could hitch it up a little. But carrying something, which needed both hands, was a real problem. She'd very nearly had a catastrophe on her way up the stairs. There was no doubt she would have toppled over when she stepped on the dress without realising it. That was if a rather attractive man hadn't rushed to her side and taken the cake from her in the nick of time.
“It probably will.” Lucy carefully placed the cake in the centre of the table. “If not the dress, then those ridiculous shoes will do the job for you. Just be careful when you go up and down the stairs. And, come to think of it, what on earth were you doing carrying the cake, anyway? Surely a member of the staff should be doing that? We're paying enough money!”
“I was coming up here, so I thought I would save someone a journey.” Connie smoothed down her dress. “I simply forgot there were so many stairs.”
“Stairs!” Jenny screeched across from the other side of the room. “You mean you carried the cake which, might I add, cost us a small fortune on its own, all the way up the stairs? Why didn't you at least take the lift?”
“Because I couldn't press the button to call the lift! I was holding the cake with both hands – remember?”
Jenny closed her eyes and shook her head. For an intelligent woman, Connie could be unbelievably dim sometimes.
“I don't know why we let you talk us into using the Royale in the first place,” Lucy grumbled. She and the others would rather have held the launch for their new dating agency somewhere more modest – more within their tight budget. Yet, somehow, Connie had gotten her own way. But then, didn't Connie always get her own way? “This whole thing is costing an arm and a leg. I'm sure we could've found somewhere less expensive.”
“If you recall, I did get a bargain on the catering.” Connie was a little put out by their lack of enthusiasm.
“But that was only because you allowed the catering manager to gaze down your cleavage while you negotiated the deal.” Jenny grinned.
“Anyway,” Connie continued, ignoring the last remark, “we want everyone to know our new dating agency, for divorcees only, is a high class organisation – not some seedy, back street knocking-shop set up by a bunch of divorced women on the pull. Everyone recognises the Royale as somewhere special.” She gestured around the room. “Even the Queen has visited this hotel.”
“That may be,” said Lucy. “But, I think it's extremely unlikely Her Majesty will be coming to sign up to our dating agency. I understand she's happily married.” She frowned. “I still think we should've shopped around.”
“I suppose you'd both have been happy to use the pokey, little nook we call an office for the launch?” Connie shook her head, causing her large, gold earrings to swing vigorously. “I simply felt we should make a big impression.”
Lucy sighed. “We'll make a big impression in our bank balance if we don't manage to enrol a number of people tonight. And we're not just talking about the Royale. Don't forget all the ads you put in the papers; they don't come cheap, especially the glossy magazines. Not to mention these expensive evening dresses you insisted we buy.”
“Talking of evening gowns, how do I look?” Jenny did a twirl. She hated arguments and tried to lighten the mood a little. Lucy was right, though, they had spent too much on this evening. But it was done now, so as far as she was concerned, they might as well enjoy it. Tomorrow was another day.
“You look great; but then you always do.” Lucy looked down at her more ample shape. She felt so dowdy compared to the other two women. She had chosen to wear a black dress with an A-line skirt, which she had been assured would keep her hips in check. At the moment the dress and her hips seemed to be battling it out between them. She had tried so many diets during her life, yet she never lost more than a few pounds and even those sneaked back on when she wasn't looking. However, deep down, she knew her love of all things chocolate didn't help. “You have such a lovely figure and that slim-line dress shows off your trim waist and hips beautifully. I love the shade of green, too.”
She sighed. What she wouldn't give to look even a little like Jenny. She was tall, attractive, and had the most beautiful auburn hair, which was always perfectly behaved. Whereas Lucy was short and round-ish. Okay, she was very round, with dull, mousy coloured hair, which always did its own thing, no matter how many times she combed it into place. Jenny also had a lovely bubbly personality – so full of life. In fact she had it all. Lucy had never been able to understand why Rob had taken other women to his bed when he had Jenny at home. Some men were morons.