Margaret Henderson Smith Margaret Henderson Smith
Margaret Henderson Smith A Question of Answers – Taster

Chapter 1

Harriet ripped the lottery ticket into a pile of pink dust. ‘Sod you!’ She ground her elbow into the mound and looked down just in time to see the confused look on the cat’s face as it hurtled towards the door shedding its paper trail like a jet’s engine.
‘And you can sod off too!’ she shrieked. ‘Cats! Just like men! Bloody purrrfect!’
Now Harriet wasn’t given to swearing unless extremely provoked. Well, yes, it was common parlance at work, in the staff room of course. Most of the time she pretended not to hear it, unless deliberately provoked by Mr. Sanderson who couldn’t resist the toss of blonde hair as her lowered lashes swept every last expletive to the ground.
‘What’s so special about New Year’s Eve anyway?’ she rattled to herself. ‘What’s so different about that?’ She glowered at the phone secured to the wall like some grey plastic idol, some silent, uncooperative arbiter of her fate. Then it rang! For a brief moment Harriet froze in disbelief, her elbow still planted in the table she swung round overcome by an uncontrollable compulsion to answer it just as the cat came shooting back. Then like some deflated exhibitionist on the nursery slope she sprawled across the floor turning it into a meowing rug before heaving herself up to the threat of the final ring. ‘New Year, New Bloody Kitchen. Sod off!’ she shouted.
The doorbell rang and in a hasty attempt to recover her equilibrium she smoothed her ruffled hair, pulled her jumper down and cleared the guilt from her throat as she turned the latch. It was Mark back earlier than she’d expected.
‘That was quick,’ she said accusingly. ‘I thought you were shifting all the boats this morning.’
‘Only Greg and Pete turned up,’ mumbled Mark. ‘Greg looked as grey as that,’ he said, pointing to the phone.
Harriet’s heart leapt. She didn’t want it to ring now!
‘And Pete couldn’t remember why he’d come in the first place!’
‘Had a better time than us then Grey Greg and Prostrate Pete?’ Harriet snapped. ‘Well you were the one that backed off Harriet, don’t blame me!’
Of course Harriet had backed off. She hated New Year’s Eve at the sailing club. She was still nursing the cringe wounds from last year’s shells shot from the mouths of the wealthy, the competent, the competitive and the downright snooty.
‘Your boat still looks bloody new Harriet, not managed another launch yet? Still drying out Harriet?’ Harriet couldn’t stand Tarquin Bridgewater.
Of course they hadn’t managed another launch. Harriet had avoided it like the plague since Mark pushed off in too much of a damned hurry and Harriet to the jeers of the whole club had landed in the drink!
Not that there had been much time for sailing last year. The girls had finally left home and Harriet and Mark overcome with TV inspired enthusiasm, intent on capturing the rising market decided to revamp the whole house. This would enable them to downsize whilst making a phenomenally large profit. The board still sits like a flag in rigor mortis, as dead as their hopes.
Posh cousin Clarissa also announced her marriage last year. Harriet got roped in for making the bridesmaids’ dresses. She’d have felt a little less put-on if she’d been doing them for her girls, but no, the endless miles of machine stitching was all for the benefit of two rather large girls, so plummy they could only be photographed with a wide-angle lens and so fussy Harriet was almost tempted to offer them matching mouth zips! Anyway, weddings were a moot point with Harriet.

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