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Chapter 3 Love Hurts
In Downing Street, a few days later, the Prime Minister and his ministers sat around a long table.
`OK,' the Prime Minister said. `What's next?’
One of his ministers spoke. `The American President's visit,’
Carter told him.
`Ah, yes, yes. I'm worried about that.’
`There's a very strong feeling in the party, and in the country too, that we must be more independent than the last government was.’
`I agree,' said another minister. `This is our first really important test. We must show the President that we don't take orders from him.’
`Right. Right. I understand that. But I have decided ... not to,' the Prime Minister told them. `Not this time. We'll try to be clever, of course. But let's not forget, the US is the most powerful country in the world. I'm not going to start a fight that I can't win.’ The ministers accepted this unenthusiastically. `Right,' continued the Prime Minister. `Now, how do I get a cup of tea and a biscuit in this place?’
At that moment Natalie came in with tea and biscuits. The Prime Minister's face turned red as she smiled at him.
`Good,' he said.
Later that day, there was a knock on the door of the Prime Minister's private office.
`Come in,' he called.
Natalie entered, carrying some files in one hand and a cup of tea and a plate of biscuits in the other.
`These have just arrived for you,' she said, giving the files to the Prime Minister. `And this is for you too.’
The Prime Minister smiled. `Excellent. Thanks.’
`I hoped you'd win,' Natalie continued. `Although of course the other man would get biscuits, too, if he was here. But he wouldn't get chocolate biscuits.’
`Thank you very much, Natalie,' said the Prime Minister.
After she left, he lowered his head and hit it against the table top. `Be sensible!' he said quietly to himself. `You're the Prime Minister!’
At Fairtrade, Harry and Mia were discussing the Christmas party.
`Not my favourite night of the year,' Harry said, trying not to stare at Mia's tight black dress. `And it's your unhappy job to organise it.’
`Easy, really,' Harry said. `Find a place for the party. Buy more drinks than anybody wants. Buy little things to eat - hundreds of them. And advise the girls not to go near Kevin.’
`Fine,' said Mia. `Are we inviting wives and families?’
`Yes,' said Harry. `I mean, not children - but husbands, wives, girlfriends ... You haven't got a horrible two-metre, tight-T-shirt- wearing boyfriend that you want to bring, have you?’
`No, I'll just wait under the mistletoe, hoping for a kiss.' Their eyes met and an electric look passed between them. `Right,' said Harry.
As Mia walked out, Harry shook his head like a man waking from a dream.
Daniel was telling his friend Karen his worries about his stepson.
`Sam spends all his time in his room,' Daniel said. `He's probably there now.’
`There's nothing unusual about that,' Karen told him. `My horrible son Bernie stays in his room all the time. And I'm glad he does.’
`But this is all the time. And I'm afraid that there's something really wrong. I mean, he's sad about his mum, but he could be doing anything up there. If he was drinking beer and bringing women in, I wouldn't know.’
`At the age of eleven?’
`Well, maybe not women. Maybe just beer. The problem is, his mum always used to talk to him, and now the whole stepfather thing suddenly seems important. It wasn't before.’
`It's not surprising that this is a really horrible time. Just be patient - and maybe check his room for empty bottles.'
`And sometimes when he comes out of his room, I know he's been crying.’ Tears suddenly ran down Daniel's face. `It was such a waste when Jo died. And it's going to ruin Sam's life as well. I don't know what to do.’
Karen touched his shoulder.
`Be strong! People hate men who behave like girls. No one will ever want to spend time with you if you cry all the time.’
That evening Daniel and Sam sat together, looking out across the River Thames.
Daniel took a deep breath. `So what's the problem, Sam?' he asked. `Is it just Mum? Or is it something else? Maybe school? Can you tell me?’
`You really want to know?’
`I really want to know.’
`But you won't be able to help.’
`I still want to know.’
`OK,' Sam said. `Actually, I'm in love.’
`I know I should be thinking about Mum all the time, and I am. But I'm in love, too, and I was before she died. There's nothing I can do about it ...’
`Aren't you a bit young to be in love?’
`Right,' said Daniel. `Well, that's not as bad as I thought.'
`Because I thought it was something worse.’
`Worse than the terrible pain of being in love?'
`Er - no. You're right - terrible pain.’
At the same time, it was the end of the working day at Fairtrade.
Sarah was putting her make-up on when Karl came towards her from the other end of the office, passing her desk on his way out.
`Goodnight, Sarah,' he said.
Karl left. Sarah threw her hands in the air at the thought of her lost opportunity. Then her phone rang.
`Yes,' she said into the phone, `I'm free. Tell me Jamie had left London, and Katya, for his farmhouse in France. He had just arrived, and his suitcase was still in the middle of the living room. Jamie sat down at a small table and looked sadly at the old- fashioned typewriter in front of him. `Alone again,' he thought.
Later that same night, the Prime Minister showed one of his ministers out of his office. Natalie was waiting outside.
She came in with a pile of files, put them down and started to leave again.
The Prime Minister spoke. `Er.... I'm starting to feel uncomfortable. We work so closely together all the time, and I know so little about you. It seems wrong.’
`There's not much to know,' Natalie told him.
`Where do you live, for example?’
`Wandsworth. The bad part.!
'My sister lives in Wandsworth. Which, exactly, is the bad part?'
`Right at the end of the High Street,' Natalie told him. `Harris Street - near the Queen's Head pub.’
`Right, yes, that is the bad part. And you live with your husband? Boyfriend? Three lovely children ...?
'No, I've just left my boyfriend, actually, so I'm back with my mum and dad.!
'Oh, I'm sorry,' said the Prime Minister.
`No, that's fine,' said Natalie. `I'm glad he's gone.' She paused. `He said I was getting fat.!
`He said no one is going to want a girl with legs as big as mine. He wasn't a nice man, actually, in the end.’
The Prime Minister stared at her. `Right,' he said. He appeared to go back to work, then looked up again. `You know, as Prime Minister, I could have him murdered.!
'Thank you, sir - I'll think about it.!
'Do that. Trained army killers are just a phone call away.'
They looked at each other and laughed. Then she left.
The Prime Minister looked up at a picture of Margaret Thatcher on the wall. `Did you have this sort of problem?' he asked it. `You did, didn't you?’