Diana was surprised that she didn’t have a hangover the next morning, but was grateful nevertheless. The sun was shining, the TV weather forecaster promised a lovely day, and she sent up a silent prayer of thanks that she’d brought a light cotton dress with her. Her pale green linen jacket echoed the variegated shades of the delicate leaf pattern on her dress, and her two best assets were shown off by the modest, but ample décolletage. She slipped on some sandals, changed her worldly goods to a large green leather handbag that matched her outfit, picked up the wallet containing the company handouts, and went in search of breakfast and to see how Alice had fared after the previous night.
There was no sign of Alice, or her Scottish beau; his two companions greeted Diana with enthusiasm, and a wink when they mentioned that there was no response from his room this morning. Alice managed to make it down just before they finished serving breakfast, her companion was at a respectable distance, and both of them tried to make out that they’d just bumped into each other on the stairs, but the makeup smudges under Alice’s eyes, and his rumpled shirt from the night before told a different story.
A group of minibuses waited outside to ferry them to the marquee-covered grounds of the stately home. A solitary Bentley sat amongst them guarded by a uniformed chauffeur, who was casually leaning against the stone wall that circled the car park and making sure that no one touched the car. Diana peeped in at the luxurious leather upholstery as she made her way to the bus, imagining what it would be like to feel the softness against her skin. The chauffeur tipped his hat to her and smiled. She smiled back but with a tiny tinge of envy; she sighed for the second time in two days, then admonished herself for this uncustomary behaviour.
Alice and Diana struck lucky with the placement of their stall, they were near enough to the entrance to attract attention, and of more importance to both of them, they were opposite the stall where their celebrity sponsor would be signing copies of his biography. Alice applied another layer of lipstick in readiness and squirted herself with the heady smell of Poison that completely overwhelmed Diana’s more delicate scent.
Their stall was busy from the start, they were good representatives, and knew their audience, so it wasn’t until there was a lull in the proceedings that Diana finally noticed that the book signing opposite had begun. Their host looked up from his book at the very moment she caught sight of him. He smiled, and the twinkle in his eyes made her catch her breath. She looked over her shoulder at Alice to see if he was smiling at her, but no, Alice was busy with a client and the smile was all hers. She smiled back, tentatively, and was rewarded with another grin and a slightly raised eyebrow. A further influx of visitors put paid to more communication, and when she next had a chance to look up, he was gone, and the sign on the table confirmed that he would be back at two o’clock.
There was a buffet for delegates in the small marquee next door, and Diana encouraged Alice to go first, knowing that things would be slack now, and wanting to relive the reverie of that sudden smile. The peace and the daydreaming didn’t last long however as Alice soon returned with a plate of sandwiches and some fresh fruit. Diana made her way out to the refreshment marquee, not surprised to find that there was very little food left. She picked up a glass of fruit juice, and went back to join Alice who had made quick work of her sandwiches, and was in a deep conversation with her Scottish friend, who just happened to be passing by.