Just as Diana was about to make her way upstairs for breakfast, her mobile rang and glancing at the number she saw that it was the manager of the hospice where she worked. That was a little puzzling, as she wasn’t due back at work until the middle of the week. She took the call anyway.
“Hello Diana, I take it that you’ve seen the news today?”
Her tone of voice was not happy.
“Um, no I haven’t yet,” said Diana. “I just got out of the shower. Is there a problem?”
“Well, your face is plastered all over the tabloids, together with your new ‘partner’, as I think they are calling him. This is not exactly good publicity for the company you know. Flaunting your love life for everyone to see. You should know better at your age.”
“I spent most of the day on Saturday publicising the company, not to mention the fact that Danny is one of the company’s major sponsors.”
Diana could feel her hackles rising and she wasn’t sure if it was the comments about Danny or the ageist remarks about herself.
“Yes, well. I’ve had couple of calls and emails this morning, complaining about your behaviour and asking for your resignation. Some of the board members consider that you have brought the company into disrepute. We won’t be asking for your notice under the circumstances. I’m sure that you don’t want to give us any further bad publicity. You need to be thinking of the people who need our support rather than your love life. I’ll put this in writing anyway. Where do you want me to send the letter?”
“You can put it in an email, then I can forward it to – to my legal representative.”
Diana put the mobile down and took a step back from it.
What to do now?
Sit down and cry?
Ask Danny to come downstairs?
She decided to square up her shoulders, and join the others for breakfast. She might cry at some point anyway, she didn’t really feel like throwing anything, and it would be better to let everyone know her situation before she signed a contract.
If they still wanted her to, that is.
She put on as brave a face as possible, especially when Danny jumped to his feet as soon as she walked out of the lift.
He wasn’t easily fooled however and took both of her hands in his.
“Have you been looking at your ex’s texts?”
“No,” Diana took a deep breath. “I’ve just been sacked. For bringing the company into disrepute.”
“Who called you?” said Mike, picking up his mobile.
“My manager – ex-manager. Says she’s had complaints about my behaviour.”
“Sit down and eat some breakfast with Danny,” said Mike. “I need to make a few calls.”
He went back into his bedroom and closed the door.
“There was a time when I’d have been on the phone bawling people out about this, but Mike is SO much better at it than me.” said Danny. “Cold as ice when he needs to be. Fruit juice? Coffee? Toast? Or just me? That’s better. I saw a little smile then. When you’ve finished your breakfast, we’ll get the contract out and go through it again until you’re happy. Can I look at your ex’s texts if I promise not to swear too much?”
Diana handed him her mobile and drank some juice. Mark buttered some toast for her and offered a choice of strawberry jam, marmalade or Marmite. Another simple, but friendly gesture that made her smile a bit more and eased some of the shock. Danny found John’s texts highly amusing and beckoned Mark over to read some of them, others he found less amusing, and provoked in him the desire to grab John by the neck and give him a good thumping. He put the mobile face down on the table, and moved his chair closer to Diana’s.
“What a prat.”
“That’s mild for you.” said Mark pouring a mug of coffee for Diana.
“Are they that bad?” she asked, feeling the dark pall of disappointment descending even further.
“Seen worse. I get the impression that he doesn’t think that his ex-wife should dare to – how does he put it? Ah yes, ‘seek attention by jumping into bed with a black third-rate ex-sportsman and has-been TV presenter’. Not that I care about his opinion, but I would guess that I probably make more in a month from my repeats than he does in a year. What does the racist sexist git do for a living anyway?”
“Insurance – he sells it – I think.” Diana stifled a giggle. “I don’t know for sure, as he was always very secretive about it – and about how much he earned. That’s why I went back to nursing once the children were older. I needed some money to buy clothes for the three of us, and other things that they needed. John was always pleading poverty whenever I asked for money.”
“Not any more. Mark is quite looking forward to helping you bend our credit card. Make sure she gets a couple of swimsuits as well, mate.”
“Swimsuits?” Diana asked.
“Indoor heated pool with jacuzzi. Isn’t that a form of relaxation? There’s the gym too. You don’t get a six-pack from watching sport on the TV. I gave myself this weekend off and thanks to you I’ve rediscovered another form of exercise that’s far more enjoyable.”
Diana blushed but couldn’t help smiling as well.
Mike came back out the bedroom laughing.
“Oh dear. Your manager has somewhat overstepped the mark, and is getting a good telling off for it. I’ve spoken to your CEO. He’s rather pleased about the publicity, says that it’s all very positive about you Diana, and the compassionate way you supported Debbie. Says he’s very proud to have you on the staff, and far from being sacked, as of now, you are on a year’s sabbatical to free you up to work with us. He hopes that you’ll be able to drum up some more funds and increase awareness about hospice care. I do think we ought to show Diana what all the fuss is about though, Mark?”
Mark picked up the sheaf of papers that he’d hidden under the table. As Mike had said, the photos weren’t that bad, although Diana could easily pick fault with any and all of them. Her smile was a constant now, and Danny, holding her very protectively, looked equally happy and not in the slightest bit like thumping anyone.
“We make rather a handsome couple, don’t we?” said Danny, shuffling through and picking out what he thought were the best pictures. The articles were a bit over the top, and as for the Florence Nightingale comparisons, Diana raised her eyebrows, and wondered how anyone could think that she had caused any damage to the hospice.
“I’m afraid that it isn’t your behaviour as such, it’s your association with bad boy Danny.” said Mike, moving the newspapers and handing her the contract to look at instead.
Danny put on a suitably penitent expression. Unable to resist, she put her arms around his neck, kissed him swiftly, and picked up the pen Mike was offering her.
There were three copies to sign; Mike and Danny countersigned and witnessed. There was no going back now.
“Welcome to Team Bad Boy! I’ll go and have a look at my clothes, and see what Mark needs to stock me up with. I don’t want to offend housekeeping here with your son’s tee-shirt Diana, though Jenny won’t be bothered by it at all when we get back. She and Ted have been with me almost as long as Mike. Talking of which, Ted says let him know when you and Mark are ready to go shopping.”
Pushing the now empty toast plate away from her, Diana looked imploringly at Danny, who stood up, grabbed her hand and took her into the bedroom. They sat down on the bed together and Danny took her hands in his.
“Come on. Spill the beans.”
“All I can smell is the smoke of my boats being burned. I can cope with most things, but I need to know that I’m making the right decisions for you – as well as me.”
“Come and lay down next to me. No overtures, I just think that we both need to hold onto each other for a little while. All the time you were downstairs having a shower, I was missing you. I will miss you this morning while you are out shopping, but Mike has some business that will keep me out of trouble. I am so used to seeing pictures in the papers of me snarling and shouting at people. This morning, I am all smiles, and I have a lovely lady on my arm who is worth her weight in gold – and I do not mean that in a derogatory sense! It’s about time I grew up. If Lisa hadn’t become ill when she did, I might have been able to make that change years ago, but I was too angry and too screwed up to think about anything but her. She encouraged me to go and see a shrink, but the effect was short-lived. I’d be fine for half an hour, but going home and seeing her wasting away made me feel like I was useless. Lisa fought so bravely, and I tried to be strong for her, and for myself but it was no good, and I’ve been beating myself up about it ever since. I was dragged very reluctantly to this book-signing and fundraising weekend, and I was miserable. Then you smiled at me, and it was like putting down a heavy weight. I want you to work as my PA so that you can get to know what an awkward sod I am, then if someday soon I get down on one knee to you, I’ll know that you’ve made that choice of your own free will.”
It wasn’t an easy speech to make and Diana understood this. Danny laying his soul bare, pushed her own fears out of the way, as some of his pent-up grief spilled over again. Not the body-wracking sobbing of their first night together, but silent tears that she kissed away. She grabbed another handful of tissues, mindful that her red shirt marked very easily.
“I have another solution.” said Danny, and undid some of the shirt buttons so that his face could rest against one of her breasts and his hand could cup the other. “Buy any clothes that you want, buy clothes that undo easily, buy what you feel happy and comfortable in, but whatever you do…”
“I know – don’t forget the swimsuits.”