Days Like These – Part 1








Monday 12th December
1 pm
St Angela’s Academy for Young Ladies
The Refectory


“So how much are you looking forward to the weekend,” Doc said as she sat with Pepsi.


“I’m looking forward to it,” Pepsi said with a smile, but next week – ah. Next week…”


“And what had got her so happy,” Bobbi said as she and Nikki sat down.


“As I understand it,” Ama said with a smile, “it may be because she discovered yesterday that she and the family will spend Christmas at Orford with Mandy and the family.”


“Oh yeah,” Bobbi said with a smile, “Mom and Dad told me last night we would be seeing them on the day after Christmas.”


“And you are managing this miracle how?” Doc said as she looked over.


“Because we’re spending the holiday season with the Leventhals, talking upcoming weddings and births,” Bobbi said with a smile, “so whatever you’re planning for your birthday, Ms Carlton, we must both give our apologies.”


“Yeah, well, I’m not doing anything for my birthday, not particularly,” Doc said with a smile.   Her friends looked at each other as Kylie joined them.


“What is the matter darlings – is it something on my blouse?”


“No,” Nikki said quietly, “Party Girl here is saying she is not doing anything for her birthday.”


“Because I won’t be here,” Doc said with a smile, “we’ve been invited to Chicago…”




“So we leave on Friday afternoon?”


“Yup,” Erica said as she sat with Mel, “we go to the Richmond home and set off en masse from there.  I think Jo and the others get back the day before this year.”


“So the rules are?”


“To quote Nell Rochermann, late of this parish,” Erica said with a smile, “eat, party, sleep, ski, repeat.”


“Well, it does sound fun,” Mel said with a smile, “and then the holidays, for which it’s the family gathering.”


“It’s a pity you won’t be here for the New Year’s gathering – but you deserve the break,” Erica said with a smile.  “Listen – you going to be okay for Wednesday?”


“Yeah, don’t worry – it’s your mom’s big day, after all.”


“Oh yes it is – and I could not be prouder of her,” Erica said with a grin.




“So what will you be doing for the holidays, Annie?” Sarah asked as they sat in the teacher’s lounge.


“Family gathering at Juliette’s apartment,” Annie said as she held her mug, “with the usual Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties.”


“Oh yeah – and I hear this year it is New Year’s at Willy and Natalie’s place?”


“Indeed – it should be quite a party,” Helen said as she joined them, “and this year we’re going to be a party here as well.”


“Well, I think you are going to have a good Christmas,” Annie said with a smile…




7 pm GMT
Benenden School




The young Russian girl looked over to the room of her door, and smiled as she saw Katherine Mahan-Gaunt, Eve Gaunt and Liz Cuthbertson standing there.


“I take it you have all settled again – if only for a week,” she said as she put her pen down.


“Forget us,” Liz said as they came in, “what about you?  Are you all right?”


“Strangely – yes,” Olga said as she stood up.  “I was terrified – don’t get me wrong – but if a result is my mother and father at least talking to each other, it was worth it.”


“But are you all right?”


“I only have one regret – I have no idea who it was who rescued me and brought me back to my parents.  I would want to thank them, if I had the opportunity.”


“You never saw them?”


“I was blindfolded – they told me to keep it on until I was back in the hotel, and I did.  The first person I saw was Mrs Gresham-Fox.  Where is she anyway?”


“She said she had some business in London with her husband before she came back to the school,” Kit said.  “Anyway – we’re going to the common room.  Someone found a copy of Love Actually – interested?”


“Why not – I need to do something mindless tonight.  Got some popcorn?”


“We’ll get some on the way…”





“And that concludes my report,” Angela Gresham-Fox said as she sat at the conference table, “Olga Marakova was returned by persons unknown to the hotel, and reunited with her parents, while Boronov was found dead in his suite by the housekeeping staff the next morning.”


She looked at Kay Cornwall as the grey-haired man tapped his pen against his cheek.


“So Shakespeare is still active?”


“Their cover is intact,” Kay said quietly.  “I think the death of Boronov was sufficient to end any questions about them.”


“And removed a stain on our world,” the man said quietly.  “Very well – thank you, Captain Gresham-Fox.  You may return to your duties in the morning – good work.”


“Thank you Sir,” Angela said as she and Kay stood up, waiting until he had left the room before they looked at each other.




“Oh yes – and a word, Commander,” Angela said as they made their way to her office, Angela waiting as Kay poured two whiskeys and handed one to her.


“Those who have gone.”


Angela raised her glass in salute before she said “okay, Kay – who the hell rescued Olga Marakova and returned her to the hotel?”


“Are you sure you really want to know?”


Angela nodded as Kay sat back, and said “Silent Death, The Mongoose, The Swan and the Silk Spectre.”


“The…  But they…”  Angela slowly sat down, and looked at Kay as she whispered “Boronov had upset them?”


“I don’t know,” Kay said quietly, “they are not only operatives of the Honoured Fathers.  They are also Sisters of Maisha.”


“Good lord,” Angela said as she sat down.  “I talked to Jo and Cassie, and they told me some of the story – but the reach of these Sisters is truly that global?”


“Oh yes,” Kay said quietly, “it is that global, and they have contacts everywhere.  You must have heard word of them in the wind.”


“Yes, but…  You’re a sister?”


“As are Captains Frost and Craig, and many other highly placed intelligence operatives – but we only come into play when nobody else can solve the issue.  Which is why I wanted to have a quiet word with you, Angela.”


Kay pressed a button on her desk, before she said “I am a sister, and in consultation with the senior leaders, I have been asked to offer the hand of sisterhood to you.  The reports of the role you played over the weekend has reached their ears, and they were impressed.”


“And what if their work contravenes our rules of engagement?”


“Truthfully?  They only tend to get involved when the rules of engagement do not apply.  I have told you I play a role, as did others at the weekend – will you join us?”



4 pm
St Angela’s


 “So we are into our last week,” Wilhelmina Tennant said as Kate Hardistay and Grace Brand sat in her office, “and I must admit, I am looking forward to a quiet week?”


“Indeed,” Kate said with a smile, “and we have our usual drinks party on Friday.”


“Well, before we start,” Wilhelmina said as she handed them each a sherry, “there is something I need to discuss with you.  As you know, we’ve had a team clearing some of the cellar space out, prior to the remedial work that is going to be carried out over the vacation.”


“I thought it was mostly out of date books and materials down there,” Kate said with a smile.


“Well, yes, it was – but the foreman brought me something they found,” Wilhelmina said as she walked to her desk, and brought over a red tube, with gold edging on the ends.


“That looks like one of our commencement tubes,” Grace said as she took the tube and looked at it, “but it’s old.  Why did he bring it to you?”


“Open it – you need to see what is inside.”


Kate and Grace looked at each other, before Grace removed the top, and took out a yellowed roll of parchment.  As she unrolled it, she read it and whispered “oh my god – is this…”


“It is – the question is, what do we do about it?”



7.30 pm
The Richmond Mansion


“Sands, do you have a minute?”


“Sure mom,” the thirteen-year-old said as she turned from her work table, Sandy closing the door as she came in, “what’s up?”


“I need to talk to you about Christmas Eve,” Sandy said as she sat on the bed, “we want to invite Tommy and Holly – and I need to know if you’re going to be happy about that.”


“Happy – not really,” Sands said as she looked at her mother, “but I can cope with it for one night.  That must be why Hols asked me to come round to the apartment tomorrow night – to talk things over.”


“It could be – but you’re not going to cause any scenes?”


“No – I’m not going to cause any scenes, Mom,” Sands said as she rolled her eyes.


“Thanks – so, looking forward to the holidays?”


“In a way – any clues as to what I’m getting?”


“Nope – not a one…”



Park Avenue


“Thank you,” Maisha said as Penny came into the apartment, “I will let her know Helen.”


“She’s arrived back safely?”


“Her, Catherine and Beverley,” Maisha said as she put the telephone down.  “She says to let you know she is looking forward to spending Christmas with you in your home.”


“Good,” Penny said with a smile, “so what have you been doing today, Maisha?”


“Revising for this examination that Agnes wishes me to undertake in January.”


“Oh yeah – the requirement for a qualification in English and Maths?”


“Indeed – a necessary evil, as she put it.  I spoke to her after she had arrived home today – Laura and Miley apparently went straight to bed when they got back to her apartment, and Donald is in Paris for the next two weeks.”


“The busy life of a diplomat,” Penny said as she walked to the kitchen, Maisha following her.  “You are still free to come into the office tomorrow.”


“Indeed – I also have an appointment tomorrow to purchase some things for the weekend – ski suits and boots, things like that.”


“First time on the slopes?”


“Indeed – although Kylie did indicate she and Marina would be willing to show me, as she put it, the delights of snowboarding.”


“Well, you will not be the only one, at any rate,” Penny said with a smile.  “So, what do you fancy for supper tonight?”


“I did manage to get some tuna steaks today.”






The de Ros Mansion


“Honestly, it’s not a problem,” Natalia said as Alain waved his hands in the air.  “We are more than happy to hold the party in our home – give Shirley and John the night off, as it were.”


“Well, Edith has already indicated she is more than happy to help,” Diana said with a smile as she let Alain hold her finger.


“And will Henri be accompanying you?”


“Now why do you ask that,” Diana said as she looked at her sister in law.


“Because, Dearest Diana, I want him to come.  I am intrigued by this figure from your past.”


Diana just shook her head as Alain looked at her, and smiled.  “So the creche?” she said to change the subject. 


“Orlagh has arranged for an agency to take charge – they will keep everyone from Judith and Jennifer to Rudi and Mags safe and happy, allowing the parents to have fun downstairs.”


“Well, it seems fair enough,” Diana said with a smile, “and, as it happens, Henri is in the city at that time, so he may drop in, if invited.”




Diana looked at Natalia, and said quietly “has my nephew’s namesake been talking to you?”


“No comment.”


Tuesday 13th December
8 am GMT
Bayswater Road


“Well now – feel a bit more awake this morning,” Agnes said as she joined Laura and Miley at the breakfast table, both of them wearing jumpers and the Sharamel jeans.


“Yes, thanks Mum,” Miley said as she swallowed some cereal, “so you will be in the office all day?”


“Sadly yes – Sue tells me there are important matters to discuss this morning, and I have a meeting at Shirley’s workplace this afternoon with Charlotte.”


“Miley and I are going into the school this morning,” Laura said as she sipped her tea, “and then we’re going to shop for some presents.”


“Oh – for who?”


“Frances, Kit – and a few others,” Laura said as she winked at her little sister.


“Well, if you make your way to Aldgate when you’re done, I can let them know to let you wait for me there,” Agnes said as she sipped her coffee.


“Thanks Mum,” Miley said with a smile.  “We promise, we won’t spend too much.”


“Or, in other words,” Laura said, “Can you let us have some money please?”


Agnes shook her head, and smiled as she said “of course you can – so long as you promise me not to go to Harrods or F&M…”


“We promise,” Laura giggled as the two girls looked at each other.


“Right then – Tippy Toes, what do you think you are doing?”


The girls looked at the cat as she slinked round Aggie’s legs, and then looked at them before she moved to her basket.


“Is she all right?”


“I think so…”




10 am
Nelson Automotive Testing


“Come in!”


“You wanted to see me Boss,” Denice said as she came into Ian Nelson’s office.


“Yeah, I did,” Ian said with a smile, “have a seat, Denice.”


“Okay,” she said as she slowly sat down, looking at the head of the company.  “What do you want to talk about?”


“You, Denice,” Ian said as he took a file from his drawer and put it down in front of him.  “Firstly, to wish you good luck and to congratulate you for tomorrow.”


“Thanks,” Denice said as she blushed, “I genuinely never thought this day would come.”


“Yeah, well, we’re all proud of you – even your supervisor, although she may not show it,” Ian said as he looked at Denice, “but you may remember when you accepted this job, I said when you graduated, we would have a discussion around which pool you would fit into.”


“I do,” Denice said quietly, “and I’d love to hear your thoughts.”


“Well, I have reviewed your progress, and also had a long chat with Henri and Clint,” Ian said, “So, here are my thoughts.


“I want you to read this new contract, and if you are happy sign it.  It offers you a position as an engineer in our development labs, starting in the new year.”


Denice picked up the file and looked at it, before saying “Ian, this is…”


“No more than you deserve – and it means you’re not caught between the groups anymore.  So?”


“I accept,” Denice said as she picked a pen up and signed it.  Handing it back to Ian, she said “so I am on notice for the secretarial pool?”


“As of tomorrow – welcome to your true home…”


1 pm
Complete Style




“You called, Boss,” Tricia said as she walked in.  The assistant was wearing a black jumper under a white blouse, black slacks and ankle boots.


“Alexis still in conference with Hong Kong?”


“I’m afraid so – nothing serious, just catching up on what happened last week.”  Tricia sat down as she said “So what do you need Juliette?”, her pen and pad in her hand.


“Okay – did you manage to arrange the present for delivery tomorrow night?!”


“I did – to Sandy Richmond’s home?”


“Good – so what else is in my diary for this afternoon?”


“Editorial meetings – and I need to remind you of Thursday morning.”


“How could I forget…”  Juliette smiled and shook her head as Alexis came in.


“Sorry I’m late, boss,” she said with a smile, “Merlin wants to see you if you have some time?”


“Tell her I’ll be down at four – I want to see Kylie anyway about something…”


6 pm
West Central Park


As Kylie approached the entrance to the apartment block, she heard a call of “KYLIE!  Hold up a minute.”


Stopping and turning her head, she smiled as she said “Katherine, darling – and what can I do for you this beautiful day?”


Katherine Carter smiled as she joined the teenager.  “I’m glad I caught you – do you happen to know your plans for Christmas Day yet?”


“I do not believe we have any specific plans – Susan and Clint are taking April to California as usual, but Marina’s presence is required at Complete Style, so we are in residence instead.”


“Good,” Katherine said with a smile, “so you can join us on the day.”


“That is a most generous offer,” Kylie said as they both walked in, and nodded to the concierge, “allow me to talk to Marina, and I will let you know in the morning.”


“Good – so what are you doing tonight?”


“An appraisal of Byron to complete for school – and then a relaxing evening listening to some music…”




Wednesday 14th December
10 am
Columbia University Campus


“Well, we’re here now,” Mary Thomas said as she walked into the large hall with Erica.  The Welsh woman was wearing a dark jacket over a blue dress, with baggy black boots, while Erica was wearing a grey trouser suit with a white blouse underneath,


“Yeah – and this really is a day I never thought at one time we would see,” Erica said as she sat down, others joining them.  “Mom must be as nervous as anything.”


“Ai, but she has earned this,” Mary said quietly as music started to play.  “I’m just glad you were allowed the day off to be here.”


“Aunt Grace insisted on it,” Erica said with a grin as more and more people came into the room, and then a voice called out “will you please stand.”  As they did, they saw a group of people come into the hallway and take their seats at the front.  They were all smartly dressed, and wore academic robes as well as mortar boards, tassels hanging down the side.


Erica grinned as she recognised one of the more nervous ones, looking round the room.




“Tracey,” Erica said with a smile as the young woman sat next to her, “I thought you had flown back after the wedding.”


“I got permission to stay for this – no way I was missing this occasion,” she said as others walked in.


As the last of them took their seat, a second parade of people came in, all also wearing academic robes of differing colours and styles, some with caps and some without.  As they sat, the rest of the audience sat, as one of them came to the dais.


“Welcome,” he said, “to our Winter Commencement.  We start with Arts….”



“Denice Crosby!”


Erica, Mary and Tracey clapped, beaming as Denice walked forward, the black robes over a grey jersey dress, and took the diploma, smiling as she shook the hand of the Dean and then walked back to join her fellow students.  Denice let out a sigh of relief as the man next to her said “well done – so what happens for you next?”


“Back to work – and a new position in the firm I work for,” Denice whispered back before she applauded the next person to walk up.



Eventually, the ceremony ended, Denice smiling widely as she walked to where Mary, Tracey and Erica were waiting.


“Congratulations,” Tracy said as she hugged her friend, “nobody deserves this more than you.”


“Well, we both deserve it,” Denice said as she hugged Erica.  “Tracy, can you do me a favour?”


“Sure – what?”


“Take a picture of the three of us.”


“Oh no, lass,” Mary said as she shook her head, “this is your day.”


“Mary, you’re the closest thing I have to a mum,” Denice said with a smile, “no way are you staying out of this one.”


“Come on Aunt Mary,” Erica said as she beckoned the older woman over, “please?”


“Ai – all right,” Mary said as she stood to one side of Denice, Erica standing on the other side as Tracey took a photo with her camera.


“So what are you doing to celebrate,” Tracy asked as she put her camera away.


“Nice quiet meal with friends…”



Central Park


“I’ll let you off this once,” Heather said as she stood at the Hot Dog stand with Juliette, “because the caterers are in situ at the house.  So, are we a go?”


“I think so,” Juliette said as she walked with her friend to the eating area, “it was fortunate the boat stayed an extra month, but yes – we can go next Monday night is everyone is in agreement.  We’ll meet tomorrow once the girls are back, and we can do final briefing over the weekend.”


“Just the core team?”


“Agreed – I understand Adam and Jan have things to talk about this weekend, which is why Katy is going with you.”


Thursday 15th December
8 am Local Time


“Good Morning, Mrs Hammond.”


“Good Morning Mister Hammond,” Shirley said as she walked out, a short wrap round her body as she smiled, “is that coffee fresh?”


“Just delivered,” John said as he poured her a cup, Shirley sitting down and looking over the sea as he did so.  “How are you feeling?”


“Content – a truly inspired choice of venue, John, as I will keep saying.”  She accepted the cup and took a drink, before she said “any interesting news?”


“No idea,” John said with a smile, “I’m not looking, and neither are you.  Maisha did send a note to say she is enjoying the down time, and is making sure everything is ready for our return.”


“And she is joining the ski group this weekend?”


“Indeed – she said it was going to be a new experience for her.”  Taking a sip from his cup, John said “but I did get confirmation our graduation gift for Denice had arrived.”






Wednesday 14th December
7 pm
The Richmond Mansion

As Heather opened the door, she smiled as she saw Denice and Mary standing there, before she stood to the side and said “come on in – so how was today Denice?”


“A day I never truly thought I would see,” Denice said as Heather took their coats, “but thank you for inviting us to dinner – Erica and Mel were going to eat with Kylie tonight.”


“It’s our pleasure,” Heather said, “why don’t you go through to the drawing room – dinner should be ready shortly.”


“Ai – come on,” Mary said as she took Denice by one arm, Heather taking the other after she hung their coats up before they walked into the drawing room.




Denice could only look round the room silently as her friends applauded, Mary coming over and hugging her before she said “tonight is your night lass – so no arguing, we all sit down and celebrate with you.  Understood?”


She saw the tear in Denice’s eye, as she said quietly “Ai – have a drink, and then we can go in.  Chef Auguste has prepared a special menu for all of us…”


“Chef…  I don’t deserve…”


“Don’t you dare,” Heather said as she handed Denice a glass of champagne, “just accept it…”




Upper West Side


“Chef Auguste?  She is truly blessed darling,” Kylie said with a smile as she placed the casserole dish on the table, “but I am as blessed by you joining me here.  I trust it was a good ceremony?”


“Very moving,” Tracey said with a smile.  “And thanks for inviting me along as well.  Where is Marina tonight?”


“A late meeting with her Australian colleagues.  Please, help yourself,” Kylie said as she sat and carefully placed her napkin on her lap, waiting as Tracey took a potato from the dish and handed it round.  “So you fly back tomorrow, Tracey?”


“I do indeed – back to the grindstone of Special Projects,” the young Bajun woman said with a smile.  “Lily probably has something up her sleeve, especially with Louise heading back to California for the holidays.”


“I had heard Rhenia was heading back as well – it is important that family are together for Christmas.  My own mother is going for a weekend away with Aunt Kerry, Rose and Maeve.”


“If you had told me a year ago the four of them would agree to a weekend away, never mind a dry weekend after Christmas.”


Kylie smiled as she said “a year ago, I was totally unaware of what was coming – but we take what comes, and we use it to the best of our advantage.  Just ask Beverley, no?”


“Yeah – when you put it like that…”




9 pm
The Richmond Mansion


As Juliette stood up and tapped on the side of her glass, the room fell silent while Denice wiped her mouth.


“Well, we are here today to congratulate one of us, who has finally fulfilled her dream of completing her degree – and to wish her good luck in her career as she moves to where she truly wants to be.  Ladies, I ask you to raise your glass and join me in a toast.




“DENICE!”  She blushed as all the women present raised a glass, and then applauded her as they sat down.  Shaking her head, Denice stood up and said “well – I have to admit, as a way to celebrate getting my degree, this is far mor civilised than the keg party that might have happened once.


“But I want to thank you all for being here, and for the gift – Juliette, where the heck did you get the Engineer’s manual for the ferry?”


“I have my sources,” Juliette said with a smile as Mary Thomas looked away.


“Still – this feels like the end of a journey that started last year, and I want to thank each and everyone of you for being on that road with me and Erica.  Which just leaves one question in my mind.


“Where do we go to party the night away?”


Thursday 16th December
12.30 pm GMT
Inns of Court


“Agnes McAdam on line one for you,” the clerk said as she looked round the door of Catriona Cuthbertson’s chambers.


“Thank you,” Cat said as she picked up the handset.  “Agnes – how do I find you this fine day?”


“Busy – but I hear you have one burden finally off your plate.”


“Oh yes – the people in charge finally saw sense,” Cat laughed as she looked at the paper on her desk.


"So in the end that whole long affair ended with a whimper Cat?"


"Much to old Nutcase's chagrin," Catriona laughed as she swapped the phone to her other hand. "I think the crown realised that all that evidence was doing was creating a perfect cure for insomnia, it was going nowhere, it was proving nothing..."


"So they were forced to eat humble pie and withdraw the prosecution?"


"That about sums it up darling."


"Anyway,” she heard Agnes say, “the real reason I phoned, what are you and Liz doing for Christmas?"


"We are going to Melhorn,” Cat said as she sat back, “Elizabeth asked me after I'd had a drink too many celebrating the end of the trial."


"Okay," Agnes laughed, "I was going to say if it was just the two of you come join us."


"Thanks, but no we had several offers of places to go."


“Listen – are you going to stay up there for Hogmanay?”


“Probably – why?”


“Come over – Donald and I are taking the girls to Ardray, to both have a proper New Year, and to finalize some things for the 25th of January.”


“Sounds fun…”



The Inn on the Park


Heather looked up and smiled as she saw the blonde woman walking over, wearing the fur lined jacket over a jumper and slacks.


“Krystle – I’m glad you could make it for lunch,” she said with a smile.


“Glad I could get time to come as well,” Krystle Ernst said with a smile as she joined her friend.


"So how is life," Heather asked as she kissed Krys on the cheek.


“Well other than the fact I just had to turn down a week shooting in Paris because Tommy has a paper to write...Not bad."


"I heard Missy was not too happy about that," Heather said with a smile as the waiter brought some wine over.


"No she wasn't,” Krys said as she looked over the menu, “but it's hardly like I could tell her the real reason is it?"


"Why do I sense life is starting to get complicated?"


"Because it is," Krys laughed lightly a sshe sat back.  “I had to let Holly down gently as well, but I’m sure she found a way to pass the time.”

"Juliette said that the shoot with Mary Clarke for CS went well though."


"Well Merlin seemed more than pleased. I also heard the book covers I did have attracted a lot of attention.  So in many ways,” she said as she stretched her legs out, “life is good if complicated."


"What excuse did Tommy use for being away for three days?"


"That he wanted to go to a bio-chemistry conference in Albany."


"Three days in Albany in December versus three days in Bermuda," Heather giggled, "I personally think you made the right choice."


"I just dread the day when there isn't an event like that to cover my tracks."


“Well, what is happening for Christmas?”


“Krystle Ernst is heading north for the season – so please accept my apologies for not coming to your Christmas Eve party.  Tommy, on the other hand, will be glad to come, as will Holly.”


“How are things between you two now?”


“We’re – getting there,” Krys whispered, “she hasn’t said anything to you?”


“About you?  No – Sands doesn’t say much either, except she will behave herself at the party.”




1.30 pm
Sacred Heart


“You know with your makeup done that way Britt you look an awful lot like that new model Krys Ernst you know?" Matilda Urqhart assessed her friend while they got their books for their next class.


"Well Mom commented that I've got a similar bone structure to hers," Britt Boynton smiled, "so I thought I'd try to do my makeup her way.  It does suit me, doesn’t it?"


"I’ll say – in fact, you could almost be sisters."


"I wish,” Britt said as she closed her locker door, “but I'm stuck with my damn sister."


"Did you see the adverts she's in for Mexala in the Times?" Elphine Crook asked.


"Yeah I cut them out and put them in my scrapbook."


"Well maybe you'll end up modelling as well?"


"With my father? The man who thinks a B average is failure," Britt shook her head. "No way he'd ever approve of any of us having anything other than an academic career."


“So what are you doing for Christmas?”


“Same thing we do every year, I guess – listen, I need to go to the bookstore after school.  Anyone want to come with me?”



Complete Style




Juliette looked to the door where Alexis was standing.


“Private call on line 1 – from Phuket?”


“Phuket?  So that’s where she ended up,” Juliette said to herself, “put it through Alexis.”  She waited for the phone to ring and then picked up the handset as she said “So, it was Suitcase A?”


“Indeed,” the deep and warming voice said “not a drop of snow in sight.”


"So how is the honeymoon going Lady Hammond?" Juliette laughed as she cradled the phone.


"None of your business Princess," the voice at the other end giggled.


"That good eh?"


"It's been fabulous Ju.  John is sleeping at the moment, but I wanted to feel the night air on my face."


"Well I'm happy for you both,” Juliette said quietly, “but if it's that great why ring?"


"Well,” Shirley said as Juliette heard the sound of waves lapping on sand, “I just wanted to check that things had settled down since the wedding."


"They are starting to," Juliette eased herself up onto one of the kitchen bar stools, "and I know Maisha is looking forward to tomorrow, but a few things still need to be properly fixed."


"Like what?"


"Well, Yuri, Tatiana, and Olga for one."


“Ah – indeed, I did hear about what happened after we had left.  I was wondering what, if any, sanction I should apply to my Russian friends.”


“While I can understand why,” Juliette said quietly, “from what I understand of the steps taken, the powers that be are presenting the line that Byushin had gone rogue, and was the source of the leaks to Western authorities.”


“But he was not, was he?”


“I cannot confirm or deny that,” Juliette said with a smile, “but you will hear on your return.”


“Indeed – so returning to the question you posed, I thought that was all sweetness and light now?"


"Oh they are trying," Juliette sighed, "but at best the future looks like a messy compromise. Olga certainly can't quite work out why her parents aren't remarrying, and living together as a happy family in London."


"She's 17,” Shirley chuckled, “at her age life 'should' look simple to fix."


"It's only when you get to our age that you know that it isn't."


"Yes, after reality has buffeted you as many times as it did us, you learn better."


"Shouldn't that be you learn worse?"


"Point taken Ju." Shirley paused  a second, "so is there anything that I should really be worrying about?"


“Not really – enjoy your time away would be my advice.  I don’t think we can do anything…”







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