Bing was a little girl her grand plan in life was to have blue eyes and blonde
Long blonde hair
down to her waist and the kind of baby blue eyes that made a girl able to get
away with anything. And to be a fairy princess with wings. And with braces
on her teeth and divorced parents as all the kids at school had them. Oh, and
she’d wanted a hot pink car.
Not too much to
Instead, her hair
had grown in thick, wavy, and dark, and after six months in her late teens
when she’d fulfilled her lifelong dream of being blonde, she’d realised she’d
looked like a fruitcake and gone back to her natural brunette. Alas her eyes
had also remained muddy brown from the moment she was born and she’d had to
learn find other ways to get what she wanted.
The wings had
never appeared. In fact she’d soon discovered she was allergic to flying – if
nausea, sweating palms, shortness of breath could be classed as signs of an
allergy. Funnily enough mangoes, apricots and tall dark handsome men who saw
her as the answer to all their connubial dreams produced the same symptoms.
Hence the fact that she as yet remained prince-free making the princess dream
also null and void.
Her teeth had
grown in spectacularly well, unfortunately without help of braces. And as
she’d been a happy accident, a late and only child of Don and Phyllis Bing
who’d been about to hit their fifties at the time she was born and by that
stage had been married thirty years already, her parents had never divorced.
Instead her father had died of a heart attack while Veronica was still in high
school and her mother had taken her time passing away from a broken heart.
Though the medicos had claimed it was Alzheimer’s, Veronica had left
University to care for her mum and thus knew better.
And as to the hot
pink car? Well, one out of seven ain’t bad!
backstreets of elegant inner-east Melbourne in her very hot, very pink, very
expensive to maintain corvette, Veronica slipped down a gear, slowed, pushed
her sunnies onto her forehead, and made sure she was in the right place before
curving neatly and noisily onto High Street, Armadale.
Her dark hair
flapped about her ears as she trundled at a snail's pace behind a tram.
Together they passed historic shopfronts, antique stores, upmarket boutiques,
and art galleries nestled comfortably next to one another along the elegant
oak lined street. Four wheel drives lined up nose to tail with German made
luxury cars and the people stepping in and out of them all looked like they’d
just come from the salon via a shopping trip in Milan.
‘You sure ain’t
on the Gold Coast anymore, Ms Bing,’ Veronica said out loud, before sliding
her sunglasses back into place.
The tram creaked
to a stop, and so did her ‘vette. Veronica let her head fall against the
headrest and looked up into the bright blue sky. A web of tram cables
glittered over her head and she had to blink against the bright sunlight
flickering through the wide gaps.
She sniffed deep,
letting the sights and sounds of Melbourne, the town in which she’d been born,
come back to her after a good six years away. She wondered how it would treat
her return: with wide open arms, or with a cliquish turn of its graceful head?
She hoped the
former because the job she was in town to interview for – in house auctioneer
for an established and esteemed art gallery - sounded just perfect. It was
temporary, it was immediate. and it meant working with a close friend she
hadn’t seen in yonks. And super especially it was located at the other
end of the country from her last job. And thus her last boss.
Thoughts of her
middle of the day before dash from Queensland with nothing but a suitcase and
her car, and the exultant resignation message she’d left on Geoffrey’s
answering machine, made her next breath in a tad shaky. But not because she
was worried; because she was free.
So what if she
was jobless and homeless? So what if this job opportunity Kristin had
mentioned in passing on the phone the week prior was the only opportunity
currently on her horizon? So what if her next car payment was due in less
than a week and her bank balance was laughable?
She caught her
reflection in the rear vision mirror and checked her lipstick. ‘No pressure,’
she said, a wry smile tugging at the corner of her mouth.
The tram heaved
to a start. Veronica saw her chance to slip past while the cumbersome trolley
slowly got up to speed, then she purred off down the road on the lookout for
what Kristin had described as a two-storey red brick building, the façade of
which was reminiscent of an old fire station - one Hanover House Art and
paced behind the oversized reception desk of stately Hanover House, the
enduring antique and art auction business his family had owned for five
‘So what is the
time?’ his assistant Kristin asked.
He looked up
from the watch he’d been staring at for the past thirty odd seconds and stared
through the large arched front windows to the street outside. ‘It’s late.
She’s late. I thought you told me this friend of yours was a pro.’
her hip against the edge of the desk and glowered at him. ‘I said she was the
answer to all your dreams. If you saw “pro” in that then who am I to argue?’
He growled at the
back of his throat, and then gave up when he remembered who he was talking
to. ‘You do realise she’s my last interview, do you not? We are going to
have to pick someone for the post by the end of today or next week’s pre-show
will have to be cancelled.’
He didn’t need to
add that if the pre-show was cancelled the show itself would soon follow. And
after that would fall the business itself. Everyone in the building knew it.
Knew it, dreaded it, yet somehow expected it.
imperturbable as always, grinned. ‘Don’t panic, Mitch. She’s perfect. So
perfect that within the hour you’ll be eating humble pie. You just wait and
He narrowed his
eyes, his hogwash radar prickling feverishly in the back of his head until it
resulted in a headache.
distract himself, he picked up and began playing with an ancient fountain pen
that looked like it had seen better days. Better centuries in fact. Why
people liked collecting relics of the past he had no idea. The future was his
He put the pen
back where he found it.
frowning,’ Kristin said. ‘Unfair as it is, on the whole men age far better
than women, but that doesn’t mean you want to hurry the process.’
‘Has it ever
occurred to you that I only frown when you’re in the room?’
‘Never. You need
a massage. Or a week off. Ever been camping? Communing with nature can be
very relaxing. No? Then how about dinner with someone who can string a
sentence together without prefacing every other word with an “um”. Serial
dating walking clichés will age you even more than frowning overly much ever
could. I read that somewhere recently.’
‘Maybe you’re the
one who ought to be looking for a new job,’ he said with the kind of
humourless smile that usually sent his minions running to their desks in fear.
blinked. ‘Why on earth would I do that?’
Mitch gave up and
ran a hand over his forehead, surprised to find just how deep the furrows in
fact were. ‘When’s my next appointment in the city?’
Kristin poked at
some buttons on her Blackberry. Her eyes widened a tad, but when she looked
back to him she was the picture of innocence. ‘You have plenty of time.
Relax? As if he
could relax. He’d been blithe for far too long, spending years in London
greedily gobbling up emerging markets, IT, telecommunications into the Hanover
Enterprises fold and all the while Hanover House, the one time jewel in the
crown of the Hanover family business, the business his parents had poured
their hearts and souls into before retirement, had been run deep into the
ground by lapse and old-fashioned management.
He felt the
imminent failure of the foundation business like a heavy weight upon his
already overloaded shoulders. Now he was back, now he had nothing tying him
to London anymore, now he was CEO of Hanover Enterprises, he couldn’t relax
while something his parents loved so dearly up and died.
The growl of a
high end sports car split the taut silence and he glanced up to see a hot pink
corvette slip into a tiny no-parking space right in front of the gallery.
‘Idiot,’ he said
beneath his breath, the expulsion of the word relieving a very little of his
stress. The council were so hot in this part of town the guy’d be towed
within the hour. He knew well enough. It had happened to him twice.
The engine cut
off, leaving the blare of some god-awful eighties party track pulsating
through the gallery windows before that too shut off leaving the room filled
with its usual musty silence.
made an excited squeak and pushed past him as she ran outside. She hit the
corvette and leaned in so far to hug the occupant her feet came off the ground
and Mitch had to avert his gaze so as not to see if her stockings were full or
held up by suspenders.
Then it hit him.
The idiot driver had to be Veronica Bing. His final interview. Naturally.
It was some time since he’d decided God enjoyed punishing him. And longer
still since he’d known why. His brow furrowing hit epic proportions.
He took in a deep
breath. He’d interview the woman, he’d hire one of he three other perfectly
adequate candidates, and then he’d take delight in informing Kristin her
Christmas bonus this year was going to be a canned ham.
feet fluttered back to the ground Mitch moved so that he could get a better
look at the kind of person Kristin - a woman he’d until this moment trusted
with his Christmas shopping, his travel packing, and with ordering just the
right kind of flowers with which to say ‘it’s been lovely knowing you but...’
- supposed might be the answer to all his dreams.
The answer was
tall with dark brown curls and even darker huge sunglasses covering half her
face beneath which surprisingly lush red lips stretched out into a shiny white
smile. He made out the flash of a sleeveless black t-shirt which revealed a
pair of long lean arms that had been kissed by a far kinder sun than seen in
Melbourne over the long winter. And when Kristin shook her so hard before
enveloping her in another hug he could all but hear the dozen odd black
bangles on her left wrist rattling.
Not bothering to
open the door of the low slung car she of the red lips vaulted over the side
and the soles of her boots came to a loud slap on the pavement. Black, they
were, and knee high. With the tightest pair of dark denim jeans Mitch had
ever seen tucked into them. Jeans that encased the kind of curves that would
make any half-alive man sit up and pay attention.
Mitch cricked his
neck. He was at least half-alive, and when he woke up that morning he’d had
no intention of paying such close attention to any woman, much less one he
might well be about to hire. But his eyes were riveted to the creature on the
other side of the glass lit by bright spring sunshine.