At Her Boss's Bidding

By: Miranda Lee

‘Yes, of course I remember her. Very blonde. Very beautiful.’

‘That’s the one. She wanted my hair red for the day. Of course, it wasn’t done like this. It was down and curled. I also had more make-up on than a supermodel on a photo shoot.’

‘I’ll bet you looked gorgeous!’

‘Hardly. But I looked OK for the occasion. And for the photographs. I’m well aware this colour red doesn’t look any good on me normally.’

‘But it might, you know, Rachel, if you wore some make-up. It’s just that against your pale skin it looks too bright. And without any colour in your face that black suit you’re wearing is too stark, by contrast. Now, if you were wearing blue,’ she added, her own blue eyes sparkling, ‘like the blue I’ve got on, and a spot of make-up, then that red hair just might be perfect.’

Rachel really wasn’t in the mood for another woman to start trying to make her over. Isabel had been bad enough on the weekend. On top of that, she was still upset over Justin ignoring her this morning.

He wouldn’t ignore her, however, if she started seriously tarting herself up. He’d think something was really up and then there would be hell to pay.

‘Alice,’ she said, slightly wearily. ‘You were the one who told me about my predecessor, that flashy, flirtatious temp your son was so relieved to eject from his office. The reason Justin gave me this job is because he likes the way I look. He likes me au naturel.’

Alice rolled her eyes. In her opinion, no man liked women au naturel, even the ones who said they did. They all liked women to doll themselves up. You only had to watch men’s eyes when a glamour-puss walked into a restaurant, or a party. Justin was simply going through a phase, a post-Mandy phase.

The trouble was, this phase was lasting far too long for her liking. It wasn’t natural. Or healthy, either, for her son’s mind or his body.

‘That boy doesn’t know what he likes any more,’ she grumbled. ‘That bitch of a wife of his certainly did a number on him. If ever I run into her again I’d like to…’

Whatever it was Alice was about to vow to do to her son’s ex-wife was cut dead when the door to Justin’s office was suddenly wrenched open, and the man of the moment appeared.

‘Mum! I thought I heard a familiar voice. What are you doing here? And what were you talking about just then? Not gossiping about me to Rachel, were you?’

Alice’s cheeks flushed but she managed not to look too guilty. ‘I never gossip,’ she threw at her son defiantly. ‘I only ever tell the truth.’

Justin laughed. ‘In that case, why are you here? And no white lies, now. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.’

Alice shrugged. ‘I came to the city early to do some shopping, didn’t see a single thing I liked and decided on the spur of the moment to pop in and take you to lunch. Rachel too, if she’d like.’

‘Oh, no, no, I can’t,’ Rachel immediately protested. ‘I have some shopping that I simply have to do.’ Namely, some brown hair dye.

‘And neither can I,’ Justin informed his mother. ‘There was some unexpected bearish rumblings on the world stock markets last night and I have to have a report ready for the powers that be here before trading ceases today. So I’ll be working through lunch. I was going to get Rachel to pop out and bring me back some sandwiches.’

‘Poor Rachel,’ Alice said. ‘I thought the days of secretaries doing that kind of menial and demeaning job were over. I dare say you have her bring you coffee twenty times a day as well. I know how much you like your coffee. What else? Does she collect your dry-cleaning too?’

Justin looked taken aback. ‘Well, yes, she has collected my dry-cleaning. Once or twice.’ His eyes grew worried as they swung towards Rachel. ‘Do you object to doing that kind of job, Rachel? You’ve never said as much.’

Rachel sighed. Of course she didn’t object. If Alice thought those jobs were menial and demeaning, let her try changing urine-soaked sheets every morning.

‘No, I don’t mind at all. Really, Alice,’ she insisted when Justin’s mother looked sceptical. ‘I don’t.’

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