Rival Attractions & Innocent Secretary

By: Penny Jordan

Promising to visit her the following day, Charlotte was still frowning as she replaced the receiver.

Although luckily she had not as yet said anything to Sophy, Charlotte had been considering offering her a part-time job. She could do with an assistant to help her. Sophy’s twins were only three years old, but Sophy’s next-door neighbour in the small row of terraced houses where they lived was a retired school-teacher, who Charlotte suspected would be only too happy to look after the children for her for a small part of each day. It had been her intention to propose to Sophy that she made what outside visits to potential clients were necessary during the hours that Mrs Meachim looked after the twins, and that all her paperwork could then be done from home, so that she was there with the twins for the rest of the day.

At this stage she could not afford to pay Sophy a great deal, but she would train her properly and, once the twins were at school, she envisaged taking Sophy on on a more full-time basis.

Sophy was a touchy, proud girl, all too well aware that her parents had not approved of her marrying so young. As she had confided miserably to Charlotte, the only option she seemed to have was to sink her pride, sell the house and move back in with her parents who had grudgingly offered her and the twins a home. Charlotte knew quite well that if Sophy thought for one moment that she was offering her a job out of pity she wouldn’t take it. She had hoped to convince the younger girl that, with the sudden property boom, she desperately needed more help than that provided by Sheila Walsh, who ran the office for her, but now that she was facing competition from another agency Charlotte was not sure that Sophy would be so easy to deceive. She was an intelligent girl.

Tomorrow Charlotte hoped to dissuade her from putting her house on the market. She knew how much Sophy prized her independence. Her parents’ home was immaculate, and Mrs Sellars was particularly fussy about both the house and the garden. She would not enjoy having a pair of mischievous three-year-olds permanently about the place.

Sophy had said as much herself, and then added that, despite her own reluctance to accept her parents’ offer, she didn’t see that she had much alternative. She had no mortgage to pay, but no money coming in either. With what she would make on the sale of the house, she would be able to invest money for the twins’ future, and living with her parents she would have very little outgoings.

Tomorrow, hopefully, Charlotte would be able to persuade her to reconsider, knowing as she did all the doubts Sophy had about moving back with her parents.

A glance at the kitchen clock warned Charlotte that it was time for her to go upstairs and get changed.

The kitchen had changed very little over the years since her mother’s death. In fact, nothing in the house had changed. There had been times when she had tried to persuade her father to redecorate and refurnish, but he had obstinately refused to do so.

Now the house was hers, she recognised, and, looking around the bleak, dull kitchen, she acknowledged that it was no wonder she found it unappealing to come back to.

If she were selling it for someone else, she would be forced to tell the owners it had very little buyer appeal, that it might be structurally sound, waterproof and weatherproof, but that it lacked warmth, and the kind of ambience that drew prospective purchasers.

Her father hadn’t been a wealthy man, but he hadn’t been poor either. Charlotte had been a little surprised to discover how much money she had inherited, quite apart from the business. By rights she ought to sell this house and buy something much smaller, more easily run—something more suitable for a career woman who had very little time to spend on caring for her home.

She couldn’t sell it in its present unappealing state, she decided grimly, mentally comparing it to the homes of her friends. She had several friends who had performed wonders with houses initially far more unprepossessing than hers. She would have to ask their advice. She certainly didn’t have the time herself to search for fabrics and wall coverings, to engage workmen and choose fitments…

But she might have, if the new agency took too much of her business. A cold finger of apprehension seemed to touch her spine, a tiny icicle of fear. There was enough business for both of them, surely? She couldn’t let her father down by losing everything he had worked so hard for. Shrugging her disquiet aside, she headed for the stairs, making a mental decision to lose no time in seeking the help of her friends in revamping the house.

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