All Work and No Play

By: Coleen Kwan



“Working late again?” Stephanie lamented as soon as she answered. “Anna, that’s too bad.”

“I’ll survive.” It was typical of Stephanie to call and worry over her. Stephanie was the mother hen of their group, the carer and nurturer, the designated driver.

“But you worked late all last week too. And besides, I wanted to hear all the gossip about you and Megan from New Year’s Eve.”

Last Friday, Anna and Megan had spent New Year’s Eve together, with Megan, recovering from a bad breakup, determined to kiss a new man before midnight struck. Anna had tried to help her friend by introducing her to a nice guy, and things had looked promising until Megan had suddenly dropped everything and raced across the city to be with a stranger she’d just met, something the cautious Megan would never have done before.

“Megan has a juicy story to tell you,” Anna said. “Apparently something big happened on New Year’s Eve. Last time I spoke to her, she sounded like she was still on cloud nine, though she wasn’t ready to give me the details.”

“Ooh, I’m so happy for her. She deserves something good after that douche bag of a boyfriend. And what about you? Any juicy stories?”

“No, my New Year’s Eve was very boring. I have to go now, Stephanie. Talk to you later.”

“Don’t forget to eat something healthy for dinner,” Stephanie advised her before hanging up.

Anna’s New Year’s Eve had been a disappointment. She’d gone out looking to relax and blow off some steam after the pressure cooker of work. At the back of her mind, she’d hoped to hit it off with someone, a man who could make her forget about work, about deadlines, and about Giles, if she were honest enough. She wasn’t a fan of one night stands, but in this case she’d have made an exception. One night of mindless, no-strings-attached shagging would have been perfect for getting the kinks out of her muscles. And for reminding her that there were other shagable men out there besides the maddening, debonair Giles.

But she hadn’t even come close to meeting a shagable man. In fact, the memory of Giles had somehow made every other guy out there look asexual. It was as if he’d taken all her hormones hostage and was slowly torturing them.

Stop thinking about shagging and Giles, she told herself. He was only a few metres away on the other side of the pod and seemed to have an uncanny knack of sensing her moods. She couldn’t let him sense this one.

***

“When are you coming back to London, darling?” Persephone reclined in her seat, flipping her blonde, cascading hair over one shoulder while her manicured fingers toyed with her gin and tonic.

They were in a five-star hotel overlooking the harbour with the setting sun casting a golden light over the plush lounge. Draped in expensive silk, Persephone looked right at home here, but Giles had felt vaguely uncomfortable ever since he’d sat down with her. And her question didn’t make him feel any easier.

“I don’t know,” he said honestly. “I like it here. Might stay a few years.”

Persephone put down her drink, looking disconcerted. “A few years? You can’t be serious.”

“Why not?”

“Well, I mean, the weather’s nice here, but” —she pulled a face— “it’s not London.”

Maybe that was precisely why he liked being in Australia. Here, he wasn’t weighed down by tradition and expectation and familial habits. Here, he could breathe freely, be his own man.

“And what about your family?” Persephone leaned across the table. She seemed quite worried for him. “They won’t want you so far away.”

His parents wholeheartedly approved of Persephone because she was ‘their type.’ His parents, he had to admit, were snobs, though he loved them despite that. His brothers weren’t as bad, but Giles was different from them. Always had been. He was the unacknowledged ‘grey’ sheep of the family.

“I’m not on the moon,” he pointed out. “It’s only a plane trip away from London.”

“Oh, the trip was ghastly!” She gave a shudder as her clipped tones rung out in horror.

Giles couldn’t help frowning. Was that how he sounded to Anna? All haughty and superior? No wonder she hadn’t warmed to him at first.

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