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Authors: Louise Wise

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BOOK: A Proper Charlie
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Definitely not while you were driving. Watch that bus!’ he yelled suddenly, and drew up his knees. ‘Bloody hell that was close. You’re a whittle-arse, Charlotte Wallis,’ he said. ‘And knowing he was there would worry you. Roundabout, Charlie,’ he said as they approached a busy traffic circle and she showed no sign of slowing. ‘Charlie, brake!’

Charlie grated the gears and slowed. ‘You try driving in platforms and a tight dress.’ She looked down at her breasts. ‘Are they still inside my bra? I keep getting funny looks from other drivers.’

Your tits are all contained, doll. And the funny looks are because of your crap driving.’

Oh, flipping ‘eck, is Middleton really going to be there?’ she asked.

Yes,’ said Sarah. She settled back in her seat. She looked across at Dean, sitting next to her. ‘Who are you?’

Andrew Ridgeley.’

No, I mean who are you going as?’

Andrew Ridgeley.’

Oh, right.’

Is Sir Donald really going to be there?’ Charlie asked again. She felt nervous. No, that was an understatement. She felt sick.

Yes,’ said Melvin.

You sure?’

Fraid, so doll.’

Oh, God.’

Lights are red, Charlie,’ he said. And when she didn’t appear to hear squealed, ‘Charlie! The lights are red!’

They arrived, and Charlie secured the steering lock and locked her car.

I’m not going to be anywhere near Sarah when Faye clocks her dress,’ said Melvin. He whistled at Charlie. ‘You look really good, doll. Loving your blonde tresses at the front.’

Charlie pulled down her dress, which had risen higher than she liked. ‘Does the dress make my bum look big?’

Not at all.’

My legs fat?’

He shook his head. ‘I said you look great.’ He linked his arm through Dean’s, and cocked his other for her. ‘Come on. I just hope Sir knows it’s going to be fancy dress, else he’s in for a shock.’

The party was well under way when they arrived. There was no sign of Faye, and none of Sir Donald Middleton either. She told herself that meeting him in a relaxed environment would be ideal, but the more she envisioned shaking his hand the more her nerves jostled for their place in her stomach.

Melvin laughed suddenly and pointed. ‘There’s Fanny!’ He was dressed sombrely in a dark suit, dark glasses and a black wig over his balding head. Charlie couldn’t begin to guess who he had come as. He came over and shook hands with Melvin, and Melvin introduced him to Dean.

Charlie slipped away while the men were talking. Mr Fanton had made it obvious he had no time for her so she didn’t see reason for small talk with him. She went to look for the other Spice Girls. Juliet AKA Posh Spice, was propping up the bar with a pint.

Hi ya,’ Charlie said as she approached.

Juliet looked at her through a drunken glaze. ‘Wasshup,’ she said, and belched.

Nice outfit,’ said Charlie.

Juliet was wearing jeans and a Manchester United football shirt. She downed her pint, and indicated to the barman for a refill. ‘Couldn’t be arsed in the end,’ she explained to Charlie. ‘Wanna drink? It’s a free bar, Middleton’s put a grand up.’

Is he here?’

She waved a hand. ‘Who knows? Who cares?’

Charlie searched the dim area looking for a suited man with grey hair. Mr Middleton wouldn’t dress up, of that she was sure. She turned back to the bar.

Coke and Malibu,’ she said to the waiting barmaid. She thought she saw an ordinarily dressed man over by the cocktail bar and glanced up in time to see a tall, but a too young figure disappear into the darkness. As Charlie tried to pull conversation out of Juliet they were joined by the ABBA women.

Christ, these trousers chafe,’ said Agnetha.
‘I couldn’t get satin, as you can properly see. They’re cord.’

Frida wore a very short dress with thigh high boots and lots of beads. ‘I made an effort,’ she said, glancing distastefully over Agnetha’s attire.

Has anyone seen Mr Middleton?’ Charlie asked. She felt someone watching her, and turned to see the same suited man she’d seen earlier look away and move towards a table.

Who’s that?’ Charlie asked, nodding over towards him. He sat on his own, nursing a small lager.

The others looked over.

Frank Sinatra?’ reckoned Juliet.

Why come dressed as someone nobody’s ever heard of?’ Frida said.

Nobody from your ignorant generation, you mean,’ a voice interjected. Ah, Faye had arrived. She was eyeing up the stranger like a lioness might Bambi. Charlie hoped the newcomer had all his shots.

And you’re so much older than the rest of us, aren’t you Faye?’ Charlie said. ‘You look, er, good,’ she said looking over her. She wore a very short schoolgirl skirt. The full Britney Spears look from her Baby One More Time video, only Britney had been dressed more demurely.

That’s not Baby Spice, is it?’

D’you think I’m stupid? I just knew she’d come as Baby.’ She jerked her head towards Sarah dancing with the Beatles. They were all ogling her legs, apart from John Lennon who was playing tonsil tennis with Amy Winehouse. ‘So I came as Britney.’

Charlie’s eyes slipped towards the man sitting alone. He cut a lonely figure; no an
figure. Charlie amended. He kept glancing at his watch as if he was there on sufferance.

By the time the buffet was declared open at ten, and with no sign of Mr Middleton, Charlie was beginning to relax. She checked her mobile: nothing. Masking her disappointment she squeezed through the scrum of hungry ‘pop’ stars, past and present, and found Melvin and Dean piling their plates.

What a surprise to see you guys around the food.’

Melvin grinned at her. He waved a sausage. ‘This food is pretty good,’ he said. ‘I reckon old Middleton had something to do with this. I think I’m going to like working for that guy.’

He seems generous,’ said Dean popping a small quiche tart into his mouth. ‘Let’s just hope it lasts until Christmas. I love a Christmas party. Ah, mistletoe, ivy, wine and Cliff.’

Charlie looked at Melvin in amusement. ‘How much has he had?’

He’s a little worse for wear,’ said Melvin. ‘I’m hoping the food will soak up some of the alcohol he’s consumed.’

Dean grinned. He winked at Mel and said, ‘Just think what you can do to me once we’re home.’

Charlie stuck her fingers in her ears. ‘La, la, la,’ she sang. ‘Too much information.’

How many times have you texted Andy Pandy today, Charl?’ Melvin asked.

She tried to look indignant. ‘Only twice.’

That’s good. I’m impressed.’ He beamed at her. ‘Seems like you’re coming to terms with it. Move on. It’s for the best. So, will you introduce yourself to Sir?’

Charlie’s eyes grew round. ‘As in, going up to him and saying ‘Hello, I’m Charlie Wallis?’ I don’t think so. Anyway, he isn’t here. Admit it, it was a rumour to wind me up.’

Melvin rolled his eyes. ‘I’ll certainly make
introductions when he gets here.’ He checked his watch. ‘It’s getting late though. I thought he’d be here by now.’

Maybe he’s changed his mind, and isn’t coming?’ Charlie said, trying not to look too delighted because Melvin was looking disappointed. She grabbed a paper plate and began to inspect the cheesy frittatas and mini chicken bagels. ‘Cheer up Mel, you’ll see him soon enough.’

But Melvin handed his plate of food to Dean. ‘I’m going to find Fanny and find out what’s going on.’

Dean moved to find a table, indicating that Charlie follow him. Feeling tension falling away from her shoulders like beans upon toast, she followed happily. They sat with Lady Gaga and Amy Winehouse who were tucking into their food with evident enjoyment.

Charlie nibbled on nachos as she watched the ‘stars’ making fools of themselves on the dance floor. Sucking salsa sauce off her fingers, she noticed the Frank Sinatra look-alike again. He was inspecting the buffet. At least he’d stopped checking his watch, Charlie thought, just as he lifted his sleeve slightly to glance at the time.

he?’ she asked almost to herself.

No good asking me,’ Dean replied. He raised a hand as he spotted Melvin in the distance.

Melvin was walking towards them with Fanny. Fanny pointed in their direction, just as Charlie stood up.

I’m going to find out,’ she said. From the corner of her eye, she noticed Fanny stop dead and clamp a hand against his forehead.

Hello Frank,’ she said.

The stranger looked at her in amazement, his eyes sliding up and down her attire in apparent horror. He pulled his face away, his cheeks flushing. ‘I, er, I, hello,’ he said. He seemed to take great pains not to look at her. ‘I wasn’t told this was a fancy dress,’ he said.

Ha, ha,’ Charlie said. ‘You’re having me on? You’re Sinatra, right?’ She stood on tip-toe. ‘Love the hair,’ she said, and ruffled it.

Frank flattened his hair.

And the dickey bow.’ Charlie touched it lightly, and said with a grin, ‘Does it spin?’

Frank cleared his throat and moved a fraction or so away from her. He said with a tightly clenched jaw, ‘No, it does not.’

I’m just trying to be friendly,’ she said, stepping towards him.

Frank backed away looking terrified. ‘I think maybe I’ve come to the wrong party.’

Charlie placed her hands on her hips, her lips pursed as she thought over his dilemma. His eyes fell on her chest then rapidly moved away as if afraid of being caught looking. Charlie wasn’t a prude and had had her fair share of men staring at her cleavage. ‘Where are you meant to be?’


The party you’re supposed to be at. This is
London Core
’s party. You know… the newspaper?’

Frank nodded. He checked his watch again. ‘Then unfortunately I’m in the correct place.’

Charlie bristled. ‘What d’you mean,
? We’re a tactile bunch; a happy, squabbly bunch of people and if you
people come in and expect us to adjust because of the takeover you’ll be disappointed!’

Er… sure.’ He looked at her; his eyes firmly on her face as the flush never resided from his cheeks. ‘I have to go, er, taxi,’ he said and disappeared into the throng of people.

Snob,’ Charlie muttered. Grabbing a handful of peanuts she moved back across the room to where the others were watching her. They’d been joined by Melvin.

Not a Spice Girl fan, I take it?’ asked Lady Gaga.

Miserable bugger,’ said Charlie. ‘Did you see the way he was looking at me? Obviously thought he was too good to be here. I think there’s going to be a class divide if Middleton brings in his

They were all sniggering.

What?’ she demanded.

Dean jerked his head towards her breasts. One was peeking over the top of her dress where a pink nipple was just visible.

Oh my God!’ Charlie covered her breasts, then began to poke the offending one back down into her dress. ‘Oh my God,’ she said again as the others broke into hysterical laughter.




en flung his jacket over the back of a chair, and pulled off his bow tie. He hadn’t wanted to be at the party, and as he’d suspected it had been a disaster from the word go.

He loosened his shirt collar. He only stayed a couple of hours at
London Core
’s pop ‘ball’.
, that was a joke. It had just been an excuse for a boozy night out. And why the hell wasn’t he informed it was a fancy dress? Not that he would have dressed up, but it would have prepared him for the sight that greeted him on his arrival. Thankfully, he didn’t broadcast his appearance, and just slipped quietly in and away again.

He stripped off completely and pulled on a pair of swimming trunks. Grabbing a towel from his en-suite bathroom he was about to head down to the indoor swimming pool when his reflection stopped him. Being mistaken for Frank Sinatra could have been worse, he supposed. Maybe his hair was a little old fashioned, but he was well built. His muscles, sculptured from boxing lessons he’d been forced into as a boy, had filled out his body. His nose, which had been broken in his first fight at the age of thirteen, was clear evidence of his once forced boyhood activity.

Grunting, he left the en-suite. It was midnight, but he wouldn’t be able to sleep. At the pool he flung his towel on a lounger and dived in. Surfacing, he began to do lengths, trying to burn off the years of resentment at being the dutiful son.

BOOK: A Proper Charlie
13.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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