New Friends and Old

She walked home a short time later, accompanied as far as the back gate by Herne and the dogs, who were a little overdue for their afternoon run.

Once inside, she pulled out her phone and messaged Circe.

Her phone rang a minute later.

“How are things in the deepest darkest countryside?”

“They’re good. And I think I’ve made progress on at least preparing for the job hunt.”

“Good to hear, and what about your handsome and mysterious neighbour?”

“I never said he was handsome.”

“You didn’t have to.”

Calypso laughed. “Fine. He’s handsome and helpful and utterly terrified of the local real estate agent, so I’m now running interference for him in exchange for interview practice and job hunting tips.”

Circe exploded into laughter. “Oh I love it. When can you come back to Z Corp so my life is more interesting again?” Calypso didn’t have an answer to that and the silence became awkward as she tried to find something to say.

Circe sighed. “Sorry, that was stupid. Just wishful thinking on my part. Plus I just can’t imagine you outside the organisation.”

“Well you’ve only known me inside it so that’s fair enough.” Although she did wonder; after all, she had no problem picturing Circe without Z Corp.

“Anyway, I gave HR the happy news earlier today. I thought they were going to fall over. Wanted to know who the father was, I told them it was ‘need to know’ information.”

“And they absolutely ‘needed’ to know?”

“It is killing them that I won’t say. They’re convinced it’s someone from Z Corp, because apparently none of us have lives outside it, but they can’t work out who.”

“They will if any of them start applying maths. Odysseus is a little notorious after all.”

They ended the call a short time later and Calypso found herself restless. She shut down the computer, grabbed her camera and headed out, back to the folly for some photography practice.

She’d timed it well, with the afternoon light moving to the gold of early evening, gilding the crumbling stones of the folly and, when Owlbert arrived, setting his burnt orange gaze alight.

Refreshed and re-energised, Calypso returned to the cottage, Owlbert flying ahead, then circling away to greet a distant figure. Herne coming back from the dog walk, no doubt.

The photos were good, especially the ones of Owlbert. He clearly had model aspirations. She laughed, saved them and went to bed.

She spent the next morning refining the notes she’d made following Herne’s interview grilling and drafting introductory emails, then grabbed the camera again. She bumped into Herne by the back gate.

He stepped back before they actually collided. “I was just coming up to see you. Cynthia’s nothing if not efficient. She’s arranged viewings of all three of the shortlist houses for tomorrow afternoon. Will you be able to come along?”

“That sounds fine. Are you sure though?”

“Very sure. Cynthia aside, I need a second opinion and the stuff you were saying yesterday on your homewares line puts you way ahead of me on what makes a place properly liveable.”

“In that case, what time and where?”

“Cynthia’s picking us up just after lunch, so why not come over for a quick bite and I can put you through the job hunt third degree again.”

She agreed and headed out in hunt of new pictures.

The next day dawned grey and drizzly, and Calypso grimaced at her shoe options; her sneakers, or the knee-high boots she wore to the office in winter. Neither were great for tramping around wet gardens.

She opted for boots and hoped for the best, dashing next door during a brief pause in the rain.

The lunchtime grilling evolved into a research session on the companies and people in the courier’s list. She was going to have plenty to do the following week.

Cynthia was prompt and they piled into her car, Herne in the front at Calypso’s insistence, rule of leg length.

A couple of hours later, Cynthia drove them back to the Old Stables and asked. “So what did you think?”

Herne sighed. “I didn’t feel comfortable in any of them. The Old Rectory had so many rooms and places to go, yet it felt tight and crowded. Manor Farm needs a full-time team of gardeners and, while I think I liked the new place the best, it felt cold.”

Cynthia glanced at Calypso in the rear view mirror. “Are you the same?”

“Similar. They either felt overstuffed or cold and impersonal. I think the problem is that we’re looking at homes that have had a stay-at-home spouse in them for years and these have become their occupation and showpiece. They’re exactly the style I see in many of Hestia’s display shots. That doesn’t go well with the life of a busy vet and two large dogs.”

“You know the Hestia range?”

“I used to work for Z Corp.”

“Ahhh, interesting. But I do have good news for you. I didn’t want to mention it earlier as it may have affected your view of today’s houses, but Mr Green has asked the two of you to tea on Friday afternoon.”

She grinned at the shocked chorus of. “What?!”

“I’m not invited. He only wants to deal with pesky estate agent people when it becomes necessary, but he wants to meet the two of you, and your animals.”

Herne turned in his seat to grin at Calypso. “Well done.”

“I didn’t do anything, I think you should ‘well done’ Cynthia.”

Herne turned to Cynthia. “Well done. You clearly made a strong case for us.”

She shrugged, but looked pleased. “I think he’s curious to see Calypso again, but I’ll take any victory I can get, especially as regards Wildwood.”

She dropped them off with a promise to email the details and directions for Friday afternoon.

The next morning, Calypso did something that scared her. She emailed Amy.

Hi Amy

I hope you’re well and this isn’t an unwelcome note. I meant what I said on our video call that I’d love to talk and get to know you better but things have been a little crazy for both of us so I understand if you’d rather not. I’m no longer with Z Corp, all my new contact details are below if you would like to get in touch.

Take care

Calypso

Her phone rang about ten minutes later.

“Calypso?”

“Yes?”

“Oh thank goodness, I’ve been so worried. It’s Amy. Are you alright? I I heard that horrible man fired you and it’s all my fault.”

“How on earth could it be your fault? Zeus made me redundant because my father lost him a huge amount of money on some supplier contracts.”

“Want to guess who’s family owns the supplier?”

Calypso’s jaw dropped. Amy’s voice was small and thin. “I’m sorry.”

She found her voice again. “No, it’s not your fault. My father is an adult with a job to do and he didn’t do it. I love him, honestly, but he’s failed us both on this and I’ve only just realised it.”

“I’ve left him you know. And I’m afraid I’m about to make him incredibly angry, so please take care.”

“What? How?”

“I already know the baby’s a boy.”

“He’s always wanted a son and heir.”

“Yes, which is why I’m making sure my baby is taking my family’s surname. Our marriage isn’t valid, so my son belongs to my family.”

Calypso was glad she was sitting down. “Oh dear. Yes. I don’t think he’s got my new contact details yet, so I should be okay for a while.”

“What do you think he’ll do?”

“Rage and bluster and try to change it. And if he can’t, then he’ll find another way to gain a son. I’ll be back up on the marriage block.”

She took a deep breath. “But don’t worry about that, I can deal with it. Just do please send me photos of my baby brother when he arrives.”

“Oh I will! I can’t wait for him to meet his strong, brave big sister. I’ll bring him up to London as soon as he’s old enough to travel.”

The call ended shortly afterward and left Calypso with a lot to think about. Not the least that someone thought of her as strong and brave.

She did what a strong and brave person would do, and emailed her mother.

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