After work, Calypso made her way to the Quin Luong mansion, feeling strange and awkward as she knocked on the front door.
Maria-Philippa nearly bowled her over with delight and curiosity.
They sat in one of the front rooms so Calypso could be quizzed on her plans and ideas, and what she wanted to do with this new business of hers. She waved a hand at Calypso’s insistence it was just her wanting to resume a hobby.
Finally, the housekeeper clapped her hands. “Hobby, business, whichever; I have the perfect place for you.”
She took off through the house, Calypso trotting to keep up.
Eventually, she threw open a door. “Here. I’ll change the furniture, give you some nice big tables, maybe a bookshelf. We can add more if you need it.”
Calypso stepped into the room. “Oh I couldn’t possibly.”
Maria-Philippa flapped a dismissive hand. “Of course you can. The artist’s studio is the perfect spot, good lighting, plenty of space. No one’s used this since Madam Quin Luong’s arthritis got too bad for her paintbrush. Mr Richard taught her to shop photos or some such thing and now it’s all screens, screens, screens.”
It was perfect, too perfect. She couldn’t.
According to Maria-Philippa, she absolutely could. Not only that, she would be doing Maria-Philippa a favour, and she would be deeply unhappy if Calypso said no.
So Calypso said yes, and started to worry.
She spent the train journey home mentally sorting through the worry list. If she could get them in order, maybe a couple would go.
There was the imposition of course, she barely knew these people.
Then the niggle Calliope put in the back of her head, was Amy looking for revenge? If so, would it hurt her?
If she were to use the space, how could she get her things out of storage and moved there? It would surely create talk at Z Corp, since the delivery would inevitably involve Hercules.
She got off at her stop, and took the long way through the park. Walking helped push her thoughts to problem-solving.
Yes, it was an imposition, no getting around that, but Maria-Philippa’s sincerity was clear.
The revenge topic had been touched on, however briefly, and Calypso felt weirdly reassured by Amy’s honesty on the subject. If the whole thing blew up in her face, what would she be losing? Some possessions she was fond of, and probably some time and work. But nothing she couldn’t recover from.
She laughed at herself. Her biggest concern was how to get her inspiration books, sewing machine and other odds and ends installed without alerting the Z Corp grapevine.
She called Herne.
He chuckled at her convoluted plan, but agreed, and she walked into the flat with a spring in her step.
The next day, Hercules arranged for Calypso’s boxes to be delivered to Wildwood. There was space for all her work projects in the Little Barn and the boxes may as well all be stored together.
There may have been some nudges and winks, but that was acceptable, and probably warranted if she was honest.
Pythia called that afternoon. Aaliyah had accepted the offer and would be starting the following Monday. Tish was over the moon, Calypso was relieved.
Wednesday saw the return of the floppy-hairs. They bounded up to the desk while Tish was away on her lunch break.
“So, any luck in finding a little helper?”
Calypso put on her plastic smile and replied. “Yes, thank you.”
The lighter-haired one raised an annoyingly querying finger. “Ahh, but is she from a disadvantaged background?”
Calypso propped her chin on one hand. “She’s highly educated, articulate, well-mannered, beautifully presented and keen as mustard. She also escaped a war in the country she grew up in, and arrived in the UK, with nothing, just under a year ago.”
The condescending finger went down.
Calypso put her head on one side. “Where you here for a reason, or did you just stop by for some of Eos’s chocolate-caramel brownies?”
Dark-hair tried a smile that was more of a grimace. “Ah, yes, the brownies. We’ll pop over there and grab some now. Lovely to chat.”
They bustled over to the food truck, where Eos sent a laughing glance Calypso’s way. She’d heard about these two.
Hel appeared. “Were they being bothersome again?”
Calypso replied. “Not particularly. They’re good about leaving when the conversation’s over.”
She looked at her boss. “I know I’m prying, but what is it about Tish’s background that had them latching on to her like a couple of parasitic would-be fairy godfathers?”
Hel snorted at the description. “Council estate kid. Brought up by a single dad working stupid hours. At least that’s what they sold me.”
Tish did her own version of the Hel sneak-up. “It’s true enough. But they like to think of Dad as all neglectful and stuff. He’s not, I just got bored with the dumb stuff at school.”
She dropped into her seat and gave Calypso a challenging stare. “What about you then? Happy families with a stay-at-home mum who bakes and does charity work in your London commuter village?”
Calypso laughed. “Not quite; my mum ran off to Paris before I turned one. She’s now in Bangkok building artificial intelligence engines. I’m a single dad kid as well, except my father hired a housekeeper while he worked stupid hours. One of them baked, none of them were into charity work, and we lived within walking distance of his office.”
Tish tried to hide a smile. “Poor little rich kid, huh?”
Calypso replied. “Pigtails, frilly dresses and all. How I grew up to be so thoroughly charming and well-adjusted is beyond me.”
That earned her a snort and suppressed grin as Tish returned to her screen.
Calypso had sent Amy an email, updating her on the visit to the Quin Luong house and other activities. Amy, replied, cc’ing Maria-Philippa, who launched into a full account of the planned furniture changes and directions for delivery.
She promised to get everything properly sorted and ready to go over the weekend, then sat back and wondered how she was going to expand the clock. She had way too many things going on for the time available.
Hel chose that moment to send out the draft schedule of events for the coming weeks. Calypso’s head hit the desk.
Tish spent her Friday lunch break choosing her desk on level one. Calypso was treated to a detailed description of its location, neighbours and advantages when she got back.
Dionysus’s advice arrived as promised, one minute before Calypso was due to leave for the week.
She scanned it and decided it was safe to leave for Monday morning. That she had a train to catch was, of course, irrelevant.
The weekend was spent unpacking. Mostly Herne’s boxes and furniture from his old place near Windsor, but she managed to get to her collection as well.
Herne had gathered her things in the Little Barn as promised. Of course there was nothing ‘little’ about the Little Barn. Half of it had been converted into a guest cottage and still left space clear for a huge workshop.
Calypso folded another box flat and looked around the living area of the cottage part. “What does the Big Barn look like?”
Herne stretched. “No idea, it was destroyed in the war – random hit from a passing bomber according to the estate records.”
By the time Herne saw her onto the train on Sunday, Wildwood was more-or-less habitable and two neatly labelled boxes were sitting in the front hall, ready to be returned to London on Monday. She slept most of the way back.
The next morning, Aaliyah arrived minutes after Calypso. The purple-sticker-decorated computer had migrated upstairs with Tish and a fresh, new machine awaited Aaliyah’s login.
They spent some time going over the systems in place, and what was being held together with sticky tape and hope; then Tish was temporarily recalled to duty, so the building tour could be done, ending in Hel’s office.
Hel motioned for Calypso to stay as Aaliyah made her way back to the lifts. “Good pick. She’s going to make even more difference to first impressions of this place than you.”
Calypso gulped. That didn’t sound good.
Hel chuckled. “Don’t look so stricken. You’re still in a job, you’re just going to be far too busy with the events.”
Calypso took a deep breath and said. “Events, right. Good. Got it. I need to get organised.”
Hel called after as she was leaving. “That idiotic blog article has been updated with an early-bird results date – again, Friday. I’m sending the writer’s name to everyone in the company, I want them blocked from all our events and updates.”
On her return to the front desk, she found both the younger women trying to find a meeting with Hel in the reception diary. Calypso moved to stand between them and gave the indignant-looking man a level stare. “Hel made a point of informing me she had no meetings here today.”
The man’s chin jutted forward. “She’ll see me. She’s specifically asked me to drop by this morning for a funding negotiation.”
Calypso gave him a pitying look. “And yet, she flew back to Sweden on Saturday.”
Aaliyah and Tish maintained admirably straight faces.
The man sputtered, and scowled, then turned and left.
Tish turned and looked up at Calypso. “That lie was actually pretty convincing.”
Calypso smirked. “It wasn’t a lie. Hel flew to Stockholm on Saturday morning, then caught a flight back to London on Sunday.”
As she and Tish swapped places, Calypso said. “Please tell me you got his name.”
Both women grinned. Tish said. “It’s on the spreadsheet.”
She headed back to her new desk and Calypso opened the response from Dionysus. He’d outlined pros and cons for each of the options under consideration, made some additional suggestions, then added a ranked list of potential suppliers and contractors. He’d saved her a month’s worth of work.
She summarised it, added her own notes, and sent the updated information to Hel. By mid-afternoon, Calypso had an option and budget approved and was sending out requests for tender to three preferred suppliers.
The Sweden excuse proved very useful as the names on Hel’s naughty list grew over the course of the week.
Calypso went home by way of Dragon House, as she’d found it was called, every evening. She spent the time setting things up and trying to keep Maria-Philippa from buying out the haberdashery of Libertys to practice on.
The evenings at home were filled with drawing up plans for Jason and Hercules, as well as some nursery pieces for Circe.
Her friend was delighted. “I should be saying unselfish things about taking care of your flatmates and boyfriend first, but I’ve only got two months left. I’ve been looking for nursery things and everything in my budget makes my soul shrivel. It’s all so twee and pastel and babyish.”
Calypso choked on her laugh. “To be fair, it is a baby.”
“But I’m not and I refuse to be dragged down to that level.”
Amy agreed with Circe. “Even with my options, it was hard to find things that didn’t involve tubby cartoon characters. Keep notes, it could be a good range extension.”
Calypso agreed. She’d given up on trying to convince Amy the business thing wasn’t real.
That set the priority list, she started making notes on a fabric wish list for Narcissus.
Calypso opted for a Saturday train again, assuming (correctly) that Friday was going to be a long day. The afternoon was full of people wanting to know where their email was, and why their submission had been accidentally left off the list.
Unicorn sticker girl had a tantrum, funding negotiation man threatened to sue, and the puffy lady with her colourless son demanded to see management, didn’t they know who she was?
Hel was in Stockholm; she’d flown back for a family event the night before.
Aaliyah looked at her, wide-eyed after the security guard escorted puffy lady from the building. “Not that I’m not enjoying the job, but is every week going to be like this?”
Calypso replied. “Thankfully no but the real submission and results weeks are likely to be worse. Think of this as a rehearsal for the real madness.”
She shooed Aaliyah out of the door at the usual hour, she’d had a tough first week and come through shining. She’d more than earned a full weekend.
There was a rush of indignant demanders on their way home from the jobs they wanted to quit, but it tapered away and Calypso left for the pub a little earlier than she’d expected. Maybe she could have made a late train…