Clara’s Coffee – Chapter 5

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Melissa sat back into the deep leather armchair, took a sip of the large gin and tonic and began to relax.

It had been a hectic day with a very early start but a great deal had been accomplished. The offer for the premises in Chester had been accepted (so she had made a call to Clara’s lawyers & instructed them to liaise with the agents on the legal process). She had then held a meeting with the architect on site and they were pleased to find that there were few structural changes required, although a great deal of refurbishment was needed. Alan had then arrived and, following meetings with a couple of recruitment agencies, they’d agreed on the one they felt far more likely to attract the quality team they required. The final task was a get-together with the designers she had lined up but they couldn’t meet her until tomorrow morning. So, spying the Chester Grosvenor Hotel across the road, she decided “To hell with it, I’ve had a very good day, so hang the expense!” and booked herself in for the night.

“Will madam be dining with us this evening?” enquired the maître d’, jolting her out of her thoughts.

“Yes, of course. Will eight be OK? Just need to get some work done and get changed.”

Her room was impressive, far better than the Travel Lodges she had grown accustomed to. She felt she deserved a little bit of quality. After recording her progress (and latest thoughts) on the Chester expansion, she was soon luxuriating in a mass of bubbles in a lovely big bath. Far better than the usual pokey showers.

Over the last few weeks she often felt she didn’t know whether she was on her head or her heels. When she accepted the role in Clara’s, she imagined life would be slow, orderly and predictable but worthwhile in the longer term. How wrong she had been on the first three!

She had learnt a great deal during the internships she had held in the major accounting, legal and advertising companies over the last few years. With her MBA achieved, her plan had been to try for a permanent role in one of the major accounting firms, in a consulting division preferably. However, it had been Daddy who had talked up the value in joining Clara’s Coffee, the old family firm, even if it was on a part-time basis to start with. The Fernley-Whittingham’s, although a more remote branch of the original family, had held board roles in Clara’s for many years. His view had been that many of the board had never worked anywhere else, lacked vision and were getting on. With steady progress around the company, Daddy had reasoned that she then ought to be well set for a board role when the retirements started

“Hell!” he’d said, “I’ve only got 5 more years on the board, myself, before I retire, if all goes to plan.”

It had also been Daddy’s suggestion that she got to know Nigel, the younger Havering. He had heard some months back from Cynthia Havering that he had been earmarked for a board role by both of the older Havering men for some time. He had urged Melissa to get close to Cynthia. It had also been Daddy’s suggestion that she took his place at what transpired to be that eventful board meeting. The close deaths of the two senior Havering men had not been a great surprise given their age and ill health. However, it had been clear that Nigel’s inheritance in the form of his now majority shareholding and his move into the Chairman’s role, had been a great shock to both the Chancellors and the Fernways.

She had found, working with Peter Chancellor, that he was an insufferable, arrogant and sexist boor. Working in the accounts group had given her a good introduction to the company but she had been on the verge of leaving, deciding that she couldn’t bear Chancellor any longer.

Nigel’s arrival had seemed like manna from heaven and her new role provided a welcome boost to her morale and a full-time position. With her absence, away at university and then her internships, combined with Nigel’s travelling, they hadn’t met for a good few years. So, when he had walked into the boardroom that day, she had been stunned. Well over six feet, broad shouldered and with the square, determined jaw of the Havering men, he had oozed manliness and authority.

She had got to know from her visits to Cynthia Havering, who had seemed anxious to share as much as she could about her only son, that Nigel was single. She had shared, with some concern, that his roles and periods working overseas had seemed to preclude him from ‘settling down’ as she had put it. It was obvious that Cynthia was concerned about the continuance of the Havering line. This was clearly due to Nigel being an only child and her brother-in-law Charles having had three daughters.

Working with Nigel had enabled Melissa to study him closely, which had not been a hardship. She had found him to be unusually determined, forthright and clearly unafraid to challenge those he held to be obstructive or wrong on matters of importance. Boarding school and Oxford had certainly polished his innate advantages. Despite this gloss, she had noticed that he quickly won the support of the team running the day to day operations. He had a warm, relaxed approach and a habit of seeking people’s views and frequently backing them. It was clear that he was a natural leader who was quickly winning the support of the staff.

Yes, of course, Melissa had enjoyed romances in the past but nothing had endured and she was still only 26. However, despite Cynthia’s obvious desires, she had told herself, she had absolutely no intention of signing up to become the brood mare for the Havering line. Nevertheless, the more she spent time with Nigel, the more she had found herself becoming drawn to this strong, engaging man.

So, it was, with Nigel front and centre in her mind, she dressed in the smartest outfit she had with her, and went down for dinner.

She was soon immersed in the art of fine dining that the restaurant clearly excelled in. With the elegant maître d’ and several waiters being particularly and attentive, she couldn’t help noticing the attention she was attracting from both sexes scattered around the dining room. She found it hard to let her thoughts drift to the man who appeared to be courting her in a more assiduous and holistic manner than she had ever known.

Seated back in the relative tranquillity of the lounge with her coffee, she was at last able to concentrate on Nigel and the curious nature of their relationship. Over the course of the week they had spent away together, she had become relaxed in his company and more and more drawn to him. By the end of that last evening, in his embrace and savouring his kisses, she had been ready to follow him to whichever of their beds had been closest! But it had ended as abruptly as it had started, leaving her feeling, well, deficient in some fundamental way?

His explanations the following morning, his protestations of love for her, his veiled comments on the family, had only served to confuse her more. She had been, in one way, elated and then…let down. Their subsequent talk in the office, his reiterated feelings for her, his offer of a new role away from Clara’s (and the family), his request for her assistance in the matter of the missing profit, his obvious suspicion of certain family members, had left her more confused (and concerned) than ever. She wanted to love Nigel, to have a love that was physical and reciprocated. She wanted to continue to work with him, to experience new challenges with him.

But where was this investigation into Clara’s finances heading? Was Nigel’s talk of her running his charity realistic? Would it succeed for him and for her? But could she really trust him? Could she trust herself?

She felt she was in over her head, with no certainties ahead, except uncertainty.

Author: Tony

Photo by Mitchell Orr on Unsplash

One thought on “Clara’s Coffee – Chapter 5

  1. Hi Tony, Delayed answering this because I don’t know what gives me the right to be critical but I am hopefully a potential reader of your published book.

    The story has flowed so easily so far. Easy to read, comfort reading, all the fundamental elements, good guy/girl set up. Lots of interjectory snippets along the way.

    Your language usually flows. My first trip up were those brackets.

    I found this episode was too much information. Linked to individuals but no connection with perhaps a cameo insert to give the perpetrator a centre stage of perhaps a paragraph.

    I am having trouble with this screen. It keeps going AWOL.

    Do you want to give me a call on 01943 602696 or 07732 153729




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