Sarifina lay in bed, feeling depressed. Who was the woman who answered Maxime’s phone and why was she so rude to her? She didn’t even ask if she wanted to leave a message for Maxime. Instead, she had hung up the phone after telling her that he was unavailable.
When her aunt had returned to the table, she had immediately noticed the crestfallen expression on her face. “What’s the matter, Sari?” she asked.
“I called Maxime but he wasn’t available.”
“Did you leave a message for him to call you back?”
“I didn’t get a chance to. The woman who answered the phone was very rude and she didn’t ask me if I wanted to leave a message. She hung up on me.”
Her aunt’s eyebrows rose. “I wonder who she was.”
“I don’t know.”
“Are you sure he isn’t married?”
“No, he isn’t married.”
“What about a girlfriend or a fiancée?”
“I don’t think he has a girlfriend or a fiancée. Maxime isn’t the type of man who would get involved with another woman when he’s already in a relationship.”
“I hope you’re right. I’ve learned early in life that you can’t always trust a man, no matter how wonderful he is.”
Sarifina hadn’t answered. She trusted Maxime implicitly. She knew that he cared very deeply for her and would have been thrilled to hear from her. If only that woman hadn’t answered the phone…She and Maxime could have arranged to meet somewhere. As she followed her aunt of the restaurant, Sarifina debated whether she should call Maxime later and hope that the woman would answer again. Who was she? A relative? Why had she been so rude to her?
This questions plagued her all day and now, she still mulled over them as she lay on her bed. It was ten o’clock. Her aunt was still downstairs watching TV. After dinner, she had sat with her in the living-room until nine-thirty and then, she had said goodnight, kissed her aunt and came up to her room. She tried reading Agatha Christie’s The Third Girl but she couldn’t concentrate. All she could think of was Maxime and how badly she wanted to see and be with him.
What was he doing right now? Was he reading or pouring over papers? Was he watching TV or lying in bed? Was he thinking about her and about the wonderful times they had spent together in New York?
Should she call him now? It was now five minutes past ten. Was that too late to be calling a man? The desire to hear his voice overruled her sense of propriety. Grabbing her cell, she quickly punched in the numbers. This time Maxime answered and he sounded very pleased.
“Bonsoir ma chérie.”
“Good evening, Maxime.” She knew she sounded a little breathless. That was the effect he had on her. Her heart was pounding and she smiled broadly. “I-I hope I’m not calling too late.”
“No, you’re not. As a matter of fact, I was going to call you.”
“I called you earlier today but you weren’t available.”
“You called earlier today? What time was that?”
“It was around 3:30 this afternoon. I called but a woman answered. After she asked me who I was, she told me that you weren’t available and hung up. Who was she?”
She heard him mutter something in French. “That was Rosalie, my sister-in-law,” he said, sounding very displeased. “I came into the study just as she hung up the phone and when I asked her who it was, she said that it was a wrong number.” He muttered something else under his breath.
“Why did she say that you were unavailable?”
“I have no idea but, I’m going to find out.”
“I wanted to surprise you, that’s why I called.”
“Yes. Guess where I am right now?”
“Where are you right now?”
“I’m here at my aunt’s house–the aunt who lives in London.”
“You’re in London?”
“Yes. I arrived yesterday. I’m going to be studying at the University of London.”
“That’s wonderful news, ma chérie,” he exclaimed, sounding extremely delighted.
“I can’t wait to see you, Maxime.”
“And I can’t wait to see you too.”
“What were you doing before I called?”
“Sitting here in the library, thinking about you.”
“And I was lying here thinking about you before I called.”
“Can I see you this weekend?” he asked.
“I have a flat in London. I will take the earliest flight from Newquay, Cornwall on Friday afternoon. As soon as I arrive at Heathrow, I will call you and we can arrange to meet somewhere.”
“How long is the flight?”
“From Newquay to London, it’s half-hour. I don’t want to take the train which takes over 8 hours or to drive which takes over 4 hours. I want to be in London as soon as possible.”
“How long will you stay in London?”
“Until Monday. I will take an early flight on Monday so that I’m back in Newquay before nine.”
“I can’t wait for Friday to come,” she said, excited.
“Me too. On the weekend, I could take you sightseeing. Would you like that?”
They talked for a while. It was after midnight when they ended the call. Sarifina reached over and switched off the bedside lamp. She lay back against the pillows, staring up at the ceiling. It would be a long time before she could go to sleep because she was so excited about seeing Maxime in person again. In addition to emails and texting, they did face time on What’s App.
It warmed her heart to hear the delight and pleasure in his voice when he had answered to phone. And it pleased her that he was going to give that Rosalie character a piece of his mind. Rude and unpleasant woman. Being his sister-in-law didn’t give her the right to behave the way she had. When she tried to put a face to the voice, she saw Cruella de Vil. Shuddering, she thought, I hope Rosalie isn’t as bad as that.
Maxime leaned back in the chair. Sarifina was in London. That was very exciting for him. Ever since returning from New York, he had wondered how long it would be before they saw each other again. He was quite willing to fly to New York in the spring to see her but that seemed too far away. And he had hoped that she had taken him up on his suggestion to study in London.
Many times, he wished he were in New York with her instead of being in Cornwall. When he went for walks on Newquay‘s beaches or along the coastal footpath from where if you were lucky, you may catch a glimpse of dolphins, he thought about her and wished that she was walking there beside him, holding his hand.
Now that she was going to be in London, he was thinking of spending more time at his flat there and making occasional weekend trips to Newquay. During March break, he could invite her to spend a week at Brierwell Manor. He could show her around Newquay which he was sure she would like. He knew that he would meet with vehement objections from Rosalie.
His mouth tightened when he thought of his sister-in-law. He was very upset with her for what she had done. She had no right to tell Sarifina that he was unavailable. Tomorrow morning, he was going to confront her about it. Not for the first time, he asked himself why he had hired her to be his personal secretary. He hired her because he needed a secretary.
Rosalie turned out to be a very efficient and capable, wholly dedicated to her job. As far as her work was concerned, he had no complaints but he noticed her attitude toward some of the women with whom he did business. She wasn’t rude to them but her attitude was cold and impersonal. With the men, she was a different person. Very friendly and charming.
“She’s nice to me because I’m not attractive or beautiful or exotic or young,” Gwyneth remarked to him once when they were in his office and Rosalie had just smilingly offered her a cup of coffee. “If I looked like Sylvia or those other women, she would be as cold as an iceberg to me.” She had even dared to suggest that perhaps Rosalie was jealous of those other women.
“Jealous?” he had exclaimed in surprise. “Why would Rosalie be jealous of them?”
Gwyneth stared at him. “You mean you don’t know?” she wondered.
“Why it’s quite obvious that Rosalie is in love with you.”
After he had recovered from his shock, he had said rather dismissively, “You’re mistaken. Rosalie isn’t in love with me. She’s like a sister to me. No, you’re mistaken.”
Gwyneth didn’t look convinced but she didn’t say any more about the matter.
And now, he wondered if perhaps, she was right. It would explain a lot of things. He hoped not. The last thing he wanted was for his sister-in-law to be in love with him. It would make things very complicated and uncomfortable. No, Gwyneth was mistaken.
Sources: Prokerala; Cornwall Guide;
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