And the winner is…” Hushed anticipation falls over the ballroom of the Grange St. Paul’s Hotel. Even Sir Roderick has ceased pontificating and looks across the table at me, swollen with pride or perhaps it’s the foie gras with a hint of menace about the lips. The envelope is opened.
Emma grasps my hand beneath the table. Aware that everyone at the table has at least half an eye on me and with my free hand, I surreptitiously check that the notes for my acceptance speech are in my top inside pocket. Just in case…
Fixed grins all round. I release my hand from Emma’s grasp and applaud. Caroline strides towards the stage, beaming and waving to her delighted colleagues. Sir Roderick glares at me, harrumphs and grabs the bottle of port from the middle of the table. I remember when, as a graduate trainee, Caroline couldn’t calculate NPVs and DCFs on an ancient bond calculator. I remember when she kept a working week’s supply of black silk underwear in the top drawer of my chest of drawers.
I turn to Emma. There’s a tear in her eye.
“Sorry,” I say.
“Don’t be silly. I love you,” she replies, barely audible above the wild applause. She rests her forehead against mine. Just for a moment. Then I turn back to the spectacle before us and continue applauding. Some minutes later my hair is ruffled. I turn. It’s Caroline. “Hey buster, bad luck. You know, Alfred Hitchcock never won the Oscar for Best Director. So don’t worry.”
“Easy for you to say Caroline. I’m mortally wounded,” I reply.
“How about lunch sometime?” she asks. “Thanks but I don’t think so. I’ve got a lot on at the moment.” I reach for Emma’s hand and hold it tightly. City Dad will continue next Tuesday. For past episodes, see cityam.com