Excerpt of At Risk by Stella Rimington
(Page 2 of 3)
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She remembered every detail of the evening. On the way back from Paris, where he
had been interviewing an actress, he had arrived without warning at Liz's
basement flat in Kentish Town. She'd been in the bath, listening to La Bohème
and trying half-heartedly to make sense of an article in The Economist,
and suddenly there he was, and the floor was strewn with expensive white tissue
paper and the place was reeking gorgeously and poignantly of Vol de Nuit.
Afterwards they had opened a bottle of duty-free Moët and climbed back into the
bath together. Isn't Shauna expecting you?' Liz had asked guiltily.
She 's probably asleep' Mark answered cheerfully. She 's had her
sister's kids all weekend.'
And you, meanwhile . . .'
I know. It's a cruel world, isn't it?'
The thing that had baffled Liz at first was why he had married Shauna in the
first place. From his descriptions of her, they seemed to have nothing in common
whatever. Mark Callendar was feckless and pleasure-loving and possessed of an
almost feline perceptiveness a quality which made him one of the most
sought-after profilists in print journalism while his wife was an
unbendingly earnest feminist academic. She was forever hounding him for his
unreliability, he was forever evading her humourless wrath. There seemed no
purpose to any of it.
But Shauna was not Liz's problem. Mark was Liz's problem. The relationship
was complete madness and, if she didn't do something about it soon, could well
cost her her job. She didn't love Mark and she dreaded to think of what would
happen if the whole thing was forced out into the open. For a long time it had
looked as if he was going to leave Shauna, but he hadn't, and Liz now doubted
that he ever would. Shauna, she had gradually come to understand, was the
negative to his positive charge, the AC to his DC, the Wise to his Morecambe;
between them they made up a fully functioning unit.
And sitting there in the halted train it occurred to her that what really
excited Mark was the business of transformation. Descending on Liz, ruffling her
feathers, laughing at her seriousness, magicking her into a bird of paradise. If
she had lived in an airy modern flat overlooking one of the London parks, with
wardrobes full of exquisite designer clothes, then she would have held no
interest for him at all.
She really had to end it. She hadn't told her mother about him, needless to
say, and in consequence, whenever she stayed the weekend with her in Wiltshire,
she had to endure a well intentioned homily about Meeting Someone Nice.
I know it's difficult when you can't talk about your job;' her mother
had begun the night before, lifting her head from the photo album that she was
sorting out, but I read in the paper the other day that over nineteen hundred
people work in that building with you, and that there are all sorts of social
activities you can do. Why don't you take up amateur dramatics or Latin
American dancing or something?'
Mum, please!' She imagined a group of Northern Ireland desk officers and A4
surveillance men descending on her with eyes blazing, maracas shaking, and
coloured ruffles pinned to their shirts.
Just a suggestion,' said her mother mildly, and turned back to the album. A
minute or two later she lifted out one of Liz's old class photos.
Do you remember Robert Dewey?'
Yes,' said Liz cautiously. Lived in Tisbury. Peed in his pants at the
He's just opened a new restaurant in Salisbury. Round the corner from the
Really?' murmured Liz. Fancy that.' This was a flanking attack, and
what it was really about was her coming home. She had grown up in the small
octagonal gatehouse of which her mother was now the sole tenant, and the
unspoken hope was that she should return to the country and settle down',
before spinsterhood and the City of Dreadful Night claimed her for ever. Not
necessarily with Rob Dewey he of the sodden shorts but with someone
similar. Someone with whom, at intervals, she could enjoy French cuisine ' and the theatre
' and all the other metropolitan amenities to which she had
no doubt grown accustomed.
Excerpted from At Risk by Stella Rimington Copyright © 2004 by Stella
Rimington. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.