Alice was precipitously dazzled by the flash of a camera, not a silly little flash from a mobile phone but the monster brilliance of a paparazzi lens.
“Oh dahling,” a nasally voice whined, “How splendid, a champagne coloured dress. Sebastian. Sebastian, please introduce me to your date. I did see you escort this heavenly creature, now don’t be shy.”
All of a sudden her errant date was beside her again drawing her closer as they had their photo taken together.
“Smile Alice.” He hissed from the corner of his mouth as he switched on that disarming smile again.
She should have just chucked the champagne over him there and then but instead forced a grin for the camera.
For fortitude she took another gulp of the sparkling nectar, bubbles went up her nose, alcohol rushed to her head and she giggled causing everyone around her to titter too.
She wanted to ask what was happening but whiny woman was speaking again.
“Sebastian, you said you had a plan up your sleeve. You’ve come up trumps this time. What a fabulous marketing plan. I can see the campaign now,” She waved a graceful arm in the air. “The golden girl of Summer Brook sparkling English wine. Of course everyone is comparing it to champagne but we can’t use the name officially. And you my dear are such an English rose, with that pale yet interesting complexion. We’ll photoshop in a little blush on those cheeks but otherwise there is very little to do.”
Alice nearly choked. Did this woman ever shut up?
“But where are my manners.” The whiny whirlwind extended a slender manicured hand. “Melanie Preston Smythe with an e but not hyphenated. Sebastian and I work together in the marketing department. We put this whole event on. Marvellous isn’t it?” Melanie drew breath for a fraction of a second as she glanced around the room. “Of course you must talk to Edgar, C.E.O. of Summer Brooke. Sebastian, he’s going to just love our idea. Come on.”
And where she led it seemed they had to follow. Sebastian grabbed Alice by the hand and almost dragged her in his wake.
As Alice passed the waiter he looked a bit subdued. He was still smiling but it was fake, never quite reaching his eyes. She noticed because he didn’t wink this time instead held the tray out in a resigned manner. As if he’d rather be anywhere else than here. I know the feeling Alice wanted to tell him.
“You might need another glass.” He sighed.
She graciously exchanged her empty glass for a full one. She reasoned she might need quite a few to get through this evening.