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Home > Shopaholic Takes Manhattan (Shopaholic #2)(7)

Shopaholic Takes Manhattan (Shopaholic #2)(7)
Author: Sophie Kinsella

Oh, and I think he’s seen me.

OK, don’t panic, I instruct myself firmly. There’s no need to panic. Maybe once upon a time I would have been thrown by seeing him. I might have tried to hide behind a menu, or perhaps even run away. But that’s all in the past. These days, Sweetie Smeathie and I have a very honest and amicable relationship.

Still, I find myself shifting my chair slightly farther away from my LK Bennett bag, as though it hasn’t got anything to do with me.

“Hello, Mr. Smeath!” I say brightly as he approaches. “How are you?”

“Very well,” says Derek Smeath, smiling. “And you?”

“Oh, I’m fine, thanks. Would you… would you like a coffee?” I add politely, gesturing to the empty chair opposite me. And I’m not really expecting him to say yes — but to my astonishment he sits down and picks up a menu.

How civilized is this? I’m having coffee with my bank manager at a pavement cafe! You know, maybe I’ll find a way to work this into my Morning Coffee slot. “I myself prefer the informal approach to personal finance,” I’ll say, smiling warmly into the camera. “My own bank manager and I often share a friendly cappuccino as we discuss my current financial strategies…”

“As it happens, Rebecca, I’ve just written a letter to you,” says Derek Smeath, as a waitress puts an espresso down in front of him. Suddenly his voice is more serious, and I feel a small lurch of alarm. Oh God, what have I done now? “You and all my customers,” he adds. “To tell you that I’m leaving.”

“What?” I put my coffee cup down with a little crash. “What do you mean, leaving?”

“I’m leaving Endwich Bank. I’ve decided to take early retirement.”

“But…”

I stare at him, appalled. Derek Smeath can’t leave Endwich Bank. He can’t just leave me in the lurch, just as everything was going so well. I mean, I know we haven’t always exactly seen eye to eye — but recently we’ve developed a really good rapport. He understands me. He understands my overdraft. What am I going to do without him?

“Aren’t you too young to retire?” I say, aware of the dismay in my voice. “Won’t you get bored?”

He leans back in his chair and takes a sip of espresso. “I’m not planning to give up work altogether. But I think there’s a little more to life than looking after people’s bank accounts, don’t you? Fascinating though some of them have been.”

“Well… yes. Yes, of course. And I’m glad for you, honestly.” I shrug, a little embarrassed. “But I’ll… miss you.”

“Believe it or not,” he says, smiling slightly, “I think I’ll miss you too, Rebecca. Yours has certainly been one of the most… interesting accounts I’ve dealt with.”

He gives me a penetrating look and I feel myself flush slightly. Why does he have to remind me of the past? The point is, that’s all over. I’m a different person now. Surely one should be allowed to turn over a new leaf and start again in life.

“Your new career in television seems to be going well,” he says, taking a sip of espresso.

“I know! It’s so great, isn’t it? And it pays really well,” I add, a little pointedly.

“Your income has certainly gone up in recent months.” He puts down his coffee cup and my heart sinks slightly. “However…”

I knew it. Why does there always have to be a however?

“However,” repeats Derek Smeath. “Your outgoings have also risen. Substantially. In fact, your overdraft is now higher than it was at the height of your… shall we say, your excesses.”

Excesses? That is so mean.

“You really must make more effort to keep within your overdraft limit,” he’s saying now. “Or, even better, pay it off.”

“I know,” I say vaguely. “I’m planning to.”

I’ve just spotted a girl on the other side of the road, with an LK Bennett bag. She’s holding a great big bag — with two shoe boxes in it.

If she’s allowed to buy two pairs of shoes, then why aren’t I? What’s the rule that says you can only buy one pair of shoes at a time? I mean, it’s so arbitrary.

“What about your other finances?” Derek Smeath is asking. “Do you have any store card bills, for example?”

“No,” I say with a tinge of smugness. “I paid them all off months ago.”

“And you haven’t spent anything since?”

“Only bits and pieces. Hardly anything.”

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