'The Sins Of Emily Watson' - a short story by author Neal James
“Morning, dear.” The cheery voice of Raymond, her partner, preceded him into the dining room like a warm summer breeze.
She smiled over the top of her newspaper in reply and went back to her coffee while he prepared his breakfast. Raymond Martin was, on paper, a millionaire, and had made his money in the boom years of the Thatcher revolution in the 1980s. From relatively humble beginnings with a string of northern market stalls, he had expanded operations on the back of some shrewd wheeler-dealing. He bought his first high street shop in 1986, and by the end of that decade had a further six.
“You’re in the news again.” She laid the daily paper across the table and tapped a section of the financial press. “Looks like the new trainee management initiative’s going down well.”
Martin had taken a calculated gamble six months earlier by placing an advert in one of the Sunday broadsheets. The company was offering a five year apprenticeship to university graduates holding a business qualification, with a guarantee of full-time employment at the end of the term. It had been a resounding success, and had gained him and the firm widespread approval, with a slot on prime time television as the scheme achieved national publicity. Sales, of course, moved sharply upwards as a result.
“Yes.” He smiled. “It was a rather a good idea after the weeding out process had ended, wasn’t it? Good job I employ you.”
The idea had been Emily’s, but there was no conflict between them over the success or failure of the gamble. As a team, they had been working in this way for a number of years, and the future was looking very bright.
“We’ll have to float the company to generate the cash for the extra shops you’re going to need for your team of managers.” She drained her cup and poured another.
“Already taken care of, sweetheart.” He sat down opposite with his tea and toast. “I’m seeing Miles Underwood this afternoon. “Barkers will underwrite the issue, and should make a killing for their trouble. We’ll have all the funds we need, and more.”
Emily had begun to think that life was passing her by, and the relationship with Raymond, though satisfactory, occasionally left her with a feeling of unfullfillment. He was fifteen years her senior, attentive to her needs, but never satisfied her physically in the way that she thought she deserved. A number of younger men had crossed her path, but loyalty to her partner and the company which they ran had always held her back from anything more than social flirting. That had been before the arrival of Daniel – a twenty something who had seriously turned her head.
Daniel Thorpe was a university graduate who had successfully applied for one of the aforementioned positions. He was clever, handsome, and carried himself with an air of supreme confidence. From what Emily could make out, there were no girlfriends in the picture, and he had responded to her flirting in more than merely a social way. From his standpoint, there would be no harm in playing along with her as long as things did not get out of hand – he needed the job, and Raymond Martin was not a man who would take kindly to his private life being invaded. The young man had come to London on a quest of sorts, and any major distraction caused by Emily could not be allowed to divert him from that path. They had met socially on a few occasions at events organised by the firm, and on one other at a private location when Raymond had been out of town.
*Neal James is the author of five books: 'A Ticket to Tewkesbury', 'Short Stories - Volume One', 'Two Little Dicky Birds', 'Threads of Deceit' and 'Full Marks'.