family business part 15

Part 15
In a series of confidential lunches, everyone’s eager to hear how Brenda’s going to get the Family Business back on track.  But Brenda doesn’t realize that walls have ears, or that the Buck & Fart has a spy …
To: Rosa
From: Laura
Date: 28 January
Subject: Queen B
Hi Rosa
So now it’s just me left.  Mum, Massimo, Lorenzo and Charlie have had their one-on-ones with Brenda.  Here’s the low down. 
Massimo didn’t seem at all bothered about what it might mean for his job – and he appeared to coast it and he came back looking surprisingly smug.  I can’t believe Brenda’s fallen for his act, but what other explanation is there?  It isn’t as if Charlie’s still great mates with him after everything that went on with Poppy, so why give him an easy time? 
Apparently, Lucie’s been debriefing him on all the other lunches.  If you are surprised she’s even talking to him after the shenanigans with Petra, the simple truth is she’s been hoodwinked.  Massimo tends to go round to Petra’s whenever Lucie’s behind the bar ie every evening.  Ostensibly, he’s advising Petra on buying a range of modern outdoor patio furniture to go by the pool.  But we’ve all seen through that one.  He’s told Lucie that he has to help me out here with childcare as part of the deal for letting him move in.  I think Lucie’s aware that Petra’s still a threat so she’s decided to make herself indispensible while turning a blind eye to his wayward ways.   While Brenda’s using the B&F as an office instead of washing our dirty laundry at the Club, Lucie does have something to keep Massimo coming back. 
As you’ll guess, Charlie’s session with Brenda was rather different to the rest of the family’s.  Lucie said he took the lead, opened up his lap top to go through lots of flow charts and produced piles of brochures of rattan garden furniture.  Brenda did lots of nodding and smiling.  Lucie’s proved to be rather a good spy; she’s excellent on reading body language and noticed that Brenda sat much closer to Charlie than with everyone else and mirrored his movements.  When it was Lorenzo’s turn, she hardly met his eye.  However, half way through Brenda’s chat with Charlie, Flora turned up and insisted on joining them.  Clearly not a planned move, since Brenda had booked the corner table for two and there wasn’t really room for a third chair.  According to Lucie, both Charlie and Brenda looked rather put out.  He quickly shut up his lap top and the conversation rather dried up.  They left soon after.
Lorenzo had an excruciating time, poor old boy.  This must be the closest he’s ever come to a job interview.  He squeezed himself into some of Massimo’s jeans in an effort to look trendy but they were so tight that he couldn’t really sit down.  He just had to hover over the bar stool with his legs in a slight squat, pilates style.  He’d also borrowed a couple of really long scarves from Ant that kept slipping into his soup.  Bless him, he spent ages preparing a big file of samples of new cast aluminium tables but Brenda refused to look at them and whipped out Charlie’s hated rattan brochures instead. 
Mum’s lunch was today – she went off looking like Alexis Colby in this extraordinary Frank Usher number from the 1980s – HUGE shoulder pads.  She asked to borrow a briefcase from me (!) so I leant her a rather lovely emerald green ostrich music case of Paul’s that I use for documents if I have to impress anyone.  Haven’t heard how it went …
X Laura
To: Laura
From: Rosa
Date: 29 January
Subject: Mum!
Dear Laura
Mum rang me to tell me about Brenda.  Lorenzo had told her that Brenda was gay so she thought it would be a good idea to bone up on lesbian culture.   She didn’t realize that Brenda wasn’t exactly ‘out’ and of course she still has no inkling about her involvement with Flora. 
Mum told me she managed to drop everyone from Clare Balding to Sandi Toksvig to Martena Navratilova into conversation by using the handy formula, “in business, I always find it is best to copy the ways of CB/ST/MN”.  By the time she got to Ellen Degeneres, Brenda must have realized what was going on.   
However, the lunch was nothing like as awkward as mum had been expecting.  Brenda completely took her by surprise by congratulating her on what a good job she did while dad was away and saying that she thought it was time that dad retired since he was obviously a loose cannon (!) and could mum help her to convince him?  Perhaps Lorenzo is right.  In any case, I don’t think dad has any idea that his management consultant might put him out to pasture.   The other thing Brenda said was that she was a big fan of personal publicity and that she thought that mum ought to enter the Matriarch of Middle England competition that Cherish the Chilterns magazine is running.  Brenda thinks it would be good to raise the company’s profile locally.  I could tell that mum was rather taken with the idea.  Apparently, they’re after working women with lots of kids and big photogenic farmhouses!  I don’t know how she’ll manage the cooking stage (unless they lay on a microwave & freezer!).
Our old ma might be a bit bonkers but she’s generally good at sussing people out and she doesn’t really trust Brenda’s motives.  She said Queen B was overly flattering and surprisingly nervous, but she can’t work out why.  I didn’t like to tell her that it was probably because this was Brenda’s first interview with her prospective mother-in-law but I think that probably explains it.
Can’t wait to hear how your session goes …
Rosa xxx
To: Rosa
From: Laura
Date: 31 January
Subject: Confessions of a babysitter…
I’m writing this from my bed since Massimo has taken Juno off with him to see Petra and I’m recovering from a serious Gin Night with Daisy yesterday.  I think it’s about 3 o’clock but I can’t quite face getting up yet.  I thought I’d email you instead of proofing a pile of copy for the latest aluminium garden table brochure.  It’s not exactly a page-turner.
Daisy came round for a drink and one thing led to another; with hindsight, I think she always intended to get fully plastered.  It seems she’s been feeling slightly awkward about working at Petra’s when Massimo comes round.  Apparently she and our hound of a brother had a wee thing when she worked for you!  I may have been working my way through my third G&T at the time, but it didn’t stop me doing a bit of mental maths.   You and Nick left here when the boys were what, 3 & 5, which means Daisy worked for you from 4 to 6 years ago.  Her son Pip is 4. 
I’m afraid I may not have been too tactful – I said something like “oh gawd, don’t tell me Massimo’s the father!” and Daisy confessed that she didn’t really know who the father was – it could have been one of two guys she was seeing at the time.  When I said surely a DNA test would sort that out, she told me that a DNA test wouldn’t help with paternity …
To: Laura
From: Rosa
Date: 1 February
Subject: DNA
Dear Laura
OMG!  Daisy and Massimo!!  I had no idea!!! How very creepy.  I keep replaying memories from those days but it’s making me feel very queasy.
If a DNA test means Daisy would be none the wiser, doesn’t that mean she must have been sleeping with two brothers?  At least we can rule Massimo out as the father because if it had been him, she’d have had to have had an affair with Lorenzo too.  And NOBODY would dream of sleeping with him.  Plus, didn’t Carla make him have a vasectomy after that dalliance with the girl from the RHS all those years ago?
Still, I do feel rather responsible for Daisy.  What was she thinking?  And who on earth do you think the father could be?  I’ve been wracking my brains to think of two related suitable candidates.  Doesn’t warehouse Garry have a brother who’s a bit of a looker?  And what about Old Parsley’s elder brother, the local rat man?  Just kidding!
I’m going to ring Daisy and invite her up for a weekend so that I can grill her properly.
Lots of love, Rosa xxx

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