The Final Straight
By Charlotte Howard
April Miller works for her best-friend, Max Knight on his livery and competition yard. Their friendship has withstood many turbulent times, and while April is deeply in love with Max, she is also aware of his womanising ways and has refused to succumb to his flirtatious charms. When her ex, AJ, suddenly comes back with a business proposal, April finds herself torn between the two men.
April stared at the few black blobs on the screen. She knew they should have formed sentences, but her mind was elsewhere and unable to create readable words out of the muddle. The biro’s plastic end crunched between her back teeth.
She’d managed as much as ‘Dear AJ,’ when a knock on the door disturbed her. Max poked his head around and gave her the same soulful puppy-eyed look he always did after he’d managed to upset her.
“What do you want, Max?” she asked, pretending to be engrossed in whatever was on her screen.
“Peace offering,” he said, walking in and putting the mug of tea by the mouse pad.
She looked up at him. The frustration and irritation faded. “I’m sorry for snapping.”
Max sank into the chair opposite. “I’m sorry for…”
April raised her eyebrows, waiting for him to finish the sentence. “Shagging everything in sight?” she suggested. “You need to watch yourself.”
“I don’t think you do. Every time your bedroom antics are flaunted, I get a phone call. Six o’clock this morning and Banks was on the phone screeching at me. You hadn’t even got out of the shower and I was helping him load his horses onto a lorry.”
Confusion spread across his face, giving him the look of an innocent teenager.
“She woke up, and you weren’t there,” April reminded him. “Of course she’s going to ring her dad, who, may I remind you, has a shotgun license. You’re lucky it was only money he was cutting off.”
Max winced. “I am sorry.”
April hummed, not sure whether to believe him. “They are the second client we’ve lost this month because of you. I’m fed up of having to placate pissed off husbands and fathers.” She rubbed at the corners of her eyes as her contact lenses began to itch. “We have a board meeting next week. Please don’t make me ask them for more money.”
“Hey,” he cooed, sweeping around to her. He knelt by her leg, taking her pale knuckles in his hands. “You won’t need to.”
“I will if we run out and I can’t pay the bills. I can’t afford to forfeit my wage to support this place.”
“No,” he said, with a shake of his head. “That won’t happen.”
“I do have something for you to consider.”
“What? Anything if it will cheer you up.”
“The college rang and asked if we’d be willing to take on a work experience girl over the summer holidays.”
He dropped her hands, stood up, and began to pace in front of the desk. “You know how I feel about that.”
“It would be free labour, good publicity, and we’d be helping her out. Good karma, which is something I think you need.”
“I just have…” he hovered around the words. “Standards.”
“I’m asking you to hire her, not sleep with her.”