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Nick declared himself hooked.“I’ve admired you for so long, you have absolutely no idea.”“No,” she said crossly, “I haven’t.I’ve made it very clear I admired you, though.”“I know, but I thought you were just being kind. She stayed at his flat sometimes, and he at hers (in which case it was Clapham Common he loped across), but they were very much an item, recognising that the next step would be moving in together.Martha is a highly paid corporate lawyer, just embarking on a political career. I’m hungry and I can see nothing interesting’s going to happen here.”“You’re such a gentleman, you know that?Dedicated to her job, she has had little time for personal relationships and lives a busy, but lonely life. ” said Jocasta, draining her glass.***In fact Nick was a gentleman; nobody was quite sure what he was doing in the world of the tabloid press.I thought a girl who looked like you was bound to have a dozen boyfriends.”“Oh for God’s sake,” said Jocasta, and got into bed beside him and their relationship had been finally—and happily—sealed. Nick said repeatedly that there was absolutely no hurry for this: “We both work horrendous hours, and we’re perfectly happy, why change things?”Jocasta could see several reasons for changing things, the strongest being that they had been together for well over a year and if they were so happy, then that was a very good reason indeed to change things.It was not entirely true that he had a girlfriend on every paper, but women adored him.

She had pursued him fervently and shamelessly for several months; she would feel she was really making progress, having flirted manically through evening after evening and been told how absolutely gorgeous he thought she was, only to hear nothing from him for weeks until some newspaper happening brought them together again.

No editor, however, would give her that sort of chance; she was too valuable at what she did. Walking away, knowing she’d done it, resisting the temptation to look back, carefully subdued—she could still remember old Bob at the news agency telling her one of the prime qualities for a good reporter was acting ability. She thought that every year as well, how they had promised one another—and never kept the promise. Given everything that had happened…Nick Marshall was the political editor on the Sketch, Jocasta's paper; he worked not in the glossy building on Canary Wharf but in one of the shabby offices above the press galleries at the House of Commons. But he had developed an early passion for politics and after an initial foray into the real thing had decided he could move into the corridors of power faster via the political pages of a newspaper.

In the predominantly male culture that was newspapers, a dizzy–looking blonde with amazing legs had her place and that was getting the sort of stories other reporters couldn’t. Of course, the shame was pretty rare, but if it was a real tragedy, then it did lurk about, the feeling that she was a parasite, making capital out of someone else’s unhappiness. “More like what newsrooms used to be,” one of the old–timers had told Jocasta. He was a brilliant investigative journalist, and came up with scoop after scoop, the most famous, if least important, of which was the revelation that a prominent Tory minister bought all his socks and underpants at charity shops.

Actually, I don’t exactly like her, but she’s an incredible force to reckon with.”“So? That they’ll never get in again, that Blair can walk on water, however often it looks like he’ll drown. Most notably Jack Kirkland.”Jack Kirkland had risen from extraordinarily unpromising beginnings—and indeed unlikely for a Tory—from a South London working–class family, to a position as minister for education in the Tory party; his journey from grammar school to an Oxford first was extremely well charted in the media.“So where is this leading, Nick? A party just left of centre, but still recognisably Tory, headed up by a pretty charismatic lot, which will appeal to both disillusioned Blair and Tory voters.”“That’s what every politician since time began has said.”“I know. ” the young father had said, lighting his ninth cigarette of the interview—Jocasta always counted things like that, it helped add colour. Our little chap’s only had eight months and he could be gone forever. I tell you, they should lock them up forever for this sort of thing, lock them up and throw away the key—”She could see her headline then, and hated herself for seeing it.***While she was in the middle of writing her story, she got an e–mail from the office: could she do a quick piece on Pauline Prescott’s hair (a hot topic ever since her husband had made it his excuse for taking the car out to drive a hundred yards); they would send a picture down the line to her. “Yes, he’s going to be all right, he’s going to pull through, we just saw him, he actually managed a smile! Nick.”She mailed Nick back, telling him she’d be there by nine, then, rather reluctantly, dialled her mother’s number. He ushered her towards a small group in the middle; Jocasta grinned round at them.“Hi, guys. “Labour lead shrinking, Blair losing touch, shades of Maggie, too much spin—you name it, we’ve heard it before. Told he was the political editor, she had assumed, joyfully, that she would see him every day; the discovery that he only came in for the occasional editors’ conference, or one–to–one meetings with Chris Pollock, the editor, was a serious blow.

”“So, she’s pretty sick of what’s going on in the party. There’s talk of some of them doing something about it.”“Like what? Forming a new party with a few right–minded people within the party.”“And do these people exist? But there’s a growing disaffection with Blair, and there are a lot of instinctive Tory voters out there, longing for change. Jocasta, wrenching her mind off the desperately injured baby, wondered if any other job in the world imposed such extraordinarily diverse stress at such short notice. ”“Dave, I’m so glad, so very glad,” said Jocasta, hugely relieved, not only that the baby was going to live but that she was so touched by it, looking at her screen through a blur of tears. She filed the story, and checked her e–mails; there was an assortment of junk, one from her brother telling her their mother was missing her and to phone her, a couple from friends—and one that made her smile. And flicking through her diary, knowing her mother would want to make some arrangement for the week, realised it was exactly fifteen years to the day since she had set off for Thailand, in search of adventure. As was the news that he had a girlfriend on every paper.