As Dana neared the far side of the store, she and Helen Kavanagh simultaneously approached the same elevator.
As always, Helen was impeccably dressed, and her carriage bespoke an elegant, stylish demeanor. She was in the later years of middle age, but she advanced towards the elevator briskly, her blond hair pulled severely back from her face and secured with an ever-present black velvet ribbon. Her face expressionless, she glanced at Dana, her pace unchanged. A signal had clearly been given. In point of fact, Helen truly admired Dana, but the young events coordinator was in her twenties, and there was a protocol in Helen’s universe that she didn’t believe needed to be articulated. Respect carried the day, with camaraderie offered in moderation, preferably outside of the workplace. Dana therefore halted just long enough to allow Helen to slip into the elevator before she followed, the doors closing behind her. The two women were alone as the elevator ascended to the executive suite of offices on the fifth floor.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained, Dana thought. Besides, Mark had literally gone out of his way to suggest that she approach Helen. Mark, of course, could be aggressive and disarming at the same time, so such a feat would naturally be far easier for him to accomplish. Still, she was quite aware that Mark had her best interests at heart. It was worth a try.
“Good morning, Helen.”
Helen nodded and smiled thinly. “Dana.”
“Helen, I was wondering if you shopped Biba when you were in London last month. They’re pulling in a million customers a week. A million!” Dana raised her eyebrows, her clear blue eyes sparkling even in the dim light of the elevator.
Helen tapped a silver ballpoint pen against the brown leather case holding her yellow legal pad. “Biba,” she said with frustration. “Biba is filled with non-paying customers who rush in before work to try on free makeup. Free, Dana. Are they running a business or having a party? Try it before you buy it? I don’t think so. They’re crazy. Excuse me—as the British say, they’re quite mad. They’ll be out of business in a year.”
Dana’s heart skipped a beat, but she wasn’t going to show any nervousness. Instead, she laughed. “Well, I’m sure you’re right. Shows what I know!”
It was a self-effacing remark, but Dana knew when to back down.
Helen, who had been facing forward, turned and looked at Dana squarely. “And don’t even think of taking this to Bea.”
Dana smiled as the elevator door opened, but she said nothing.
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