The Wedding(7)

By: Emma Darcy

The helicopter lifted off. When the heat in her cheeks became slightly less painful, Tessa turned to look at Jerry, who was sitting next to her. Impossible to talk, but she would have liked a look of moral support from him. He had his gold-rimmed spectacles off. One hand was lifted to his eyes, finger and thumb squeezing the eyelids hard. His brow was furrowed. His head was bent. He looked as if he was fiercely concentrated in prayer... or something.

Tessa sighed. No help there. Maybe Jerry hated flying. Or maybe he was praying that she wouldn’t stuff up. She beamed a hard thought at the back of Blaize Callagan’s head. I am not here for your amusement, Blaize Callagan, she told him. And my body—fit or not—is no business of yours. You either take me seriously, or don’t take me at all!

Except she was here in this helicopter, and on her way with him, and she couldn’t exactly jump off in midair. In fact, there was very little she could do about it, so she turned her head to the view below and watched the city give way to country. At least she was getting away from other problems for a while.

There had to be someone down there, she thought. Someone a whole lot better than Grant Durham. Someone who would at least be faithful to the so-called love he talked about. Tessa wondered if Blaize Callagan had been faithful to his wife. Maybe men weren’t faithful animals. But she certainly wasn’t going to marry one who couldn’t be faithful to her seven weeks before their wedding day!

Tessa heaved another sigh. How was she going to tell her mother the wedding was off? She could readily imagine the hysterics and the recriminations. “What will people think?” and, “All the arrangements are made!” and, “You’ve been wanting to marry Grant for four years, Tessa! You won’t get anyone if you don’t have him.” Her mother was going to throw an absolute fit. Reason would have nothing to do with it.

At least her father would listen. He had never been all that keen on Grant. Besides, her father was about to be saved a lot of money on the wedding reception. He would appreciate that more than her mother did. Tessa had always found her father a sane, sensible man.

It seemed no time at all before they were over the Hunter River Valley. The rolling hills were lined with rows and rows of grapevines. The helicopter swooped in towards an impressive complex of colonial-styled buildings situated on the top of a small hill. Cream walls, green roof and verandahs all around. Nothing higher than two storeys. Landscaped gardens close in, and expanses of lawn rolling down the hill with lovely stands of native gum trees and a huge lake-like dam to add interest.

They landed on the lawn near the tennis court. Blaize Callagan lifted Tessa out of the helicopter as efficiently as he had lifted her into it. Apparently they were the last to arrive. The verandah above the slope of lawn was crowded with company people and a smattering of Japanese, all enjoying a pre-luncheon drink while they waited for the big guns to lead proceedings.

Tessa looked at the grassed slope to be traversed and regretted her spindly high heels. Blaize Callagan offered his arm.

“Please try not to fall flat on your face, Stockton. It wouldn’t create a good impression,” he murmured out of the corner of his mouth.

“I’ll hang onto you like grim death, sir,” she retorted.

“A lively way to meet your end, Stockton,” he said with a totally impassive countenance. “Might I suggest a more forward pressure on your toes?”

“At your command, sir.”

“Nice attitude, Stockton.”

“Thank you, sir.”

She made it up to the verandah without mishap. At which point, she became nothing but a cipher at Blaize Callagan’s side until luncheon was over, although she was treated with impeccable courtesy by all the men present, Australian and Japanese. Her opposite number, with whom she would have to liaise, was a man. Who, she was pleased to note, was as short as she was, which made him a whole lot less intimidating than he might have been. She was the only woman from either side.

At two o’clock, they all trooped down to the conference centre and the nitty-gritty business began. Tessa had no time to admire the facilities provided, the fine proportions of the big conference room, the interesting paintings on the walls or the artistic floral arrangements. She concentrated hard on her shorthand notes, arranging them in a system for easy reference points— the names of the speakers, their contributions to the discussion, the proposals, the objections, the suggested compromises.

Jerry Fraine was good. She felt positively proud of her boss’s negotiating skills. But Blaize Callagan was the pivot, without a doubt. Everything turned around him. It was an education to listen and watch as he swung an argument or worked around it, seizing advantages, defusing problems, plotting a winning course.