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Can You Keep

A Secret?

Sophie Kinsella

To H, from whom I have no secrets. Well, not many, anyway.

Acknowledgements

A big thank you to Mark Hedley, Jenny Bond, Rosie Andrews and Olivia Heywood for all

their generous advice. And hugest gratitude as always to Linda Evans, Patrick Plonkington-

Smythe, Araminta Whitley and Celia Hayley, my boys and the board.

ONE

Of course I have secrets.

Of course I do. Everyone has a secret. It's completely normal. I'm sure I don't have any more

than anybody else.

I'm not talking about big, earth-shattering secrets. Not the-president-is-planning-to-bomb-

Japan-and-only-Will-Smith-can-save-the-world type secrets. Just normal, everyday little

secrets.

Like for example, here are a few random secrets of mine, off the top of my head:

1. My Kate Spade bag is a fake.

2. I love sweet sherry, the least cool drink in the universe.

3. I have no idea what NATO stands for. Or even what it is.

4. I weigh 9 stone 3. Not 8 stone 3, like my boyfriend Connor thinks. (Although in my

defence, I was planning to go on a diet when I told him that. And to be fair, it is only one

number different.)

5. I've always thought Connor looks a bit like Ken. As in Barbie and Ken.

6. Sometimes, when we're right in the middle of passionate sex, I suddenly want to laugh.

7. I lost my virginity in the spare bedroom with Danny Nussbaum, while Mum and Dad were

downstairs watching Ben Hur.

8. I've already drunk the wine that Dad told me to lay down for twenty years.

9. Sammy the goldfish at home isn't the same goldfish that Mum and Dad gave me to look

after when they went to Egypt.

10. When my colleague Artemis really annoys me, I feed her plant orange juice. (Which is

pretty much every day.)

11. I once had this weird lesbian dream about my flatmate Lissy.

12. My G-string is hurting me.

13. I've always had this deep down conviction that I'm not like everybody else, and there's an

amazingly exciting new life waiting for me just around the corner.

14. I have no idea what this guy in the grey suit is going on about.

15. Plus I've already forgotten his name.

And I only met him ten minutes ago.

'We believe in logistical formative alliances,' he's saying in a nasal, droning voice, 'both above

and below the line.'

'Absolutely!' I reply brightly, as though to say: Doesn't everybody?

Logistical. What does that mean, again?

Oh God. What if they ask me?

Don't be stupid, Emma. They won't suddenly demand, 'What does logistical mean?' I'm a

fellow marketing professional, aren't I? Obviously I know these things.

And anyway, if they mention it again I'll change the subject. Or I'll say I'm post-logistical or

something.

The important thing is to keep confident and businesslike. I can do this. This is my big chance

and I'm not going to screw it up.

I'm sitting in the offices of Glen Oil's headquarters in Glasgow, and as I glance at my

reflection in the window, I look just like a top businesswoman. My hair is straightened, I'm

wearing discreet earrings like they tell you to in How-to-win-that-job articles, and I've got on

my smart new Jigsaw suit. (At least, it's practically new. I got it from the Cancer Research

shop and sewed on a button to replace the missing one, and you can hardly tell.)

I'm here representing the Panther Corporation, which is where I work. The meeting is to

finalize a promotional arrangement between the new cranberry-flavoured Panther Prime

sports drink and Glen Oil, and I flew up this morning from London, especially. (The company

paid, and everything!)

When I arrived, the Glen Oil marketing guys started on this long, show-offy 'who's-travelledthe-

most?' conversation about airmiles and the red-eye to Washington — and I think I bluffed

pretty convincingly. (Except when I said I'd flown Concorde to Ottawa, and it turns out

Concorde doesn't go to Ottawa.) But the truth is, this is the first time I've ever had to travel for

a deal.

OK. The real truth is, this is the first deal I've ever done, full stop. I've been at the Panther

Corporation for eleven months as a marketing assistant, and until now all I've been allowed to

do is type out copy, arrange meetings for other people, get the sandwiches and pick up my

boss's dry-cleaning.

So this is kind of my big break. And I've got this secret little hope that if I do this well, maybe

I'll get promoted. The ad for my job said 'possibility of promotion after a year', and on

Monday I'm having my yearly appraisal meeting with my boss, Paul. I looked up 'Appraisals'

in the staff induction book, and it said they are 'an ideal opportunity to discuss possibilities for

career advancement'.

Career advancement! At the thought, I feel a familiar stab of longing in my chest. It would

just show Dad I'm not a complete loser. And Mum. And Kerry. If I could go home and

casually say, 'By the way, I've been promoted to Marketing Executive.'

Emma Corrigan, Marketing Executive.

Emma Corrigan, Senior Vice-President (Marketing.)

As long as everything goes well today. Paul said the deal was done and dusted and all I had to

do was nod and shake their hands, and even I should be able to manage that. And so far, I

reckon it's going really well.

OK, so I don't understand about 90 per cent of what they're saying. But then I didn't

understand much of my GCSE French Oral either, and I still got a B.

'Rebranding… analysis… cost-effective…'

The man in the grey suit is still droning on about something or other. As casually as possible,

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