Friends Like That

One good turn deserves another

Ellie Porterfield is not one of THE Porterfields though she works in high-end fashion at their department store.

When a severely beaten man collides with her at a bus stop she calls an ambulance and renders first aid.

Is drawn further into a web of danger and deceipt that could cost her life.

But could it shed light on her troubled past as well?

Available in

  • Hardback (ISBN: 978-1-922744-56-2 MSRP US$24.99
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Chapter One

It was an ordinary day. So perfectly ordinary that most people take them for granted.

There’s nothing particularly dreadful or delightful about an ordinary day. They’re just the days that don’t make it into your long-term memory if you’re not the type of person who regularly keeps a diary.

The morning was not too hot and not too cold. The breeze neither too rough nor too gentle.

The sun, however, was warm enough to rest comfortably on Ellie Porterfield’s back, but not so warm she felt a need to take her sky blue cashmere overcoat off.

It was a day like thousands before it, the sort of day Ellie also took for granted.

And it was also the manner of day she would come to long for.

Ellie worked at the Porterfield Department Store.

So far as she knew, she was no relation to THE Porterfields who started the store in 1892.

Her mother had burned up in a nightclub fire when she was five, presumably with her father, though she had no recollection of him.

She could, however, remember the scratchy black suit the man who left her in the orphanage was wearing. The way it felt as she held his arm, begging him not to leave her there.

The way it felt as he wrenched it free of her grip, and the hardness of the tiled floor as she fell to her knees and watched him walk away.

Not looking back even once.

Perhaps because of a succession of unpleasant stints in a long chain of foster homes and care facilities, she blocked the memories of what she assumed was the happiest time of her life that came before.

About all she remembered of her mother was blonde hair piled on the top of her head in an intriguing series of curls, along with the smell of sweat and sandalwood.

As she grew older, she fantasised, not of being a Princess, but of being a Porterfield.

That the Porterfields would swoop in and rescue her. Dress her in clothes worthy of the department store’s windows and feed her food more delicious and more plentiful than she could imagine.

By the time she turned eighteen and found herself outside the last care facility’s door, clutching a single black plastic bag containing significantly less than what she considered her property, she understood at last she was not a long-lost heiress.

If the Porterfields hadn’t claimed her by now, she simply wasn’t related. She was on her own, and would have to fight and work hard to achieve everything she wanted in life.

Given her parents were dead and twenty years had passed since their demise, there seemed little chance of finding out for sure who her parents were now.

Or, to be honest, much point.

In any case, she’d interviewed for a general women’s department sales position at the Porterfield Department Store. Not because she fostered any hope of being claimed by them, but because it was the only place she could think of. But, they placed her in the exclusive high-end fashion department instead.

So exclusive you had to book an appointment and take a private lift to the swipe card protected top floor.

The show room was lit with a soft, kind to wrinkles glow, in which several brightly spotlighted mannequins featured the latest designs.

On receiving notification a customer had arrived, Ellie would escort her female, or somewhat more discretely male, client to the floor. Usher them into a spacious changing room and draw the sumptuous rose gold satin curtains closed behind them.

She’d invite them to sit on a matching velvet Chippendale style chair and lay their bags on a short, wide black lacquered chest of drawers packed with pins, tape measures and other assorted items needed to ensure the correct fit.

Taking a small, refrigerated bottle of sparkling mineral water from the cut crystal tray on the drawers, she’d half fill a matching glass and settle it within easy reach of the chair.

She’d stand before her wealthy customer, hands clasped in front of her and head respectfully bowed as they sipped their water and discussed what kind of garment and occasions they were looking for.

Then leave them alone with the muted sound of classic orchestral music, carefully drawing the curtains back across the changing room to ensure privacy while they disrobed.

In the meantime, she collected together a small selection of suitable clothing on a wheeled rack and brought it back to the changing room.

If they needed a little nip and tuck to ensure the correct fit, Ellie pinned out the garments and whisked them away to a carefully concealed and sound proofed room of sewing machinists.

She’d invite them to take a beauty treatment or have their hair styled in the adjoining luxury salon while they waited.

Or perhaps they’d take a little lunch or an apéritif in the exclusive and mind-numbingly expensive café on the same floor

Away from the common people.

So while Ellie didn’t know who her parents were, given that the department store called her Miss Porterfield, sent her to the elite salon where they handed her all the difficult customers, she was fairly certain it was because of her name.

Perhaps her exclusive clientele imagined she was learning the roped from the ground up. And perhaps they treated her with a modicum of respect because of that.

But, as Porterfield had an excellent employee discount program, and she was required to wear more sophisticated clothing, she was not about to complain.

What Ellie didn’t know was the years of living in care had given her abilities so precious few people ever master them.

Including the ability to sit quietly and unobtrusively, barely noticed by those not looking specifically for her. To keep her thoughts to herself, not showing them on her face, nor gossiping about them.

But, with her long black hair and strikingly handsome square face, dressed in her expensive clothes, there was a bonus. People were in awe of her, a little afraid of her, and often scared to think about approaching her.

Also, thanks to her early years, she lived a self-contained life, rarely impacting on others. No real friends, just larger-than-life characters from movies and television shows who walked, in her imagination, by her side.


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