Money: The Trader - A terrible mistake

Paying off your mortgage early leaves you free to spend more on enjoying life.

I HAVE discovered something about computer screens. If you stare at them long enough, they become three-dimensional, like those interactive posters that look like a bunch of scribbles and are really a floating marijuana leaf.

Of course, it helps if your eyes are out of focus, and what with the welling-up when I think of my boyfriend Olivier, and the sleepless nights, mine are in that condition most of the time.

Olivier has refused to take my calls for a week now, and I couldn't be more miserable. I've even started having nightmares. One minute I'm sound asleep, the next I'm hurtling through a multi-coloured vortex like something out of Star Trek. When I crash to the ground, I can see I'm in a landscape dreamt up by someone on LSD: overly bright flowers, weird insects... But the only sound is a quiet sobbing coming from behind a small, emerald hill.

When I go to see what's making the noise, I find a white rabbit with its back to me. There's an elaborate old-fashioned pocket watch on the ground in front of it, and between sobs it pats it half-heartedly and gulps, "How could she do this to me?" And then it turns to look at me, and it's Olivier, with one long ear sticking up and the other flopping pathetically over his right eye. Then I wake up, racked with guilt and crying.

At work, I have thrown myself into as many deals as possible, in a largely vain effort to distract myself. It's just as well I don't have to work in euros, in the circumstances. The FX boys - indistinguishable from the rabble at the last place - may have been having a high old time of it since "euro Monday", but Findlay's still twiddling his thumbs waiting for someone to be more adventurous with the new currency.

Anyway, in between frenzies of manic deal-doing, I have successfully avoided talking to Jaap. After all, what am I supposed to say to him? "Hello, I'm afraid I don't remember anything about it, but did we have a mad night of passion after the Chrstmas lunch? Only if so, you left your watch on my bedside table." Exactly; you can see my problem.

So I felt more than a little uncomfortable when he strolled over yesterday and flopped down into the spare chair next to me.

"You look as if you need cheering up," he said gently. I muttered that it'd sort itself out, and he looked as if he didn't believe me but wasn't going to pry.

"Life would be a lot easier without other people, wouldn't it?" he continued. "I am in terrible trouble with my sister. She's furious that I've lost the watch she bought me when I left to come to London."

I felt sick. Of all the topics in all the world, why did he have to start on this one?

I was desperately trying to think of a way of changing the subject when Jaap said, "I remember that at the Christmas lunch the strap kept coming undone, so I took it off and put it on the table. I called the restaurant the next day, but they couldn't find it."

I froze. A flash of memory. Being last to leave the table. Seeing Jaap's watch lying there and picking it up and tucking it into my bag. The bag I turned out drunkenly on my bedside table as I hunted for my contact- lens case that night.

No more mystery. Only, how do I explain this to Jaap? And how do I convince Olivier?

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