Coming Home – Jeannie
Wednesday 17th June
The large car pulled up in the car park, the door opening as an immensely tall young man got out and looked round, before he removed a wheelchair from the boot and set it up. Wearing a dark blue polo shirt, jeans and sneakers, he opened the passenger door and lifted out the fifteen year old brown haired girl, wearing a tan leather jacket over a black t-shirt, denim skirt, black leggings and black shoes.
“Well this is my old school.” Jeannie kissed House as helped her out of the car and into the chair.
“Downwood School,” he read the sign. “It’s pretty different from St Angela’s,” he remarked as he looked at the two and three story blocks built in the sixties. Despite their setting in the middle of green fields, they still managed to look aged, but also somewhat shabby.
“It looks worse then I remember.” Jeannie looked hard, “hard to think that less then a year ago I was a pupil at this dump. Mum said Harlow was built as a model town in the sixties, but somehow..."
“Have you stayed in touch with anyone?” Winston wheeled her down the path from the car park.
“I e-mail a couple of girls, but not really, they don’t understand my life any more, and I aint sure I want to remember what life was like ‘ere.”
“You sound like a snob saying that Jeans.”
“Yeah I know, but it’s just we don’t ‘ave much in common to talk about anymore.”
"You sound like Susan when she gets flustered - well, ready to go in?"
“Alright the headmistresses’ office is inside on the left.” Jeannie warned Winston as he wheeled her up the ramp and inside the main entrance.
“This door?” House asked.
“Yes.” Jeans took a deep breath as Winston knocked.
“Come in,” a female voice called out.
“Hello Miss.” Jeannie smiled as Winston pushed her in and she saw Mrs. Brand the head sitting at her desk.
“Oh dear God,” the head put her hand to her mouth, “Jeannie Brewster…well I never.”
“Sorry to drop in without an appointment, Miss. Can I introduce Winston Brewster, he’s no relation, but he is my boyfriend.”
“Hello Winston,” the head came round her desk and shook his hand. “So what brings you back to see us Jeannie?”
“Well I’m doing a couple of shows and shoots in London Miss, and Winston wanted to see my old home, so well I got him to bring me out to Harlow.”
“Well it’s very different to New York Winston.”
“I saw, but it’s still nice to visit.”
“Well Jeannie,” Mrs. Brand took a step back to look, “You look amazingly beautiful.”
“Thank you Miss.” Jeannie blushed.
“How is your schooling going?”
“I finished the year with an A minus average.” Jeannie smiled proudly.
“That’s wonderful, we guessed you might thrive at such a good school.”
“Still a few things I’m adapting to, but next year I’ll be taking normal sophomore History and Spanish.”
“How is your PE?”
“The school had someone teach the gym teachers how to massage my legs and they devised a work-out regimen for me. I also go swimming at the Y with some friends most weeks.”
“That’s good, it’s just a pity we had neither the facilities or budget to do it for you here.”
“Well the staff all tried to help.”
“Yes…and Winston what do you do?”
“I just finished my freshman year at Stanford, I’m a pre-law major.”
“He also started on their defensive line in football.” Jeannie looked up proudly. “He’s not a dumb jock.”
“So it would seem.” The headmistress looked the huge young man up and down. She was a very tall woman with mousey brown hair wearing a white jumper under a green pinafore dress, and smiled as she saw the couple there.
“Anyway what can the school do for you today Jeannie?”
“Well quietly I’d like to give the school this.” Jeannie reached inside her jacket and pulled out an envelope.
“And it is…? Oh dear Lord,” the Headmistress sat back against her desk as she pulled a cheque out of the envelope. “Jeannie are you sure about this? It’s far too much.”
“Well as I said, Mum and I want it to be an anonymous donation, but we thought that the Library appeal could put it to good use.”
“Oh we can, but twenty-five thousand pounds…are you and your mother sure?”
“Yes.” Jeannie smiled, “This school did a lot for me, I just want to give something back.”
“Well Jeannie, I promise no one will ever know who our donor was.” Mrs. Brand stood and then hugged the young model.
“In return is it okay for me and Winston to disrupt lunch, I’d like him to meet some people.”
“Go ahead…in fact that is lunch.” The Head looked up as the bell rang.
“Alright Miss, we will be going…again thank you.”
“No thank you Jeannie,” she kissed her on the cheek, and shook Winston’s hand.
“Alright wagons roll.” Jeannie smiled as House opened the door and she wheeled herself out.
For a moment the young couple were stationary in the school vestibule, watching as boys and girls scurried to stand in line for the dining room.
“That was your uniform,” Winston said as he looked at the black jacket, grey trousers and skirts and white blouses. A fair number of the girls were also wearing head scarves in grey or white.
“That’s the uniform – fashionable, right?”
“Hey Jeans.” A dark haired girl said as she rushed by, got five steps more, then stopped and looked round.
“Oh my effing god.” The girl stood there as though she had been pole-axed.
“No just me.” Jeannie grinned.
“SHIT!” the girl screamed and ran to put her arms round the girl in the wheelchair.
“Hey, I’m still disabled you know.”
“Why didn’t you write and say you were bloody cumming?”
“Because I wanted to surprise everyone.”
“Well you just nearly gave me a bleedin’ heart attack.”
“Then it worked,” Jeannie said with a smile.
“And who is this?” Cathy asked looking up at Winston.
“I wrote you about this big bastard Cath.”
“Oh! THIS is Winston?” Cathy looked impressed…”And you and he…?”
“Yep.” Jeannie smiled.
“Well ‘e beats any of the local boys.”
“Don’t ‘e just.” Jeannie giggled.
“I thought ‘e was yer bloody bodyguard at first.”
“Well ‘e can do that as well.”
“Hey Liz, Hey Ashley…wotcha Tony.” Jeannie smiled as other kids stopped and stood open-mouthed.
“OMFG.” Ashley dropped the files she was carrying.
“Jeans!” Liz squealed and hugged her.
“Gang, this is Winston me boyfriend, House these are some old bloody friends of mine.”
“Pleasure to meet you all,” House said as he looked at the other kids. “Jeans, perhaps we should…”
“Oh god yeah – come on you, we’ll grab a table and catch up,” Cathy said as she led the group to the canteen doors, opening them as Jeannie made her way through with the others and joined the queue at the serving area.
“Hey Madge,” Jeannie said to the dinner lady, “got any sausage and mash today?”
“JEANNIE!! Hey girls Jeannie’s here.”
The other staff came over to look at Jeannie as she talked to them, and then took two plates of food for her and Winston, the others following as she paid for them and then they made their way over to a table.
“Okay, your mum’s fish and chips I like, but these?”
“English sausages – you’ll like them,” Jeannie said as the others came over and sat down.
“So what are you doing here anyway?” Cathy said.
“Working – I have some things to do in town,” Jeannie said as Winston cut into one of the sausages, looked at it and then out it in his mouth. “I’ve finished school now until September, but I still need to earn some spending money.”
“Lucky you – mind you, that make up you’re in all the ads for is good stuff.”
“This place hasn’t changed much,” Jeannie said as she looked round.
“Yeah – still a bit rough at times, but nothing we can’t…”
“Oy – who let the cripple in ‘ere?”
“Oh lord,” Ashley said as she looked over Jeannie’s shoulder, “look, say nothing.”
“Who to?” Jeannie said as the voice called out again
“We don’t want any of your type here.”
Winston saw the fire start to flare in Jeannie’s eyes as she slowly turned herself round and looked at the three girls who were standing behind her.
“Oh, and what type would that be,” Jeannie said as she looked at them and smiled.
“Well, if it isn’t Jeannie fucking Brewster,” the one in the middle, tall with red hair said. “Come down from your mighty perch have you?”
“Hello Crystal,” Jeannie said with a smile, “missed your chances to make fun of me, have you?”
“Still got a gob on you, I see?” the girl to the left said.
"What are you fuckin' slummin'?" the redhead asked.
"With these guys no, with you then I guess I
"I 'eard you went to
sum posh private school now, I'd 'ave fort anyone
from 'arlow woz too good fer yer now?"
"Now I'm still me, and I still fink you aint nuffin but a bloody bully."
“Look Yvonne, we just want to have our lunch and talk to an old friend, all right?”
“Shut it, big ears,” the third girl said as Tony started to stand up, only for Winston to shake his head. Wiping his mouth with the paper napkin, he stood up and turned round, the three girls looking at his six foot six and stockily built frame.
“Now, I’m sure you don’t wish to create more of a scene,” he said quietly, “but if you don’t walk away, now, and stop upsetting my girlfriend, I may forget for a moment that I am a nice guy. I trust I make myself clear?”
The three girls looked at him, and then turned and walked off, Jeannie whispering “thank you” as she turned herself round.
“Sorry,” Cathy said, “I hoped they were off today.”
“Who were they?” Winston asked as Jeannie cut a sausage in half.
“Something I had forgotten about,” she said quietly before chewing the sausage. “Anyway, how are you guys…”
Twenty minutes later, Mrs. Brand approached the table.
“Jeannie, I was wondering if you would come and meet some of your former teachers for a few minutes?”
“Sure,” Jeannie said as she pushed herself away, watching as Winston stood up. “No, House, you can stay for a few minutes. I’ll meet you outside Mrs. Brand’s office when the classes start.”
“Are you sure,” Winston said quietly.
“Yeah – what’s going to happen to me in here,” Jeannie said as she followed her former headmistress out.
“Folks,” Mrs. Brand said as she opened the door, “look who dropped in to say hello?”
The room looked round as Jeannie wheeled herself in and said “hi – sorry I missed school this year.”
“We’ll forgive you,” Mrs. Brooks said as Jeannie positioned herself near the chairs.
“So Jeannie, will you be returning to Britain to go to university?” Miss Nightingale her former form mistress asked.
“Probably not, by the time I’m finished Winston should be going to law school, and his family traditionally goes to Yale Law School, so I’m sort of hoping I’ll get into Yale.”
“Well that’s a first-rate university,” Mrs. Brand nodded, “and there is nothing wrong with aiming high.”
“Well a few friends of mine go there, and I know they think it’s marvelous.”
“How is your Maths Jeannie?” Mr. Stennis her old teacher asked.
“Quite good sir, Miss Kelly my teacher wrote something very encouraging on my report. The only thing wrong is that Anna Carlton who is in my class is a genius, she got maybe 4 questions wrong all year.”
“That sounds amazing.”
“She is sir…next year she’s doing college level math classes with seniors, so mere mortals like myself won’t feel inadequate in comparison in class.”
“I wish the system here could be as flexible in dealing with exceptional students.” Mrs. Brand sipped her tea.
“I know – I have another friend who, for various reasons, didn’t do well at school here. She’s in Hong Kong now – we’ll see her when we get back in a week or so – but it turned out half the problem was she was shortsighted, and it was never picked up.”
The staff looked at each other and shook their heads.
“We see you on TV in Lerrabella ads all the time Jeannie, and we get to see a lot of your photos, I take it the career is going well?” Mr. Law the deputy-head asked.
“Very well Sir, as a friend of mine says, I’m in that category where even I don’t have a clue how much I earn.”
“My Mum, my agent, my accountant, the taxman, they can probably tell you, but I still get just pocket money and a clothes allowance.”
“It sounds like you still have your head screwed on right Jeannie.” Mr. Law smiled.
“Well Mum and Granddad, plus all my friends keep me pretty grounded, they won’t let me get a big head Sir.”
“What’s the worst thing about your new life Jeannie?” Mrs. Craig asked.
“Yes,” the teacher nodded.
“That I have been so many great places, and have hardly seen any of the sights.”
“I see plenty of photographic studios, film and TV studios, show venues, but well take Los Angeles, I’m there every six weeks or so, but I’ve not seen a single touristy thing because I’m always working.”
“A couple of the girls said though you told them at least you did some sight-seeing while you were in Rome recently.” Miss Nightingale spoke again.
“Yes Miss,” Jeannie smiled again, “Lerrabella did arrange that I got to go to the Vatican, and I’ll admit that was wonderful.”
“I’ve spoken to your headmistress at St Angela’s a couple of times this past year Jeannie…”
“Checking up on me eh Miss?”
“I suppose so…anyway she says that you work hard for good causes as well. Something about television adverts encouraging disabled children, being a patroness of a scholarship fund?”
“Well I’m very lucky, I have a life I love, and I got a huge lucky break. I just want to try and help others pursue their dreams.”
“Very admirable.” Mr. Law nodded.
“Did she tell you about the film we shot at school Miss?”
“No that I hadn’t heard about.”
“Well I borrowed a few chairs and some girls tried living like a paraplegic for a few days.”
“That sounds challenging.” Miss Nightingale remarked.
“Well I was both in it, and did the voiceover. The final film was both very funny, and quite revealing how hard being a paraplegic can be. Anyway the school film club won an award at a disabled film festival in New York for it.”
“Well it’s good to hear you are involved with so many worthwhile things Jeannie.” Mr. Wiseman, one of the science teachers said approvingly.
“Jeannie…To all of us as outsiders, modeling looks so glamorous. I’m pretty sure it isn’t all glitz and glamour though, what are the worst things?” Asked Miss Nightingale.
“I’m pretty sure you won’t find a hard working model who doesn’t say the same things Miss.” Jeannie giggled, “That your feet hurt constantly, though of course that doesn’t apply to me, and jet lag.”
“But of course you turn up, you are expected never to show that and always look polished and perfect.” The headmistress remarked.
“Exactly Miss…Most of the girls I know feel wrecked a lot of the time, and contrary to opinion its not because of wild partying and drugs, it’s because they’d kill to just kick their shoes off and sleep.”
“Any other problems?” Mr. Babcock the games master asked.
“Bad tempered photographers can be a major pain in the rear…A friend of mine was having a rough shoot with Adam Cabot, he wouldn’t even give them five minutes to eat a hot dog…and she said to another friend that she thought Lincoln had liberated the slaves, and my other friend came back with a line that’s become an industry classic, that yes Lincoln liberated the slaves, but NOT the models.”
“Oh dear.” Miss Nightingale giggled, “It can really be as bad as that?”
“Yes Miss, it really is a proper job, we may look fantastic in a picture, but if you really knew the stories behind those pictures…” Jeannie shook her head.
“Yes if they only knew,” Mrs. Brand said under her breath.
“So what is the show you are here for Jeannie?” Miss. Nightingale asked.
“I’m walking…sorry,” Jeannie laughed, “I really should say I’m wheeling, the Complete Style fashion awards show at the dome in Greenwich.”
“That’s a mammoth event.” Miss Nightingale whistled.
“Would you like to go Miss? I can arrange say 12 tickets if you want to take some of the girls from the form…with backstage access of course.”
“You can do that Jeannie?”
“Of course I can Miss…say 9 girls and 3 teachers?”
“Jeannie I would love to go.”
“Mrs. Brand maybe you and Mrs. Craig as well?”
“We’d be delighted Jeannie…THANK YOU!”
Looking at her watch, Jeannie said “I have to go – we need to drive back to London. It’s been great seeing all of you though.”
“I’ll go and find that man mountain you call a boyfriend,” Mrs. Brand said as she opened the door, and Jeannie waved before heading for the girl’s toilets.
She sat in the stall, humming to herself before she finished and eased herself into the wheelchair. It was only as she turned she saw that three more girls were in the toilets, Yvonne turning and locking the main door.
“Well, miss high and mighty fucking Brewster,” the third girl, a brunette, said, “fancy meeting you here.”
“Great – my day is complete,” Jeannie said as she wheeled herself to a washstand.
"You might be some fancy model bitch, but round 'ere you still ain't nuffin but a bleedin'
"And in 'ere yer
boyfriend can't protect yer."
"Just lay off girls" Jeannie washed her
"Not till we prove wot a pafetic little bitch you are." Crystal checked the loo stalls were empty.
“Look, I know you’re not as dumb as you look, any of you. Just let me pass and…”
“Not a chance, Spas,” Yvonne said as she pushed Jeannie out of the chair, “you’ll take what’s coming to you, and you’ll accept it or your friends get it as well.”
Jeannie looked at the three girls as Crystal hauled her to her feet, and pulled her arm back…
“Thank you for making me and Jeannie so welcome, Mrs. Brand,” Winston said as they walked down the corridor, the students making their way to class. As they passed Crystal and her two friends, Winston heard them laughing, and then looked to the toilet door.
“Jeannie, are you ready to go…” Winston watched as the door opened, and Jeannie wheeled herself out, a bruise over her left eye and her lip cut.
“What… Who…” Winston turned and started to walk quickly towards the girls.
“Winston, no – I slipped and hurt myself.”
“I’ll explain later,” she said, “just get me to the car please.”
Nodding, Winston pushed her to the car and lifted her in, before depositing the wheelchair in the boot and getting behind the wheel.
“Jeans, I need to know what really happened,” he said as he looked at her, and then saw her starting to cry.
“I’m sorry, House,” she sobbed, “but I don’t want the others to get hurt…”
“Here, here,” House said as he held her, “I’m not angry at you, I just want to know what happened…”
From her office window, Mrs. Brand watched as the car eventually set off, then went back to her desk, shaking her head.
Thursday 18th June
John Hammond’s Studio
“So where is BS this morning, John?”
John Hammond looked at his watch and said “She’s punctual as the pips, Elly – and here she is now.”
“Sorry I’m late,” Jeannie said as she came in, Barbara and Winston following behind. “All right Elly love – work your magic.”
John raised an eyebrow as he looked at her mother and boyfriend, while Ella fastened a cover over Jeannie’s shoulders.
“Right, Baby, let’s… All right, what happened?”
“Don’t worry about it Elly – just weave your magic,” Jeannie said quietly.
“All right darlin’ but I know the signs when someone has been beaten up.” Elly the makeup artist looked concerned. “Did he do this?” she nodded at Winston.
“No Good Lord no,” Jeannie said as Winston shook his head, “he’s my gentle lamb, this was courtesy of three bitches at my old school yesterday.”
“Well I can cover up that damage darlin’ but don’t be surprised if others see it.”
“See what?” John said as he came over and looked closely. “Jeannie, you haven’t been playing Murderball have you?”
“John, Elly can cover it, I’m good to go.”
“Now I know Winston well enough to know he would never, ever do this…but?”
“John,” Jeannie said with a sigh, “it was three girls I used to be at school with, they used to bully me back then, and - well they got me alone in the loo’s yesterday.”
“They did that to a girl in a wheelchair?”
“Yes, charity and empathy for the disabled are not a quality any of them has. I will not have my friends hurt however – so a bruised eye and a cut lip is a small price to pay.”
“Forgive me Jeannie, but that’s crap – bullies need to be stood up to.” John looked over at the door as it opened, Shirley walking in with Fiona Mackenzie. Fiona was in her traditional black dress and cardigan, while Shirley was wearing a pair of smart trousers and a white roll neck sweater.
“Fiona, Shirley… Come and have a look at Jeannie, will you?”
“John, please no,” Jeannie said, “I am good to go.” She rolled her eyes as the two older women looked at her.
“Three girls at Jeannie’s old school gave her a beating yesterday?”
“They did WHAT?” Shirley’s temper boiled as she looked at the young woman.
“Little bitches,” Fiona Mackenzie looked very closely at the bruising, “Cahn ye cover thaat Elly?”
“I can Fiona.”
“Did you report these girls Jeannie?” Shirley asked.
“Why not lass.” Fiona asked.
“Because they said they’d beat up some of her friends as well.” Barbara joined the conversation.
“It’s the same reason she wouldn’t let me do something.” Winston spoke.
“Look it’s my face…okay?” Jeannie pleaded as Elly made her face look virtually faultless with makeup.
“Those girls are one of the reasons I was happy we moved to New York.” Barbara acknowledged.
“They remind me of those other wee bitches that gave Jeannie such grief that first day we met.” Fiona shook her head.
“Let’s just get to work please,” Jeannie said as she wheeled herself off, “what are we starting with John?”
“The evening dress – Jacquie’s waiting for you.”
The group watched as Jeannie wheeled herself over to the dressing area.
“John, see if you can get her to tell you anything else,” Shirley said as she looked at him.
“She won’t – I promise you,” Barbara said.
“Okay Jeannie – go and get ready for the Fifties shoot.”
“Gotcha John,” Jeannie said as Winston lifted her into
her chair. "Fiona can I ask a teensie favour please?"
"You can ask."
"Any chance of 12 really good tickets for Greenwich,
for some friends and teachers from Harlow?"
"You wanna show off
"A little," Jeannie laughed, "but
mainly it's because I want to show them just what it is I do."
"Well I cannae promise
front row, but second or third, probably that I can do."
"Thanks...and one more thing..."
"Backstage passes as well?"
"Ah suppose so." Fiona rolled her eyes.
"I'll get them to the school overnight, who
should I address them to?"
"To Mrs. Brand the headmistress,
and it's to Downwood School."
"Thank you Fiona." Barbara whispered as
Winston escorted her out. "It's important to her. She needs to show them she still remembers
them for the good, not just the bad."
"Ah know, I'll make sure they are great seats."
As John looked at his laptop, and then at his camera, Shirley brought over two mugs of coffee, smiling as Fiona came back and poured herself another cup of tea before talking to Barbara.
“Well darling?” Shirley asked.
“Young Jeannie is a real professional, what she’s giving me is amazing.” John said as he changed lenses.
“Did she say any more about the girls who did that to her?”
“No, she refused, but look,” he flipped up some of the shots of Jeannie laying on the bar counter in the spangly evening dress.
“They are amazing.” Shirley looked closely, “How could any person hurt a girl like that?”
“Because some people are so pathetic they will pick on any defect in another person to make themselves feel superior.”
“Well people like that need punishing…”
“What do you mean my love…? Oh Jeannie you look amazing,” John got distracted by the sight of his model in the faux fifties full skirt and crinoline, her hair tied back in a ponytail and a short sleeved peach mohair sweater on her upper body.
“Alright Jeannie if we sit you on the Vespa, do you think you can work things?”
“Okay Winston, can you lift Jeannie up please onto the scooter.”
“Yes.” He gently picked her up and sat her on the vintage vehicle.
“This look okay John?” Jeannie asked as she got House to cross her legs as she perched on the stabilized scooter.
“It looks amazing Jeans…Now give me that million dollar smile, play with the sunglasses perhaps…? WONDERFUL!” John started snapping.
“Barbara do you know who these girls were who attacked Jeannie?” Shirley whispered.
“I think so, they were off our old estate…why?”
“Oh I don’t know, but I thought of maybe having a quiet word with the school.”
“Good luck with that, those girls are suspended more often then they are in school.”
“Are they now,” Shirley said quietly, “how interesting.”
Barbara shook her head as she said “Thank God Jeannie goes to an amazing place like St Angela’s now. Moving to New York really was the best thing we ever did.”
“House, can you sit Jeans as though she’s riding the bike now?”
“Can do John.” Winston smiled at his girl who was clearly having fun.
“That looks great Jeannie.”
The women watched as Jeannie posed, John starting a wind machine to male Jeannie’s hair fly behind her. “That’s beautiful mah wee lamb,” Fiona called out as she looked on.
"Winston darling, something I'd like to
try." Jeannie motioned. "Sit me sideways on the seat, put my left
foot on the bike, and my right on the ground."
"Are you balanced enough Jeans?" Winston
"I think so." Jeannie tried moving her
torso. "If I was slightly shorter though I'm not
"Let's try doing this quickly because though that
looks perfect I'm afraid of you falling as well Jeannie." John started
snapping shots as Jeannie posed.
"Who would know I'm disabled?" Jeannie
"I would." her Mother shouted from behind
"How the hell can she do that?" Shirley
whispered to Barbara, "She looks like she's standing."
"It’s a combination of balance and incredibly
strong stomach muscles...she's holding herself up and balanced by sheer force
of will controlling her body so she stays anchored and upright."
"Oh my God!" Shirley shook
her head in amazement. "I never realized that's how she does it."
"Yeah the muscles in her upper body, she trains herself to sit like that with her feet down - you ever see her swim, my daughter’s abdomen is amazing."
“And they say she’s the cripple,” Shirley whispered as she shook her head, watching John as he took the pictures.
"Okay, I'm done." John sighed in relief as
Winston rushed in and lifted Jeannie into her chair.
"So much for Crystal, Yvonne and Sally-Anne
calling me a cripple." Jeannie whooped with joy.
“Go get a drink, Jeannie, you’ve earned it,” John said as she walked over.
"Alright, thank you for their first names Jeannie, I think we can take this from here." Shirley
whispered to herself as she reached for her cellphone.
"You are going to worry me to death
Jeannie." Barbara shook her head.
"Lily it's me,” Shirley said as she turned her back for a moment. “I'm going to need you to do something for me concerning a school in Harlow please."
Friday 19th June
O2 Arena, Greenwich
Maggie Fife looked round,
amazed at the open space as she and Abby inspected the huge horseshoe shaped
catwalk, the middle of which would serve as an orchestra pit.
"This is pretty fabulous." Maggie smiled.
"That's going to be a long walk though," Abby said as she looked round. The two girls bore all the signs of the overnight flight – wearing joggers and sweatshirts, no make-up and their hair pulled back in ponytails.
"Well with Mary and Fiona producing the show, I'm sure they've got everything timed out."
"Hey you guys made it!" Jeannie wheeled
herself into the auditorium. "Where's everyone else?"
"Well Marnie is paying
off the cab..."
"You guys stuck her with the fare?" asked
"We did," Abigail continued. "Juliette,
Ingrid and Carina are coming with Tufty and
Angel...Oh most of the gang will be here soon."
"They call this the O2 Arena now, but it was
originally called the Millennium Dome....Mum and Dad brought me here when I was
"Jeans do you know I think that's the first time I ever heard you mention your father." Maggie spoke.
“Yeah,” Jeannie said as she looked at them for the moment. “I know – I guess I just don’t like to think about him too much.”
The two girls sat down as Jeannie said “He was a great guy – always looking out for me and Mum. My first memory was coming here as a toddler, during the millennium. I still hear his laugh sometimes in my dreams, and then I hear the lorry that hit us side on…”
Abby handed her friend a paper tissue as Barbara came over. “What happened,” she said quietly.
“BS was telling us about her dad, then she thought of the crash…”
“It’s all right Mum,” Jeannie said quietly, “I’m good.”
“Did you know how much they were going to charge?” Marnie said as she came in. “THAT much for a three mile ride? We should have taken the Underground.”
“You would have been mobbed, trust me,” Mary Thomas said as she and Fiona came out. “Right you four – back stage. The other models are starting to arrive.”
Xavier International, The Aldwych
Shirley looked up as Penny and Lily came in.
“Good morning, Shirley,” Penny said as they took the seats, “I trust you have read the morning report?”
“I have – Susan seems to have slipped right back into place,” Shirley said with a smile. “So what do you have to report Lily?”
“Crystal Morgan, Yvonne Sykes, and Sally-Anne Wells,” Lily said as she looked at her notes. “Once you had the forenames, and told me they were the same age as Jeannie, it was fairly easy for Charlotte to get into the school records and identify them.
“Crystal Morgan is the apparent ring leader – single parent, a mother who struggles to try and control her. She’s had discipline issues since primary school – her record has one particularly delightful incident in primary 4 involving a pair of compasses and a fellow pupil she got upset with.”
“Sounds like a charming girl,” Penny said. “So the other two – sheep following a wolf or fellow cubs?”
“Fellow cubs – Yvonne has always been Crystal’s wing woman according to the records, and Sally-Anne transferred when the girls started to the school. As an example of their reputation, last year they were suspended for an entire term, and then referred to a specialist inclusion unit.”
“So why are they back at the school,” Penny asked.
“Funding cuts – the centre was closed at Christmas. The school was forced to take them back.”
Shirley put her pen down and looked round, before she shook her head and leaned back. “I despair sometimes of what this country considers an education,” she eventually said, “but these three ladies, I feel, need to be taught a very particular form of lesson.”
“Dominique is back in the country today – I could ask for her help…”
“No – she needs to be kept out of this. Thoughts?”
“I have a possible solution, but I will need to use the farm and to borrow two people for twenty four hours.”
“Who,” Penny asked.
“Illyana Kirkova and Natalya Kosolov. Penny too, if she can spare the time, and I need to obtain some special supplies.”
“What do you have in mind, Lily?”
“A suitable punishment for three idiots… A taste of what Jeannie’s life can be like.”
"Hey Face." Lily Cole smiled as she turned
round, "Hey Bats, Hey Sweets," she then said as she kissed each in
turn. "So where are babies? Husbands? Boyfriends?"
"All safely back home." Karen answered.
"She's found a good nanny, so she can get back to
both modeling AND her real career." Alice looked round. "This place
has changed a bit since I was last here."
"I've been here for a few concerts." Caroline put her jacket down. "I never thought I'd be performing here though."
“Walking, not performing, darling,” Mandy Carrow said as she came in with Angel, Juliette, Ingrid and Carina. “My goodness, this is going to be interesting.”
“Tell me about it,” Juliette said as they heard the sound of clapping hands. “All right ladies,” a lilting Welsh voice called out, “let’s get to work! Models on stage for first walk through!”
“And so begins the Mary Thomas experience,” Alice said as the girls made their way to the stage…
“All right,” Mary said as Fiona stood off the stage, “Running order and assignments are being passed round now. If you’re going to trade, discuss and then talk to me.”
“And is there a chance we will get to swap?”
“Aye,” Fiona called out, “if there’s a W in the name of the day!”
“Hey – sorry I’m late.”
“Jo – I didn’t realize Mary had roped you in as well?”
“Surprise,” Jo said as she hugged Abby and Cari, “Missy asked me just before I left for LA, and asked me to keep it secret. So I get the late flight over – and slept from take off to landing. How was Vienna, Cari?”
“Magical – I’ll tell you about it later. I’ll go sit and watch Aunt Mary.” Carina called out.
“And why would you do that young missy?”
“Because you don’t need me cluttering up the catwalk?” Carina shook her head.
“Someone give her one a the sheets.” Fiona requested.
“So?” Cari glanced at the paper then spotted her own name…”What?”
“Five feet three or nae darlin’ ye’ve become a top model Cari. Mary and ah booked you for the show, did nae Missy or your mum tell ya?”
“I thought it safer not to.” Juliette smiled.
“You really do mean I’m walking the show as well?” Carina shook her head.
“We do.” Mary clapped her hands, “and now we have that settled can we start the walk through please?”
“Someone is in a bad mood today,” Alice said, “this is going to be a long one.”
“Mom was this why you got me to let Annie take Judith to the hotel?” Carina asked as the models took a break.
“It was darling.”
“Did she know?”
“Yes, I’m sorry a lot of people knew, but I didn’t want you freaking out, so we kept it a secret”
“But how Mom? Everyone has ALWAYS said I’m too short to do catwalk.”
“Blame Adam Cabot. You and Ingrid might have hated doing that shoot, but the piece created a lot of buzz about both of you…Your both being princesses of course didn’t do any harm either.”
“Wow!” Carina shook her head in disbelief.
“The press on Betsey’s show, of course, also helped. By the way, Missy wants to talk to you Sunday about some of the offers and enquiries she has had.”
“Well as long as I get my holiday, I suppose listening does no harm.”
“Darling remember this is Missy we are talking about.” Juliette laughed as she hugged her daughter.
“Well, now, this is truly a sight to gladden this Irish heart.”
The room turned to see Graham Norton standing in the doorway.
“Hey Graham,” Lily said as he came in, “so you get the short straw tomorrow night, do you?”
“It’s a pleasure, darling,” he said as he kissed the young woman and smiled. “So where are all these beautiful women they promised me would be here?”
“Graham darling I am not even going to dignify that with a response.” Mandy drawled back at him.
“Ooh someone is touchy this afternoon,” the comedian kissed her on the cheek.
“We have had four hours of rehearsals with Mary, Graham - she’s still not happy and we could all be here till midnight, we are tired and our feet hurt. Is it any wonder we look less then fabulous?” asked Cara Delevingne.
“Oh then I take it this is not just a formality?” the comedian asked suddenly seriously.
“No, she’s determined that everything will be perfect, and that means we are all in the firing line.” Karen Elson spoke.
“Well before she shouts for me I better say a few things,” the smile came back as he walked over towards Jeannie and crouched down. “Darling I’ve been watching the career with so much interest.”
“Thank you Graham,” she smiled back, “Who’d of thought that night that I’d be here a year later?”
“Someone up in heaven my love, an angel looks over you for being so lovely.” He stood up and kissed her on the cheek.
“That they do.” Abby spoke.
“Are you ever going to stop growing Miss Supermodel?” Graham asked as she bent slightly to let him kiss her.
“I hope I have already…”
“And Lily congratulations on the new show…”
“Graham Norton get your scrawny arse out here!” a Welsh voice suddenly boomed out.
“I’d run darling, she doesn’t sound happy.” Mandy smiled wickedly.
“Later,” Graham said, and then he saw Juliette with Carina. “I have a message for you, Miss Huntingdown. Jane and Jonathon are looking forward to seeing you tomorrow.”
“Oh Goddess,” Juliette said, “a joy to await.”
Harlow Town Centre
“Look at the little plebs, scurrying away,” Crystal said as she sat with Yvonne and Sally-Anne on one of the concrete walls that separated the paths in the old shopping centre. She was wearing a green leather jacket over a green t-shirt, torn jeans and black biker boots, while Yvonne had on a black leather blouson jacket and leggings with high heeled ankle boots. Sally-Anne was wearing a brown leather jacket over a white t-shirt, black jeans and hightop trainers.
“Go on, run off to yer mummies, you bunch of cocksuckers,” Yvonne shouted out after the boys who were walking away from them, “you couldn’t get any of me even if you wanted to.”
“Well now, what are you three doing here?”
The girls turned to see two policewomen standing behind them, one about as tall as Yvonne with blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, the other taller, with short brown hair, who stayed silent as she looked at them
“What’s it to you,” Crystal said with a sneer.
“You know there’s a curfew in place in this area – no groups of youths allowed to loiter?”
“So – we’re not a group?”
“You are in my eyes, little girl,” the blonde said as she looked at Sally-Anne. So I’m going to say this once – move on, or you’re under arrest.”
“Oh yeah – and who’s going to do that, you?”
“All three of us,” the blonde said as the girls saw another policewoman walk round the corner.
“Oh get stuffed, you dykes,” Crystal said, “no way you can – hey, what the hell are you doing!”
The silent brunette grabbed Crystal’s arm and pulled it up behind her back, making her yelp as she fastened one end of a set of rigid cuffs around her wrist, and then pulled her other arm back and secured that as well. Yvonne and Sally-Anne stood in shock, before they also had their wrists manacled behind their backs.
“I’m arresting all three of you,” the blonde said as the trio was led away and towards a waiting police van, “for loitering with intent and for assault.”
“We didn’t hit anyone,” Crystal said as she and her companions were forced into the back of the van.
“That’s not what we hear,” the blonde said as she and the brunette got into the back of the van, the third policewoman getting behind the wheel before she drove off.
“Oh what have you heard then, pig,” Yvonne sneered.
“I’ve heard, Yvonne Sykes,” the blonde said, “that you, and you Sally-Anne Wells, and you Crystal Morgan think you’re untouchable, and nobody can get you for what you do to those who cannot fight back.”
“How cum you know our names,” Crystal said as she looked at them, “you never used your radios or nuffink. Which nick are you based at?”
“Who said we were policewomen,” the blonde said as she produced a pistol. “Now, all three of you, either shut your traps or we shut them for you, understand?”
“Fuck,” Yvonne gasped, “who the hell are you?”
“Your worst nightmare,” the blonde said as they drove towards the M11…
The Savoy Hotel
“Jack I think they are all going to be ready for their beds.” Diana stood with Jack Doherty at the entrance to the Savoy as a string of taxis arrived carrying a gaggle of world famous models.
“I think so too Countess.” Jack said as she signaled to the staff on the desk.
“That was HELL Darling.” Mandy shook her head as she kissed Diana.
“Just be glad you quit modeling Countess.” Tricia Helfer stretched.
“I thought you had as well Trish?”
“My agent told me this would make a nice easy break from acting, what she forgot to tell me was it was a Mary Thomas show. The two do not go together on a good day – and this was not a good day.”
“A very grumpy Mary show.” Juliette kissed Diana. “Are our rooms ready Jack?”
“They are Miss Huntingdown.”
“Good…alert room service that most of us haven’t eaten.”
“I will do Miss.”
“Are Annie and Judith in bed Diana?” Carina asked.
“They went up two hours ago.”
“Okay I’ll try not to disturb them as I go in.”
“Marnie, Mags, and I are going straight to bed Mama.”
“I don’t blame you Abigail darling.”
“I’m sharing with you Ingrid.” Angel called out as she looked at the room list.
“Okay, let’s go up, I need 8 good hours.”
“Remember she wants us all there at Eight Thirty sharp.” Carolyn Murphy yelled out.
“Don’t remind me.” Emma Ferrer said as she looked towards the heavens.
“You are with us Baby Holly.” Frida Gustavsson and Lindsey Wixson called in unison.
“That’s the trouble with kids today…no stamina.” Kate Moss called out, before a series of hoots and catcalls silenced her. “And no sense of bloody humour either.” She laughed.
“Lead on please.” Charlotte Free yawned as she put her arms on the shoulders of Julia Saner.
“And you think how glamorous the world thinks this lot really are.” Diana giggled as she whispered in Jack’s ear.
“Indeed – before I forget, a message from Countess de Ros for you.”
Diana opened the note, and smiled as she said “excellent.”
“That was hell,” Jeannie said as Barbara pushed her in. “I’m ready for bed already.”
“Jeannie, did you…”
“Don’t,” Barbara said as she looked at Diana, “it’s dealt with.”
“Where the fuck have you taken us,” Crystal said as the van came to a stop, and the rear doors were opened.
“Out,” the blonde said as she stood up, pushing Crystal, Yvonne and Sally-Anne out of the van into an open courtyard. The driver came round and took Sally-Anne’s arm, as they were led to a door, and then down a corridor before they were led into a bare room, with three camp beds set up.
The cuffs were removed from the wrists of all three girls, before Crystal said “This is fucking kidnapping – I’ll have your hide for this!”
“No, no you won’t,” the blonde said as she nodded to the other two, “you won’t do anything.”
“What the fuck do you…” Crystal turned and watched as the two other ‘officers’ clamped white cloths over the mouths and noses of the other two girls, their eyes widening before the chloroform started to take effect. Before she could react, a pad was also pressed down over her nose and mouth, held firmly in place as she slowly drifted off to sleep.
“Such charming young ladies,” Illyana said as she picked Yvonne up and placed her on a bed.
“Indeed,” Natalya said as she laid Sally-Anne down, “so what now?”
“We give them a little injection, and then change them,” Lily said, “then get some sleep – busy day tomorrow with an early start.”
Saturday 20th June
The Savoy Hotel
“I will say this for The Savoy - they do look after one rather well darling.” Mandy glanced round the private dining room full of models eating breakfast, looking at their cellphones, reading newspapers, gossiping, and a few actually eating.
“Everyone in here is just so famous.” Jo shook her head, “How did a part-timer like me ever get invited to walk a show like this?”
“Natural talent Jo.” Cara smiled.
“The atmosphere in this room is amazing.” Jeannie looked up from her bacon and eggs. “I just love meeting so many people I’d only ever seen pictures of before.”
“Don’t be overawed BS, they just put their panties on one leg at a time, just like we all do.” Kate sipped her orange juice.
“Well I’ve only been in the biz a short while, but even with days like yesterday does anybody ever quit, just give this up cold turkey and walk away?” asked Marnie.
“I sort of had to.” Karen looked up from drinking her coffee.
“But in your case there were reasons.” Alice patted her on the arm, “and besides we all knew where you were.”
“I think Marnie is talking about the legend that is the lost model.” Kate put her glass down.
“The lost model?” Carina asked as she poured herself a second bowl of all-bran.
“Before you were born a top girl called…” Juliette started to explain.
“She who will remain nameless for walking out on her sisters.” Carolyn interrupted.
“As Miss Galaxy says she who will remain nameless walked away from a photo shoot in Geneva and was never seen again.”
“She did send a postcard from England saying she was fine though.” Kate remembered.
“PTA suspended her which is why she remains nameless.” Juliette continued.
“There were a couple of reported sightings over the years.” Kate spoke again, “But she is the only girl we ever knew who just quit at the height of her fame Marnie.”
“Wow a mystery.” Jeannie finished eating.
“Okay ladies, the taxis are here.” Jack came in and called out.
“Back to the salt mines girls.” Lindsey laughed as she bent and picked up her shoulder bag.
"OH DEAR GOD!"
"What?" every girl in the room turned to
look at Mandy as she stood with the Daily Mail in her hands.
"No wonder she was so uptight...Mary got an MBE
in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List."
A few girls grabbed for papers.
"An MBE?” asked Maggie.
"It means she was made a Member of the Order of
the British Empire...might not mean much to Americans, but over here it’s a
very big deal." Jeannie explained.
Jack called again.
"I'll explain in the cab." Jeannie put her bag on her lap. “Wagons roll.”
“All right,” Maggie said as she sat in the cab with the other girls, “Birthday Honours?”
“Twice a year, the Queen bestows honours on those who are considered worthy,” Jeannie said. “At the very top end you get peerages, knighthoods and other things. Then you work down through the gongs – CBE, OBE, MBE. The C is Commander of the British Empire, the O Officer, and the M Member.”
“So Mary gets one for ‘services to the fashion industry’,” Jo said as she looked at the paper.
“Yeah – I guess you could say it’s in recognition of her career, like the Lifetime Achievement Award last year. She’s probably known for weeks, but you’re not allowed to say anything.”
“Okay I get that,” Marnie said, “but what’s this PTA?”
“There is a reason why most of us don’t call ourselves supermodels, but use the term top girls instead.” Abby explained. “The press overdid the supermodel tag to death…”
“And gave it to a lot of girls her colleagues thought were unworthy.” Carina interrupted.
“So they founded Pi Tau Alpha, as a sorority for top girls, membership of which means your colleagues think you merit that supermodel tag.”
“Oh is that what PTA means?” asked Marnie.
“Exactly.” Abby replied.
“Aunt Linda is the Grand Mistress of the Order.” Carina continued.
“So are you a member Cari?” Maggie asked.
“No - Aunt Cindy always says I was born a member, but in reality I’m not.”
“I’m a member, so is Abs.” Jeannie said quietly.
“Do you think we ever will be?” Marnie looked at Jo, Maggie and Ingrid.
“Oh it’s a possibility.” Abigail giggled.
Crystal Morgan slowly opened her eyes and looked up at the bare ceiling, before sitting herself up, rubbing her head as she did so and then leaning forward as the nausea washed over her.
“Wha… What happened,” she whispered, “I remember…” She suddenly sat bolt upright and looked at the other beds, as Yvonne and Sally-Anne started to stir.
“Shit – it wasn’t a bad dream,” she sat as the other two girls slowly sat up, and then looked down. Instead of her clothes, she was wearing a short sleeved blouse, knee length skirt, white socks and black shoes.
“What the fuck happened last night,” Sally-Anne said as she looked round, “and why the fuck are we wearing these clothes.”
“I don’t know, but I… Shit.”
“What is it Yvonne?”
“My legs – I can’t feel my fucking legs!”
“Neither can I,” Crystal said as the door opened and the blonde, now wearing a black roll neck sweater, leggings and sneakers, came in, pushing a trolley with food and drink on it. Putting it in the centre of the room, she said “Good morning – sleep well?”
“What have you done to us, you fucking bitch,” Crystal said as she tried to move round.
“Oh, the paralysis is temporary, I assure you,” she said as she looked at them, “but we don’t like the way we have heard you treat those you consider inferior, so a taste of what they experience will do you good. Enjoy your breakfast.”
“And how the fucking hell are we meant to reach it?”
“Use the wheelchairs – everyone else does,” the blonde said as she pointed to the old chairs at the end of each bed.
“What the fuck do you…”
“Listen up you little trio of shit for brains,” the blonde suddenly said, “the evidence I have tells me you think people who can’t walk are wastes of space and idiots.. Prove me wrong – and fast. Because in twenty minutes, that trolley goes.”
The girls watched as she walked out of the room, before Sally-Anne pushed herself along the bed.
”Whadafuck you doing,” Crystal said.
“I’m bloody starving,” she said as she reached over and pulled the chair over, forcing herself into it as the other girls copied her. They then slowly pushed themselves to the trolley, grabbing food and bottles of water as they ate and drank.
“Who the hell are these bitches anyway,” Yvonne said between gulps of water.
“I don’t know, but they’re dead,” she said as the door opened and the other two women came in.
“Right,” the tall brunette said in a Russian accent, “push yourselves out of that door – MOVE!”
“Or what, you cow?”
“Or this,” the other woman said as she swung a cane across Yvonne’s back, making her yelp. “You need to fend for yourself, so get moving.”
Slowly, the three girls wheeled themselves to the door…
The O2 Arena
“All right, let’s get on with it,” Mary said as she and Fiona walked into the arena, only to find the place empty. Looking at her watch, Mary looked round once again, before saying “right – they are really trying my patience today.”
“Ah there you are Mary,” Juliette said as she came out, “you need to come back stage for a minute – there’s a problem.”
“Oh lovely – great start to the day,” Mary said as she followed her to the dressing area. As she came in, she was greeted by cheers and applause from all the models.
“Ye havnae read the paper today, have ye,” Fiona said with a smile.
“No of course I haven… Ah. It’s public knowledge isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is darling,” Mandy said as she hugged her. “Congratulations.”
“Ai, it’s an honour to be sure,” Mary said as the others came and hugged her, “but I’m just the support worker. You girls are the real stars.”
“Well, we’ve fixed up a celebratory lunch anyway,” Juliette said.
“Okay this morning let’s work on the costume fittings and do some practice, we will try for a full rehearsal at midday.” Mary smiled.
“The media yet again is going to love me wearing Stella McCartney,” Georgia May Jagger looked at her first outfit.
“Even after all these years?” Caroline asked.
“Even after all this time they still react as though there’s a rivalry between her father and mine.”
“If there ever was then it disappeared many years ago, and I’ve known them both a VERY long time.” Mary shook her head.
“And tonight we are honoring Stella for her work for good causes and in raising social awareness.” Fiona added, “so no one better dare say anything near me abaht all thaat.”
“You know my daughter adores Mary Quant.” Caroline tried on a vintage sixties dress she was to wear.
“How is Ama Caroline?”
“She’s fine Fiona. Maisha, her friend, is taking her round London today, but she will so envy me wearing this.” she said as she looked at herself in a mirror.
“It’s about time we gave her the lifetime award, Mary’s no spring chicken anymore.” Mary reflected.
“Well I’m sure she will love getting it.” Juliette spoke up.
“Didn’t I wear this 20 years ago?” Mandy asked as she tried on the vintage Alexander McQueen.
“It looks familiar.” Juliette put her glasses on to check.
“Well naming Sarah Burton our designer of the year gives us a chance to do a history of the McQueen brand and style.” Mary looked critically at Alice.
“I’m certain I wore this back then.” Alice shook her head.
“Didn’t Lady Gaga wear this?” asked Angel holding up an outfit.
“Darling I have no clue.” Mandy drawled as people started working on the dress she had on.
“Does your mother still have nae idea we are honoring for her services to modeling Georgia May?” Fiona asked.
“No my sister has her persuaded she’s just coming to watch me walk.”
“I cannae wait to see the look on Jerry’s face.” Fiona laughed.
“So who are some of the other winners?” asked Miki Nyamoto.
“Ellie Goulding gets an award for blending fashion and music and she’s singing tonight.” Mary’s assistant Leslie started talking. “Victoria Beckham is winning Brand of the Year. Christopher Shannon for menswear. Amal Clooney is our best dressed woman award winner, and Benedict Cumberbatch our best dressed man. Kirsty Ward is Younger designer of the year and Danielle Foster gets the magazines encouragement award and grant.”
“Ah trust no one has told young Jeannie she’s winning Young Model of the Year?”
“Our lips are sealed Fiona darling.” Mandy smiled.
“Anya Hindmarch gets the accessories Design Award,” Leslie continued. “Donna Karan is International Designer of the Year. Lerrabella’s ad campaign is the advertising award winner, and finally Erdem Moralioglu wins the award for biggest contribution to the Industry overall.”
“And thaats without Ju’s award as fashion writer of the Year, and Kate Upton’s as model of the year, as well as Young Cara being British Model of the Year.” Fiona whispered in Mary’s ear.
“Mary this makes me look all tits!”
“Talk of the devil.” Mary whispered back.
“Cummin Kate ahm sure we can fix it.” Fiona rolled her eyes.
The three girls looked round as they were escorted across the open courtyard, into a large hall. As they went in, they saw an obstacle course had been set out, with hoops, nets and low hurdles.
“What the hell is this?” Crystal said as she looked over.
“According to our information,” the blonde said as she held a clipboard, “you three pride yourselves on your physical prowess and strength. In fact, your use of said prowess and strength is very, very well documented.”
There was a yelp as the three of them were tipped out of the chairs, the other three women pushing them to the far side of the hall.
“So, you need to make your way across the course and into the chairs. To encourage you, my friends will watch you every single push of the way.”
“You fucking perv!”
“No – I am your teacher, and school is in session. MOVE!”
The three girls pushed themselves up on their arms, looking over at the three in black as they picked up hockey sticks.
“You know, I love reading those stories written about girl’s schools back in the day,” the blonde said, “they had some unbelievable descriptions of what bullies can do. We’re older, we’re stronger and if we have to use those things your disability will be permanent. I trust I make myself clear?”
“Crystal fucking clear,” Yvonne said as she, Sally-Anne and Crystal started to pull themselves across the floor.
Lily smiled as they forced themselves across the floor, negotiating the obstacles, until Sally-Anne finally pulled herself into the chair, the other two following suit.
“What was the fucking point of that,” Crystal panted as she looked at the four in black.
“That? If you look at books on physical therapy for paraplegics, you will see that is a standard therapy method. Just a taster for you. Now, start pushing yourselves out of the room – I want to give you a taste of a holiday for a cripple.”
The O2 Arena
“All right,” Juliette said as she shouted out, “Sisters, and others, we know why we’re here. Someone we all love, even if we want to kill her even when she’s in a good mood, has today been given a very great honour by the country she comes from.”
“What, a night with Owen Gatling and the boys,” Lily shouted out, Mary blushing as the others laughed.
“All right – from her most gracious majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second. Did I get that right Mandy?”
“Quite right darling,” Mandy said, “although I suspect rather than the splendor of Buckingham Palace, it will be the New York consulate for you, Mary.”
“Quite enough for me, thank you,” Mary said with a smile as she accepted a glass of wine.
“At any rate, it could not happen to a nicer and more deserving person. So raise your glasses, sisters, friends, and congratulate Mary Thomas, MBE.”
The three girls looked at each other as they were dropped onto the hard seats, inside the small caravan.
“What the hell are we meant to do in here,” Sally-Anne said as she looked at Lily and the other two.
“Entertain yourselves – food in the fridge, the television might even work. We’ll be back in ninety minutes.”
As they walked out and closed the door, Crystal looked at the other two. “Whoever these bastards are,” she said quietly, “they’ve got some serious firepower behind them. Why are they doing this?”
“I have no fucking idea,” Yvonne said, “but it’s as if they know every fucking thing we’ve done.”
“They’re not frightened of us either,” Sally-Anne said, “have you looked into their eyes? They’re all stone cold killers.”
“They’re stupid little cows that I am going to beat to a bloody pulp with my bare fists,” Crystal growled.
“Oh grow up you stupid cow,” Sally-Anne screamed back. “They somehow paralysed us, and made us do that course today, just because they could.”
“And your fucking point is?”
“Ask yourself,” she said as she looked at both of them, “why they went to all this fucking trouble, just for the three of us? I think they’re trying to teach us a lesson.”
“Are you getting yellow, Sally-Anne,” Yvonne said with a sneer.
“No, I’m getting smart,” she said as she pulled herself to the feet, and dragged herself round the caravan, her useless legs following as she made her way to the fridge. “I have no fucking idea what they have planned for this afternoon, but I want to be ready for it. If either of you decide you want something to eat or drink, holler now.”
“She’s smart,” Illyana said as she looked at Lily, “you might even find a use for her in this organization.”
“I agree,” Lily said as she made some notes, “question is, will the other two cotton on before we get serious?”
“Talking of which,” Natalya said, “you did say ninety minutes, correct?”
“Correct – you had better go now.”
Yvonne looked round as the door what thrown open, and the other two women came in, carrying hanks of rope.
“What the fuck…”
“Shut up you spaz’s,” Natalya said, “this is a robbery, and you do exactly what you’re told.”
“Oh you have got to be fusckgngkkdddmmmmm.” Crystal’s swearing was cut short as a cloth was pushed into her mouth by Illyana, and then a scarf used as a cleave gag to keep it in place, while Natalya forced Yvonne and Sally-Anne to lie on the caravan floor.
The three girls felt their wrists been secured with ropes behind their backs, as well as their ankles, before they were forced to sit in the seats.
“Where’s the money?”
“What fucking money,” Yvonne said, only for her mouth to be stuffed and the scarf pulled tightly between her lips, cutting into the corner of her mouth before she and Crystal were forced to sit back to back, the ropes pulling them together.
“Well,” Natalya said as she looked at Sally-Anne.
“We don’t have any money…”
“Come on,” Natalya said as she slapped the young girl, “you have this caravan, you have money.”
“Honestly, we don’t…”
“Gag her,” Natalya said, Illyana only using a scarf as a cleave gag on her as they ripped the caravan apart, the girls dodging the contents of the cupboards as they were thrown wildly around.
“Fucking cripples, they got nothing – leave them here,” Illyana finally said as the two women left, Sally-Anne looking at the scissors left on the table.
She looked at the other two, and could see tears on Yvonne’s cheeks – and anger in Crystal’s eyes, as she started to shuffle herself over.
The O2 Arena
The white minibus, with “Downwood School” and the school crest printed on the side, parked in the car park as Grace Brand looked at the white dome.
“Ever been here before?” Sarah Nightingale asked.
“Back when it was the millennium, yeah – but this lot probably never have been,” Grace said as she looked at the excited girls behind her. All were wearing summer dresses or tunics, with tights or leggings and sandals.
The O2 Arena sat on a bend in the River Thames, opposite where the Cutty Sark was moored, and from the outside resembled nothing more than a large white marquee, with steel ropes anchored to the ground all the way round. A number of people were starting to mill round, as the girls looked round.
“Okay, everybody out,”
The girls got out of the van and waited as the three teachers locked the van Sarah Nightingale was wearing a denim blouse over a roll neck sweater, jeans and short suede boots, while Harriet Craig, the third teacher, was wearing a Laura Ashley dress with white heels.
Grace Brand was wearing a grey dress coat with a tan belt, and tan heels, as she looked round the car park.
“Alright now, everyone stand still so I can check we are all here.” Sarah Nightingale read down her list. “Elizabeth Ayerst?”
Miss Nightingale looked at her eager charges, and then turned and smiled as she looked at her two fellow teachers. “Well where to now Grace?”
“According to the map that came with the tickets we go…”the headmistress paused and looked down at the paper…”Over there.” She pointed to a set of doors. “Come on girls – let’s go and see the models at work.”
“Are you as excited as I am Grace?” Harriet whispered to the headmistress.
“I suppose so,” Grace said quietly, “it’s been a long time since I was at an event like this.”
“Still, to get the tickets… This is a day to remember for them.”
Harriet looked at the headmistress, and the large brown-framed glasses she was wearing, before she asked “Grace why are you wearing those huge glasses today anyway?”
“I lost a contact lens this morning, I can’t get new ones till Monday Harriet.”
“Well those are horrible on you, you have such wonderful eyes to hide behind things like that.” Downwood’s head of English shook her head.
As they got to the doors and went in, they found themselves in an open area with food and souvenir booths around the edge of an inner set of doors.
“Well I wonder if the models have shown up yet Miss?” Parminder asked.
“They’ve probably been here since breakfast time Parminder, this is a Mary Thomas show, she’s probably run them off their feet all day.”
“And how would you know that?” asked Harriet as she looked at Grace.
“I think I read it somewhere…” Grace looked at the map in her hand and said “Now does everyone have their tickets and passes?”
“Yes Miss.” The reply came in unison.
“Right – we need to report to a set of doors this way,” she said as she led the party around the edge of the arena.
“Well we don’t look bad for a group of old broads.” Alice spoke as she, Karen, Juliette and Mandy sat with their hair in curlers awaiting makeup.
“We’ve maybe added ten pounds in weight BETWEEN us in 20 years, I bet there aren’t many groups of friends in their forties can say that? Karen asked.
“Probably not darling.”
“It’s nice to see the generations mix like this Mandy?” Juliette spoke. “To see CeeCee and your Angel walk together and Cecelia could easily be her mother.”
“It helps also to calm my darling’s nerves, she’s known CeeCee since she was a baby, she still calls her auntie.”
“Well if it did wonders for Angel’s nerves, I heard CeeCee muttering about retiring before she walks with girls whose grandmothers she once worked with.”
“Poor Cecelia,” they all giggled.
“And what are you fine old ladies laughing at?”
“The steadfastness of clean living Graham,” Juliette said as she looked round, and then looked again, blushing as she did so
“Juliette Huntingdown,” the tall man behind Graham said. “I have not seen you in nearly twenty years.”
“Hello Jonathon,” she said as she turned in her chair, “and yes, it’s just over twenty years. How are things with you and Jane?”
“We can’t complain,” he said with his slight lisp, “she’ll be here later tonight, and she’s looking forward to seeing you as well.”
“I look forward to it,” Juliette said as the two men walked off. “You’ve never really forgiven him, have you,” Karen said with a smile.
“I guess not – but if he tries that tonight with Caroline, I want a front row seat for the aftermath.”
“Can I help you?”
Grace looked at the large security guard, and said “yes – we’re the party from Downwood School. We have passes to come backstage as guests of Jeannie Brewster?”
The guard looked at the passes, and then spoke into his microphone “can someone call Mrs. Brewster to door A10 please? If you can wait for a few moments, girls?”
The group stood chatting quietly until Barbara appeared at the door, wearing a blue sundress.
“Mrs. Brand, it’s so good to see you again,” she said as she shook Grace’s hand, “in fact, it’s good to see all of you. Jeannie’s just getting ready to do a final rehearsal walk, but if you follow me, I’ll take you to the side of the stage and you can watch her.”
“Thank you,” Sarah said as the party came in, passing Abby as she sat being interviewed by Jeanne Beckman.
“Abby de Ros, thank you.”
“Pleasure as always, Jeanne,” Abby said as the director said, “cut – thanks Abigail.”
“Aunt Jeanne you are a walking encyclopaedia of model history.” Abigail asked as they unwired following the interview. “Who was the Lost Model?”
Jeanne looked at the young model, raising an eyebrow as she said “She who may not be named?”
“Yes, her, and I keep forgetting you were a founder of PTA.”
“She was once a very dear friend, but this life didn’t make her happy. There were still a lot of drugs around, plenty of men preying on even top girls. It was making her more and more depressed with the false glamour, and the artificiality, but rather then coming to her friends to sort it out she just ran away, just took to her heels and quit, settled up financially with her agency, giving away I heard most of what she had ever earned, and just went and started a new life doing something I think she thought was new and worthwhile.”
“So what was she like?”
“I’ll tell you just one thing Stick, if Maggie has the finest head of red hair in the industry, she had the finest natural blonde…Anyway I have to go, I need to interview Fiona.”
“Okay…HUGS!” Abby kissed her on the cheek and ran past the group of girls.
“Ohmygod, that’s Abigail de Ros,” Poppy said as she looked at the tall girl.
“It is indeed – you may get a chance to have a quick chat with her later,” Barbara said as they approached a set of curtains. She put her finger to her lips, and then opened the curtains, the group looking out as Jo wheeled Jeannie around the long horseshoe. Jo was wearing a Fitzstuart jumper and leather leggings, while Jeannie was wearing a pleated skirt and white blouse.
“Don’t they look wonderful ladies and gentlemen,” Graham Norton said as they turned and walked up the other side, as Maggie and Marnie walked along the other side, both wearing sleeveless pinafore dresses and high heels. “Three of the stars of the infamous St Angela’s calendar, showing natural beauty, as well as the amazing Jeannie Brewster.”
“Oh god she looks wonderful,” Cathy whispered as she looked back at Liz and Ashley.
“She does at that,” Grace whispered to herself as the four came back stage.
“Hey you made it,” Jeannie said with a smile, “Jo, these are some of my old classmates from Harlow. Girls, teachers, this is my friend Joanne Smith.”
“Pleasure to meet you all,” Jo said as she looked round. “Jeannie had said you’d be coming back – we’re done now until before the show, so why don’t you come with us and we’ll have a look round before chaos descends.”
“I heard that, Jo Smith,” a Welsh voice called out, to which Jo replied “Sorry Mary.”
“Mary Thomas? She’s directing the show tonight?”
“She is indeed Mrs. Brand – did you see she got an MBE today?”
“Did she – I haven’t read the paper today,” Grace said as she kept her back to the two older women walking past.
“Come on then – and autograph books at the ready girls. There are some genuine stars here today – and me as well.”
As Sarah and Harriet walked on with the girls, Grace looked round, before hurrying after them.
“This is the rehearsal area for the music acts,” Jeannie said as they approached an area with a piano and some instruments. “I see a few are hanging round getting ready.”
Parminder nearly fainted when she saw a young man with close cut hair turn round.
“Olly… Olly Murs?”
“That’s right,” he said as he doffed his hat, “welcome to the music zone. Ellie, come and meet some friends of Jeannie.”
The young blonde walked over, accompanied by another man who made Harriet and Sarah nearly faint as well.
“Hi – I’m Gary Barlow,” he said, “so you used to teach young Jeannie…”
“Is that the group from Jeannie’s old school,” Carina said as she looked over with Juliette.
“It must be – is that them Winston?”
“I believe it is,” Winston said as he looked over, “that’s the headmistress Mrs. Brand.”
“With the glasses and brown hair?” Juliette looked at her, and then looked again.
“What is it mom?”
“Probably nothing – she looked familiar from somewhere. I wonder if…”
“Ju darling,” Mandy said as she came over, “do you have a few moments to spare?”
“Coming Mandy,” Juliette said as she went in the opposite direction, and Ingrid joined Carina.
“Come on – let’s get a drink, and I want to see Baby before it’s too late,” Carina said as they headed off.
Crystal spat at the three women as they were wheeled into a room with a television set up.
“What the hell is this meant to teach us,” Yvonne said as they watched Illyana tape their wrists to the arm rests.
“We wish you to watch an award winning film,” Lily said, “and if we hear one crack about a cripple, this happens.”
Yvonne jumped as an electric shock went through her, Natalya smiling as she pressed a button.
“The electrodes are under your arms,” Lily said, “now watch.”
The three girls looked at the screen as it flickered into life and they saw Jeannie Brewster on the streets of New York.
“Hi, my name’s Jeannie Brewster. You may have seen me in fashion shoots and magazines, but that’s only part of what I am. The rest of the time, I’m an ordinary teenager in a wheelchair, and I want you to see the world from my viewpoint – that of countless teenagers who aren’t as lucky as I am…”
The O2 Arena
“Now this is where we have to come to change outfits,” Jeannie said as Jo pushed her to the clothing area, the girls and teachers following.
“So what are you wearing tonight Jeannie,” Ashley asked.
“Wait and see – hey Lily, say hello to a group from Downwood School.”
“Hi,” Lily Cole said as she smiled at them, “welcome to the calm before the storm.”
“Can I ask a question Miss Cole,” Parminder asked.
“Of course you can.”
“When you met Jeannie first time, what did you think?”
“What did I think?” Lily looked at Jeannie, before saying “I thought she was a very talented young lady.”
“I’d love to try something like modeling,” Parminder said, “but with my background…”
“Parminder, did you see the calendar we did?”
The young girl nodded as Jo said “one of the girls, Khadeeja, was shot wearing a veil – and she now models exclusively for her home market. Just because your traditions dictate or seem to give the impression you cannot do something, don’t let that stop you.”
“On which note, we have to go and make final preparations for the show,” Jeannie said, “but I’ll see you all afterwards at a party – my treat. Winston will tell you where. See you all later.”
“Are you all hungry in the meantime?”
The girls and teachers nodded as Barbara looked at them. “Well, there’s a buffet we can go and get something to eat at – why don’t you follow me and Winston?”
They led the party past the technicians and lighting crews, and into a green lined area where plates of food and drinks were arranged at one end of the room, and people were talking in small groups.
“But… But that’s Graham Norton,” Cathy said.
“And that’s Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall over there with Sting and Trudi Steiner,” Barbara said, “and this is Anna Mitchell, the editor of the US Complete Style.”
“Welcome,” Anna said as she came over, “please, help yourselves, and don’t worry – they don’t bite.”
“Thank you,” Grace said as the girls walked slowly over to the buffet, before a voice behind her said “Barbara, are you all right to take Ama to the seats for me? Shirley and John will be in there with Maisha”
“Of course I am,” Barbara said as Grace turned round to see a tall, blonde haired woman standing there with a dark skinned teenage girl. “Oh dear lord,” Grace whispered, “Stella? Stella Jameson? It can’t be you.”
“It’s not,” Barbara, said, “this is her daughter Caroline Jameson. Caroline, this is Grace Brand, the head teacher of Jeannie’s former school.”
“A lot of people say I look like my mother though,” Caroline said as she shook Grace’s hand. “Did you know her?”
“No – I mean I remember her photos,” Grace said quietly. “I’m sorry if I embarrassed myself…”
“You didn’t – as I say, it happens a lot,” Caroline said with a smile. “Are you sure you’re all right though – you went very pale just then.”
“No – no, I’m fine,” she finally said. “Excuse me, I must join my pupils. A pleasure to meet you Caroline.”
“Likewise,” Caroline said as she watched the teacher walk off.
“This is delicious – try it,” Sarah said as she handed Grace a plate, the girls giggling as they talked to Tyger Drew-Honey.
“Here’s the thing, girls,” Lily said as she sat looking at Crystal, Yvonne and Sally-Anne, “I don’t like bullies – and neither does the person I work for.”
“I don’t fucking care,” Crystal growled, “she’s a stuck up little bitch, and needs to be taken down a peg or two.”
“And you’re the ones to do that?”
“Fucking right we are,” Yvonne said with a grin.
“No we’re not.”
The other two looked at Sally-Anne, as she shook her head. “Who do you work for,” she said as she looked at Lily.
“Now that is a very good question,” Lily said as she looked at her. “Why do you ask?”
“You’re not the police, and you have some very unusual ways of punishing us. This isn’t true punishment though – you wanted to show us we were wrong.”
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
“Waking up, you stupid cow,” Sally-Anne said. “Look, I’m sorry for what I did to Jeannie – this is what this is all about isn’t it?”
Lily looked at Crystal and Yvonne, trying to find some form of agreement, but all she saw was hate in their eyes – hatred for her.
“Take her out of the room,” Lily said to Natalya, who took Sally-Anne and wheeled her out.
“As for you two, that is part of what this is about – are you ready to apologise.”
Shaking her head, Lily stood up. “I have some people I want you to meet,” she said as she walked out of the room.
“I always knew she wasn’t up to our standards, the little cow,” Crystal said before the door opened again, and three young women walked in, wearing scarves over their faces, and carrying baseball bats.
“They don’t look so tuff,” one of them said as she looked at Crystal and Yvonne, then dropped the bat, “we can use our fists – that’s what they like, ‘fter all.”
“And who the fuck are you?”
“We’re the White Vipers,” the girl in the middle said, “Ya see, Jeannie Brewster is friends with some people, who are friends with some people, who are friends with us...and they didn't like the way you welcomed her back home, so they asked us to express their views..."
The O2 Arena
Grace came out of the stall in the ladies’ toilets, and walked over to the washstand as another woman came out – tall, long blonde hair, and wearing a red minidress with dark hose and high heels.
“Hello,” she said in a deep Texan drawl as she started to wash her hands, and then she looked more closely at Grace.
“Do ah know you?” Jerry Hall asked Mrs. Brand as they both washed their hands.
“No, no I don’t think so” the headmistress said as she looked flushed for a second.
“Dahlin’ ah never forget a face…just for some reason ah associate you with blonde hair though, and yours is a mousey brown….” The veteran star shook her head.” Ah well it will come to me…you have fun tonight ya here.”
“You too Miss Hall.” Grace Brand smiled at the supermodels reflection as she washed her hands.
“Did Jerry Hall just talk to you?” Harriet said as she came out of a stall, and Jerry left.”
“Yeah – nice lady She thought she seemed to know me, but then said she thought I was a blonde”
“Why didn’t you tell her you dye your hair that awful colour Grace…. maybe she did know you from somewhere?”
“Oh where would someone like her know a teacher like me from Harriet Craig? We hardly mix in the same circles do we?”
Harriet looked at her friend as they dried their hands, and then walked out of the toilets – just as Mary Thomas and Fiona Mackenzie were walking past.
“Sorry,” Grace said as they stepped out of the way, and the two directors walked past, before she and Harriet went in the opposite direction.
“Hawld on a wee minute thar…”
Grace stopped as Harriet turned and said “I’m sorry, is something wrong.”
“Mary, cum back here a wee minut will ya,” Fiona said as she walked back and looked at Grace. Mary Thomas walked back as well and said “What is it Fiona?”
“Forgive me, lassie, but wuld ye please take yer glasses off?”
Grace sighed – a deep sigh, as she removed her glasses and looked at the two women.
“Oh my dear god,” Mary whispered, “it can’t be?”
“Oh it is awl riht,” Fiona said as she put her hands on Grace’s shoulders. “Where the hell have you been hiding all these years, lassie?”
“Grace,” Harriet said quietly, “what’s going on?”
“Well – remember I said it had been a while since…”
“Oh dear Lord – Grace? Grace Gresham? Is that you?”
Grace blushed as Karen Boyd came over and hugged her. “I thought I’d done a disappearing act – but well compared to yours?”
“What’s going on,” Jeannie said as she wheeled herself over. “Mrs. Brand, Mrs. Craig?” she looked from one to the other.
“This is your headmistress from your old school?” Karen said as some of the other models came out. “Jeannie, you never said…”
“Well,” Grace said, “you see, Jeannie, why I didn’t really ask any questions? It’s because I do know a thing or two about modeling. In fact, I used to be one until…”
“What’s all the commotion about? Oh dear lord – Grace is that you?”
“Hi Pelican, Bats, Tufty,” Grace said quietly as some of the other models came out. “Long time no see.”
“Hang on,” Jeannie said, “are you seriously telling me that my former headmistress is She Who Remains Nameless?”
“She is indeed,” Kate Moss said. “And I guess we all really have one question.”
“Why?” Jeanne Beckman said as she joined the crowd.
"I'm sorry - I just couldn't cope, so I did the
cowardly thing." Tears of both joy
and sorrow ran down Grace’s cheek. "I've been tempted to ring so many
times, but I knew in my heart I wanted to go back too much, and that was bad
for the real me."
"You could have at least dropped one of us a
note." Stephanie Seymour shook her head.
"I could have, I should have, but I kept in touch via the papers and the magazines, you should see my scrap-books about all of you."
“PTA is a sisterhood, a real sisterhood, you hurt a lot of us when you did that.” Carolyn Murphy said as she crossed her arms.
“I know, and I feel above all sorry that I deserted all of my sisters and friends, but modeling was making me go literally insane.”
“You… You were a model Grace?” asked Harriet, unsure of what was happening.
“Ay – and ah dam guid ane,” Annie said.
“Yes, I was Harriet, and it is a very long story. Look ladies, I need to join my students…”
“Not yet,” Kate said, “first you come with us. Harriet, I did hear that right didn’t I? – Can you forgive us if your boss disappears for a few minutes? Please explain to your girls she’ll join them later.”
“Yeah – yeah, sure,” Harriet said as she slowly walked off, shaking her head.
“First order of business, I think we have a quorum of PTA members.” Alice looked round and counted. “I propose a motion to restore to this sister her rightful name…”
“Seconded.” Stephanie’s arm shot up.
“All in favour say Aye.”
“AYE!” There was a resounding shout.
There was not a single response.
“Then it’s unanimous…welcome home Sister Palomino.” Alice was the first of many girls to hug Grace.
“So should I call you Miss or Palomino?” Jeannie asked.
“I don’t know,” Grace, laughed, “I’ve been out of touch for so long, what should I call you?”
“Call her BS,” Caroline laughed.
“It’s short for Baby Supermodel.” Jeannie looked pained.
“I’m Stick.” Abby introduced herself.
“They call me Happy Face the Second, but just call me Face.” Caroline kissed her.
“Sorry about earlier Face, but I knew your mother so well, and it was such a shock seeing you.”
“I get that a lot – and don’t worry. We can talk later – you have to meet the rest now.”
“Baby Holly.” Emma spoke, and then the parade continued as the younger supermodels all introduced themselves.
“All rite, all rite, gie the gal some room,” Fiona said as she looked at her. “What have ye been doing wi all that luvverly hair of yours Grace?”
“I dyed it, I figured that was the only way I could avoid being recognised.”
“Well it wilnae do. Felix, if we find an old picture, can ye restore this gels hair to its natural colour?”
“I think so,” the colorist looked up as Carina put her mobile in front of his face with a much younger Grace on it.
“Oh so beautiful and you say that this was natural?” the Spaniard shook his head, “Miss Grace you should face trial for crimes against your hair.”
“Fiona, girls, who says I want to reappear?”
“WE DO.” The girls all shouted as the hairdresser put a cape on the ex model.
“You come with me, Miss Grace, and we start to return you to the way nature intended,” Felix said as he led her off.
“Ummm girls despite all the excitement we do have a show to put on.” Mary shouted. “Are you where you should be?” she glanced at her watch.
“Whoops, better run, see you soon Palomino.” Juliette led the crowd in running to their appointed spots.
“We have less than an hour ladies.” Fiona shouted.
“Where’s Mrs. Brand, Mrs. Craig,” Cathy said as Harriet came and joined them in the third row, facing the end of the walkway.
“She’s been delayed, but she is watching the show, and will join us later,” she said as she looked at Sarah Nightingale.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“Believe me, Sarah, you don’t want to know. It seems Grace has been hiding her light under a bushel – or under dyed hair and glasses.”
“The show’s starting soon,” Cathy said, “I’m sure Mrs. Brand will get here soon.”
“So who is Mr. Brand?” Jeanne asked as they sat in a corner, Felix working on Grace’s hair.
“He was someone I met when I was doing my teaching qualification Titi…we married when I got my first teaching job, and divorced before the school year was out.”
“Damn you had no luck did you?”
“He was a drinker, I found out after we were married he also did coke, and well you know I’d had my own little flirtations with both booze and powder, making sure my flirtations didn’t turn into addiction was probably the main reason I ran away.”
“So Glorious Grace Gresham quietly became Mrs. Grace Brand, a rather mousey teacher.”
“Glorious Grace, been a very long time since I heard that,” she shook her head.
“So what did you teach?”
“French and Italian…you remember I’d read modern languages at Oxford. They made me headmistress three years ago.”
“Be honest with an old friend Grace, have you been happy?”
“By and large - I love teaching, I love the kids, and I can even tolerate the staff room politics…” Grace looked round as she said “but each time I buy CS or Vogue and I see a face I know, or I watch one of your reports on YouTube, yeah I guess I get huge pangs of regret and heartache.”
“So what now that you’ve been outed?”
“I guess I have some huge thinking to do.”
“You know you can always combine career and modeling, a lot of girls your age do.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen what Ju, Alice, and Karen all do.” Grace paused, “but be honest Titi who would want to see me in pics or on a runway anymore?”
“Enough talk – time to become you again,” Felix said as he tipped Grace back, and began to rinse her hair, while Mary and Fiona looked on.
“Ah know thet look lassie – yer thinking wah ahm thinkin’?”
“Oh yes I am,” Mary said with a smile, “I’ll nab him during the second song, you watch her.”
“You done,” Lily said as the three girls walked out.
“We done – fanks.”
“I’ll let Kylie, Susan and Marina know what you did,” Lily said, “and Madame appreciates your assistance. She will show her gratitude in due course – for now, we have a car outside to take you back.”
The girls nodded as they left, and Illyana stood up.
“I’ll see how they are – the other girl?”
“I’ve got her,” Lily said as she went into the next room, where Natalya was sitting with Sally-Anne.
“What happened to the others,” Sally-Anne said as she looked up.
“They did not show remorse, as you have – some friends talked to them. And you?”
“I need to change – you’ve shown me that. I wish I could apologise to Jeannie though.”
“The opportunity may arise – for now, I see genuine repentance in your eyes. Do it.”
“Lean forward,” Natalya said as she pulled Sally-Anne’s blouse up, and she felt some pressure in your back.
“The feeling will return soon,” Lily said as she turned the television on, “for now, I thought you might like to watch this, while we discuss your future. Care for some coca cola?”
The O2 Arena
Graham Norton stood in the wings, watching as the announcer called over the PA “Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, welcome to the 2015 Complete Style Fashion Awards – and please welcome Olly Murs!”
As Olly Murs started playing, Emma, Marnie, Georgia May and Maggie stood in the wings, dressed in the latest designs by Stella McCartney.
“And – go,” Fiona said as the girls walked out, the crowd cheering as the announcer said “Please welcome young stars of the fashion world – Emma Ferrer, Georgia May Jagger, Maggie Fife and Marnie Paget!”
The crowds cheered as the girls walked out and posed at various points, making their way along the catwalk as the group from Downwood clapped and cheered with everyone else.
As the song finished the announcer said “And now, please welcome your host, Graham Norton!”
“Well, what an opening,” he said as he came to the microphone. “Thank you, girls, and thank you Olly Murs. Welcome to the Complete Style Fashion Awards!”
The crowd cheered and clapped as Graham’s face appeared on the giant screens either side of the stage.
“This is the chance for stars and icons of the fashion world to be honoured, and led me tell you, I’ve been backstage, and there are some gorgeous young women and some fabulous acts coming your way – and one or two men for those of us with that in mind.”
The crowd laughed as Graham said “and we’re going to make a start with those awards right away. To present the award for Young Designer of the Year, please welcome the star of the Beckman Report, Jeanne Beckman.”
The crowd cheered as Jeanne walked out and took the stage. “Ladies and Gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to say that the Complete Style Young Designer of the Year is Kirsty Ward – and to showcase her designs, please welcome to the stage Abigail de Ros, Ingrid von Furstenheim, Lily Cole, Caroline Jameson and first out, Jeannie Brewster!”
Cathy and the girls cheered like mad as Jeannie wheeled herself out in a grey dress, with the designer jewelery, and did turns in her chair, smiling and posing as the others followed her out.
Returning to the dais, they waited and applauded as Kirsty came out and accepted the award, before they left the stage and Graham Norton said “please welcome to the stage, accompanied by Mandy Carrow and others in a tribute to Alexander McQueen, Bryan Ferry!”
As Graham came off, she felt Mary’s hand on his shoulder as she said “Graham, you handsome young devil you, tell me, how would you feel about a teeny tiny addition to the show at the end.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome to the stage Jonathon Ross!”
The crowd applauded as the television personality came onto the stage and smiled, before he said “well, this has to be the best dressed show I have been to in years! Jane, my wife, and the girls are backstage, and they cannot believe all the people they are meeting!
“The next award is for Fashion Writer of the Year, and when they asked me who this award was going to, I have to admit I felt a certain level of trepidation.”
“What is he on about,” Juliette said as she stood in the wings with Karen and Alice, dressed in the Sarah Burton designs they had just walked in.
“You see, this person is someone I played a rather cruel trick on some years ago – and she has never truly forgiven me for it. I mean it was the nineties – a wet t-shirt contest was the perfect way to raise money for charity, and I was assured she would rather do that than sing with the Young Ones.”
“That’s a scurrilous lie,” Juliette said, “I wasn’t given… Hang on… Oh no…”
“Revenge,” Mary whispered into Juliette’s ear, “tastes so sweet.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen, it is without any sense of nepotism, but to recognize a great talent, that the judges give the award for Fashion Writer of the Year to Juliette Huntingdown.”
“Way to go Mom,” Cari said as she, Abby and Jo applauded from the wings as Juliette walked out and accepted the reward, Jonathon giving her a kiss on both cheeks as he whispered “sorry.”
“Oh my,” Juliette said as she looked out. “This is really more a testament to the team that supports me, so Janine and Alexis, this is for you. Thank you very much.”
As she walked off, she was hugged by the other models. “Look after that for a minute,” she said as she dabbed her eyes with a hankie, and then said “Right – on with the show. What’s next?”
“The youth of today, lassie,” Fiona said as Ellie Goulding started to perform on the stage.
“No – Mary, it is a ridiculous idea. It’s over twenty years…”
“Then it’s time to pay your dues, Palomino,” Mary Thomas said with a smile. “Besides – imagine the look on your student’s faces when they see you walk on that stage.”
Grace looked at the other models, and then said “and where are you going to find a gown to fit me?”
“I’m already on it – come on, one more time?”
Grace looked on, and said “all right – but someone needs to tell my group what’s going on.”
“I’ve already taken care of it,” Mary said with a smile.
“Hey – are you Harriet Craig?”
“I am,” Harriet, said, only to stare at Benedict Cumberbatch as he looked at her.
“Sorry to interrupt,” he said as the others stared on, “but your leader, Mrs. Brand, asked me to tell you all she’s met an old friend backstage, and hopes you will forgive her if she watches the show from there. She will, however, see you all and join you all later.”
“Barbara,” Harriet said as he left, “what’s going on?”
“Welcome to the Mary Thomas experience – you never know what’s going to happen next,” she whispered back as Ellie Goulding said “This one’s for the girls from Downwood” and started to sing Hangin On.
“Wasn’t she wonderful,” Graham said as Ellie accepted her award and left the stage. “Now, to present the award for Advertising Campaign of the Year, please welcome to the stage the star of The Last Leg, Adam Hills.”
The tall Australian waved as he came onto the stage, and said “Well, this is a fine evening – but if you’re going to sell something, get an Australian to do it.
“Anyway, the judges have had a very difficult job to do in choosing their winner, with many new and innovative campaigns over the last year. In the end, however, they have gone for a campaign that has showcased a beautiful young lady, without mentioning the most courageous fact about her. The winner of the award is Lerrabella Cosmetics for their New You campaign, and to accept the award, please welcome to the stage the International Director of Lerrabella, Giorgio Mancini.”
The crowd cheered and clapped as Giorgio came on, while backstage Jeannie was wheeled to the stage side by House.
“Wow – that’s amazing,” she said as she sat on a Mary Quant pop art minidress, white cap and white PVC boots.
“Thank you,” Giorgio said, “but I cannot stand here and accept this award without asking the true star of the campaign to join me on the stage. Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome to the stage the face of Lerrabella New You, Jeannie Brewster.”
The audience started to clap and cheer as Jeannie looked at Winston, and then wheeled herself out, joining Giorgio, Adam and Graham at the lectern.
“Jeannie has been the inspiration behind this campaign, and we at Lerrabella are proud that she has done this for us,” Giorgio said, “which is why I’m glad Jeannie could join us here for a moment.”
“What’s going on,” Ashley whispered to Liz as the camera focused on Jeannie.
“Jeannie, my love,” Graham said, “do you remember this?”
Jeannie turned herself to look at the screen as the photographs from the shoot at the National Gallery came up on the screen.
“Yeah – how could I ever forget that day,” she whispered.
“Well, that was the touchpaper – and this was the explosion.”
The screen then showed the film from the New York show where Jeannie flew through the air.
“Wha… What’s going on,” Jeannie said as she looked round.
“Jeannie Brewster,” Adam Hill said as Graham and Giorgio looked on, “Complete Style is delighted to tell you that you have been named their Young Model of the Year.”
“YES!!!!” The whole group of girls stood up and cheered as Barbara beamed, Ama and Maisha clapping next to her and Shirley as Jeannie was handed the award, the stunned expression on her face projected for all to see.
“I… I really don’t know what to say,” Jeannie said as she looked up. “Thank you – thank you for this honour.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Jeanie Brewster, Giorgio Mancini and Adam Hill,” Graham said as Adam pushed Jeannie off, the models clapping and cheering as she came back stage.
“You lot knew didn’t you? – all of you?”
“Hey, we picked you,” Abby said, “congratulations Baby – now it’s back to work.”
“Right then,” Graham said, “our next tribute of the evening is to the woman many say restarted British fashion. Please join us as Caroline Jameson leads a tribute – and you saw Wee Jeannie there in one outfit – to Miss Mary Quant.”
Caroline led out a line of the models in various outfits as John leaned over to Ama.
“This bit is probably what you’ve been waiting for, right?”
“Oh yes, Uncle John,” Ama said happily, “I do like the clothes this woman designs, and mom and the others look so beautiful in them. Don’t you agree Maisha?”
“I do,” Maisha said, “although I do wonder if they would be good to wear in the high street today.”
“Oh I don’t know – given the way you teenagers wear denim hot pants over leggings, a mini skirt is not that far off,” Shirley said with a smile.
As Jeannie wheeled past, she waved to the Downwood girls and then moved round, taking up her place at the back of the stage.
Graham came back out and applauded the girls, as he said into the microphone “Don’t they look great. Now, it is my pleasure to introduce the co-producers of tonight’s show, Mary Thomas and Fiona Mackenzie."
The two older women came out to the applause of the models, Mary in her long skirt and boho blouse, Fiona in her black evening dress and heels.
"Urmmm,” Fiona began, “back
when this young lady and ah were aspiring fashion students in that land of long
"This lady was already a living legend."
"One day she was kind ernuff
to spend an afternoon talking fashun to twa bright eyed students...One from Scotland."
"One from Wales."
"Her kindness thart day
sent us almost flying back to our humble digs."
"Those few good words kept me from dropping out and going home back to my little village in Wales.”
"It is ah pleasure to announce..."
"The winner of Complete Styles Lifetime of
Achievement Award goes to...."
Both women looked at each other and said together "Mary Quant."
The audience clapped and cheered as the brown haired legend came onto the stage, kissing both of them as they handed the trophy only.
“What they’re not saying,” Mary said, “is they had real and genuine talent – and design’s loss was the fashion press gain. Thank you for the tribute, and thank you for this award.”
Mary and Fiona escorted Mary off to rapturous applause, followed by the models.
“Time for some more music I think – please welcome Take That!”
“Well, Grace, what do you think?”
Mary stood with Grace Brand as she looked at herself in the mirror.
“It’s like the years are dropping away,” she said as she put her hand on her hair, “especially now it’s back to the natural colour.”
“And the gown?”
“All right, all right – tennis and swimming mean I can still fit into one. What now?”
“Now, slip your gown on and wait – I have a little job for you.”
“Well done Donna,” Graham said as he clapped, watching Donna Karan leave with Alice McKinnon.
“Now, currently strutting her stuff as Colonel Eve Baird in the hit TV series Librarians, the lady who is Mystique personified Rebecca Romijn.” Graham completed the introduction.
“It is chaos behind there.” Rebecca adlibbed as a loud bang was hear from backstage. “Someone just said Benedict would be giving kisses rather then autographs, and well all the men back there…”
Rebecca stood and waited as the laughter echoed round the arena.
“Alright I’m here to announce the winner of Complete Styles International Model of the year. She is living proof that just because you don’t fit preconceived notions of what a top fashion models body should look like, that though most of the worlds top agencies turn you down, if you are dedicated enough, tough enough, and just plain beautiful enough, you can and will make it.”
Rebecca waited for the applause to die down. “Complete Style’s international Model of the Year is Kate Upton.”
Rebecca stood back from the microphone as Kate came onstage shaking her head.
“Where is Mrs. Brand,” Cathy asked quietly.
“Don’t worry – I’m sure she will be out soon,” Barbara turned and said as Victoria Beckham came on to accept her award.
“Well, we have had a fantastic night, have we not, Ladies and Gentlemen,” Graham said as the audience cheered and clapped, “but we have one more very special award to make tonight. To announce the recipient, please welcome back to the stage Stella McCartney and Mandy Carrow!”
The audience clapped and cheered as the two women walked out.
“Complete Style magazine,” Stella said into the microphone, “has always championed fashion and models for all ages – as witnessed last year in a certain spread with four supposed to be retired models and one bright new star. It has championed new talent, with Abigail de Ros, the wonderful Jeannie Brewster, and of course Carina Huntingdown – wasn’t she amazing early tonight?”
Cari blushed as she heard the applause.
“But we all have our own icons,” Mandy said, “and I am just one of those who remember first seeing a certain model in a music video, I knew what I wanted to do – even if I was better known for punk chic than a tiger skin catsuit.
“That model has been an inspiration for many of my generation, and continues to inspire many today – including her own daughter. So we’re going to ask Georgia May Jagger to bring out the Lifetime Contribution to Fashion award, so that we can hand it to her mother – the incomparable Jerry Hall.”
The spotlight fell on Jerry Hall, the shocked expression clear on her face as she made her way through the applauding crowds up to the stage. As Mandy and Stella handed over the award, the tears on her cheeks could be seen on the big screens, while she hugged her daughter and then turned to the microphone.
“Wahl this is a surprise,” she finally said as she looked at the trophy. “When ah look at the other names on this award, like Jean Shrimpton, Twiggy, Celia Hammond, and Penelope Tree, ah guess ah realize that I have a place in the history of this wunderfull industry, and that while ah may be a Texan, this has been mah home for fer so-long ahm proud that you include me in with all these great British names. Can I just say thank you to so many great friends, a laht of you are in this room…just thank y’all so much.”
Mandy and Stella took Jerry by the arm as they walked off, but as she went through the curtains she saw Grace standing there.
“Mah gawd,” she said quietly, “I knew I recognized you from somewhar. Hiding under a bushel, dahlin?”
“No longer,” Grace said as the other models lined up behind her, Carina and Juliette smiling broadly.
“Well, we’ve come to the end of our show,” Graham said as he clapped his hands, “and I think you will all agree, it has been an amazing night, right?”
He nodded and smiled as the crowd applauded.
“Now, there is a tradition with shows produced by Mary Thomas that she keeps back one huge surprise to the end.” Graham Norton smiled. “Tonight’s though is a doozie, because tonight someone who has not been seen in public for a long, long time is here to make herself known again.”
“I hope she saw some of the show,” Sarah whispered to Harriet.
“Are you nervous Grace?” Mary asked as they stood in the wings.
“If that’s what having ones knees knock together means…? Then yes.”
“How many hundreds of times have you walked a catwalk love?”
“But that was a long time ago Mary…It was another girl.”
“Well take it from mah jaded old eyes this new gel looks glorious.”
“Thank you Fiona.” Grace turned and smiled.
“Ladies and gentlemen, leading out our models for tonight after dropping out of sight for 21 years, can I ask you to all welcome back to the catwalk Grace Gresham.”
“Well there’s your cue darling…”
“I know…Showtime.” Grace whispered as she strode out and struck a half-forgotten pose. She then started that huge long walk round the horseshoe; her restored blonde hair gleaming, the deep dark blue gown clinging to her body.
“Oh my lord it is,” Harriet said as the entire party looked at their head teacher.
At the half way mark she halted, pointed and smiled at her colleagues and pupils before going on to finish her loop round the stage.
“YOU GO GIRL,” Harriet shouted out as the other models came out to take their bow, Jo and Carina walking alongside Jeannie as Maggie, Marnie and Abby followed them.
“That’s it from the Complete Style Fashion awards 2015,” Graham said, “thank you and good night!”
“Miss Nightingale, Mrs. Craig?”
The two teachers turned to see Winston standing at the end of the row.
“If you and your students will come with me, Jeannie would like to see you backstage, as would Mrs. Brand.”
“We want to see her as well,” Sarah said as she and Harriet led the girls after him. As they went through, Grace Brand looked over and said “Well, now you know where I was – don’t worry I saw everything from back here.”
“Wow – you were a model Mrs. Brand.”
“Oh yes, she was, weren’t you Palomino,” Alice McKinnon said as she hugged the blonde. “So you and your class are coming to the party.”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Grace said as the others looked on.
"Why do the other models call you Palomino
Grace?" Sarah asked.
"Because of my golden blonde mane,” Grace said as
she put her hand through her hair, “It's a nickname I got many years ago
"You were amazing Miss," Parminder spoke,
"Will you please sign my autograph book please."
“Of course,” Grace said as she signed the page, “in fact, I’m taking you through now to meet the other models before we go to the Savoy.
"I remember Glorious Grace." Harriet shook
her head as they walked further backstage, "all these years why did I
never make the connection...And was this the reason you were wearing those
"Lovely to see you back Grace." Rebecca Romijn said as she hugged her.
“Thanks Rebecca,” Grace said, "and it was Harriet, I just hoped no one would look twice."
“But if we’re going to a party, won’t we be back late miss,” Kathy said.
“Don’t worry, I’ve rung all your parents to tell them we are staying the night girls.” Grace Brand spoke. “So as long as you are careful you can enjoy the invitation to the party from Jeannie.”
“Wow fancy us partying the night away at the Savoy with real models.” Ashley shook her head.
“What about you Grace?” Harriet Craig asked as the students followed Sarah Nightingale to meet Jeannie.
“As I said I have a lot to think about Harriet.”
“Can I just ask in all the years we’ve known each other, and I hoped been friends why you never told me?”
“Because I tried to keep it hidden and buried, I wanted to try and live just a normal life as Grace Brand, and not go back to being Glorious Grace Gresham.”
“But were you happy?”
“You know you are the second person to ask me that tonight…”Grace paused to think, “I love teaching, I love you and my friends, but to cut out the damage it was doing I’d had to cauterize most of my life, and yes there were times I hurt like hell and missed modeling and my sisters like nothing I can describe.”
“I belong to Pi Tau Alpha, it’s the models sorority, and it’s a sisterhood that most take very seriously. My running away in Geneva like that hurt a lot of girls just as if their real sister had walked out.”
“Wow I never understood.”
“I used to run with a group of models that included Charity Royce, Karen Boyd as she is now, and Stella Jameson, young Caroline’s mother. We were all making an awful lot of money; adventurous and heading for real trouble the quick way. Charity was already both an alcoholic and a heroin addict, Stella was drinking and doing a lot of cocaine, though she hadn’t started heroin yet. I was drinking a bit to excess, and I’d experimented with coke. We were all of us turning up late for shoots, stoned out of our gourd; I’d had an accident where I’d wrecked a beautiful car while I was drunk.
“That morning in Geneva I woke up and something in me just said ‘Grace you can’t do this anymore, you are either going to end up killing someone, or yourself.’ So I packed, took a cab to the airport, flew home, went straight to my agents, found out what they wanted to let me out of my contract, I wrote them a cheque for virtually everything I had, went home terminated my lease, that cost me virtually everything else. Then I went to Paddington, took a train to Swindon, found myself a room, got some hair colour and dyed my hair, and I buried Glorious Grace.”
“Oh my God Grace.” Harriet hugged her as the tears started to stream.
“I worked for a few months in a supermarket, before I got accepted to do a teaching certificate. Once qualified I taught in Devizes for five years, then I went on to Downwood, you and I arrived the same day if you remember Harriet, and I’ve been there ever since.”
“Wow, thanks Miss Huntingdon,” Parminder said as Carina signed her book, “did you ever imagine you’d be somewhere like this?”
“Truthfully – no, my dear. I’m a bit shorter than the others, but every so often, I get the chance.”
“All right, you lot,” Jeannie shouted out, “if you go with Mrs. Brand and the other teachers, they’ll drive you to the Savoy, and we’ve got rooms reserved for you to crash out in later. But you need to go now – we’ll follow soon after.”
“Come along girls,” Sarah said as Grace collected her coat from Juliette. “We’ll bring your other things with us – Karen insists,” she said as the group headed off.
Crystal looked at Lily, her right eye swollen, her lip cut, as she said “An eye for an eye, bitch?”
“Kind of,” Lily said as she looked at her and Yvonne. “As I said, the person I work for hates bullies, and sometimes you need to experience what you do to others to appreciate the effect you have.”
“And who do you work for, you little cu…”
Both girls shut up and looked at her.
“Now, you two are going home, but know this – we’re watching you, and if we find out you have hurt those who cannot fight back…”
The two girls looked at each other, not saying a word as Lily stood up. “You’ll have your legs back tomorrow – make sure we don’t have to do something more permanent.”
“Try me,” Lily said as Illyana and Natalya clamped the chloroform soaked pads over their noses and mouths, sending them to sleep.
“I’ll be back in a minute,” Lily said as she left the room, and entered the next one, where Sally-Anne was sitting with Penny.
“You showed remorse – we will take you home. What will you tell your parents?”
“I don’t know – I’ll think of something,” the young girl said, “and the others?”
“Will wake up in their beds, able to walk. You need to steer clear of them.”
“I will – and thank you,” Lily said as Penny opened the door.
“You must be the party from Downwood?” Jack Doherty said as the minibus pulled up, “here are your room keys – three girls to one room. Go up, leave your things, and then come to that room over there.” He pointed to a large set of double doors.
“All right girls, pick amongst yourselves who gets which room,” Harriet said as Grace looked round.
“We’ll take one,” Liz said as she looked at Cathy and Ashley.
“Want to share,” Natalie said as she looked at Parminder and Poppy, both girls nodding.
“Which leaves Sienna, Hannah and Chloe in the third room,” Sarah said as she made a note of which girls were in which room. “On you go, and be back here in ten minutes.”
“One double, and one single,” Jack said as he handed over two more keys.
“Do you mind if I take the single,” Grace said, “I may need to do some thinking and talk to a few people.”
“Sure,” Harriet said as she looked at Sarah, “but we want to talk to you first.”
“All right – let’s go to the bar over there.”
As they sat down, Grace ordered three glasses of wine, and looked at her two colleagues.
“Yes, I lied,” she said in answer to their looks, “all I can say in my defense is I had to forget who I was, or I would have gone the same way as poor Caroline’s mother. She, Karen and I ran together – Karen fought long and hard to overcome her addictions, Stella died leaving Caroline, and I… I ran away before I went the same way as them.”
“I can understand that,” Harriet said, “it’s just a shock to know one of the most famous women in the world has been my boss these last few years – and my friend for longer.”
“So will you go back?”
“I don’t know yet – maybe, but not full time. I’m still a headmistress after all.”
“And a hero to those girls there,” Sarah said before she sipped her wine. “The whole school as well – I’ve already had texts from some of our colleagues.”
“One of the things I need to think about over the weekend,” Grace said as she saw the first of the girls come out of the lift. “Right now, we need to be chaperones once again.”
“I overheard Grace talking to her friend.” Diana whispered in Juliette’s ear as they stood at the side of the room. “She did it to avoid becoming a casualty like Stella you know.”
“I’d guessed that. They were a pretty wild set, but if only Grace had asked for help… well you know yourself how beloved she was Diana?”
“Well she saw the only way of avoiding disaster being by cutting herself off totally from the fashion world darling.”
“Who are you talking about Darling?” Mandy joined them.
“Grace.” Juliette nodded. “You know I watch our daughters out there dancing, young Jeannie and her friends, and I thank the goddess we have had the sense, the luck, and the good fortune to survive and prosper in this industry, and that we can help these young ones do so as well.”
“True – when you think of Stella, and Karen – but she found some peace at least. I just wonder what’s going to happen when You Know Who finds out.”
Diana and Juliette looked at each other, and said the same thing at the same time.
“Oh hi Mary – how was the after show press conference?”
“Let me put it this way,” Mary said with a smile, “Anna is holding court still, and I understand a certain Miss Auerbach has already been on the phone.”
“Well did you enjoy it?” Jeans asked Liz, Cathy and Ashley as they danced.
“It was AMAZING! And as for Mrs. Brand – or Grace, or whatever they called her…”
“Believe me, I am as floored as you lot,” Jeannie said as she looked over, “but I can see it now. I have this collection of old magazines, and Grace Gresham is in there, but I never recognized her. I guess it shows Clark Kent was right.”
“The glasses and hair hide everything, Ashley,” Jeannie said as Winston dipped her again.
“Grace – come over and join us.”
“Only if my friends can join me as well,” Grace said as she came over with Harriet and Sarah. “Girls, this is Alice McKinnon, Mandy Carrow – sorry, Lady Ordford – and Doctor Karen Boyd. Ladies, this is Harriet Craig and Sarah Nightingale, from the school I run.”
“Pleasure to meet you both,” Karen, said as they shook hands, “you have a fine group of kids there.”
“Most of the ones we teach are,” Grace said quietly, “but how they’re going to react on Monday I have no idea.”
“One step at a time,” Karen said, “that’s what I told Caroline when I bumped almost literally into her.”
“How are you anyway Karen – are you…”
“Yes – regularly. We both got lucky, Grace, in our own different ways.”
“And now look at you – back on the catwalk, if only part time, Alice runs a clothing empire, Mandy is still Mandy…”
“Well, we’re all mothers as well, remember?”
“Sorry – and congratulations Karen, how is he?”
“Growing – Ken and I take guesses as to who he will be taller than. You’re going to have to come out to meet him Grace – I insist.”
“I’d like that – when term finishes,” Grace said with a smile.
“Excuse me a minute,” Sarah said as she stood up, “I need to lay down a rule for the girls.”
As she walked over, Cathy turned and said “hey, Miss Nightingale. We were asking what we could have to drink.”
“Well, because it’s a private party, the Savoy Staff are turning a blind eye, you may all have one glass of champagne…just the one, and remember not a word to parents.” Sarah Nightingale warned her little posse.
“Good think I’m a Sikh not a Muslim.” Parminder giggled. “You know I could get used to this life…”
“Ask Jeannie about the hard work it really is though.” Cathy reminded her as she turned and walked back to the table.
“Who is that girl our age chatting with Miss Huntingdown and the other adults?” Liz asked Jeannie.
“Our age? …Oh you mean Sigrid?” Jeans laughed loudly. “She might look 15, but the Baroness von Manschen is in fact a mother with three children…she just looks like a teenager.”
“Whoa, she’s really that old?”
“Oh yeah, she’s lovely though…She’s Carina and Ingrid’s aunt.”
“They both look older then her.”
“I know…Sigrid needs to carry her passport everywhere because people always think she’s under age.”
“Is she a model as well?”
“Sigrid? No! From what I understand she’s a legal consultant and scholar, she doesn’t practice law, just gives advice to those who do.”
“Whoa!” Liz shook her head, “even when they aren’t star models your friends are impressive Jeans.”
“Well one day I’ll be proud of knowing you…”
“Fat chance,” Liz interrupted, “I’ll probably end up knocked up, in a little housing corporation flat struggling to make ends meet working in Tesco’s.”
“Don’t be so negative.” Jeannie tried to encourage her friend.
"Just be glad you got out Jeans, and just 'ope you never 'ave to come 'ome." Cathy added to the conversation.
“Look, it’s like I said back at the show – you’ve got to seize the opportunity when it comes. All right, I got very, very, lucky – but seriously, you can all be whatever you want to be. Look at my school friends here – Abby isn’t just a model, she’s kind, generous, and although she hasn’t realized it yet, she takes a wonderful photograph.”
The girls looked over at the tall blonde talking to Lily Cole.
“Carina is reading History at Yale – Jo is the sister of a nanny, but she got into a top University to read Psychology, as well as being a star athlete. Marnie and Maggie – both very shy, but striking out on their own. All you need is the chance – and maybe, just maybe, it’s not that far away.”