"Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to London Heathrow airport, where the local time is 8.15 am. We hope you enjoyed your flight with us, and on behalf of the crew..."
"Oh my goodness," Joanne said as she looked out of the window, "We're actually in London!"
"Not yet," Carina said as she stretched and yawned, "We're in England, yeah, but you have no idea of the horrors we are about to face."
"Ignore her, Jo," Juliette said as the plane taxied to the stand. "This is an adventure for all of us."
They had left JFK only six hours ago, dog tired thanks to the cunning plan of Abigail of staying up all night, and eating in the BA Lounge before boarding. After that the next thing Jo had known was the steward offering her some breakfast. She had started to watch a film, but the tiredness took hold first.
"All right," Diana said as she stood up and made her way out of the Club Class seat. "We have to get through passport control, baggage and customs first - although they claim Terminal 5 is the fastest for that."
"Let's hope so," Heather said as she stretched, "I need fresh air!"
"Good Morning," Juliette said as she and Carina walked to the immigration desk.
"Good morning, Miss Huntingdown," the woman behind the desk said as she examined their passports and visas. "Is this trip business or pleasure?"
"A bit of both," Juliette said with a smile. "But mainly pleasure."
"Enjoy your stay," she said as she stamped the passports, and they made their way through, waiting for the others to join them.
"Well, first test passed," Joanne said as she walked with Abby and Cari, "No problems with the passport."
"Of course not, silly," Abby said as Diana fetched a trolley, and they loaded their luggage on. Heather grabbed a second one, as they made their way through customs.
"Ms de Ros," a security guard said as they approached the exit gates, "Welcome to London."
"Wow, am I famous over here as well," Abby said as she looked at her mother. The security guard smiled and said "I regret to say you are, Ms de Ros, which means the press photographers have heard you are coming. Your driver is waiting outside, but if you will take my advice, walk straight ahead and answer no questions."
"Because," her mother said as they stood in line, "the British Press can make the National Enquirer look like a gentile tea party. Take a deep breath, and when you are ready?"
Abby had got used by now to the flash bulbs of the fashion photographers, and on the catwalk, but she was taken aback by the array of press and photographers, taking pictures of her and of her group, as she walked through the gates, and calling for an interview. She looked straight ahead, smiling at the tall, grey haired man waiting for them.
"Hello, John," Sandy said as she embraced him, "Thanks for staying the extra week."
"My pleasure, Miss Alexandra," he said as he signalled to two porters, who came and took the luggage trolleys. "If you will follow me, I have the car waiting outside. Thanks, George."
"Any time, John," the security guard said as they walked out, the cool spring air waking them up before they got in the SUV John walked them to.
“So that’s Abigail de Ros – I thought she’d be like some of the others, but she’s not, is she?”
a lovely kid George, I don't think she has any idea just how famous she's going
to be one day, she's still the same kid I’ve known all her life."
big star thing?"
"Nah, if I asked she'd have carried my bags for me probably." John smiled.
“Take you back,” George said to John as the porters loaded the luggage into the back of the vehicle.
“What – the queuing for fares and the fumes? Yeah, it takes me back – but I never regretted moving over there.”
“She’s good – and Jeanie gets bigger every time I see her. They’re going to come and spend some time in New York this summer.”
“Tell her I said Hi,” George said as the two men shook hands, and George walked away.
"Welcome to London," John said as he climbed in the front, Joanne wondering why he was on the right. "How was the flight?"
"Mercifully short," Sandy said as he set off, "The kids asked me to say hello to you. Oh, and John?"
"Yes, Miss Alexandra?"
"Do us all a favour and be yourself this week. Mother's not around, it's Sandy, all right?"
"Yes Mis... Sandy," John said as he left the terminal. "We will go in along the M4, and then I'll point out some of the sights to you."
He turned north on the M25, the "Road to Hell" as Chris Rea put it, and then onto the M4 into London.
"This is weird," Heather said, "driving on the right."
"You get used to it," John said as they sped down the road, and then onto an elevated section.
"We're driving over Osterley Park now," John said as the girls looked out of the window, "and over to the right in a few minutes is Kew Gardens."
"It's not that much different to New York," Abigail said as she looked out on the office blocks.
"You know that's not true Abigail," John said with a smile.
Abigail was looking in the direction John had indicated when she caught a glimpse of one of the billboards. It showed a large picture of her, her blonde hair blowing as she wore a red lace strapless top, her blue eyes shining. Next to her was a picture of a perfume bottle, with the caption "Memories must be treasured. Memories, pour femme."
"Well, that explains the press interest," Diana said as Jo and Cari stared at the billboard.
"Yeah, Abigail is a person a lot of people might like to meet," John said, "so I've spoken to the concierge at the Savoy. He's an old friend, and will make sure you are not disturbed."
"Are you all right, Abby," Jo said as she looked at her friend.
"Oh my – I only did that at the beginning of last week, and they have a billboard that size up already?”
“Surprise, honey,” Juliette said as she looked back, “this happens sometimes. I know Diana and I had approved the pictures, but they must have moved fast on this one.
“This is going to be one heck of a week, isn't it?" Abigail looked out of the window, wondering if she would get any peace outside the hotel.
The car went down onto a roundabout, and then onto an urban road.
"We're now in the borough of Chiswick - on your right is the former Fuller's brewery, and soon you will see..."
"Oh my goodness," Joanne said as she looked to the right between the houses, "Is that the Thames?"
"It is, Joanne. Now we're coming up to Hammersmith flyover - hospital on your right, Craven Cottage past that, and Stamford Bridge to your left."
"Local sights of historic interest?"
"Only to a Chelsea fan, Mrs de Ros," John said to Diana, Sandy raising an eyebrow as Juliette sat back, her eyes closed.
A few minutes later, after they travelled for ages past flats and houses, John said "Getting close now - on your left are the museums. Imperial War, V&A, and on your right is Harrods. We're now going to go along the bottom of Hyde Park, and then..."
John turned right at a roundabout, and headed along Constitution Hill. "Oh... My.... Goddess..." Heather said as she and Joanne gripped each other's hands, "is that..."
"Buckingham Palace - and her Majesty is in residence," John said as the Royal Standard fluttered from the roof. Turning left, they went up The Mall.
"Green Park on your left, St James' Park on the right - the forecast is good for today, so I suggest a walk there once you are settled and cleaned up."
They went under Admiralty Arch, and around Trafalgar Square. "Heather," John said, "that's the National Gallery. I understand you will be there Tuesday?"
"Oh yes," Heather said quietly as they turned right down Duncannon Street, and onto The Strand. "You are booked into the Savoy," John said, "but I need to go round Aldwych and double back. One extra moment."
A minute later, John turned into the approach to the Savoy Hotel, and pulled up at the door. "Hello John," the doorman said as John opened the door, "Long time no see."
"Hello Jack - these are my employer's family and friends. Show them every courtesy, will ya?"
“Don’t worry,” the man said as he smiled at Juliette and Carina, “I will make sure they have a wonderful stay. Miss Huntingdown, Miss Huntingdown, Welcome back to the Savoy. Our porters will take the cases of you and your party – if you will come this way?”
As Joanne and Abigail walked past, they looked at Jack, in his greatcoat and top hat, and giggled.
“Manners, girls,” John said kindly, “Jack Docherty is a good friend, and if you need anything – anything – you talk to him.”
Heather and Sandy walked into the lobby, hand in hand, and looked round the sumptuously furnished hotel.
“Countess de Ros, welcome,” the receptionist said as Diana stood there. “If I may see your passports, we will arrange for you to be taken to your rooms. If you wish, the café is open from 12 for lunch.”
“I think we should unpack and change before we decide that,” Diana said as she passed her passport over with Abigail’s.
“John,” Sandy said as she looked at the chauffer, “Will you join us for lunch? Perhaps then you can take us for a walk.”
“It will be an honour, Sandy,” John said as he smiled at her and Heather. “Would it be out of place for me to say how glad I am that you and Heather can relax, at least for this week?”
Sandy and Heather smiled as they walked to the reception desk – he had known from the first time he had met Heather, and saw the effect they had on each other, but Mrs Richmond would never have approved…
Balden! One bit of harm comes to that
girl, I'm going to have your guts for garters boyo."
John chuckled at the memory of the phone call from Mary Thomas the night before.
“Mary, calm down – I will treat them all as if they were my own. And besides, Mrs Richmond has made her views very clear as well.”
“Well, just so you know where we stand.” There was a pause before Mary said “How’s the family?”
John had looked over at Barbara, who was lifting Jeanie out of her wheelchair and into her bed. “They’re fine – and I cannot thank you enough for what you have arranged for Monday.”
“Well, take care – and I’ll see you when you get back, all right?”
“Oh – forgive me Sandy. Let me get the car parked, and I will meet you here in an hour?”
“I still can’t believe we’re here,” Joanne said as she looked out over The Strand, and then turned to look at Carina and Abigail. “London – it’s not how I imagined it.”
“Better or worse?”
“I’m not sure,” Joanne said, “take this street – it’s got as many theatres as Times Square, and it looks as busy, but somehow it seems much more…”
“Friendly?” Carina was pulling on a grey jacket over her white t-shirt, having showered and changed into her jeans as well. Sitting down, she pulled on a pair of trainers as she watched Abby pulling her jumper over her head. The tall girl was wearing a long boho skirt, and a pair of black ankle boots.
“Yeah – that’s the word. Friendly. How are you feeling anyway, Cari?”
“Better for the shower – at least we get to share this suite.” Juliette had booked a suite for the three girls, giving each of them their own bedroom as well as a shared sitting room. She and Diana had their own rooms, while Sandy and Heather had a room to themselves.
“So,” Jo said as she pulled her St Angela’s hoodie over her top, “want to go and meet the others?”
Joanne and Abigail looked at Carina as she looked at her friends. “What? What are you two plotting?”
think it's maybe time 'The Stick' made a reappearance if Abigail's going to
have a good time in London." Carina said as she and Jo grabbed Abby and
pulled her into the bathroom.
makeup, and no fancy hair do's" Jo said as they sat Abby down and started
applying cleanser and makeup remover.
"Just pulled back in a ponytail." Carina switched attention to brushing out Abby's hair, "and no one in London will have a clue who you are."
“All right, all right,” Abby said as she looked in the mirror, “while off the clock, The Stick is back. Now can we get going?”
“Hmmmm,” Sandy said as she gently kissed Heather’s neck, “That was so good?”
“Yeah – to be able to share a shower without fear of being disturbed, that was something special,” Heather said as she leaned her head back and placed her lips on those of Sandy. “I wish we could spend the rest of the day here.”
“We have tonight,” Sandy said with a smile, “but for today, we go with the others. Together.”
Juliette looked up from her laptop and said “It’s open” as she heard the light tap on the door. She smiled as Diana came in, wearing an open necked white blouse and a cream linen skirt.
“Diana de Ros, do you know the meaning of dressing casually,” Juliette said as she closed the lid.
“And do you know the meaning of the word holiday, Juliette darling,” Diana said with a raised eyebrow. “What are you doing?”
“E-mails from Mary and Missy, confirming when the girls are needed. Don’t tell Abby, but she is working with someone on Monday that she will like.”
“And Mary’s idea?”
“No kissing – she promises.” Juliette stood up and brushed down her pants, before picking up a grey leather jacket and putting it on. “Let’s go and meet the girls.”
As they walked into the lobby, John put his paper down and stood up.
“Anyone else down yet,” Juliette said, only to smile as the girls came into the lobby.
“Why does it not surprise me that they are last,” Diana said as Heather and Sandy walked in. Sandy was wearing a pair of black leather trousers and a white roll neck sweater, while Heather was wearing a brown jersey dress and knee length boots.
“Nice look, Sis,” Joanne said with a smile.
“All right, ladies,” John said with a smile, “May I suggest we go to a very good bar near here, and have lunch there before we go into the park?”
“Sounds good,” Sandy said. “What are the rules on alcohol?”
“IF they eat, they can have a small drink,” John said as he looked at the three younger girls.
“Well, let’s eat – I’m dying for a decent steak sandwich,” Carina said as the eight of them walked out of the hotel, and turned left, passing the entrance to various stores.
“Wherever you go, some things remain constant,” Diana said as they passed a large McDonalds, and then turned as they approached Trafalgar Square. Joanne looked left, and stepped out – only to be pulled back by John as a black cab sped past.
“Two things, Joanne,” Cari said with a smile. “One, look right first. Two, they have traffic light crossings here.”
Joanne looked to her right, waiting until the others stepped off as Heather said “This is going to take some getting used to.”
“This bar is good,” John said as they passed a theatre, and entered a bar with a sign that said “The Half Moon and The Sun.” Inside, they pulled a couple of table together and looked at the menus, Abigail looking before she said “What on earth can I eat from this?”
“Whatever you want doofus – we’re on holiday,” Cari said as she kicked at Abby’s shins, and went back to looking at the menu.
“Tell me what you want,” John said as he took out a piece of paper and a pen, “and I’ll order it from the bar, as well as some drinks.
“I’ll come with you,” Heather said, “to pay for it.”
They walked up to the bar, Heather getting admiring glances from some of the men as she did so. “Careful, Sandy,” Juliette said, “She may get taken off you.”
“Not a chance,” Sandy said as John came back. “Sorry, Joanne, are you sure you want chips with that turkey sandwich?”
“Yeah – I usually have chips with a sandwich. Why?”
“No reason,” John said as he walked back, and Jo noticed the other two giggling. “All right, what did I do this time?”
“You’ll see,” Cari said as she sat back against the cushion, “you’ll see…”
Heather and John eventually brought the drinks back, and they sat talking about their plans for the rest of the day before their food arrived.
“Hang on,” Joanne said as the waitress put a plate of fries down with her sandwich, “I thought I asked for chips?”
“You did,” John asked, “those are chips.”
Jo looked at Cari and Abby, who were laughing their heads off. “Great – what else do I need to know the names for around here?”
“Candy are sweets, and chocolate tastes better over here, “Carina said as she started to eat her salad.
“Also, the sidewalk is the pavement, and the first floor for us is the ground floor to them.”
“Don’t let them get to you, sis,” Heather said as she waited for her food, only to laugh herself when the roast was brought to her.
“What’s this,” she said as she looked at the round brown object with her chicken.
“Pudding – Yorkshire pudding,” John said as he passed Jo a bag of salted crisps, and took the chips for himself. “This will do me until I get to Barbara’s tonight.”
“Are they still coming to the office with us tomorrow?”
“They are – and I cannot thank you enough for doing this for us,” John said with a smile. “She can’t wait to meet all of you.”
“Good,” Juliette said, “because I have a very special present from a special friend for her and her mother.”
“I know Central Park in summer is something, but this comes close to matching it,” Abigail said as the three girls walked along the side of the pond in St James Park, looking to everyone that passed like three students on a visit to the capital. Sandy and Heather walked a little way behind them, hand in hand as they took in the early spring weather,
“Look at them darling,” Diana said as she walked with John and Juliette, “young love in the most pure of form.”
“I know,” Juliette said with a sigh, “I just wish there was some way to bring her mother round and tell her the truth.”
“Not going to happen, I’m afraid,” John said quietly. “Forgive me for saying so, because I owe Mrs Richmond everything, but on this matter she would react in a worse manner than Maggie and the miners.”
“That reminds me,” Diana said, “Jack at the hotel says he can get tickets for that musical you wanted to see – Billy Elliot?”
“Good show – very real and raw, especially here,” John said as he watched the girls stop and look at the birds on the water. “I’m glad Carina could come – Dr Reichmann had no objections?”
“Not now that the morning sickness has passed,” Juliette said as she looked at them. “Apparently if she was going to come, this was the perfect time, during the second trimester. Still, she needed the break – we all did.”
“Agreed,” Diana said quietly, “It has been a – traumatic time for a lot of us.”
John looked at his watch, and said “Forgive me ladies – time I was heading off. I will meet you at the hotel tomorrow at nine, if that is all right?”
“Perfect, John – we’ll make our way back from here.” Juliette waved at John as he walked off, then said to Diana “I like him.”
“As do I,” Diana said as they walked on, “as do I…”
“Thank the Goddess the staff here at The Savoy are trained to be so discreet.” Diana sighed a sigh of relief. “It would be no kind of vacation for any of us if the paparazzi were camped out front.” She and Juliette were sitting in the American Bar, waiting for the others to come before they went for dinner. They were dressed as earlier.
“Do you remember that time in Paris while Kate was dating Johnny?” Juliette rolled her eyes. “None of us was safe, they were following me, they were following you, anyone they thought might lead them to Kate.”
“I thought they’d never give up.” Diana laughed, “and think what they’d have paid for the pictures if they’d known Kate and Johnny were babysitting our kids while they chased us all over Paris.”
Juliette chuckled. It hadn’t been funny at the time, but looking back it did have a certain humour.
“At least Abby still has the advantage that if she takes her makeup off and slips her glasses on, she’s still an anonymous figure.” Juliette reflected.
“Thank the Goddess for that.”
“I could never get away with it,” Juliette said as Jack came over, “any disguise I tried the damn snappers could still spot me.”
“Forgive the interruption ladies,” he said as he bowed slightly, “the tickets you asked for.”
“Thank you Jack – where have you booked for us for tonight?”
“Please tell me it’s not the Fashion Café…”
“I would not dare, Miss Huntingdown, Countess. No, I have booked you into a very nice Italian restaurant I know – the directions are here, and you eat at eight.”
“Thank you,” Diana said as the concierge walked away. “You know, there are times I’m glad I was never a high profile model…”
“Glad why?” Sandy asked as she joined them and sat down, ordering a Long Island Iced Tea from the waiter.
“Because I could have a real private life.”
“Do you remember when Kate was?...”
“It was just what we were talking about.” Juliette interrupted.
“You Ju, Naomi, Christy, Helena, all of you girls, none of you could ever really have a private life.”
Suddenly Juliette started to burst out laughing.
“Okay I’ll bite…. what’s so funny?” Sandy asked.
“Do you remember in Miami that time when Naomi was dating Mike Tyson?”
“Oh Goddess yes.” Diana started giggling.
“And I ‘ad to ‘it ‘im wiv me ‘andbag.” Juliette did a perfect imitation of the cockney supermodel.
“Oh damn how many years ago was that darlings?” Diana had to wipe away tears of laughter.
“Too many years.” Sandy sighed.
“Now we are shepherding a new young modelling star.” Juliette returned to the present day.
“Makes me feel old.” Sandy looked thoughtful.
“How do you think it makes me feel darlings?...I’m her mother.”
“And a lovely mother you are as well,” Abby said as the girls joined them, followed by Heather. “can we have a drink?”
“Soft one only here – licensing laws,” Juliette said as she signalled to the waiter, “so hold on a little while longer…”
Sunday 23rd March
The Dorchester Hotel
“Good morning sir – your usual table?”
Joe Markham nodded as he slowly walked behind the waitress to the table by the window. He had come out last week, needing to get away from his work, his home town – everything for a little while. It had been nearly a year since the night he had lost everything, and despite the best efforts of his employers and his friends he had never fully recovered from the experiences those women had put him through.
So they had finally told him to take a four week break, and a week ago he had flown to London, hoping the change in scenery would do him some good. After a few days, it seemed to be working, and he had even laughed at a comedy program on the BBC, where Stephen Fry had asked questions with no real right answer.
Unfolding his copy of the Mail on Sunday, he ordered a cooked breakfast of bacon, scrambled eggs and tomatoes, before pouring some coffee and looking idly through the pages. On the society gossip page he saw a picture captioned “New Fashion Sensation Abigail de Ros arrives in London.”
“Nice looking kid,” he said to himself a she looked at the tall, thin blonde, and eh was about to turn the page when he looked again at the picture. With Abigail where some older women, and a security guard shooing people away, but he stared at the two smaller girls behind her – particularly the taller of the two.
“It can’t be,” he finally whispered, “Megan?”
“Sorry Mister Markham?”
He looked at the waitress, and said “Sorry nothing.”
She put the plate down and said “Oh – I saw her in the paper as well. They say she’s doing a shoot at Trafalgar Square tomorrow. Enjoy your breakfast, sir.”
Joe nodded as he propped the paper up and started to eat, wondering to himself “Could it possibly be?”
The Savoy Hotel
“Here they come,” John said as the lift door opened and the seven of them came out, Juliette clutching her shoulder bag. She was wearing a trouser suit with a black blouse underneath, while Diana, Heather and Sandy were all wearing knee length skirts and jumpers with three inch heels.
The three girls were dressed in t-shirts and jeans as they approached John and the two women with her. One was wearing a brown leather jacket and grey pants, with a pair of brown short boots underneath, and had long flowing brown hair. Sitting in a wheelchair with her was a thirteen year old girl, wearing a blue smock top over black leggings and short boots, her brown hair cut short.
“Ladies, this is my daughter Barbara and my granddaughter Jeanie. Barbara, Jeanie, this is Juliette Huntingdown and her daughter Carina, Heather Smith and her sister Joanne, Sandy Richmond, and finally Diana de Ros and her daughter…”
“You’re Abigail de Ros,” Jeanie said as she gazed at Abby. “Wow – to think I get to meet the hottest model in the world.”
“Hardly,” Abby said as she squatted down and held her hand out. “Very pleased to meet you Jeanie – John has told us a lot about you.” Jeanie took her hand and shook it, smiling as Juliette said “I’m so glad you could both make it today – we’ve got something very special lined up for you, but first I wanted to give you this.”
She opened her bag and gave Jeanie a big brown envelope. “we had an event a few weeks ago in New York where a lot of the top models did a show for us – including Abby and my daughter Cari. We ask those who take part to sign some programs which we auction later – and I want you to have a copy for yourself. I’ve also got a signed photo for you from Danielle Shaypuk – I don’t know if you’ve seen pictures of her, but she has to use a wheelchair like you do, and she modelled at the show as well.”
Jeanie’s eyes sparkled as she said “thank you, Miss Huntingdown…”
“Please, call me Juliette. Now, this morning we need to go and visit the London offices of my magazine – would you like to come and join us?”
“I’d love to,” Jeanie said as Barbara hugged her father.
“Well, it’s a short walk from here, so if you don’t mind, the girls will take turns in pushing you along all right?”
“Good,” Carina said as she took the handles of the wheelchair, “let’s be off then. We have an important appointment to keep!”
“I’ll get the car sorted, John,” Jack Doherty said as John passed him the keys, and the party set out, turning left down the strand and along to Trafalgar Square. They took their time at the lights, crossing carefully and then walking past the National Gallery.
“So we’re visiting there tomorrow,” Joanne said as she walked with Heather.
“Oh yes – time you had a culture infusion, o sister of mine,” Heather said with a smile as they made their way to Haymarket, before walking up to Piccadilly.
“Your turn,” Cari said as Jo took over, pushing the excited Jeanie up the slight hill as she talked to Abby, and then across Piccadilly before they turned into Regent Street.
“Here we are,” Juliette said as they slipped into Saville Row and stopped outside a three storey building, “the London offices of Complete Style magazine.”
“IS it still…”
“Oh yes it is – the one woman who makes Mary Martin look like a mild mannered woman,” Juliette said with a smile as Jo and Cari held the doors open, and Abby wheeled Jeanie in, the others following.
A young girl sat behind a reception desk, whose sole occupation seemed to be answering the telephone and saying “Complete Style? I’ll put you through. Complete Style? Hold the line please. Complete…”
She looked up, her spiky red hair making Joanne giggle, as she said “Yes?”
Juliette looked at her – sleeveless white blouse, and tight red leather trousers, with a tattoo visible on her left arm.
“Would you please inform Miss Mackenzie that her guests are here?”
“Miss Mackenzie is in a meeting all day, and is not to be disturbed.”
Juliette raised an eyebrow, as Diana stepped forward. “Perhaps you did not hear us,” she said in a cold voice, “please inform your editor that Miss Juliette Huntingdown is here with her party, including Miss de Ros, to see her.”
The girl looked at the group, Juliette and Abigail smiling, and her mouth fell open as she picked up the phone.
“Kay? Is the tornado around? Tell her Juliette Huntingdown and friends are in the lobby.”
“The tornado?” Carina and Abigail smiled at each other as the indicator light showed the lift coming down, and the doors opened with a ping.
“Aw ya stupid wee lass – don’t you recognise wan o’ our head writers when she calls!” The voice was unmistakable Scottish, as a woman, about five foot eight, came out. She had greying red hair in tight curls, and wore a black dress with a grey cardigan over it.
“Julie, ma lass,” she said as he came forward and hugged Juliette, “and Diana as well? So where are they?” She looked at Abby and Cari, before saying “My god – the last time I saw ye twa, ye were no bigger than my waist. Come and give me a hug, both o’ye.”
“Hello Auntie Fiona,” Cari said as the woman wrapped her thick arms around, “and then she looked up at Abby. “My god, Diana, when did ye swap that little girl fer this giant o’ a lass. I cannae hug ye now, can I?”
“But I can hug you,” Abby said as she did just that. “Sandy, Heather, and Joanne, this is Fiona Mackenzie, the UK editor. Fiona, you remember Sandy.”
“O’ course I dae,” Fiona said as she hugged all of them. “So you two are the nanny and sister, eh? And you – you must be Jeanie, our special guest for today.”
“It’s a real pleasure to meet you, Miss Mackenzie,” Jeanie said in a very quiet voice. “This is my mum and grandfather.”
“Well wha ar we standin’ oot here fer in the lobby? You three come up in the lift wi me ferst – t’others can follow in the next car.”
Jeanie waved to the others as she was wheeled into the lift by John, and then they went up, closely followed by the others. As they came out, they walked into a large open plan office, but every phone stopped ringing and every conversation stopped as they saw Juliette and Abby standing there.
“Hey Hey – I wan mair chatter,” Fiona called out from a conference room. “All o’ye in here – I got tea and biscuits waiting.”
“Fiona lives on tea and biscuits,” Cari said to Jo as they walked in, “She’s been the editor here for ten years, but she started out doing girl’s fashion comics in the sixties and seventies up in Dundee.”
“They had magazines like that,” Joanne said, and then she saw the pictures of Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton on the cover of a magazine called Jackie.
“Yeah – different world,” Abby said as they walked in, and Fiona closed the door. “Right – first things first, some proper tea,” she said as she poured a cup from an urn. “Well, don’t stand on ceremony – help yerselfs.”
“Do you have any cold drinks,” Jeanie said, and Fiona looked in a fridge. “Coke, Irn Bru or Lemonade, my lass?”
“Lemonade, please,” Jeanie said, taking the can from Fiona before she sat at the end of the table. “Cheers,” she said before she took a long drink from her mug, setting it down and sighing deeply.
“Right then – ye’r on holiday, and working as well?”
“I’m afraid so,” Juliette said quietly, “Missy and Mary between them booked a shoot for Abby tomorrow, and one for Abby and Cari in Carnaby Street on Wednesday.”
“You haven’t checked you e-mail in the last half hour, have you?”
Diana and Juliette looked at each other, before Diana said “What has she done?”
“Watched much television since you arrived yesterday?”
Before she got a chance to reply, the door opened and a dark haired girl came in.
“Oh right,” Fiona said with a smile. “Jeanie, my dear, my friend here is going to take you and your family on a tour of the offices, let you see what we do – and then when you’re done, our makeup artists and stylists are waiting to do something for you. Go with Betty here – she’ll take care of you, and then we’ll all go for lunch together, all right?”
“Wow – thanks,” Jeanie said as she went out with her mother and John. “Cute kid – why the wheelchair?”
“Car accident – killed her father three years ago, and her back was broken.”
Fiona looked at the door and shook her head. “It’s naw far when tha happens tae someone sae young,” she said quietly, before saying “Well, Missy in her infinite wisdom has decided that Abby may like to experience some TV UK style.”
“Two tiny, tiny little shows, not much, ten minutes on one and a little longer on the other.”
“Which shows,” Abby said as she leaned forward.
“Well,” Fiona said, “One is called This Morning – it’s a magazine show on the big commercial channel. A little chat, maybe help with a bit of cooking, nothing too bad. It’s also in the morning, which would leave the rest of the day clear.”
“That seems reasonable – and the other?”
Fiona smiled and said “Made any plans for Thursday yet?”
“Not yet – tomorrow is the only night we have anything definite planned. Why?”
“Well, Missy has asked if Abby and her partner in the shoot tomorrow would mind appearing on a chat show which shoots that night.”
“Who is my partner anyway? Missy kinda deliberately forgot to tell me?”
“And I’ve been told to kinda deliberately forget for noo,” Fiona said with a smile. “Anyway, the chat show is an evening, before an audience, and goes out the next night.”
“Oh god,” Juliette said with a groan, “Don’t tell me it’s Jonathan Ross? I haven’t seen him since I got roped into the Red Nose Day fashion show in ’99…”
“No, it’s not him,” Fiona said, “It’s the other wan. The Irish wan.”
“Oh my Goddess,” Sandy said, “Graham Norton wants Abby?”
Fiona nodded, and said “If ye dae it, be prepared – he’s a very clever and very funny man, but he’ll treat ye right.”
Diana looked at Juliette, before saying “very well – let us know the times and we’ll come with her. I trust they have nae objections tae – I mean, no objections to all of us?”
“Standard practice,” Fiona said with a smile, “But enough aboot werk – tell me aboot how ye all are…”
An hour or so later, John and Barbara were escorted back into the room, where the others were looking at photos and talking about old times.
“Miss Mackenzie, I cannot thank you enough,” Barbara said as she came in, “Jeanie is being treated like a princess.”
“Ach, it’s nothing,” Fiona said with a smile, “I was just showing Sandy and the others some baby photos f these two when Juliette and Diana were over about twelve years ago.”
“Thirteen actually – I’d just got Abby toilet trained.”
“Abby in diapers, cute,” Jo said with a laugh as she looked at the two toddlers playing on a photo set.
“Jeanie is having the time of her life – what sort of tea is this, Fiona?”
“Yorkshire tea, John – good strong stuff.”
“Great – I need to take some bags back with me at the bottom of my case,” John said as he poured himself a cup. “Ah – that’s better,” he said as he sat back. “So where is this shoot tomorrow?”
“Outside the National Gallery – Heather is going to take the girls for a tour while we’re busy outside, but we need to sneak poor Abby in and out.”
“Aye – we haid a werd wi the powers that be, and got a room set aside inside the museum fer ye. Wednesday, howeer, ye’ll need tae use a shop on the street – sorry.”
“Fair enough – so where are we going for lunch?”
“We’ll hail a coupla cabs and go oot tae Knightsbridge – I know a place oot there where we can sit, eat and talk, and it’s very discrete. But we’re going naewheer until our guest of honour is ready – gae me a minut.”
Fiona walked out of the room for a moment, as Diana turned to Juliette. “Makes you wish for the peace and calm of Planet Mary, doesn’t it?”
“You’re just getting old, Mama,” Abigail said as she put her arms round Diana and kissed the top of her head.
“Not too old to ground you young lady,” Diana said, but Sandy and Juliette could see she was smiling.
“What are they doing to her,” Barbara said as she looked out of the window.
“Don’t worry lass – they’re good people,” John said as she looked at her, “Whatever they are up to, she’ll love it.”
Barbara turned round and said “Oh my,” the other looking over as well as Jeanie was wheeled back in. He hair had been cut and styled, her face was professionally made-up, and she was wearing a pair of knee length black suede boots and a knee length denim dress, the top open to show a dark jumper underneath.
“Oh wow,” John said, “you look fantastic.”
“Good,” Fiona said, “because Jerry here wants to take a few pictures wie wee Jeanie here and all of you, if you daenae mind. She needs to be the star, so as ye are, if ye please.”
“We would be honoured,” Abby said as the photographer came in, and Fiona called out of the door “ALEX!! BOOK TWO CABS, ONE WIE WHEELCHAIR ACCESS, FER WAN IN THE AFTERNOON!!”
Locandna Ottoemezzo, Thackeray Street, London.
“This is an amazing place,” Joanne said as she looked round the subtly lit room, the group gathered round a large table with Jeanie at the head, Abby and Carina sitting either side of her, telling her stories about New York and their memories of times spent on fashion shoots with their mothers.
Jeanie was lapping up everything they said, while Joanne sat with Heather and Sandy, and the others occupied the other end of the table.
“I really cannot thank you enough,” Barbara said again, “You’ve made a young girl very very happy.”
The restaurant was not too busy, so the opening of the door and the arrival of three women made Juliette glance up with mild interest.
The older of the three women was wearing – well, Juliette recognised the style as Diana circa 1980, or what used to be called Sloane Ranger. A high collared blouse with a knee length print skirt, and a grey sleeveless cardigan. She had a Louis Vutton bag over one shoulder, and a camel wrap over the over.
The older of the two girls was wearing a grey pattered sweater, tight blue jeans and knee length highly polished burgundy leather boots, while the younger had on a short grey dress, the skirt flared from a brown belt around her waist, white high heels and a white jacket over her shoulders.
The mother looked at the party, wrinkling her nose slightly as she said “hmmm – George!”
“Ah good afternoon Mrs Warburton,” the owner said with a smile. “I regret I cannot give you your usual table – perhaps you would care to come over here?”
The older woman snorted again, mumbling something under her breath as she walked past and looked at the group.
“What’s her problem,” Juliette asked as she looked at Fiona.
“Too much money and no enuff common sense,” Fiona growled before she looked at Abby. “A toast – to young talent.”
“Young talent,” the others chorused, to a snort of laughter from the three women as they sat down.
“Americans – they should stay where they are, mama,” the younger of the two girls said before they badgered the owner to take their order, while the group concentrated on eating their meal.
It was when the older of the two girls looked over, and said in a loud stage whisper “What’s this restaurant coming to when they allow spastics in,” that John looked up and clenched his fists.
“No Dad,” Barbara said as she held his hand, “let it go. IT’s not something we have not heard before.”
Sandy looked at her mother’s chauffer, and then over at the table, where the three were laughing and drinking, “What gives them that right,” she mumbled under her breath as she picked up her coffee cup and took a drink.
The puddings followed soon after, George the owner trying to see to them despite the constant calling over to the other table. Eventually, the two girls stood up and walked over, knocking deliberately into Jeanie’s chair as they took the long route to the toilets.
“Hey,” Carina shouted after them, but they ignored her, laughing and talking to themselves.
“Yes mother,” Cari said as she looked at Juliette.
“Let it go – they are not worth it,” her mother said, before she said “did they hurt you Jeanie?”
“No,” the young girl said quietly, “Mum’s right, it’s not unusual.”
The three girls looked at each other, then at the two girls as they walked about.
“Excuse me,” Abigail said as she stood up, stopping the two girls as they came past again, “I think you owe my friend an apology.”
“Really,” the older girl said as she looked at Abby, “and what makes you think we should apologise to a spas like that?”
“Because.” Carina said as she stood up, “you are rude, and you are wrong. Apologise, and we will forget what happened.”
“Get lost, you American idiot,” the younger girl said, “you can’t tell us what to do.”
“Cari, Abby, let it go,” Sandy said as she wiped her chin. “It’s not worth it.”
The two girls looked at each other, then stood beside and behind Jeanie, making it impossible for them to do anything physically, but as the younger girl went past she spat on the ground and mumbled “Spastic little benefit bastard.”
“HOW DARE YOU,” John roared as he stood up, her mother standing as well. “John,” Sandy said quietly, “We’ll leave. There is no reason for us to stay here anyway.”
“I agree,” Fiona agreed angrily, her cheeks red, “George, the bill please.”
“Of course, Miss MacKenzie – I will call for your cabs as well,” George said as he walked away. Diana and Juliette were looking at the family, mentally taking notes and memorizing every detail.
“I cannot apologise enough for this,” George said as Abby wheeled Jeanie back and towards the door.
“Don’t worry yerself George,” Fiona said, “I’ve seen worse snobs in my home town. Who are they anyway?”
“Yes,” Diana said, “I would love to send them a book on etiquette and manners.”
George looked to the table, and wrote an address on the back of a business card. “Thank you,” Diana said, as she slipped George a large tip in return, then followed them out to the cars.
Jeanie was crying quietly, while Barbara was talking to her father. “Listen,” Juliette said, “Let’s not end today on a downer. Will you join us tomorrow, Jeanie, and meet some of the people we work with?”
“Thanks, Miss Huntingdown,” Jeanie said as she looked up, “I would like that.”
“Okay if I hitch a ride back with you to the office Fiona?” Juliette asked as she checked her watch. “We are five hours ahead of home here…right?”
“Okay I want to catch Anna and Mary before anyone’s had a chance to ruin their day yet.”
“I know that look in yer eye Ju, yer up to something.”
Juliette pulled Fiona aside and started whispering in her ear.
“Aye…aye….well if she doesn’t ah will…aye…ah’ll ring her people mahself, they owe me one…aye…” Fiona beamed as Juliette talked, while the others strained ears to hear what Juliette was saying. It was like hearing one side of a telephone call.
“I’ll tell you more on the way…” Juliette turned and stuck her tongue out at the others as she jumped into the cab.
“Okay that was OFFICIALLY weird.” Carina looked round at the others.
“Your Mom is up to something,” Diana looked as the taxi sped away.
“Yeah – I know that look,” Cari said as she pushed Jeanie up the ramp, and they all climbed in…
Monday 24th March
Abby walked into the room at the hotel, Diana and Juliette watching from the back as she sat in her open necked blouse and blue trousers. With her was an older woman in a pale red dress, her steel grey hair held up in a bun, and a dark haired man in a black suit, white shirt and a red tie.
“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,” the man said as he looked out at the assembled members of the press, “and welcome to this special press conference to help with the launch of Memories, the new i. I am Alex Graham, chief executive officer of Aroma Perfumes, and I am joined today by Madame Elena Duchamps, the head of Duchamps Creations, and of course the new face of Memories, Abigail de Ros.
“Madame Duchamps, would you like to make an opening statement?”
“Thank you, Alex,” the other woman said as Abigail looked out over the room. “It is an incredible pleasure ot be here today to help with the launch of this new fragrance, and also to welcome Abigail to answer your questions. When we were designing the campaign for Aroma Perfumes, we knew we needed to express both the timeless nature of the scent, and also the new and exciting avenues it explored. It was therefore a perfect match when Abigail agreed to be the face of our new publicity campaign.
“Abigail exploded on the scene last October, and since then she has proven in a short time to be able to hold her head high in the fashion modelling arena. Even at the tender age of fifteen, she has attracted the attention of major designers, and her appearances at the New York Fashion Week were one of the high points of that week. It is a great privilege for us to work with Abigail, and I think you will agree when the campaign is launched it will be a talking point for many.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Miss Abigail de Ros.”
Abby smiled and said “Good Morning” into the microphone as the cameras started flashing. “I would like to thank both Alex and Madame Duchamp for inviting me here today, and also for the opportunity to be the face of their campaign. I’ll take your questions now.”
The reporter’s held their hand up, and she pointed to one.
“Daily Mail, Miss du Ros – how does it feel to be so famous at such a young age?”
“Terrifying, if the truth be told – but my friends and family keep me grounded. Yes?”
“Sunday Times. You’re only fifteen – how do your school friends feel about your fame?”
“So far, they haven’t been jealous,” Abby, said, which got the room laughing. “Seriously, as with my family they have been nothing but supportive.”
“Ms de Ros, I’m with the Daily Mirror Will you ever do a page 3 shoot?”
“I tell you what,” Abby said as she leaned forward, “I have seen some examples of what you are talking of. First off, I believe I’m under age, and secondly – seriously, look at me. Do I have that sort of body?”
Once the room stopped laughing, Abby said “Sorry, the answer is a most definite no. Next question?”
“Hello magazine. How do you feel about your grandfather having a partner not much older than you?”
“No personal questions,” Alex said, but Abby said “It’s all right – I’ve never met her, so I can’t comment.”
“Ms de Ros, my readers would like to know what attracted you to this campaign more than any other?”
Abby sat back for a moment, and said “It was the concept. Right now, I am somehow living a life other women only dream of, so I was attracted to something that is designed to evoke memories. As simple as that.”
“We sadly only have time for one last question – yes.”
“Ms de Ros, what do you do with the money you earn?”
“It forms my college fund,” Abby said with a laugh. “Seriously, though, I have asked for my fee for this campaign to go to the Jamie Kirkham Memorial Scholarship fund. Jamie was a friend at my school who was killed during an armed robbery in September. So I’m using this money in memory of an amazing young lady, and a wonderful friend who everyone who knew her misses with all their heart.”
Briefly the press was a little dumbstruck, but quickly even the hardened Fleet Street hacks were on their feet applauding.
“Thank you, ladies and gentlemen,” Alex said as Abby stood up and walked off, joining her mother and Juliette as they walked her out.
Aunt Ju did you ever see so many flashes going off at once?"
shook her head. "Even Naomi never got that many."
the hell do I get any down time this week?
luckily darling they don't know where you are staying, and as the girls said
off duty 'The Stick" must be the girl who goes out." Diana glanced
outside at the almost rabid press corps.
"Well hopefully things will return to normal when I get back home….You know getting back to school sounds so appealing right now."
Nobody paid much attention to the group of American tourists – the three girls and two older women – as they climbed the steps to the entrance of the National Gallery and walked in. Most of the focus of the tourists was on the crew setting up for the photo shoot outside, Juliette standing and talking with the photographer as she looked at the stone lions.
“Right then, delivery achieved successfully,” Heather said as they walked in. A thin blonde walked over and said “There you are Miss de Ros – if you will come with me please?”
“Duty calls,” Abby said over her shoulder as she walked off in her sweatshirt and chinos.
“Well, we’re going to go outside and watch,” Sandy said as she looked at Heather, “What about you?”
“I’ll join you later – Jo and I are going to go the exhibition here first.”
“Lucky you,” Carina said as Sandy kissed Heather, nobody batting an eyelid at the action, before she and Joanne disappeared into the museum, and they walked outside.
love," the makeup artist said as she finished with Abby, "Makeup
done, hair done - time to get you dressed. Through there - Lily's waiting
Abby got out of the chair and walked into the next room, where two girls were helping a tall, thin redhead to put on a blouse and skirt. She turned her head and smiled as she said "So you're Abby? Pleased to meet you - I'm Lily."
"Oh my goddess," Abigail breathed out, "Lily Cole. I'm on a shoot with Lily Cole?"
"Yeah," Lily said as she turned and smiled, "Didn't they tell you?"
"I'm so gonna kill mom and Aunt Ju and Aunt Mary and Aunt Fiona..."
"Hey, hey," Lily said as he looked at the tall blonde. "I'm the one who should be thanking you. It's not that often I get to meet the next superstar."
"It's just - I've followed your career since you started out, and you've been kind of a role model to me, and..."
"Deep breaths," Lily said quietly, "and let's start again. Hi, I'm Lily."
"Abby," she said again as they hugged each other. "Right - let's get ready to rock this town!"
“Ah good,” Juliette said as she turned to see them coming down the stairs, “Abby in make up?”
“Yup,” Sandy said as she and Carina stood with Diana. “How long before we get started?”
“Not long – I’m just waiting for… them.” Carina waved at Jeanie and Barbara as they approached, Jeanie wearing a pair of grey joggers and black boots with a leather jacket.
“Will you excuse me a minute,” Juliette said as she walked over to Barbara and Jeanie.
“Jeanie, Barbara, I’ve got something for you both to sign.” Juliette smiled as her mother wheeled her up to the site of the shoot. She took out a set of papers and handed them over.
“To sign?” Barbara asked.
“Well you might want to get your lawyer to look at it first, he might…”
“But this is a modelling contract.” Barbara flipped the pages…”For Jeanie…”
“That’s right, we’d like to shoot some pics with Jeanie today.”
“That’s right Jeanie.”
“Oh but Miss Huntingdown…Juliette you know you don’t need to.”
“Well after how she looked in the office yesterday we thought Jeanie has definite model potential.” Juliette smiled and knelt in front of the young girl’s wheelchair. “So we phoned New York yesterday, and they okayed it, so Jeanie gets to work the shoot we are doing today, and her pics will appear both in the American and British editions of CS.”
“Oh…” Jeanie’s voice trailed off.
“So you’ll get to work with both Abby and another rather famous model.”
Jeanie glanced round as if she was trying to work out if this was a dream..
“So if your Mom signs that, and then you add your name, you’ll officially be a professional model Jeanie.”
“But I don’t…”
“John,” Juliette said as she saw him walk up, “please assure your daughter we’re not going to do wrong by her or Jeanie.”
John looked at the contract, then said “I’m no lawyer, lass, but it looks the same as the one Abby and Cari signed.”
“All right,” Barbara said as John handed her a pen, and allowed her to use his back as she signed the contract. She then passed it to Jeanie, who could barely hold the pen, so excited at the prospect as she filled out her part.
“Right,” Juliette said as she took the handles of the wheelchair, “Come with me, Jeanie.” Barbara and John watched as she pushed the young girl up the ramps and into the museum, turning left and into a side room.
The blonde haired girl came out and said “Ah – so this is the extra model?” Squatting down, she said “All right – ready to become famous?”
“But I don’t know what to do…”
“Leave that to us – and the two girls you’ll be working with.”
Jeanie’s eyes opened wide as she saw Abby walk out, dressed in a fitted brown jacket that covered the micro skirt she was also wearing, and a pair of over the knee skin tight brown suede boots. Her blonde hair was now brushed out and fell in soft waves over her shoulders, and her face was made up so that she looked even more beautiful than usual.
“Hey Jeanie,” Abby said as she came over, “Let me introduce you to the other model today. Lily, this is Jeanie, Jeanie, this is…”
“Lily Cole,” Jeanie breathed as the tall redhead walked over, wearing an open black jacket, white blouse and mini skirt, and a pair of black high heels.
“Pleased to meet you, Jeanie,” Lily said as she shook the young girl’s hand. “We need to go and start working, but Angel here will look after you, and we’ll chat before you join us for the photos, all right?”
Jeanie could only nod dumbly as the two tall girls walked out, and Angel said “This way, Jeanie – wait until you see the outfits we have for you…”
“Right then,” Carlos the photographer said as Abby and Lily walked down the stairs, the gathered crowd applauding them as they did so, “Let’s get started shall we? Lily, I want you against the left of the stone lion, Abby on the right…”
Carina stood next to her mother, looking round the crowd and smiling at the attention her friend was getting, when she noticed a middle aged man towards the back of the crowd. She frowned slightly, before saying “Mom – see that man over there? The one in the beige coat.”
Juliette looked over, and stared at the man who was watching Abby at work. “what about him?”
“I could be wrong, but is he Megan’s dad?”
Juliette looked again, then tapped Diana on the shoulder. She looked as well, and then made Sandy look.
“Oh my goddess,” Sandy said quietly, “What is he doing here?”
“It might be a coincidence,” Juliette whispered, “but go and warn Heather and Joanne, will you?”
“Truly magnificent,” Heather said as she stood with Joanne, looking at the sunflowers painted on canvas, “to have the opportunity to see Van Gogh’s Sunflowers all in one place, I never dreamed I would have the opportunity.”
Heather stepped back a step. “You know I wrote my senior thesis on Van Gogh?”
Joanne looked at Heather, seeing the rapture in her eyes as she moved from painting to painting, telling her sister of the changes in style over time. She didn’t see the brunette who was standing watching them, her arms folded as she listened to the conversation.
As they came close, and she heard Heather talking about the last days of Van Gogh’s life, she finally said “Haven’t forgotten a thing I taught you have you Heather?”
Wheeling round, Heather looked at the brunette. “Professor Hider? My goddess, where did you spring from?” Joanne watched, bemused as the two women hugged each other.
“Oh, sorry – Amy, this is my sister Joanne. Jo, this is Professor Amy Hider, one of my teachers from Yale. She probably more than anyone helped me get my degree.”
“Pleasure,” Amy said as she looked at Joanne. “so what brings you to Londinium?”
“Holiday, and also chaperoning. My employer is here with her friends, and she invited us to come as well.”
“Oh yes? Big art collector, is she?”
“Not really no – I had a bit of a career change after Yale, and I’m actually the nanny to her children. They’re back in New York, and she’s outside with the shoot.”
“The Fashion shoot? Dear God, don’t tell me you know the models?”
“Actually, yes – one of them is a friend of Joanne’s, Abigail de Ros.”
“My my, you move in exalted circles. So, any plans to move in the same paths as your sister, Joanne?”
“Not really my cup of tea – I prefer psychology,” Joanne said with a smile as Sandy came in.
“Oh hi Sandy – Amy, this is Sandy Richmond, my employer and friend. Sandy, this is Amy Hider, who for her sins taught me at Yale.”
“A pleasure,” Sandy said as she shook Amy’s hand, “Would you be terribly offended if I borrowed Heather and Joanne for a few minutes?”
“Not at all,” Amy said with a smile. “Hey – are you free any time this week?”
“Tomorrow after 11 – why?”
“Let’s do lunch,” Amy said as she walked away, while Sandy took the others to one side. “Don’t react when I tell you this,” she said as she looked at Joanne, “but we think your father is outside in the crowd watching.”
Joanne looked between the two women, and said “Right – well, that puts a different complexion on today.”
“Just stay with us,” Sandy said, “and you’ll be fine.”
The trio walked to the entrance hall just as Jeanie was been pushed out by Abby. The young girl was wearing a fitted jacket and pants with high heeled boots, matching the suits being worn by Abby and Lily. The three of them stood back, watching as Carlos arranged for Jeanie to sit at the top of the stairs in her chair, Lily and Abby sitting in front of her, and started snapping.
As they came back in, Abby indicated to Heather and Barbara to follow them,
“Back in a minute or twenty,” Heather said as Sandy went outside with Joanne, taking her straight to Diana and Juliette.
“He’s gone,” Diana said as Joanne came alongside, “but it was him.”
Heather slipped into the changing room as Barbara went to help Jeanie, as Abby motioned to her.
“Lily I’d like you to meet my friend Heather Smith,” Abby made the introductions, “You guys have a lot in common.”
“Really” Lily cocked her head assessing the shorter blonde girl who pretty obviously was not a model. She looked good in her trousers and blouse, and knew how to dress, but not a model.
“You both majored in art history in college.” Abby explained.
“Ah okay I get it.” Lily smiled. “Where did you do your degree, Heather?”
“Yale.” Heather said. “And I know from all Abby’s talk about you, you were at Cambridge, right?”
Heather giggled, “If you hadn’t already guessed Abby has had a serious case of hero worship for you for a long while.”
“So I gathered,” Lily said as she stripped off her blouse and was helped into her evening gown, “so what was your favourite period?”
“19th Century French – I was enjoying the Sunflowers exhibit earlier?”
“Yeah – a real once in a lifetime chance,” Lily said as Abby smiled at them. “Personally, I’m more interested in renaissance art, but I did a TV series last year talking to likes of Antony Gormley.”
“I saw that,” Abby said as the thin spaghetti straps were placed precisely on her shoulders. “The one where you posed nude…”
“Oh yes – Fiona Banner. That was fun. Look, I gotta go, but I understand you’re coming on Thursday. Perhaps we can talk more then?”
“Love to,” Heather said as Abby and Lily walked over and talked to Jeanie, sitting in the makeup chair. She then saw the dress she would be wearing, Barbara making a small O with her mouth.
John watched Barbara as she carefully lifted Jeanie from her chair, placing her on the stone seat inside the entrance area as Carlos took some photos, Abby and Lily giving some instructions from the side.
“Okay, Jeanie darling, back in the chair and we’ll get some shots of the three of you,” Carlos said as John walked over to where Juliette was looking at her laptop.
“How did you get all this arranged in time Juliette?” John asked as Jeanie’s mother lifted her into the chair. “I’ve been near enough to the fashion world to know setting up shoots can take weeks…That evening dress you have her in for example they can take weeks of fittings to get it looking that good.”
“You can be amazed what two irresistible forces can do in moving the immovable object,” Juliette said without looking up.
“Eh?” John looked befuddled.
Juliette looked up, removed her glasses and said ““Just give Mary and Fiona both an idea and let them lose.”
“Oh now I get it.” John laughed.
“Just send them both some flowers, not sure Fiona for example got much sleep last night. They both worked their socks off.”
“Fiona only finally got that contract Okayed by our legal people an hour before you got here.”
“By the way Miss…ummm…Juliette, I saw what you are paying my little one today…that really is too much…”
“She’s only getting the same fee we are paying Lily and Abby.” Juliette interrupted.
“Yes but they are both top professional models.”
“Well Jeanie is working just as hard as they are today…she can put the money aside, sure it will help with college expenses one day.”
“That it will.”
“And by the way John,” Juliette said as she looked at the grey haired man, “have you’ve seen some of the stuff we already shot?”
Juliette opened her laptop and started pressing buttons.
“See,” she said as she opened some screens. “Jeanie’s not here as charity.”
“I can see.”
“Such a pretty girl in a wheelchair - it’s adding so much to Mary’s original ideas for the shoot.”
“Wow that’s good!” John exclaimed about a photo of Jeanie reclining in her chair while Abby and Lily sat on the floor in front of her.
“Yep…” Juliette pursed her lips as she looked at a few more shots. “I may have started out doing this as a special treat for a special young lady, but by serendipity, or whatever you want to call it, we’ve stumbled on to something really great today.”
Juliette and John watched as Abby and Lily in spectacular evening gowns posed with the girl in the wheelchair, all three models trying things, playing off each other.
“Yes,” Juliette thought to herself, “Funny how things work out.”
“And that, my dear ladies, is that,” Carlos said with a flourish as he stood up. “My thanks to all three of you – Juliette, anything else?”
"Yes dear," Carlos said as he looked at Jeanie.
"I was wondering what would happen if I tucked my legs under myself, so that the skirt fell over the front of the chair, and Abby and Lily knelt next to me?"
Carlos looked at her for a moment, and then said "How about they hold a box of chocolates and some flowers for you? Angel, can we get them?"
"On it," Angel said as Barbara looked on, amazed her daughter's suggestion had been accepted.
"Mum, can you help please?"
"Wh.... Sure," Barbara said as she lifted Jeanie, Abby moving her legs under her as Barbara let her gently back down again. Carlos then arranged her skirt as the two older girls knelt next to her, and Angel handed them the props.
"Yeah - that’s real good," Carlos, said as he picked up the camera again. "Look into her eyes, and big smile for me Jeanie - great!"
Jeanie beamed as the photographer finished, and said “Now, Ju?”
“No we’re good – thank you darling,” Juliette said as she blew a kiss to the photographer.
“This is for you my special, special model.” Carlos planted a kiss on Jeanie’s forehead. “Gracias tanto pequeño.”
“Thank you Lily.” Juliette whispered in the redhead’s ear. “I heard you over ruled your agent when they didn’t want you to work with Jeanie.”
Lily smiled, “well I got a call from Fiona telling me Jeanie’s story, hard to be a bitch when you hear of a tragedy like that…. and well it all turned out beautifully, she knows what she’s doing actually, nice poses and she was even suggesting things…She might be disabled but I think you might suggest to Missy and to Norstar they maybe sign her, before I try selling her to my agents…disabled models aren’t the taboo they once were.”
“Come on,” Abby said as she and Lily pushed Jeanie to the changing area, “Let’s turn ourselves back into plain Jane’s again, all right?”
Jeanie beamed at her grandfather as she was wheeled away. “She is never going to forget this, Juliette,” John said as he wiped a tear away, “thank you.”
“Go and join them, you great big softie,” Juliette said as the others walked in.
“I’ll wait for Abigail – you should all head back to the hotel. There are things I wish to discuss with you, and we have a theatre show tonight.”
The Savoy Hotel
“All right, Diana,” Sandy said as they gathered in the sitting room of the girl’s suite, “What’s on your mind?” The three girls had stayed in the lobby with John, Barbara and Jeanie, having some afternoon tea as Abby answered Jeanie’s questions.
“I have been unable to get those three – ladies from yesterday out of my mind,” Diana said quietly, “Mrs Warburton and her delightful daughters. Last night, I asked Heather to see what she could find out about them. Heather?”
“So, just checking the electoral register,” Heather said as she opened her laptop and started a browser window, “and using the address we got yesterday, we have George and Alexa Warburton. Both in their early fifties, George made it big during the banking boom in the Eighties, so they can afford a swanky townhouse in Kensington.” She turned the screen to show the ladies the white stoned three storey building.
“Alexa was Alexa Spencer – no relation, but she was what was loosely turned a Sloane Ranger n the eighties – a style she still thinks is in fashion. The older of the two girls is twenty year old Olivia, the younger seventeen year old Chelsea.”
“You’re kidding – they called their daughter Chelsea?”
“As I said,” Diana whispered as she looked at Sandy, “No class, but lots of money. If we were home, I would have them pencilled in for a visit from the Pussycats in an instant.”
“As would I,” Juliette said as she sat back, “but we are not in New York, and things are different over here. I hate to say it, Diana darling, but we may just have to forget them and hope we do not run into them again.”
The three of them looked at Heather, as she flipped through some windows on her screen.
“They did a shoot for a Sunday Times magazine a couple of months back – I came across it in my research,” Heather said, “and they took some photos in their house. You know they own two simply wonderful Canaletto’s.”
“But art theft isn’t really our thing.” Sandy stood looking over her lovers shoulder at the screen. “Those are pretty wonderful paintings though…”
“Let me see.” Diana tried to get a clear view.
“Both are Paris scenes.” Heather explained.
“Ummm.” Diana looked thoughtful as she went to sit back down.
“Darling?” Juliette asked, knowing that look on Diana’s face.
“Oh sorry girls I was miles away…but I might just know someone will take those off our hands.”
“Oh…Who?” Heather asked.
“Ju darling,” Diana said as she put her hands together, “if I was to go from here to Paris for a few days, could Abby stay at your place?”
“Of course…. but why?’
“Because the more I think about it, the more I’m sure I know someone in Paris will buy these.”
“Well sounds like we have a target then ladies.” Sandy summed up.
“But how do we do it? As Sandy says art theft isn’t really a Pussycat thing.” Heather thought allowed.
“But we’re in London - we aren’t the Pussycats here.” Juliette reminded them.
“A burglary?” Heather asked.
“Too subtle, you know my daughter, Carina is going to want let her temper out on these people…”
“She nearly let the demon lose in the restaurant the other day.” Sandy reminded everyone.
“Well a home invasion then?” Diana asked.
“Yes but not a Pussycat home invasion.” Juliette closed her eyes. “We will never get time to find guns, it’s not like back home, and they are not easy to obtain here.”
“Oh I forgot that.” Diana slumped in her chair.
“I have an idea.” Sandy suddenly looked very bright. “Now that Diana finally agreed to the Bonnie and Clyde thing on Wednesday, what if we were to ‘borrow’ the prop guns we saw the pictures of? They looked pretty realistic to me.”
“Now that’s an idea.” Juliette opened her eyes. “We wave those in those bitches faces and just go a bit heavy on the non lethal violence, we might just get away with it.”
“Carina wielding a baseball bat is going to frighten an awful lot of people.” Diana observed.
“I wouldn’t mind using one of them on that bitches legs myself.” Juliette giggled. “Wouldn’t it be so sad if she ended up in a wheel chair?”
“Ironic…” Sandy laughed.
“Poetic justice.” Heather observed.
“Not really a crime at all.” Diana added.
“So do we tell the girls?”
“Not yet,” Juliette said with a smile. “Think you and Sandy can do a tour of the area of the house after the television studio tomorrow?”
“A pleasant walk – we can take in Harrods as well,” Sandy said as she and Diana nodded.
“Let’s leave it at that for now,” Juliette said as the girls came in.
“Leave what for now,” Carina said as Abigail lay down on the couch.
“Discussion of tomorrow,” Sandy said quietly, “Right now, you need to get changed – we have the theatre tonight, remember?”
Outside on the Strand, Joe Markham stood, staring at the entrance to the hotel. He had followed the three girls back with the girl in the wheelchair, and one thing was in his mind.
Whoever the middle one of the three blonde girls was, she looked so much like Megan it hurt…
The London Studios, 10.15 am
As Abby was shown into the makeup room, the others were shown into the Green Room.
“So this is where they hide out when a program is being filmed,” Heather said as she picked up a bottle of water. “Nice arrangement.”
“Long time since I’ve been here,” Juliette said as she looked out over the Thames.
The group turned to see a white haired man standing in the doorway, dressed in an open collared grey shirt and slacks.
“Welcome to This Morning,” he said as he came in and shook everyone’s hand, “I’m Philip Schofield, one of the hosts – and you must be Diana de Ros, Abigail’s mother. A real pleasure to meet you.”
“The pleasure is mine,” Diana said as she shook his hand. “When will Abigail do her interview?”
Phil Schofield looked at his script. “Assuming everything goes to time, just after the news at eleven. When the time comes, one of the floor assistants will come and take you out to the studio, so that you can watch the interview. Sound good?”
“That sounds like a great idea,” Joanne said. “Mister Schofield, can you answer a question for me?”
“Of course – what is it?”
“Why do some of the channels over here have commercials, and others don’t?”
“Ah yes – a lot of Americans ask that. Basically…”
“Sorry – I’m Joanne.”
“Joanne, the BBC in this country is paid for by people paying an annual tax – but in return, they get a lot of channels without paying cable charges. So anything with BBC had no adverts, but all the other channels do. Mind you, our adverts are different…”
“You’re telling me – you get to watch a decent bit of a program before the ads start.”
Phil laughed and said “True – I have to run, but I’ll see you later.” He left, closing the door behind him as Sandy said “So now you know.”
“Better programs too,” Carina said as she flipped through a magazine, “I caught an episode of…”
The door opened as Abby came in, wearing a green sleeveless blouse, grey trousers and three inch heels. “Can I have some water,” she said quietly as she sat down, “and a large something to stop my nerves?”
“Just relax,” Juliette said as she sat with her, “We’ll be watching, and it’s no worse than a FTV interview.”
“I know – but they said millions watch this…”
“Just look at the interviewers, and at us,” Diana said as she sat on the other side of her daughter, “You’ll be just fine, and then you all have the afternoon off.”
“Great,” Cari said as she looked out of the window, “I hear the stores on Oxford Street calling to me…”
“Only when John gets to the hotel,” Heather said with a smile, “He has his instructions.”
“Yes, mother,” the girls chorused as the door opened, and a young man looked in. “If you will come with me now,” he said as he held the door open, allowing Abby and the others to come out a she close the door behind them. He led them to a set of double doors, putting his finger to his lips as he ushered them in.
“Well, that looks good enough to eat right now,” a young blonde haired girl said to another man standing in a kitchen as Philip Schofield walked over. “Well, after the break, we have the hottest new model in the fashion world, Abigail de Ros, and a very special premiere. We’ll be right back.”
“And we’re off,” the director said as Abby was walked forward, the others standing behind the cameras. Abby was sat on one side of a corner couch unit, a girl touching up her makeup as the two presenters came over.
“Pleasure to meet you, Abigail,” Philip said as he introduced himself and Holly Willoughby. “Now, relax, take deep breaths, do everything Missy told you to do – and then have fun, all right?”
“All right,” Abby said as she closed her eyes and calmed herself, waiting and then opening her eyes as the director went “Five four…”
“Welcome back,” Philip Schofield said as he looked at the camera, “Last October a new face exploded onto the fashion scene, and since then her face has become internationally recognised. She’s visiting the UK this week, and we’re very luck to say that she has joined us today. Abigail de Ros, welcome to This Morning.”
“It’s a pleasure to be here, Philip,” Abby said as she smiled at the other two.
“How does it feel to be so recognisable at so young an age?”
“Well,” Abby said as she shifted and crossed her legs, “I suppose it’s a little strange, but I’m fortunate in that I still go to school, and my friends there manage to keep my feet very firmly on the ground.”
“So they support you?”
“That’s right, Holly, but they also remind me I’m just a fifteen year old girl, and I love the same things. My mother also had a real knack of keeping me grounded.”
“So how difficult to you find it to juggle school with modelling work?”
“Not really – I keep to my schedule, and try not to get too out of touch with either. School’s on spring break this week, so I’m combining work with a little vacation.”
“In this country,” Philip said, “You’ve just been seen as the new face of the advertisements of Memories perfume.”
“That’s right, Philip – it was quite a shock to me to see that billboard when I arrived on Sunday.”
“Well then, Abby, we have an even bigger shock for you. We’re going to show, for the first time on British television, the new television commercial for the perfume. Have you seen it yet?”
Abby looked over at her mother, and said “No – I just hope I haven’t broken too many cameras.”
“Well, let’s find out,” Holly said, “We’ll be back with Abigail de Ros after this break.”
The theme music played as Holly pointed to a large television screen, the others watching…
The commercial opened in a summer field, as Abby walked across the screen, a long white skirt flowing as she walked and a thin blouse on her upper body. “The time you walked across that field to meet your lover…”
The scene then changed to an oak lined room, as Abby sat in a leather chair, dressed in an elegant gown as she was handed a glass of champagne, and the voice said “The time you discovered he was your true love…”
Then Abby was walking down the aisle, in a white wedding dress as the voice said “All the most important days of your life live on in your memories, and can be brought back with just the right scent…
“Memories. Pour Femme.”
Abby was looking at the screen, her mouth open as the film finished, and she turned at the end to look at the others. Juliette and Diana had their hands together under their chins, the biggest smile possible on their faces, while the others were standing dumbstruck.
“Welcome back,” Holly said, “we’re talking to Abigail de Ros, the rising star of the fashion world, who I think has just had the shock of her life. What did you think when you saw that?”
Abby shook her head, and said “I… I think the director and cameraman did a far better job than me. All I did was what they told me to.”
“Well, you did a fantastic job with it,” Philip said with a smile. “So what are your plans for the rest of this week?”
“I have another shoot this week, and another interview, but mainly I want to relax and have fun with my friends, if that’s possible.”
“Well, whatever happens, I’m sure you have a bright future ahead of you. We have some viewers who have rung in with questions for you, if you don’t mind? Annie from Glasgow, what’s your question for Abigail?”
“Well, the cat is most definitely out of the bag now,” Sandy whispered to Diana as Abby talked to the callers.
“Yeah – I think the Stick is going to have to be the norm for the rest of the week,” Joanne whispered as a caller asked how it felt to be working with people like Lily.
“That’s all the time we have for the moment, but thank you Abigail for joining us today.”
“My pleasure Philip,” Abby said, smiling as Holly said “after the break, Doctor Chris Steele is here for his regular slot. We’ll be right back.”
“And we’re out,” the director said as Holly and Philip applauded Abby. “Well done,” Abby said, “It can’t be easy to have that surprise dropped on you.”
“I’m not sure who is more shocked – me or Mom,” Abby said, “but thank you – thank you so much.”
She shook their hands and then walked off, running into the hugs of Joanne and Carina before she went back to change.
“You’d better warn John,” Diana said to Sandy, “he’ll need to keep a very close eye on them today.”
The Savoy Hotel
“So, Heather’s gone to have lunch with her former tutor, Diana and Sandy have gone walkabout, and your Mom is going to the office to talk to Fiona. Why are we still here and not shopping?”
“Because Mother insisted John comes with us,” Abigail said as she sipped her drink. “Besides, I…”
A beeping sound from her mobile phone stopped Abby, but as she picked it up and read the message she started to smile.
“Okay – spill,” Carina said as she leaned back in the chair.
“Okay Judy has a British cousin she’s trying to set me up with?” Abby giggled as she looked at the message on her mobile.
“She send a photo?” Jo got up to look over Abby’s shoulder.
Abby pressed a couple of buttons.
“Mmmm not too bad…” Jo gestured to Carina. “Hey come look at Judy’s British cousin.”
Carina walked over and looked over Abby’s other shoulder. “Yeah I agree - not bad. We should do it.”
“The House would KILL me if he heard I dated someone else.”
“Yes but The House isn’t in London is he?” Carina giggled, “and Mister tall, blonde and handsome McNally is.”
“Ask Judy to ask him if he has two friends for us?” Joanne asked.
“You aren’t seriously proposing we go out with some guys over here?”
“Abs…” Carina paused, “in a few weeks I’m going to be so round, no guy is going even want to come close, so yeah why not we have a bit of fun now?”
“And what is the point of being the best friends of the hottest new model on the planet if she can’t pass her discards on to her besties?” Jo giggled.
“Abigail sweetie what with Carina’s stunning looks, I never forget that now she’s a model as well, and you being one of the worlds most beautiful women, or so I read in ‘The Sun’ earlier, the guys who get to me are pretty much your discards.”
“Don’t sell yourself short,” Cari said as she nudged Jo in the ribs, while Abby sent a reply back. As she finished, there was a knock on the door. Carina walked over, looked in and opened it.
“Good Afternoon, girls,” John said as he came in, “I understand you wish to go shopping?”
Bella Italia, Covent Garden
“So, Heather, I have to say you’re looking remarkable happy.”
“Thanks, Professor Hider.”
“Oh for goodness sake call me Amy,” the older woman said as the waitress brought their pasta to them. “You’re no longer my student, and I’m no longer your teacher.”
“All right – Amy,” Heather said with a smile. “I didn’t know you had left Yale – although last month was the first time I’d been there in a couple of years.”
“I came over a year ago to take up the position of curator for European art – it came with a visiting professorship at Cambridge, and the chance to visit Paris and Barcelona on a regular basis.”
“Well, I can see why you would jump at the chance,” Heather said as she ate some of her linguini. “They must keep you busy.”
“Very busy,” Amy said, “which is why I wanted to talk to you.”
“Oh – and here I thought we were just catching up.”
“We are – of course we are, but…”
“Come on, Professor – spit it out.”
“Are you really happy being just a nanny? I remember you saying you dreamed of working at the Metrop or in Philly…”
“People change, Amy – I certainly have. Perhaps I discovered there is more to life than painting – finally?”
“Well I’m glad you’re happy anyway,” Amy said as she smiled. “But, speaking hypothetically, would you ever be interested in putting that degree to professional use?”
Heather put her fork down and looked at her former tutor. “Hypothetically?”
“Hypothetically,” Amy said as she took a drink of her wine and swallowed, “if the opportunity came up to work for me, as my Senior Research Associate, would it interest you?”
She sat back and looked at Heather, who was staring at Amy, trying to process what she was saying…
“So this is the house,” Diana said as she and Sandy walked past. They looked up at the three storey building, noticing the older woman who was coming out of the house.
“Excuse me,” Sandy said as they walked over, “I was looking for the Craig home. IS this it?”
“Oh no, sorry my dear,” the woman said, “The family that live here are called Warburton- I look after the house for them.”
“Ah – my mistake, thank you,” Sandy said as they walked on.
“Did you see the cellar?”
Sandy nodded as they turned towards Harrods. “I did – something to consider. Why don’t you and Heather come back and take a longer look tomorrow?”
“Sounds good – now, for the stores.”
Zaras, Regent Street
“Here,” Joanne said as she picked up a pair of tan trousers and a sleeveless top, “Try these on as well.”
“Thanks,” Abigail said as she went back into the changing room, Carina coming out wearing a short sleeved floral dress with a pleated skirt.
“What do you think,” she said as she twirled round.
“Not bad – pity you might not be able to wear it until next year.”
John shook his head as he watched the girls, holding their bags from the other stores they had been into. Glancing to his side, he saw the two assistants talking to each other, and noticed a few more shoppers had come in since they had entered.
“Yeah, rub it in,” Cari said as she stuck her tongue out. “Hang on – I want to try the smock top back on.”
“Takes me back to when Barbara was your age,” John said as he walked over beside Joanne, “although the closest we got to here was C&A – The Gap to you.”
Joanne nodded as more girls seemed to come in to look round. “John,” Joanne whispered, “Is it just me, or is it getting busier in here?”
“I noticed,” John whispered, “and I think the shop assistants have noticed as well. Excuse me a moment.” He walked over to talk to the manageress, as Joanne became aware the shoppers seemed to be congregating around her, the store getting more and more full.
“I don’t like this,” she muttered to herself, “I don’t like this at all…”
“Why,” Abby said as she came out, wearing a black leather skirt with a camisole top, “What’s wrong with…”
“IT’S HER!!! IT’S REALLY HER!!!”
Abby looked at the ring of young girls that had formed behind Jo, as they started screaming and pushing forward, holding out pieces of paper and books for her to sign. Jo was powerless as she was pushed back – all that she could do was offer support to Abby as she tried to sign as many as possible.
John had spotted the danger, and within a few minutes two security guards had stepped in, restoring order as Jo and Abby ducked into the changing area.
“What the hell is going on out there,” Cari said as she looked out.
“Abby happened,” Jo said as the manageress came back.
“I am so sorry,” she said as John came through as well. “If you will change, we have a rear exit you can use, and we’ll send your purchases on to the hotel for you.”
“Do as she says, girls – I’ll get a cab to the back and tell him to use the back streets.”
The Savoy Hotel
“As near as,” Carina said to her mother as they walked to the girls’ suite. “Thank the goddess John still has that – what does he call it?”
“The Knowledge – he knows every back road of this place. Anyway, come on, we have things to discuss.”
As they went in, Abby was coming out of the bathroom, wearing a bathrobe as she towelled her hair.
“Did Cari tell you?”
“She did – and I’m sorry that happened. Where’s Jo?”
“In her room,” Abby said as Jo came out. “Sit down girls,” Juliette said, “I want to talk about yesterday?”
“What, the overpowering snob and the two spoiled idiots,” Cari said, “What about them?”
“We think we should teach them some manners.”
“Oh,” Jo said, “How?”
“The way we usually do – in a more refined manner perhaps.”
“Hmm – bit difficult to be the Pussycat gang here,” Abby said as she took the towel off her hair, and looked at Juliette.
“I just need to know if you are up for the idea – if so, we need to decide now, and then discuss over dinner.”
“OH yes,” Cari said, “I can say I am definitely up for the idea.”
The other two nodded as Juliette stood up. “Good, then…”
Abby’s phone went off, and as she looked at it she sad “It’s Judy – we have a party of three if we are still interested.”
“Oh? For what?”
“Tell you later Mom,” Cari said as she pushed her mother out of the room, “Girl talk time.”
Jack had arranged, at the request of Diana, a private dining room for the group, as they watched the main course dishes been cleared away.
“And who’s shooting these pictures tomorrow?” Diana asked.
“Antonio, he’s been dying to work with Abby again since he shot that big cover spread with her.”
Diana looked hard at her best friend.
“I know you don’t like him Diana, but as Mary said he is the best.”
“He creeps me out, he always has…Aucune bon pouf puta…”
“Darling!” Juliette’s eyebrow shot up in protest.
“Well he is…”
“Well whether you like him or not, he’s still going to get some amazing pictures of our daughters tomorrow.”
Diana shook her head and sighed. “I know.”
“Now, while you’re all having fun, Heather and I will check this house out – we’ll let you know tomorrow what we recommend.”
“Excellent,” Juliette said as she stood up. “Will you excuse me a moment?”
She left the room and headed for the rest room, but as she did so she saw Joe Markham, sitting in the hotel bar sipping a drink. She paid him little attention, and as she came back he had gone, but she was still a little unnerved.
Diana sounded a lot calmer then she actually was. "Darling you have to
find a way that Abby can have some fun here…You heard then…yes it was an insane
mob scene, it's why I phoned…yes…yes…I know she's the face of the product but
she's still only 15."
tried very hard to maintain her composure.
how would you feel if it was your daughter?. I know models sometimes have this
happen…yes…no…NO!" suddenly Diana shouted.
"Missy." Juliette grabbed the phone.."JUST DO SOMETHING DARLING" she pressed end call.
“Sometimes she infuriates me so much,” Juliette said as she looked at Diana.
In their suite, a different conversation was taking place by text as Abby and Jo sat in their pyjamas watching a film…
“Hey Jude, how’s tricks?”
“Hey Cari – what have you girls been up to?”
“Shopping, work, all dull stuff – what’s the good word at home?”
“I got it?”
“You got what?”
“I got the scholarship.”
“The Yale one? Well done that girl.”
She looked over at the others and said “Judy McNally got the Yale Organ Scholarship. So that’s one of us sorted out.”
“Who knew Judy knowing how to play on an organ so well would get her into Yale.” Jo shook her head.
“Well done that girl,” Abby shouted out as she and Jo high fived each other, and Cari went back to her phone.
“Holy shit – I thought you said you were having a quiet week?”
“Eh? What’s up McNally?”
“The local Fox affiliate has a story on now – Abbymania. Christ she looks good – and is that Lily Cole?”
“What are you talking about Jude?”
“Did or did not a small riot occur on Regent Street in London today because someone went shopping?”
Cari looked over at the others, and typed again.
“Shit – it made the news over there?”
“Oh yeah – you made all the papers today, folks.”
“Well, when you do, mention Yale – when do you hear?”
“Next week – I’ll let her know.”
“Great – I have an idea, especially if you don’t defer. I can help, you know?”
“Are you suggesting we become roomies?”
“Think about it – and say hi to Tony for me. Gotta go and eat. Ciao!”
Cari shut the phone down and rubbed her head. How was she going to tell Abby this?
The street was still relatively quiet as Juliette stepped out of the store front, looking at the assistants setting up the lights, and at the classic car that had been parked outside.
“Hey Pat,” Juliette ambled up to a tall black woman supervising a gang of assistants carrying dozens of large bags.
“Hi Ju” the woman turned and kissed Juliette. “We missed you for the fashion weeks.”
“Family problems darling…” Juliette added simply, knowing Pat McGrath was too discreet to ask what those problems might be.
“So I here I’m doing both Abby and Cari today, seems like only yesterday they were both toddlers getting under everyone’s feet on shoots.”
“Tell me about it…”Juliette laughed, “We were reminiscing the other day about that.”
“So any ideas on the makeup?”
“Leaving it entirely to you Pat, when you hire the best you don’t tell them what to do…though I’m sure Mary has sent you some long, detailed, e-mails trying to do so.”
Pat beamed her famous smile, “well we are all aware of what ‘Mary Perfection’ is”.
“By the way congrats on the MBE, I forgot to say that when we I saw you in New York.”
“Why thank you ma’am.” Pat giggled, “Though I’m still not sure what services to the fashion and makeup industries mean?”
Suddenly one of Pat’s assistants dropped a bag.
“Hey Rita love…Watch it…Remember we might need any of this stuff today.”
“Have you seen Antonio yet?”
“No his High and Mightiness has not honoured me with an audience yet.”
Juliette shook her head.
“I swear he’s starting to believe his own publicity.”
“So I keep hearing Pat.”
“I did think those pics he did of Abby though were amazing, though I’d maybe have tried…”
Suddenly Pat was interrupted as another assistant dropped something.
“Honestly Ju I better get back to work before these idiots ruin a lifetimes work.”
“Okay Pat see you in a bit.” Juliette waved as Pat scurried off after the offending assistant. She turned and walked up and down the street, looking at her watch as the minutes passed by.
“Juliette, mi hermosa, you look more beautiful every day…”
“Antonio, one of these days you are really going to let me down.”
“Ah, but not today,” the flamboyant Argentinean said as he kissed Juliette on both cheeks. “So, where are my muses?”
They turned and watched as Carina came out, her hair brushed back as she pulled the black elbow gloves up over her arms, the diamond bracelet glittering in the sunshine. Her dress was silver silk, cut with a plunging neckline and a flared knee length skirt, while her shoes were white with a high heel.
Abby followed, the fedora on her head holding her long blonde hair underneath as she strode out, the fake Tommy Gun in her hand. She was wearing a tailored pinstripe suit, with a waistcoat, a white man’s shirt and a large tie. The heels of her shoes clicked on the stones as she walked to the car.
“Ah, there you are, Mis ángeles,” Antonio said as he looked at them. “Abigail, radiant as always, and Carina – my goodness, you have blossomed so much.”
“I told you, he’s started already,” Diana whispered into Juliette’s ear as she looked over.
“Patience, Diana darling - learn to accept he is who he is,” Juliette whispered back, as Antonio positioned Cari in the passenger seat of the car, Abby standing behind her with the gun in the air, and started to shoot.
“sonrisa ... hermoso, hermoso ... Estas maravillosas poses ... "
Abby and Cari walked back to the shop where the costumes were being kept, as Diana breathed a sigh of relief.
“So far so good…”
way we get in there quietly." Heather whispered in Sandy's ear as they sat
kissing on a bench.
alarm looks a few years old." Sandy glanced at the red box discreetly
high on the wall. "Can Jo do something with that you think?"
not sure, for a girl from Greenwich Connecticut my little sister knows some
amazing things about the breaking and entry business."
going to ask us for a recommendation you know?" Sandy gave her lover a
deep kiss, "she will either want to go in through the front door probably
by just ringing it then mobbing that man servant, or whoever answers the
the quick direct way…"
we go in through the old servants entrance down there below ground level, and
just work our way through the house slowly…I know which I prefer….go in
underneath…" she laughed as she playfully lifted the hem of Heather's
"Sandy!" Heather hissed then giggled.
“Goddess, do you two need a tarpaulin?”
“You’re back,” Heather said as Joanne sat between them, “What do you think of that alarm box.”
Jo looked through her glasses and said “It’s a fake.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yup – I had a look from over there, and there’s no wiring, no obvious connections. I’m told they’re quite common over here – it wouldn’t surprise me if there is an alarm, or a panic button, but that’s a fake.”
“So go in when they’re still up…”
“And do what we do so well. I’m going to the stores – try not to cause too much of a scene.”
Abby was wearing a different suit now, this one with a grey pin stripe, while Carina had changed into a black split skirt and roll neck sweater, with a scarf tied round her neck, and a beret perched on her hair.
“Very Beatty and Dunaway,” Juliette said, Diana nodding as Antonio shot picture after picture. It was going so well, and no issues whatever…
“Abigail, amor, put your arm round Carina and both of you look at me.”
“Like this,” Carina said as she put her hand on her hip and raised a leg, placing her foot on Abby’s knee.
“sí, sí que es un genio,” Antonio said, “now around her waist…”
To the end of her days Abby will never be sure why what happened next happened.
Holding the Tommy Gun in one hand she pulled Carina in tight and as Antonio’s shutter started clicking she looked deep into her best friends eyes. As Carina just relaxed and leaned backwards slightly into a timeless pose that had been done hundreds of times before Abigail found her thoughts overtaken by her dreams,.
For weeks she’d been having dreams about kissing Carina, and as she gazed into her eyes suddenly an irresistible urge overtook her. She pushed her head forward and suddenly planted her lips so lightly on the shorter woman.
There was an audible gasp from the crew as even for a moment Antonio went silent and stopped taking pictures.
“Oh my God.” Abby heard someone call out as she withdrew her face from Carina’s.
Carina’s eyes were closed, her red painted lips parted slightly. She didn’t seem worried or concerned so Abigail moved again planting a long lingering passionate kiss on her bff’s beautiful mouth.
Suddenly, like she was waking from a trance Abby was aware of Antonio dancing round them clicking his camera calling out directions. She pulled her lips away from the older girls and blushing visibly whispered, “I’m just so sorry Cari.” in her ear.
Behind the lights Diana was standing hands on hips looking daggers at Juliette, “I told you no Lesbian scene…”
“We never asked for one…” Juliette answered, shocked at what she had just seen the two girls do.
“Well someone must have mentioned it to the girls.”
“I swear it went no further then me, you and Mary, we didn’t even tell Antonio.” Juliette paused, “When you nixed the idea we dropped it totally.”
“I swear darling….” Juliette paused, “I think ‘little’ Abigail just came up with that one all on her own.”
As Antonio pronounced himself satisfied, both models scurried quickly back to get changed.
“Okay Lucy you got some splaining to do.” Carina grabbed Abby as they reached an empty passageway. “Where the hell did that come from Abs?”
“I just…. hmmm….well I thought that perhaps…Oh Cari I’m just not sure.” Abby was visibly shaking.
“Well I think you just ignited a firestorm out there.” Carina said, “and we’d better be ready for our mothers to launch the first wave on us.”
“Oh Goddess was it that bad?”
Carina laughed, as she said “Well I think I overheard one of Antonio’s assistants using the words, erotic, passionate, and beautiful…”
“Were you offended?” Abigail relaxed at the thought that maybe people thought it was a deliberate modelling pose, and that was covering her ass.
“No…surprised…shocked…amazed to find your tongue in my mouth…but no Abby darling, not offended.”
Abigail looked deep in her best friends eyes.
“You’ve been thinking about doing that for weeks haven’t you?”
Abigail looked stunned, “how the hell did you know that Cari?”
“Abs, we’ve been best friends for ever, you think you can keep…”
Suddenly the passageway was full of assistants grabbing the girls, dragging them back into wardrobe for their next change.
“Juliette, by the Goddess, if those photos ever…”
“Diana, I will make sure they never get out – Antonio, darling, a word…”
“Soon, Juliette, soon – still much to do, much to do.”
The Savoy Hotel
Sandy, Heather and Joanne walked into the lobby of the hotel, as Jack Docherty said “Miss Richmond, I’m glad I caught you. Miss Huntingdown wants to see all three of you in her room?”
“Already?” Sandy looked at the other two, and said “why?”
“I am not sure, but she arrived a few minutes ago with Countess de Ros and a very excitable Argentinean man…”
“What’s happened,” Heather said as they walked to the lift.
Twenty minutes later, Joanne threw the door to the suite open, and said “Okay I can’t leave you two for just one day?”
“Eh?” Carina looked up from her mobile. “Oh hi Joanne – nice day looking round the posh stores.”
“Do not come the innocent with me Miss Carina Huntingdown…nor you Miss Abigail de Ros,” Jo caught Abby out of the corner of her eye trying to sneak into her bedroom. “DO NOT MOVE!”
“It was just a routine shoot.” Abby went and sat down on the couch. “Nothing unusual at all…”
“YOU…SIT!” Jo gestured for Carina to sit next to Abigail.
As both her friends squirmed, Joanne opened up, “So what’s this I hear about a kiss?”
“What kiss?” Cari asked mischievously.
“You know very well WHAT kiss.”
“Oh that…it was just a pose.”
“JUST A POSE!” Joanne screamed. “That kiss is already more famous then the sculpture by Rodin.”
Both girls on the couch wriggled nervously.
“YOUR mother is threatening to sue Complete Style if they use them…” Jo pointed a finger at the younger woman.
Abigail looked worried, “Oh my goddess she’s not is she?”
“Antonio is threatening YOUR mother, “ Jo pointed at Cari, “That he will never work for CS again if they DON”T use them.”
Carina just looked amazed.
“MY sister has pronounced them a work of art, and SANDY has offered to buy the prints ‘if’ she can hang them in her house on Fifth Avenue.”…Joanne paused, “And what is most unfair is No one will let ME see the damn things!”
Suddenly all three girls burst out giggling.
“Well if my mother hasn’t changed her password…” Carina stood up and turned on the computer sitting on the table, “we can all see them.”
“You mean you guys haven’t?”
“Nope.” Abby stood up and stood behind Carina.
“Oh my Goddess!” Carina exclaimed as she finished pressing computer keys.
“What?” Joanne adjusted her glasses as she ran to stand behind Cari as well.
“Oh fuck!” Abigail couldn’t help herself.
“Well no wonder Heather said they were full of sexual tension…WOW!” Joanne let a gasp of air escape.
All three girls tilted their heads simultaneously as Carina brought up another image on the screen.
“You guys look so HOT!”
Carina shook her head, “Well everyone is right Antonio is a genius at taking photographs.”
Abigail shook her head, “All I wanted was to try one little kiss…”
Jo screamed again, “THIS WAS ALL YOUR FUCKIN’ IDEA ABS?”
Abigail went back to the couch, sat, and nodded.
Carina went and put an arm round her best friend.
“My ‘little’ friend here has recently discovered she has a crush on me.”
“WHAT? Does nobody tell me anything?”
“Jo!” Carina looked one of her tough girl looks at her friend.
“Okay, I’ll quieten down…. but explanations please!”
“I’ve been having…ummm…. what’s the right word?”
“Erotic” Carina supplied a word.
“Dreams about Carina for a few weeks now…sometimes about you too Jo.”
“WHAT!” Jo screamed again.
Abigail looked very uncomfortable, “and well anyway Cari’s lips were there…so close…I just tried kissing her.”
“Oh my goddess!” Jo slumped to the couch.
“And well it felt good, Cari didn’t seem to mind, so I gave her a really long kiss.”
“Did you need use that much tongue?” Jo asked cattily.
“Well it felt good…. and…”
“She frenched the hell out of me, “Carina interrupted and laughed to break the tension.
“We were talking when you came in Jo, Abby is worried she’s a lesbian too, because she has these dreams about other women, but I think we decided she’s probably more like Bi…”
“I get dreams about House’s big hands as well sometimes…”
Joanne shook her head, “As I said I can’t leave you guys for one damn day…”
“SO just how angry are our mothers?”
“I’m not sure angry is quite the right word – not with you two anyway.”
The girls looked up to see Juliette and Diana standing in the doorway.
“Mom, I know you’re upset, but…”
“Abigail, dearest,” Diana said quietly, “I am not mad at you. Surprised, yes, but mad no. For the record, we have come to an agreement with Antonio – he will receive a large payment in return for the photos, and a signed agreement not to use them, and Juliette gets to use him in future.”
“But we need to have a serious chat with both of you at some point,” Juliette said. “As it is, I think your planned night out tonight is the perfect opportunity to have some down time.”
“Give me a hug,” Diana said as Abigail walked over, and buried herself in her mother’s arms.
“So, about tonight?”
"Okay,” Abigail said as she picked up her phone, Diana and Juliette looking out of the window. “Judy's cousin has dragged up two other boys from his school….he goes to a place called Harrow, I've agreed we will meet them and go out for burgers at seven."
"Mom do we have a curfew tonight?" Carina yelled across the room.
how good looking these boys are?" Juliette strolled across the room and
looked over Abby's shoulder. "Picture please darling."
flipped a picture up of a blonde young man.
"Hmmm." Juliette mused. "Well this is supposed to be a vacation for you for now, so how about we try for midnight, but you aren't back in this suite by one you are all grounded for a month."
“I understand there is a very good Burger bar in Covent Garden,” Diana said, “Heather mentioned she saw it yesterday.”
“Sounds good,” Joanne said, “but we need to get ready. Boys all round tonight, right?”
The three boys stood nervously in the lobby, looking round as the tallest of the three ran his finger under his collar.
“So who are these girls anyway, Tony,” the dark haired boy said. He had on a black jacket and trousers, with a white shirt.
Tony McNally looked at his phone again. “All Judy said was they were school friends and good looking.”
“Which of course means they are dogs,” Simon Leventhal looked round, even in mid-week he knew he could find better things to do then take one of McNally’s cousins friends out for a couple of hours.
“Who says they have to be dogs?” Tony started to say.
“First law of women Tony old son,” Harry Cameron interrupted his friend. “When a relative sets you up on a blind date with some of her friends, and she describes them as good looking…”
“It means they have faces like the back end of a bus.” Simon interrupted Harry.
“Take my word mate, these girls will be real harpies.” Harry Cameron fingered his jacket.
“American harpies to boot – all high pitched voices and ‘aw my gawd’…”
“Well guys would you rather be back at school doing prep?” Tony asked straightforwardly.
“I guess not,” Simon fidgeted on his feet, “But my vote is we ditch them quick and go find a pub.”
“I concur with Mister Leventhal.” Harry opined.
Tony sighed, “alright we ditch them quick…but be NICE, they are Judy’s friends, and she will never let me hear the end of it if you chaps are rude to her friends.”
“Would you be the young gentlemen from Harrow?” Jack the concierge asked quietly.
“Ummmm yes, I suppose we are.” Tony answered.
“Well the young ladies you are waiting for just phoned to say they are on the way down.”
“Oh Thank You…. Thank you.”
“Time to see some real bow wows Tony old boy.” Simon whispered in Tony’s ear.
The pinging sound announced the arrival of the lift and the doors opened. Harry turned and looked at the group coming out.
Simon looked at Harry, who was standing with his mouth open. “You are not gonna fucking believe this,” he whispered as Tony turned and looked at the tall, thin blonde walking towards him, in a pair of black leather trousers and a matching silk blouse.
“But…” Harry was amazed as he said in a high-pitched voice “Holy fuck – that’s Abigail de Ros. She’s been all over the fucking papers all week!”
“No shit, Sherlock,” Simon whispered as the three boys stared at her, and at the two girls behind them.
Joanne and Carina followed behind Abby, Joanne in a knee length skirt and mid sleeved top, Cari in a black dress that showed just a little of her chest, and short boots.
“You must be Tony,” Abigail said as she walked up, “I’m Abby, and this is Jo and Cari.”
“I think you struck him dumb, kiddo,” Carina said with a smile as she looked at the three men.
Tony gulped and squeaked out “Sorry – it’s just, it’s just… IT’S just not every day you meet the girl who has been in every paper and television program. We have a poster of you in our room, but – but you’re even more beautiful in the flesh.”
“Oh a flatterer,” Jo said with a smile as she looked at them.
“Well Cari’s a model as well despite being a shorty…”
“And I’m the ‘ugly’ sister gets to tag along.” Jo giggled as she interrupted Abby.
“Sorry - How come Judy knows all of you?”
“We all go to the same school,” Cari said as she looked at them, “so tongues in and mouths closed boys. All we want is a nice night out with three – well, three very handsome young men. Think you can manage that?”
“Oh yes,” Tony said before continuing “Sorry - this is Harry, and the one with his mouth open is Simon. Jude said you were cute, but she never said you were…”
“Three girls you are taking out for the night,” Jack said as he opened the door. “Have a pleasant evening, girls.”
The party walked up the small side street, and then crossed the Strand before heading towards Covent Garden. They didn’t see Joe Markham as he followed them from a distance, but Jack did, as he picked up the telephone…
“So what is Harrow – a high school,” Abby said as she walked with Tony.
“No – I guess the closest you would have would be a private boarding school. It’s a very old school, older than Eton – but without the coats.”
“We go to St Angela’s…” Abby let Tony put his arm through hers. “It’s a private day school.”
“Still want to dump them at the first opportunity,” Harry whispered as he walked with Cari’s arm in his.
“Hell no,” Simon whispered back, “no freaking way. We’re going to be kings when the sixth hear about this.”
“Still – if these are dogs, show me to Battersea,” Harry said as they approached Covent Garden.
“Is that a Five Guys,” Jo said as they walked across the piazza.
“Yeah – but this place is better,” Tony said as he approached a cafe with Byron’s written on the outside, “Shall we?”
As they walked out of Byron’s, Abigail put her arm in Tony’s and said, “That was delicious – so what can we do now?”
“Anywhere we can go dancing?” Cari asked eagerly.
“We’d take you girls to Annabel’s.” Tony begun, “but unfortunately its members only,”
“Annabel’s?” Abby enquired.
“It’s a famous club in Berkeley Square.” Harry offered in way of explanation. “It’s where the rich mingle with the famous.”
“Ooh I’d love to just stand outside and watch?” Abigail seemed thrilled even at the prospect of rubbernecking celebrities.
“Is she for real?” Simon whispered in Carina’s ear.
“Yeah she is.” Carina said with a smile. “Abby still hasn’t quite caught on that SHE”S a celebrity now.”
“Taxi!” Tony stepped into the road and signalled an oncoming black cab.
“Where to guv?” the cabby asked as the six young people piled in.
“Annabel’s please” Tony requested.
Jo glanced round; she couldn’t still quite believe how six people could travel in reasonable comfort in the back of a London taxi.
“Do I know you?” the driver looked hard in his rear-view mirror at Abby.
Abby looked uncomfortable as Carina and Joanne looked at her.
“Please,” Carina whispered through the partition at the driver. “We are trying to have a quiet night out.”
“Okay…Yes Miss.” The Cabby spoke back. “But that is HER isn’t it?”
“Yes, but please no fuss…” Carina hoped this cabby would just keep his mind on driving.
“God wait till I tell my missus who I had in the cab tonight, she’ll never believe me.”
“Don’t worry – cab drivers are the soul of discretion.”
“I hope so,” Joanne said to Simon, “I hope so.”
Outside of Annabel’s Simon paid the taxi off and the six teenagers stood on the curb wondering what to do next.
“There’s a club here? I can’t even see a sign,” Jo asked the boys
The guys and girls stood just watching as a limo pulled up and deposited an older man and a younger woman. The woman was wearing a pair of tight black pants with very high heels, and a long sleeved sequined top, while the grey haired man wore a white suit, with a lilac shirt and no tie.
“Oh my Goddess!” the three girls exclaimed in unison.
“You know him?” Harry asked.
“We should do,” Jo answered as she recovered from the shock. “That’s Abby’s grandfather.”
“Guy,” Yve said as she looked across the street, “why is that group of young people looking at us?”
“Hmm, which group,” Guy said as he looked round, then his face broke into a huge smile as he said, “Abigail, darling, what are you doing here?”
“Spring break, Grandpapa,” Abigail said as she hugged and kissed him. “My friends and I came to see who would come and enter, and then you came up.”
“Carina, Joanne, it is good to see you again,” Guy said as he kissed their hands, “and a pleasure to meet you gentlemen as well. My companion, Yve. But you must not stand out here in the cold – come, come, you shall be my guests tonight.”
“No grandpapa, we could not…”
“Nonsense – besides, I need to do something to make up for the way I had to leave at Christmas. Come, come.” He waved the six of them to the door, the people watching as they walked inside.
“Good evening, Sir,” the doorman said as he looked at Guy’s membership card, “and I see you have a…”
“This is my granddaughter.”
The doorman stared at Abby for a moment, before saying “Countess de Ros, you honour us with your presence and that of your friends this evening. Please, please, all of you – enter. Dominic!”
A young man, wearing a white shirt, black waistcoat and trousers, and a black bow tie approached.
“Dominic, please escort the Duc de Grechy, his granddaughter, and their party to a booth, and afford them full VIP service.”
“Of course,” Dominic said as he gave a small bow to Guy and Abby, “This way please.”
“I always forget you are the Countess in your own right darling.” Guy whispered in Abby’s ear. “These chaps though their knowledge is encyclopaedic, they never forget the right titles. Real sticklers for getting it right”
“Holy crap,” Harry said as he walked in with Joanne on his arm, past the people on the dance floor as they were led to a booth on a raised area, “this has got to be the most surprising night of my life.”
“That’s life with Abby – a constant surprise,” Jo said as they sat down, and Dominic said “A hostess will be with you shortly – please, enjoy your stay.”
“Well, this is a pleasant surprise,” Guy said with a smile, “and, as I say, it gives me an opportunity to make amends for everything.”
“Do not worry, grandpapa, there is nothing to apologise for. This is Tony McNally, Simon Leventhal and Harry Cameron. Boys, this is my grandfather.”
“An honour, sir,” Tony said as he shook Guy’s hand.
“The honour is mine, young man,” Guy said as he looked at them. “Simon, would you be related to Sir Colin Leventhal?”
“He is my father, sir. Do you know him?”
“Of course I do – he looks after certain investments for me. I will be sure to mention that I met you when I next see him.”
“I would rather you did not, sir,” Simon said quickly, “He thinks I am studying tonight.”
“Ah – just so,” Guy said quietly. “Your secret is safe with me. So where do you know my granddaughter from,” he said as a hostess brought some food in the form of tapas and nuts, as well as a large bottle of champagne and some glasses.
“My cousin goes to the same school as her – but she never told me that she had such a famous friend. Judy set this up as a blind date and she never told me the name of her ‘friend’ Sir.” Tony looked round before saying. “Sir, we are under age, can we…”
“They will make an exception tonight,” Guy said as he opened the bottle and poured the sparkling drink into the glasses. “I wish to toast my granddaughter’s success, and it would be churlish to refuse, no?”
“Grandpapa, why did you not tell us you were in London?”
“I know, I should have, but somehow…”
“Olivia! Chelsea! My goodness it is good to see you!”
Abby nearly choked on her drink as she saw the two girls from the restaurant walk towards them. Olivia was wearing a tight blue dress, the strap over her left shoulder, and black high heels, while Chelsea had on a white strapless top and short skirt, with a linen jacket and white stilettos.
“Guy, will you excuse me while I talk with my old friends?”
“Of course,” Guy said with a smile as Yve walked over and joined them. “To you, Abigail – may your success be long and plentiful!”
The rest of the party returned the toast, Abby watching the three other women as she tried to ignore the insult Yve had just paid to her grandfather.
“Want to dance?”
“I’d love to,” Cari said as Simon took her hand. Jo also went with Harry, as Tony looked at Abby.
“Is everything all right? You look a little upset.”
“Hmmm – no, no I’m fine,” Abby said with a smile. “Let’s dance.”
Guy smiled as he watched the girls on the dance floor, and then looked at Yve, thinking over some truths that Diana had told him…
“That was fantastic,” the boys said as they escorted all three girls back to the booth, Guy and Yve watching.
“Forgive me, ladies – I need to go and talk to that man,” Guy said as he stood up, approaching a tall man with short dark hair.
“You don’t mind if we join you, do you,” Olivia Warburton said as she and her sister came over. Before Abby could say no, Yve had stood up and allowed them to sit either side of her, the two women looking at Abby in a very nasty way.
They then started to talk to each other in French, totally ignoring the three friends.
“Well, this hits a new low,” Jo whispered to Abby. “What are they talking about?”
“I’ll tell you in a little while,” Abby said with a smile. She loved it when people forgot she was French and assumed she was uni-lingual like most Americans. These bitches thought they were being so clever, not realizing Abby was getting every word.
“Ces américains sont vraiment tellement grossiers.” Yve whispered in the ear of Olivia Warburton’s ear.
“Tout le monde va donc par-dessus bord sur cette fille, je ne comprends juste pas. C'est pas comme elle est vraiment séduisante.” Olivia hissed back, looking in disgust at Abigail’s outfit.
“They do know you speak French?” Carina whispered in her best friends ear.
“Nope, but the more they call us names, the more I’m sure one day they’ll get a visit from the Pussycats.”
“What does your grandfather see in that bitch Yve?...beyond the big tits?” Jo whispered in Abby’s other ear causing her to giggle momentarily.
“Ils pensent qu'ils possèdent le monde, lors du déjeuner d'hier, ces « touristes » a vraiment à notre manière et ils étaient si rude.” Abby nearly swallowed her tongue at Chelsea Warburton’s sheer cheek.
“You know they act as if they don’t remember us.” Abby whispered in Cari’s ear.
“Le duc doit aller de cap dans la main à sa salope de fille en Amérique de laisser son argent de libération pour lui.” Yve complained to the Warburton girls
Abby could resist any longer. “Eh bien, c'est ma mère baise trollop d'argent, il suffit de penser combien il prend en charge votre style de vie sur ces espèces américaines « vulgaire ». Et oui je parle Français parfaitement bon aussi bien.”
Both the Warburton girls and Yve went suddenly very quiet when they heard Abigail’s impeccable upper class French.
“More to the point,” Abby continued as she leaned over, “Speak about my grandfather in that tone or in that way again, and it will not be me you have to deal with, it will be my mother and uncles….” Abby paused and looked round at her friends. “Let’s find the boys – I need to dance.”
The three friends slipped out of the booth, smiling sweetly as they joined the boys again on the dance floor. Yve glared at them, and then took out an iPhone, dialling a number as the two girls watched.
Guy noticed her placing the call, but chose to say nothing – at this time.
A short time later, Dominic discretely walked up to Guy as he stood at the bar.
"Ummmm Your Grace, may I have a private word.”
“Of course,” Guy said as he smiled at Abby dancing with Tony, “What is the problem?”
“I regret to say that someone has tipped off the press that your granddaughter is here."
Guy glanced at the party, then at the door, before saying "Oh no my dear boy….many?"
"I'm afraid so Your Grace."
sighed, he didn't mind his own private life being the subject of public
discourse, but dammit he drew the line at Abby having to run and hide from the
"I take it there's a way you can get her and her friends out discretely and without drawing attention, young man?"
Dominic nodded and said "Yes Your Grace. The management have already put the arrangements in place, for when they decide to leave."
“You have my gratitude, young man,” Guy said as he clapped him on the shoulder. Looking on the dance floor, he saw Tony escort Abby back to the table, and then head towards him.
"Tony." Guy grabbed the young man by his arm. "The press are outside waiting for my granddaughter to leave."
paused and said "Can I take it as read young man that she will get taken
safely back to her mother at the hotel…. that I can count on you and your friends
"You can count on us Sir. What do you wish us to do?"
“The management have arrangements in place to – how you say, sneak you out the back door. Inform your friends, and when the time comes act surprised. And Tony?”
“Thank you – you have made her very happy tonight, I think you helped her have a really good time.”
nodded and scurried over to give his friends the heads up.
Guy shook his head, if he ever found proof that that phone call by Yve was to tip off the press….well then? Some changes would have to be made, that much was certain.
“My goodness, is that the time? Jo, Cari, we need to get back.”
“Well, if you wish, I’ll…”
“Countess de Ros,” Dominic said as he came over, “we have arranged a car to take you and your party to your hotel. You are staying at?”
“If you will allow me five minutes?” Dominic walked over as they watched him, mouths open.
“Well, we must be going as well,” Guy said as he stood with Yve.
“Grandpapa – call mother please. She does miss you as well at times.”
Guy smiled – a sad smile, as he said “As you asked, my dear Abigail, I will call her in the morning. Until next time, ladies, gentlemen.” He gave a bow and then walked off, Yve looking back before they walked away.
“If you will follow me,” Dominic said as he returned, “The press are waiting outside, so we will use a rear exit. Our drivers are completely discrete.”
“Thank you,” Abby said as they slipped out of a side door, and into a waiting limousine. As they left, Dominic said “Please, accept these with the compliments of the management.”
He handed them passes to return one night, and gave a bow of his own as they drove off.
“Thank you,” Simon said as they got out at the hotel reception.
“Are you gentlemen staying here?”
Tony looked in the window and said “No – we’re at Harrow.”
“Well, my instructions are to make sure you all return home, so get in.”
“Thanks,” Simon and Harry said as they gave Jo and Cari a good night kiss. Tony did the same for Abby, before rubbing his head.
know the guys at school will never believe I took out the girl who's been on
the covers of most of the newspapers all week."
Abby leant forward and gave him a good night peck on the cheek. "Judy has my number, give me a ring when you're next in New York."
The girls waved the car off, as Abby’s phone rang.
“Judy McNally, your cousin and his friends were perfect gentlemen – thank you.
“And yes, I don’t want The House to know, all right? See you on Monday.”
“Excuse me sir, are you all right?”
Joe Markham turned and saw the officer standing behind him. “Sorry,” he said quietly as he walked off towards Trafalgar Square…
The Savoy Hotel
“Ah, they finally surface,” Diana said as the girls came into the restaurant, sitting beside her and Juliette. “And was it a good night?”
“It was,” Cari said as she poured some orange juice, “if a little spoilt by some of the people we met.”
“Oh,” Juliette said, “and who were they?”
“Grandpapa and his – companion for one,” Abigail said, Diana raising an eyebrow at the tone of her daughter’s voice.
“Hmm – I see you have the same opinion of her as I. Why is he in London?”
“He did not say, but I asked him to call you while he was here.”
“Thank you,” Diana said as she looked at Abby. “and the boys?”
“Perfect gentlemen,” Joanne said as she bit into some toast. All three girls were in jeans and hoodies, contrasting with the trousers and jumpers worn by the mothers.
“Morning,” Heather said as she sat down, and ordered a full English breakfast.
“Okay, what’s you excuse,” Joanne said as she looked at Heather. “I got back at half twelve – you?”
“Never went out of the room,” Heather said with a smile, “What are you talking about?”
“The girls met father last night,” Diana said as she sipped her coffee.
“Oh – anyone else?”
“A couple of very rude young ladies who know Yve – we met them on Sunday.”
Diana looked at Abigail, and slowly lowered her cup. “Ah – we were discussing them last night over dinner. Has your opinion changed?”
“Only in the sense that I want to hurt them,” Abby said quietly, “the way they and that trollop talked about grandpapa…”
“I see – let me guess, they were less than complimentary?”
“I have no wish to repeat it, I only wish to make them know the pain they have caused.”
“Careful, Di,” Heather said as Sandy joined them, “she’s starting to sound like you there.”
“Well then,” Juliette said in a low whisper, “we have decided to visit them and show them the error of their ways – not as the Pussycats, but just your common or garden violent home invaders.”
“Oh goodie,” Cari said quietly, “So what do we need?”
“I will go to the office this morning, and borrow the prop guns – just the rifles. I need to see Fiona about something anyway.” Juliette sipped her coffee and looked round. “Anything we use had to be bought for and disposed of here.”
you get us a good car, fit all of is in?" Diana asked Heather.
Diana…you doubt my skills as a car thief?"
cars are different here in England…Everything is the other way round."
the same principles though….break the lock and the alarm, then hot-wire the
we can safely leave the transport to you Heather?" Juliette asked
Sandy said, “and when you’re done, go to one of those out of town hardware
stores – we need supplies.”
can you go shopping for some gloves?"
dearest want to hit some of those tacky stores on Oxford Street and see if you
can find us seven ski-masks?"
we all better hit a jeans store and buy some nice dark denims that we can
dispose of straight after the job."
noticed the hotel has an incinerator…"
"Okay Sandy so you make sure all the potential evidence gets burned."
“What about disposal of anything we get? Customs doth not smile kindly on things like that.”
“Well,” Juliette said with a smile, “that is the other thing I will be doing this morning. I put in a call to Tommy last night, and he gave me the name of a contact in the UK who may be able to take care of everything we can get apart from the pictures. I will be, as you say, going undercover this afternoon.”
“What about me?”
“You stay here,” Diana said as she looked at her and Joanne. “Once, that is, you have gone shopping for clothes.”
“After last time?”
“Don’t worry,” Jo said as she nudged Abby, “we’ll go somewhere a bit more packed. Seriously, Heather, you’re going to eat all that?”
Jo looked at the plate of sausage, bacon, egg, mushroom, kidneys, fried bread and black pudding placed in front of her sister. “Watch me,” she said as she cut the end off one sausage and put it in her mouth.
“Whatever we are doing,” Juliette said as he looked at her watch, “we need to be back here by four – the car is coming to pick us up at six for the studios. Let’s go to work, ladies.”
Juliette looked at the frontage of the Lilywhites store and she knew they’d have just what she was looking for.
Inside, she took a moment to make sure she was in the right place – all the signs were for a firm called Sports Direct. “Excuse me,” she asked a passing assistant, “this is Lillywhite’s correct?”
“Yes, it is,” the assistant said, “those signs confuse everyone – we’re under new ownership. How can I help you?”
“I’m interested in baseball bats.”
“Right this way,” he said as he took Juliette up two floors. She was intrigued when they showed her a selection almost as large as she might have in a sporting goods store In New York.
“Do you see what you are looking for ma’am?”
“I want to buy some aluminum bats for a friend’s son and his pals.”
“These are made by Louisville Slugger…”
“I noticed.” Juliette interrupted as she tested the impact hitting it into her gloved hand. “I thought I’d only find cricket bats over here.”
“No madam.” The assistant smiled, “we cater for most sports here.”
Juliette smiled again as she said “Can these be delivered to me at The Savoy this afternoon? I’d like four please.”
“Oh of course Miss Huntingdown.’ The assistant smiled as he recognized her name on her credit card. “Is there anything else we can do for you?”
“No thank you…and thank you for your help.” Juliette smiled as the man returned her credit card.
From the store, Juliette headed back to Trafalgar Square, and then down Whitehall, passing the Cenotaph before she turned down a side street.
On the wall by the door of one of the buildings was a small brass plaque that read “C Harman Couriers.” Pressing the doorbell, she looked from side to side before a female voice said over the intercom “Yes?”
“Miss Juliette Huntingdown to see Miss Charlotte Harman?”
The buzzer sounded and Juliette stepped in, closing the door behind her.
Heather walked through the streets of Kensington, looking for all the world like one of the many American tourists in the area. Finding a coffee shop, she sat on the table outside and ordered a cappuccino, watching the world go by through her sunglasses.
From her seat, she could see cars going in and out of the car park at Kensington Gardens, and watched with a critical eye. Eventually, she saw a Renault Magane being driven in by one woman, who got out and locked the car, before walking off in her designer boots.
“One woman driving a car that size and style? Such a waste,” she said to herself before finishing her drink and leaving some money on the table. Walking across the road, she smiled as she fished a small toll pouch from her pocket.
“Miss Richmond,” Jack said as he touched his hat, “What can I do for you today?”
“A favour, actually. We have decided that, for various reasons, we will be disposing of some things before we leave on Sunday, and we wish to be sure it is disposed of discretely. I understand you have an incinerator on site?”
Jack smiled and nodded. He went into the office and produced a large blue bag.
“If you place the items in here, and let me have it first thing Saturday morning, then I will ensure it is disposed of without further disturbance.”
“Thank you Jack,” Sandy said with a smile, “you are most kind. Ah girls – get what you were looking for?”
“We got them,” Cari said as she held up some bags from Debenhams.
“Right, I’ll be up in a minute,” Sandy said as John came in.
“Actually, could I have a word with you and John, Miss Richmond,” Jack said quietly, “In confidence?”
“What’s the problem Jack,” John said, but the concierge said nothing, merely taking them through a side door.
The National Gallery Tea Rooms
Sandy and Heather walked in, hand in hand as they looked round the room.
“Heather! Over here!”
Amy waved at them from a side table as they walked over and sat down. “Amy, I hope you don’t mind that Sandy joins us – you see, she is a little bit more then my employer.”
“So I noticed,” Amy said as she ordered some tea for all of them, “When you introduced me to her the other day, the happiness was plain for all to see. Let me guess – you have to keep it a secret at home.”
“Sadly yes – my mother would be less than understanding,” Sandy said as she accepted the cup. “Heather tells me you were talking the other day about a possible offer?”
“Well, yes – let me be mother first,” she said as she poured the tea, and then stirred her own.
“You weren’t talking hypothetically the other day at lunch, were you Amy?”
The older woman looked at Heather, before saying “I do have an opening, yes, for a senior research officer. The pay is good, but it would mean relocating to the UK for a couple of years. So thank you for bringing Sandy – she needs to be a part of your decision making as well.”
“I’m flattered, Amy, really I am, but…”
“Look, I don’t need an answer right now – go away, talk about it, and let me know.”
my position in New York." Sandy paused to get the words right. "Its
not easy for us to be a Lesbian couple back home Amy."
have a screaming fit if he knew Heather shared my bed…He'd probably sue for
custody of the children,"
Sandy is saying Amy is that your offer comes at an opportune time."
know I'm a decorator?"
did." Amy nodded.
transferring my practice to London would not be that hard, and I can always fly
to New York to supervise work there if I needed to."
sounds as though you've both already done some serious thinking?" Amy
"We have," Heather paused, but we still need some more time."
“We may need a couple of weeks.”
“Fine,” Amy said as she handed Heather an envelope. “I’ll wait for your call.”
The London Studios
“I don’t think I’ve been more nervous about anything in my life,” Joanne said as she walked into the television studio, “how many people did you say watch this?”
“An awfy lot,” Fiona said as they took their place in the front row, “but jes seet back an enjoy it.”
“Yeah,” Carina said as she took her seat, “Just think of what the girls are going to think back home – this is going to be a riot!”
Behind the scenes, the young man looked at his clipboard.
“Okay - you’ve done the show before Lily, you know the sort of things Graham likes to ask?”
“Yes,” Lily said with a smile, “I take it he’s in a good mood tonight?”
“He’s certainly in a mischievous one – so Abigail, just don’t take anything he says too seriously darling.”
The researcher glanced his eyes over the two models as they tried to relax in the green room. He’d seen them both arrive an hour ago, without makeup on they’d both looked, well ordinary, two very tall girls, but both just a bit geeky.
Now stretched out on the couches, hair and makeup done, their long, long legs covered by leather trousers and stiletto heeled boots, they had even him questioning whether he was truly gay or not.
“Hey – sorry I’m late.”
“That’s all right Mister Summers – twenty minutes to show time.”
The two girls stood up when the tall, thin man came in, and held them both as he kissed them on the cheeks. “Lily, you look lovely as always – and Abby, congratulations, your Aunt Trudy sends her love as well.”
“Thanks, Uncle Gordon,” Abby said with a blush. “I still can’t quite believe it…”
“Took me years to get used to it, lass,” he said in his rich Geordie accent. “But don’t worry – this could be the best time you’ve ever had.”
“Uncle?” Lily asked quizzically.
“I used to bounce little Abby here on my knees when she was a baby, Trudy is her god-mother, didn’t she tell you?”
“Oh my God Abby!” Lily laughed, “Who doesn’t know you?”
“Thank you very much, enjoy the evening.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen, James Bor,” the floor manager said as the warm up man went off. “Now, the star of the show, Mister Graham Norton.”
“My goddess, he’s not much taller than me,” Joanne said as the blonde haired Irish comedian came onto the stage to great applause.
“Thank you, thank you,” he said as he stood in his silver jacket. “As you know, we have two groups of guests tonight – we’ll kick off with Peter and Genna, and then move on to the other three guests, Lily, Abigail and Sting. I’m sure we’re going to have a great time, so sit back and enjoy it!”
“All right, ladies and gentlemen, positions please,” the floor manager said, “We start in five minutes!”
In the Green room, the three of them watched as Peter Capaldi and Genna Coleman talked about the new series of Doctor Who.
“I liked him in The Thick of It,” Lily said as she watched them talking.
“Never seen either – maybe I should buy some DVDs?”
“Ask him nicely, he might send you one,” Sting said as the audience started to clap.
“If you will come with me please…” The trio followed the researcher out of the Green room and towards the stage.
Graham put his hands together and looked at the audience, the cameras moving around him.
“Now then, let’s welcome onto the stage our next guests – international superstar Sting, top model and actress Lily Cole, and the new face of the modelling world, Abby de Ros!”
The girls all clapped and cheered as they walked out onto the stage, Sting waving and shaking Graham’s hand as the girls leaned over and kissed him on both cheeks before sitting down.
As Graham sat down, he said “Maybe I need to go and get my green hat – I feel a bit like a leprechaun now.”
As the audience laughed, Abby began to feel more at ease as she sat back, crossing her legs.
“Don’t worry Graham,” Lily said with a smile, “I’m sure you’ll grow up eventually.”
“I doubt it very much,” Graham came back with, before he turned to Abby.
“First of all, my dear, many many congratulations on your success.” The audience clapped again as Abby blushed. “How does it feel to be one of the most recognisable people in the world?”
“Scary,” Abby said, “I wonder how Lily and the others have managed to cope with it for so long.”
“Well, you deserve every bit of it, doesn’t she ladies and gentlemen?”
There was more applause, this time from Lily and Sting as well.
“Scared she’s going to take all your work, Lily?”
“I don’t think so,” Lily said with a smile, “we’ve decided to put a line across the Atlantic and try not to get into each other’s way.”
“And what about Trudy, Sting – is she worried?”
“No, Graham,” Sting replied as he took a sip from his glass, “but then, she has the baby photos of Abby.”
“Oh yes – blackmail material,” Graham said, but Abby knew he did not mean it –. She reached down and picked up her glass of iced water, sipping it gently.
“Now Lily you started modelling when you were 14 darlin’? And Abby you were 15?” Norton’s eyes twinkled. “Don’t you think that’s awful young?”
“Don’t forget I was 16 before I got my first cover Graham.” Lily smiled, “Abby has managed that a year earlier.”
“Well, that was a shock to me as well,” Abby said, “I was sitting in a bar in New York when…”
“A bar?” Graham put his hand to his chest and looked offended. “They allow you to drink when you’re fifteen? I wish I had grown up there now.”
“Sorry, a coffee bar,” Abby said once the laughter had died down, “and I almost brought the place down with my scream.”
“I tease, I tease,” Graham said as he leaned over and put his hand on Abby’s knee. “But no jealousy, no desire to punch each other’s lights out?”
“We leave that to whoever Naomi is mad at today,” Lily said, which got another big laugh. ”But no, Abby is a great person, and we hit it off instantly.”
“Now Abigail,” Graham said as he leaned forward, “you were born in France…”
“But I’m a naturalized US citizen.”
“Your surname - EXACTLY how is it pronounced?”
Abby giggled, “Well in New York people pronounce it ‘de ROSS’ which has caused complications for my mother since her Christian name is Diana.”
Abigail paused while the host and audience laughed, “But in France it’s pronounced “De ROOSE”
“Now am I right in thinking that it indicates you had an Irish ancestor?”
“Yes an early 18th century Irish soldier of fortune whose surname was Roose, was the one who settled in France and was ennobled by the Sun King, Louis XIV.”
“See you also learn some history on this show? And of course, it just proves all the best things come from Ireland.
listen - Abigail, I understand that you
grew up idolizing our Lily here?"
blushed. "This is going to sound so immature, but yeah - even now my room
back home is covered with posters of Lily." Abby paused. "I have that amazing
pic of Lily in the blue Stella McCartney dress on the spiral staircase in the
decrepit palace in India blown up so it stretches from floor to ceiling.”
“I won’t say what I had blown up for a poster – the lawyers won’t let me.” The audience laughed again as Graham gave them a dirty look.
thing is I'd been hearing about Abigail long before she even started modelling."
Thomas the legendary fashion director for Complete Style's American edition has
been telling me for nearly two years about this girl she knew and who she
thought was very like me. It wasn’t until those amazing pictures that Antonio
Bell shot last autumn started almost getting passed round the fashion world
like a dirty magazine…"
I finally got to see what Mary had been going on about for so long."
this little girl was stunning?"
that she had that same long body I used to see in the mirror at her age."
Mary, she…" Abby stopped as Lily
put her hand on the young girl’s leg again.
"Oh and that is the amazing thing about this girl, she grew up on the edges of the fashion scene and she still calls everyone Aunt or Uncle as she has always done…she still is so respectful, she still lacks any star ego, she's still just so nice."
“Oh, I think we can all tell,” Graham said with genuine admiration, making Abby smile again.
“Now, the papers this week had shots of the two of you doing a photo shoot at the National Gallery this week – was it fun?”
“Great fun,” Lily said, “certainly different from the last time I was there.”
“Funny you should mention that,” Graham said as he turned and picked up a remote control, “because we have film of the last time you were in that building. Shall we have a look at it?”
On the monitors above the stage, the audience watched as a clip from the remake of St Trinian’s was shown, Lily one of a group of girls who steal a painting.
As the clip finished, Lily laughed and said “Well, I was a bit of a wild child, as you well know Graham.”
“Yes I do – and I still have the scars to prove it,” he replied, to another round of applause. “The thing is, Abby, any plans to follow Lily in this as well and pull off an art heist?”
Abby smiled, uncrossed her legs and leaned forward to pick up her glass, as she said “No plans Graham – I prefer to steal hearts.”
“Well, I think we can safely say you’ve done that,” Graham said. “But is your school like that one?”
“St Angela’s? No, we’re all perfect little Angels – just like Lily.”
“Oh, I tell you what,” Graham said, “we managed to get a hold of one of the photos that was taken on Monday, would you like to have a look?”
Again, the audience looked up as a shot of Abby and Lily with Jeanie appeared.
“Well you both look radiant there - but who is the other young lady in these photos?”
“Well Graham that’s a very special young woman.” Abby replied proudly. “Her name is Jeanie and she’s just thirteen years old.” Abby choked back a tremor. “Jeanie lost both her father and the use of her legs in a car accident three years ago.”
“Aww,” Graham said without a hint of sarcasm, “so she’s confined to the wheelchair?”
“That’s right,” Abby said. “Her grandfather works for some friends of my mothers, and - well we wanted to do a treat for her while I was over here, Jeanie knows far more about models and modelling then I’ll ever know.
“Anyway, Juliette Huntingdown of Complete Style, along with a whole host of people including Lily here agreed to let us use Jeanie in the shoot, and well as you can see she was amazing.”
There was a huge round of applause again as Graham looked at Lily, who was holding Abby’s hand.
“She was indeed – and you all did a fine thing for such a lucky young lady. I understand she will appear in the next but one issue of the magazine?”
“That’s right Graham,” Abby said.
“And who’s this?”
The picture changed to one from the Wednesday, where Abby was standing in a pin striped suit, shirt and tie, with her hair under a fedora, while Carina was sitting in a thirties style evening gown with elbow gloves and a cigarette holder.
“Now that is Juliette’s daughter, Carina – She’s playing Bonnie to my Clyde - I think she fits the part perfectly.”
“I can see that – and I think she’s in the audience tonight?”
The camera panned to Cari, who blushed as the audience applauded again.
“Well, let me just say this – I would hate to meet you two in a bank dressed like that.”
Abby laughed and relaxed as Graham had an expression of fear on his face.
“Now, Sting, you knew Abby when she was growing up. Did you ever think she would be the success she is now?”
“Truly, Graham, she has surprised all of us.”
Graham continued the conversation for the next few minutes, talking to Lily about the release on DVD of her art series, and to Sting about a new collection of his greatest hits, before he said “Now Lily is doing a lot of acting Abigail…any ambitions to go to Hollywood yourself”
“Not really.” Abby paused, “I get nervous enough modelling without having to deliver lines.”
“Never never say never,” Graham replied with another twinkle in his eyes, “if Sting here can do it, anyone can. Talking of which, why don’t you get up there and sing a song from your new album. Ladies and Gentlemen, Sting!”
“Now then,” Graham said as the applause for Sting’s performance died down, “before we finish, we have a few people who have stories to tell of fashion faux pas – let’s see if they can finish before we tip them…”
Abby and Lily played along, listening to the stories as Graham tipped a few, and let one finish, before he said “Right, I think we have time for one more tale. Can you tell me your name, please?”
Abby and Lily looked at the screen, only to see a young girl with short hair looking at them.
“Hi Graham, my name’s Jeanie.”
“Hang on,” Graham said as he looked shocked, and then turned to Lily and Abby, “You mentioned a girl named Jeanie earlier. Is this her?”
“Yes,” Abby said as she looked at her smiling, “Yes it is – Hi Jeanie.”
Jeanie waved back at them before Graham said “Well, I think we need to meet you properly young lady. Why don’t you come and join us?”
The audience applauded as all four stood, watching as Jeanie was wheeled into the studio by Barbara. As she came onto the stage, Abby and Lily hugged the girl as she started to cry.
Graham smiled as he sat next to the young girl, and held her hand while the others sat down.
“So what was it like to have been a professional model for a day Jeanie, and work with these two old has-beens?”
The audience burst into laughter.
Jeanie smiled shyly. “It was the greatest day of my life, they were both just so, so amazing to me.”
“Well we have one more secret guest to bring on, Jeanie.” Graham looked to the other side of the young girl and said “Abby, who is Missy Auerbach?”
“Hmmm,” Abby looked round, this was all way off script. “Ummm she’s my agent at Norstar Models in New York.”
“Well Missy isn’t in New York tonight…. ladies and gentlemen…Missy Auerbach.”
“Damn I feel just like Eamonn Andrews on This is Your Life.” Graham whispered as an aside to the audience drawing laughs.
Missy came on stage, smiling in her designer suit and embracing everyone, before kneeling in front of Jeanie’s wheelchair.
“Jeanie the ladies at Complete Style let me see the amazing photographs you shot this week.” Missy smiled at the young woman’s expression. “When I saw them I was blown away by your poise, your dignity, and most of all by your beauty.”
The audience applauded.
“So, with Graham’s help I arranged for you to be at the show tonight, because I have something very special to say to you and your mother.”
There was more applause as Abby looked over to the others – but they were all as dumbfounded as she was.
“Jeanie,” Missy said, “on behalf of Norstar Models I’d like to offer you a contract from our agency to become our very first disabled model…”
The rest of Missy’s words were drowned out in thunderous applause, as both Lily and Abby rushed to hug both Jeanie and her mother.
“Oh my….” Jeanie mouthed the words as she dissolved into tears.
In the crowd Juliette and the others started hugging and crying.
“Well,” Graham called out as the theme music started, “It’s not often we end a show like this, but this is a special night. My thanks to Peter, Genna, Lily, Sting and Abby, and especially to Jeanie. We’ll be back next week, but until then – good night!”
As the audience kept clapping, Graham knelt down and hugged Jeanie as well.
“Right,” he said as he stood up, “No retakes tonight. We’ve got a little party arranged out back – we have to celebrate!”
“I…. I don’t know what to say,” Barbara said as she looked at the others.
“I find ‘Can I have a glass of wine please,’ is usually a good start for situations like this,” Graham said as he took her by the arm. “Come along – these girls have got a lot to talk about.”
“Miss Huntingwood, if you and your party would follow me,” the floor manager said as the audience started to file out, indicating a side exit. As they moved off, Sandy and John said “We’ll catch you up,” and waited, watching as the seats emptied, and they saw Joe Markham sitting at the back.
Looking at each other, they walked slowly towards him, watching as he slowly walked down. “Excuse me,” John said as they met him at the bottom of the stairs, “I wonder if we could have a word with you, Mister …”
“Markham, Joe Markham.”
“Sit down Joe,” John said as he took a seat on one side, Sandy on the other. “I hope this doesn’t sound rude,” John said, “but we’ve been told that you have been seen hanging around the places where the girls and their mothers have been this week. You don’t strike me as a fashion fan Joe – so what’s going on?”
Joe Markham looked at both of them, and said “Look, I’m sorry, this is going to sound like the ravings of a madman…” He then started sobbing and buried his head in his hands.
“Hey, hey,” Sandy said as she looked at him, “What’s wrong?”
“About… About a year ago I was attacked in my home by a vicious gang of bank robbers. They killed my wife and my housekeeper, and my daughter was kidnapped by them – she disappeared, and was never seen again.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” John said quietly, “but what has that to do with the girls?”
“One of them looked so like her – I guess I just could not stop thinking it might be her. The police say she must be dead, but – I just can’t let go…”
“Well, Joe,” Sandy said quietly, “I can assure you that none of the girls in our group are your daughter. For one thing, two of them are here with their mothers, and the third with her sister. For another, I know the families of all three, and I can assure you they are not – what was your daughter’s name?”
“Megan – Megan Markham.”
“Joe, I know this going to sound cruel, but even if Megan is still alive, she is not one of our group – and I will testify to that. When do you return to the states?”
“Then,” John said as he looked at Joe, “I suggest you go home and keep looking there – because she is not here, all right?”
“All right,” Joe said quietly as a security guard approached. “Thanks for listening anyway.”
“Good luck,” Sandy said as she watched him being escorted out, his head bowed. “Poor man,” John said quietly, “I know something of what he’s feeling.”
“Come on,” Sandy said as she took his arm, “You need to congratulate your granddaughter.”
The Savoy Hotel
what's so funny?" Carina wandered into the living room of the suite to
find Abby and Jo giggling at a message on Abby's cell.
Jo laughed as she grabbed the device out of Abby's hand and passed it.
and Friends totally smitten….Tony wants your phone number….shall I let him have
it?…..swears he doesn't want to sell it to every boy at his school….How the
hell do you do it Abs?…To think I once used to know a girl called 'The Stick'
…see you all Monday and I want the complete play by play….Judy."
Carina started laughing, "Good old Judy…" she sighed, "Going to be good to get home.”
“Yeah,” Jo said, “Once we take care of a little bit of business here…”
There was a knock on the door and Diana looked in. “Girls, would you give me and Abigail a moment please? We will be down for lunch shortly.”
Jo and Cari looked at Abby, who nodded as they walked out. “We need to talk about Wednesday, don’t we,” she said as Diana sat down.
“Well, only in a way,” Diana said as she held her daughter’s hands. “Abigail, I know there are things you need to deal with and find out for yourself. Having said that, I only want you to be happy, so whatever you decide, I will support you.”
“Mother,” Abby said, “I didn’t mean to upset you, it just happened.”
“I know,” Diana said quietly, “and, if I am being honest, it was more the shock of what others would think than you. So I need to apologise for upsetting you. Just promise me you will take care.”
“Always, mother, always.”
“Good,” Diana said as she stood up, “now, let’s go and eat. We have a busy evening ahead of us.”
The Meagan drew up outside, the tinted windows obscuring the seven occupants as they looked at the building. They had left the hotel in small groups – the girls were heading out for a pizza, Heather and Sandy walked out hand in hand and declaring their intent to go and see Mama Mia!, while Diana and Juliette had left dressed for a formal dinner.
They had then met up again in Shepherds Bush, and changed there into black denims jeans and sweatshirts. Heather had brought the car into the hotel earlier and loaded several boxes in the back, as Diana handed out the leather gloves she had bought earlier.
“What’s in the first box,” Cari said as she pulled the gloves on and opened the cardboard.
“Two large holdalls – complete with supplies from this store I found. Rope, cloths, tape – all there.”
“Excellent,” Cari said, “And for us?”
“Second box has the baseball bats, the third the dummy guns. Cari, Abby, Sandy and I get the bats – the others get the guns. Jo, you need to be free to take care of electronics.”
Joanne nodded as she took a balaclava and pulled it over her head, only her eyes and red lips showing. “So how do we talk to each other?”
“We won’t” Juliette said, “just follow my lead and do what I say, all right?”
The girls nodded as they watched the adults pull the masks over their heads.
“Right – we go in through the basement, take care of the housekeeper, and move from there, got it?”
The other six nodded as Juliette said, “I’m boss until we’re done. Let’s go to work.”
They stepped out into the dark night, carrying the bats as Diana and Juliette took a bag each.
“I’ve missed this,” Abby whispered as they went down the staircase. “this is for Jeanie.”
Juliette nodded as Jo worked on the lock, and then opened the door as they crept in.
The door opened into a pantry, which was in darkness as the door was quietly closed. They stood still for a moment, listening to the distant sounds as Juliette walked over and slowly opened the door. It led into the kitchen, but as she did so she heard approaching footsteps, and closed the door to.
Through the gap, she could see the housekeeper walk into the kitchen, wearing a short sleeved grey coat dress with a white apron on it. She looked round, then picked up a kettle and went to the sink, filling it with water before she plugged it in and switched it on.
Turning round, she signalled to Heather and Jo to come forward, and then pointed at the older woman. Nodding, they waited as Juliette slowly opened the door, and then moved out.
The woman stood up, but before she had a chance to look round Abby grabbed her from behind while Heather pointed the prop rifle at her. “Not a sound,” Heather said quietly, “Apart from the family, is anyone else here?” She looked at the woman, eyes wide in fear as she shook her head from side to side.
“Are they all in?”
She slowly nodded her head up and down, Abby keeping her leather gloved hand clamped over the woman’s mouth.
“Good,” Heather said as she reached into her back pocket, and took out a cloth she had stuffed in it. “My friend is going to take her hand away, and I want you to open your mouth. Do as you’re told, and you won’t be hurt.”
She nodded again as Anny removed her hand, and pulled the older woman’s arms behind her back, crossing her wrists while Heather stuffed the cloth into her mouth, the edges sticking out from between her lips.
“Move,” she said quietly as Abby bound the housekeeper’s wrists tightly together behind her back, the old woman’s eyes widening as five more black clad and masked intruders came in. “Tie her up,” one of the woman said.
“On it boss,” the woman behind her said as she tied rope around the housekeeper’s arms and chest, while the one in front of her tore the end of a roll of duct tape free, and wound it tightly round her head, sealing the cloth in.
“In there,” the woman that was called Boss said as she opened the pantry door, the housekeeper frog marched in and made to sit as her ankles and legs were secured, and she was then made to lie on her stomach. Her legs were pulled back and secured to her chest, before her eyes were covered by the tape as well.
“Don’t move,” the boss said, as the door was closed on her and the seven started to walk up the stairs.
The hallway was a long, narrow one, and they could hear the sound of a television playing, and at least two people talking. Juliette slowly opened the door and peeked in, to see Alexa Warburton sitting on a couch, wearing a pair of over the knee brown leather boots over white jodhpurs and a black jumper. Next to her was George, sporting a striped shirt and tan trousers, with a cravat round his neck. Both had a drink of wine in their hands.
Heather tapped on Juliette’s shoulder and pointed to the two paintings, watching as he nodded and pointed at her, Jo, Sandy and Cari, indicating they should go upstairs. All four nodded and headed up as she, Diana and Abby each took a deep breath, and then nodded at each other.
They waited a few moments, allowing the others time to get into position, and then Abby kicked the door in, shouting “Freeze, motherfuckers,” as she walked in, brandishing the baseball bat as Heather and Juliette pointed the guns at them.
“What the hell…” Alexa said as she started to stand up, only to sit again as Juliette said ”We told you assholes not to move. Which bit of that did you not get?”
“Who the hell are you, and what right do you have to come marching into…” George’s words were interrupted as Abby brought the baseball bat down hard on a coffee table, splitting it in two as splinters flew everywhere.
“Next time it will be your fucking head, understand? Now, get on your knees and put your hands on your heads – unless you want us to break your arms for you?”
On the second floor, Jo and Heather stopped outside a door and listened, before they slowly opened it. Chelsea Warburton was standing with her back to the door, a set of headphones over her ears as she danced to something. She was wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt and black leather-like leggings, with bare feet. They looked at each other, then nodded as Cari and Sandy moved on. Walking into the room, they closed the door behind them and watched for a few minutes, before Jo weighed the bat in her hand and Heather took a length of rope from her back pocket.
The first Chelsea knew that something was wrong was when her CD suddenly ended and she heard a smashing sound. The next was her hands being pulled violently behind her back and secured together with some sort of rope.
She was whirled round to see a woman, dressed in black and ski masked, smashing her player to pieces with a baseball bat. “What the fucckmmmmggg” she said, her voice cut off as a dirty rag was shoved into eh rmouth and a leather gloved hand clamped over it.
“Not a word, girlie,” the person behind her said, “or the next thing to get hit is your head. Spit that out, same thing happens, understand?”
Chelsea nodded as she tried not to choke on the acrid taste, then heard the sound of tape ripping as the masked woman produced a roll of duct tape, and walked towards her.
“Yve, don’t worry, you have him wrapped around that very elegant little finger of yours. Of course he will forgive you for what you did.”
Sandy and Cari stood in the open doorway, watching Olivia Warburton as she lay on her stomach on the bed, and silently wondering how Abby or Diana would react to hearing this.
“No, I did not think she would understand us, but who is he going to believe, his granddaughter or you? Call me when you get back, darling, kiss kiss.”
Olivia ended the call and rolled onto her back, closing her eyes as she put her hands behind her head. She was wearing a blue and white striped crop top and a short blue skirt, lost in her own world as Sandy and Cari walked in.
They looked down on her as she opened her eyes, and saw the two masked women standing there. “Oh sh…” was all she said before Sandy pushed the barrel of the prop gun against her head, and said “Shut the fuck up, roll over, and hands behind your back.”
“OH god, please don’t hurt me,” she whimpered as she did exactly what she had been ordered to do, offering no resistance as Cari bound her wrists tightly together with rope and then picked up a pair of dirty panties from the wash basket by the wall.
“Chew on these,” she said as Sandy rolled her over, and stuffed the panties into her mouth, then sitting her up as Sandy wrapped the silver duct tape around her head.
“Let’s go and join mummy and daddy, you little prickass,” Sandy then said as Olivia was taken by both arms, and marched out of the room.
“That all of them,” Juliette said as Olivia was marched into the front room, squealing at what she saw. Her parents were kneeling on the floor, two more masked women binding their arms to their sides and their hands behind their backs, while another two were binding her sister’s upper body as she sat on the long recliner. The ten o’clock news was on the television, but nobody was watching it.
“Here’s the deal, you fuckers,” Juliette said as Olivia felt the rope pulling her own arms into her sides, “do exactly what we say, don’t try and do anything stupid, and everybody stays happy, got it?”
Alexa looked at her gagged daughters, and then said “Who the hell says you can do this to us?” As she talked, Heather bound her ankles and legs with yet more rope.
“These do,” Juliette said as Abby slapped the baseball bat in her gloved hand, and looked at the remains of the table. “Now, we start with you, ass fucker – where’s the safe?”
“Go to hell,” George said as he looked at her.
“We asked nicely – but we only do that once.” She nodded to Jo, who pulled Chelsea off the couch and mad her kneel, before raising the baseball bat behind the young girl’s body. “Tell us where the safe is, or the head caves in.”
“All right, all right – top floor office. Just don’t hurt them.”
“Very sensible,” Juliette said, “but we’re going to play a little game. Secure their legs.”
George was forced to watch as Olivia and Chelsea were pulled down onto the couch, and had their ankles bound as well as their legs below their knees. “You love your family, don’t you?”
“OF course I do!”
“Well then, you will watch,” Juliette said as Cari and Abby pulled the tops of both girls up to reveal their bras, and then started to roughly grope their chests with their gloved hands, “as they discover the true feeling of love’s touch.”
“nddnnnnnytddthsss….” Olivia tried to wriggle out of the way, desperate not to respond in any way, but Chelsea was too scared to move as Abby purred, her fingers feeling the way the young girl’s nipples were hardening. She smiled at her and nodded, as she slipped down the cups of her bra and started to pinch her nipples, making her scream in surprise.
“NO! I’ll do whatever you want, but leave them alone.”
“Wrong,” Juliette said as she removed the cravat from round his neck, and stuffed it into Alexa’s mouth, “We’ll do whatever we want, and then leave you alone afterwards. Take him to this office, and empty the safe.” She nodded to Diana, who grinned as she forced him to his feet and marched him out of his room.
“You two,” she then said to Jo and Heather, “find the master bedroom, strip it, and bring anything of value you find down here. We’re going to play truth or dare.”
“whtthllsgnthpn,” Alexa said as Juliette picked up a roll of silver tape.
“Hush,” she whispered as Sandy reached round and began to massage the women’s breasts as they sat between the bands of rope, “You’ll see.” Alex watched as Cari and Abby began to kiss the exposed breasts of her daughters, and closed her eyes as she began to moan as well…
“Very nice, very nice indeed,” Diana said as she loaded the piles of notes and velvet cases into the holdall. George was now lying on the floor, his arms pinned to his sides and his legs tightly bound, with his ankles pulled back and tied to his chest. A band of silver tape encircled his mouth and head, as he looked up at the masked woman.
“Your family? We’re taking real good care of them, fucker,” Diana said as she closed the safe, and then knelt next to George, rolling him onto his side as she undid his pants and pulled them down. “They are going to remember tonight for the rest of their fucking lives.”
“Whrudng… hfkdnt…” George gasped into the gag as he felt Diana’s gloved hand between his legs, gently squeezing his sac.
“Bet that bitch doesn’t do this for you, does she,” Diana said as she felt her hand run along his cock, and then eased his boxers down. “Let me show you what I think of you…”
George closed his eyes, wondering what was going to happen, but opened them again in shock as Diana stood up and kicked him between his legs, making him groan as he tried to curl into a ball – but unable to do so because of the hogtie.
“You are nothing, cocksucker,” Diana said as she brought the butt baseball bat down on his head, knocking him out, “and don’t you forget it.”
Chelsea screamed into her gag as Abby’s lips and tongue on her chest made her so damp between her legs, so hot she could not help herself as she started to have an orgasm.
Alexa watched, helpless as her daughter succumbed, throwing her head back and then collapsing against the couch – and Olivia followed suit, Cari massaging her between her legs as she kissed her gagged mouth.
“Well, they are getting there,” Juliette said as Jo returned with a pillowcase, that she placed on the seat. Cari and Abby stood up and raised their baseball bats as Juliette selected a pair of diamond earrings.
“So, Alexa,” she said as Jo picked up the third baseball bat, “These – real or fake diamonds. Nod for real, shake your head for fake.”
Alexa looked at them, and then shook her head. “Let’s find out,” Juliette said as she walked to a glass cabinet, and scored along a panel with one of the diamonds, watching as the glass fell into two pieces.
“Oh dear,” Juliette said quietly, as she looked over at the two girls.
Olivia opened her eyes wide as the baseball bat connected with her stomach, while Graham Norton introduced the last three guests on his show.
“Let’s try again – real or not, cocksucker?”
Alexa nodded, tears welling in her eyes as Olivia raised her head.
“Now – this gold bracelet – solid or plated. Nod for solid, shake your head for plated.”
Alexa shook her head, as Juliette smiled. “I know – but sisters need to share.”
Chelsea screamed into her gag as the bat hit her in the small of the back, Abby smiling as she brought it down.
“Plsss, nttthm,” Alexa moaned as both girls were hit in the stomach and back with the bats. On the screen, the picture of Abby, Lily and Jeanie was showing.
Outside, Heather was carefully removing the two pictures from the wall, wrapping them in tissue before she placed them in two special leather bags she had bought at the National Gallery that day. As Diana came down, she handed one bag to her, and took the second one herself, before they quietly went down the stairs.
Alexa was on her knees, pleading as he daughters rolled on the floor, the baseball bat raining down on their legs.
“That’s enough,” Juliette finally said, “We got what we came for. Let’s move out.”
The end of the program, with everyone hugging Jeanie, was playing as Juliette pushed Alexa onto her side, kicking her in the stomach as the masked women walked away, carrying their bags with them.
“Right,” Juliette said as they set off, “we change and take the paintings and other items to the hotel. Heather, ditch the car. Sandy, put the clothes in that bag for destroying.”
“Lose them with the car. Right – let’s get this finished with…”
The Savoy Hotel
“This way,” John said as he opened the door to the tea rooms, Barbara wheeling Jeanie in as Juliette and the others stood up.
“Thanks for coming,” Juliette said as they made room for Jeanie, John and Barbara sitting either side of her, “I wanted to say goodbye before we head off tomorrow – and what better way than tea here.”
“It’s amazing,” Jeannie said as she laid a napkin over the skirt of her denim dress, “I feel like my entire life has been turned upside down, and I love it. Does this buzz ever wear off?”
“Not to my knowledge,” Juliette said as she passed the cake stand over, Jeanie taking a chocolate slice.
“Well how have the meetings gone with Missy, Barbara?” Juliette leaned across to take a sandwich.
Barbara shook her head, and said “Would it sound bad if I said they’d been giving me headaches?”
Smiling, Juliette shook her head and said, “No…. Missy was my agent for nearly 20 years…. she can be a bit overwhelming.”
“So has Missy any plans scheduled for Jeannie?” Carina joined in the conversation.
“She wants Jeanie to do a full weekend next weekend shooting with a few photographers… Fiona said something about adding to Jeanie’s portfolio… is that right?”
“Yeah most new models do it, Abs did, so did I…. they want Jeanie in a variety of outfits, different poses so they can show it, or she can, to potential employers.”
“We all do it when we start.” Juliette added.
“Missy has me booked to go shoot for Italian Vogue over Easter school holidays.” Jeanie wheeled herself over and grabbed a can of diet coke.
“She’ll probably have you doing more than just that Jeanie.” Abigail wondered if she could dare a third sandwich. “You should see what she has me booked doing as soon as school gets out.”
“Talking of school,” Barbara interrupted before the models got to talk trade talk. “Dad wants me and Jeanie to move to New York over the summer.”
“John! You never said anything!”
“Well, I knew they were coming over anyway,” John said as he sipped his tea, “and the more I thought about it, the more I realised how much I missed them. After this week, I want to be there for them as well.”
“Where would they live? Your place isn’t big enough.”
“I have spoken to your mother, Sandy, and have a lease on a small townhouse, with easy access from the street.”
“Oh wow Jeanie you’ll love it.” Abby hugged the younger girl as Barbara shook her head.
“Well I’m not sure we should.”
“Of course you should Barb.” John interrupted his daughter. “I’d get to see both of you everyday, be better for Jeanie for work….”
“But what about her schooling?”
“She could come to St Abigail’s with Jo and me.” Abby volunteered.
“But isn’t that an awfully expensive private school?” Barbara looked doubtful.
“Barbara.” Juliette interrupted, “From all I’m hearing on the grapevine, Jeanie will have earned enough by fall to pay not only for St Angela’s herself, but also college.”
“I told you all that darling.” John reached out to hug his daughter.
“So maybe we aren’t saying Bye Bye Barbara and Jeanie.” Juliette smiled. “Just au revoir.”
“All right, all right,” Barbara said as she shook her head. “I give in – I might even be able to get a job out there.”
“Let me know if I can help with visas and the like, John,” Sandy said, Diana nodding as well.
As the adults sat talking, Abby, Carina, and Jo wheeled Jeanie over to a quiet corner.
“What’s up?” Jeanie asked nervously as they all squatted by her.
“Jeanie I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed these earrings we all wear?” Carina asked as Abby and Jo flicked back their hair to show the little diamond studs each wore.
“We noticed your ears aren’t pierced yet….” Abby continued the conversation.
“Mum won’t let me, she says….”
“Well all models need their ears piercing.” Abby announced.
“So….” Jo let the word hang a second. “We got you a gift certificate to get it done at your nearest mall.”
“And….” Carina retrieved a small box from her pocket. “We got you a pair of these diamond studs we all wear.”
“Oh wow.” Jeannie looked inside the box “You know I keep expecting to wakeup and this has all been a dream.”
All three older girls had tears in their eyes as they hugged the wheelchair bound girl
“Don’t worry, we’ll get you up to the summer house before school starts – once your grandfather knows when you are coming.”
“I can’t believe this,” Jeanie said as she started crying, “This time last week, I was looking forward to a special visit, and now…”
“Now you are going to be famous,” Jo said as she gave Jeanie a kiss on her cheek. “Come on – let’s go back to the others.”
“So when do you fly back?” they heard Barbara say as they came back.
“Tomorrow afternoon – all except Diana. She has to take care of some family business in Paris before she returns.”
Diana nodded as she said “Sadly yes – I will return on Wednesday.”
“Nothing serious, I hope,” John said as Barbara poured more tea.
“No – merely a meeting with my father.”
“I’ll be here to drive you to the airport,” John said, “Once I’ve said my own goodbyes. I need to return tomorrow as well.”
“I’ll miss you Granddad,” Jeanie said as she wiped her chin.
“It’s only for a little while, dear,” John said, as the tears started flowing again.
Juliette looked up to see Jack standing there.
“There is a Miss Harman here to see you, something about a delivery?”
“Ah yes- if you will excuse me for a few moments,” Juliette said as she stood up and followed Jack out, talking to a dark haired woman in the lobby before going to the lift.
The Savoy Hotel
“Your baggage has been sent to the airport, ladies, and you have been checked in.”
“Thank you, Jack,” Juliette said as she slipped the concierge a tip, Jack touching his cap in appreciation. “Brunch first, I think.”
As she walked in, however, she was surprised to see a small box and a card on the table, Diana looking at one in front of her as well.
“What’s this for,” Juliette said as she sat down, “It’s not my birthday yet.”
“No,” Carina said as she and Abby came into the restaurant, “but it is Mother’s Day, so we got you a present each.”
“When in Rome, darling,” Diana said as she opened the present and took out a pendant, with a single pearl on it. “Thank you, Abby – it’s beautiful.”
“Have you seen the paper today?”
Jo opened it to the inside pages, where there was a report of a violent home invasion in the Knightsbridge area. The family were bound, gagged and beaten, while the housekeeper was bound and gagged before she was kept out of the way.
“Funny they make no mention of the paintings,” Diana whispered as the waitress came over. “Let’s have a really good breakfast – I hate the food on the plane…”
“Oh yeah,” Abby said, “Can I have smoked salmon and scrambled eggs please?”
“Have you enjoyed the trip,” Sandy whispered to Heather. As the young woman nodded, Sandy put her hand on her leg and said “all right – what’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” Heather said as she leaned over and kissed her red lips, “Save that it’s back to normal when we get back. I’ve loved just being able to be ourselves.”
“Yeah – I liked it too,” Sandy whispered, before their food came.
“Right everything’s in,” John said as they girls got into the minibus. “Back we go.”
“I’ll see you on Tuesday night, darling,” Diana said as she kissed Abigail on both cheeks, “and I’ll give your grandfather your love. Juliette, call me as soon as you know?”
“As soon as you know what Mom,” Carina said as John drove off.
“Depends on what you tell me tomorrow, darling,” Juliette said as she checked their boarding passes. “You get your college acceptances tomorrow, right?”
“Oh yeah,” Carina said as she nodded, “I’d forgotten about them…”
Gard du Nord, Paris
Diana smiled as the Eurostar train pulled smoothly into the station. She had left St Pancras International at 7 that morning, enjoying the trip in first class with good service, but she was more pleased to be back in the city she loved. Adjusting her coat, she reached up and removed the leather slipcase, carrying it carefully as she walked down the platform and through the security check.
Stepping out into the bright sunshine, she hailed a cab and gave an address near the Left Bank, looking at the streets as she was driven past.
The car stopped outside a small gallery, the driver opening the door as Diana stepped out and walked quickly in. A young woman, wearing a knee length black dress with half sleeves and a pair of black stilettos, looked up and said “Good morning, Madame. How may I help you?”
“Would you inform Antoine that Diana is here to see him?”
The girl nodded and picked up a telephone, speaking rapidly before she said “He will be with you shortly, Countess. If you will take a seat?”
“Thank you, but no – I will stand,” Diana said as she looked at some prints, before a voice saying “My dear dear Diana, it has been far too long,” made her turn and smile.
He was about six foot tall, thin with grey hair and eyes, and wore a striped blazer over a white shirt and trousers, a grey cravat round his neck.
“Antoine, darling,” Diana said as they kissed each other, “It has been far far too long.”
“Indeed,” he said with a smile, “I would ask how little Abigail is, but I see her picture everywhere at the moment. So, come through, come through.”
He led her into a back office, where he picked up a pair of white gloves and slipped them on. “Now, what do you have for me?”
Diana laid the slipcase flat and opened it, taking two cardboard sleeves out and laying them on the table. Antoine slowly opened the sleeves, and gazed in rapture at the two paintings.
“Ah yes – just as you described them, my dear, and cared for in transport so well. Where did you find them?”
“Let us say a friend needs them to be sold on quickly and discretely, for personal reasons. Are you in a position to oblige?”
“But of course my dear – when I advertised yesterday, I had several very strong expressions of interest. On what basis shall I proceed?”
“Anonymous seller, your usual commission, the rest to be transferred to an account I will provide details of.”
“Bon,” Antoine said as he covered the paintings with the soft cloth, and then closed the sleeves, “IT shall be done as you say. The sale is on Friday, so you will have the funds by Monday at the latest.”
“Thank you Antoine, you have never failed me yet.”
“And I never shall, Countess – my daughter owes you too much, and so do I?”
Diana smiled, and said “then I will leave them in your professional care. Forgive me, but I must leave you – I have a lunch appointment with my father.”
“Ah yes,” Antoine said with a smile, “how is he?”
“A very good question, which I will answer when I have seen him. I look forward to hearing from you, Antoine.”
“Do not make it so long until next time, ma Cherie,” Antoine said as they hugged, and Diana walked out, hailing a taxi as she did so.
Rue de Grenelle
“Stop here please,” Diana said as she looked at the apartment building her father lived in when in residence in Paris. She could see a second cab outside the front door, and the doorkeeper loading a number of cases into the back.
She paid the driver and then stepped out, watching as Yve walked out of the building, wearing a grey fur coat over her dress and a pair of high heels. She was wearing dark glasses, and did not look to either side as she got into the back of the car, the doorman saluting as it drove off. Diana walked slowly up, adjusting her gloves and her bag as she approached.
“Countess de Ros,” the uniformed man said as she saluted at her approach, “This is an unexpected pleasure. Does your father know you are coming?”
“He is expecting me,” Diana said with a smile, “was that his partner I just saw leaving?”
“Leaving, yes – but she is not his companion now. They had the most terrible row when they returned on Saturday, and today the Count told me to call a car for her.”
Diana suppressed the desire to smile as she said “then he will need consoling – I will go up unannounced, if that is all right.”
“Of course,” he said as he held the door open, and Diana took the lift to the top floor. Stepping out, she walked over and rang the doorbell.
“I said you may collect… Diana, my dear, you are early.”
“Forgive me Father,” Diana said as Guy kissed her on both cheeks, “my meeting finished early. Did I see Yve?”
“You saw her” Guy said as he closed the door behind Diana, “but for the last time, God willing. I presume Abigail told you of her visit to the club on Wednesday?”
Diana nodded. “She said you arranged for her to leave from the special exit, because the press were waiting. That was very kind of you, father.”
“Well, it was Yve who contacted the vermin. Diana, you were right about her, and I am sorry it took so long for me to see the truth of it.”
“Come father,” Diana said kindly, “I will buy you lunch at Café Constant, and you can tell me all about it.”
“That sounds delightful,” Guy said as he walked to his room, and collected a jacket, “you can tell me all about what my granddaughter is up to now.”
As they sat at the table, enjoying coffee and brandy, Guy said “by the way, during our last – talk – Yve told me her two friends we met on Wednesday had a most unfortunate encounter. It appears they were attacked at home by an armed gang, and poor Chelsea had a broken leg as a result. Their mother had some broken vertebrae as well.”
“That is truly shocking,” Diana said as she put her coffee cup down, “but from what the girls said, they were spectacularly rude to them as well, so forgive me if I do not shed a tear at their misfortune.”
“Diana, this has given me cause to think again of what you said last Christmas. Perhaps it is time I settled down, and tried to make amends with your brothers.”
“I think that is very wise, Father – they do not wish to think ill of you, and want you to be happy without the additional burden of…”
“The words you used were a gold-digger,” Guy said with a smile, “but it is all right – I understand you were looking out for me. Can you forgive an old man?”
“Of course, father,” Diana said as she looked at her watch, and signalled to the waiter. “Forgive me, I have a train to catch. Will I see you soon?”
“I hope so – perhaps I can come for Abigail’s birthday this year?”
“She would like that very much,” Diana said with a smile, “very much indeed.”
There were days when Diana wished Concord was still flying, and this was one of those days, as she waited in the lounge for the early flight to New York to be called.
Sitting next to her in the lounge was a young woman, with short reddish brown hair, dressed in a brown jumper and skirt with a leather belt and knee length boots. A small laptop case and a leather jacket were neatly folded on the seat next to her, and she was talking into her mobile phone.
“That’s good Lily. Call Maddie in an hour, and have her send someone to meet me at JFK, then finalise the arrangements for her flight next week. Let me know where she’s flying to.
“I’ll see you when I return – I have every confidence you will run things well until then, and so does she. Keep well, Lily.”
She ended the call and stood up as the flight to JFK was called, walking from the lounge as Diana followed her…