Sunday 25th January
9 am ECT
Chateau de Ros
“Oh Goddess, I think my father is having sex with my mother!”
“Oh,” Jo said to Carina as she came into the dining room, “and what leads you to that conclusion?”
“Oh I don’t know,” Carina said as she sat next to Jo and Abigail, “the fact that I just saw a car pulling away with Klaus in the back of it.”
“It is true he stayed the night,” Valeria said from the head of the table, “but I understand he and Juliette merely talked all night. Do you know any differently Diana?”
Diana looked up from her plate and then at the girls. “I am not aware of anything, save that Juliette has not surfaced yet.”
“Who says I haven’t,” Juliette said as she walked in. “Did the happy couple get away all right?”
“They did – I saw them off myself this morning. Your transport will depart at midday, to get you back to the airport in plenty of time.”
“Janice phoned – the others are coming to visit the chateau after they check out, and then will meet us in the lounge before boarding,” Diana said as she looked closely at Juliette.
“What, have I got something in my eye or on my blouse?”
“No, darling,” Diana said with a smile.
“So Klaus stayed and talked all night,” Abigail said as she looked at Carina.
“Yes, we talked all night,” Juliette said, “about many things…”
“Right, many things,” Jo said as Juliette poured some coffee, and took a pastry.
Judith giggled as Carina fed her some porridge. “We’re going back on a plane today baby – that’ll be exciting!”
“Good morning,” Shirley said as she walked in with John. “I trust you all slept well?”
“Mum may not have got much sleep,” Carina said as she looked over the table.
“Oh? Juliette Huntingdown, what have you been up to now?”
“None of your business John Hammond – or we could start talking about both of you,” Juliette said with a smile.
“I have nothing to hide my dear,” John said as he spread his arms wide. “Apart perhaps from enjoying the flight here and back.”
“Still, I look forward to returning tomorrow,” Shirley said. “John and I are visiting my vineyards today to allow me to conduct some business.”
“No, Judith, eat it all…”
The little girl laughed as the food dribbled down the side of her mouth.
“Well, it has been a long weekend, but a good one,” Valeria said. “Let us eat, talk and then wish you a safe journey onward.”
5 pm CET
Air France Lounge
Charles de Gaulle Airport
“I have the feeling the entire business class section of the plane are friends,” Adam said as the Rochermanns came into the lounge.
“Well that was a fun party,” Ally said as she joined Jo and Abby. “Back to school tomorrow though.”
“Yeah – and don’t forget tomorrow night at the Waldorf. First rehearsal for the Dior show.”
“Oh lord – well, I’ve worn heels all weekend, so that will help,” Ally said as Kelly beckoned to her and Nell.
“Remember that bet we said we’d take on?”
“Oh yeah – we have a date?”
“Next Saturday – 7 am to 7 am Sunday. Clear your diaries.”
“I’m gonna need to get some outfits for that,” Nell said quietly.
“I don’t want to know until the day,” Kelly said, “surprise me.”
“Ah you are on the same flight,” Tonia said as she and Ray came in with Sandy and Heather.
“Yes we are – how was the hotel?”
“Very comfortable – we all met for breakfast, visited the chateau and then got the coach back here. We didn’t think Klaus was going to make it at one point, but he joined us in time for a coffee before we set off.”
“Did you get something for Pepsi,” Jo asked as April and Grant came in.
“We did – a lovely antique locket,” April said as she showed Jo and Janice. “Hopefully it will take her mind off a certain boy for a while.”
“Hey,” Ingrid said as she came in, “so where was my father last night?”
“According to official sources, talking with my mom all night,” Carina said as she tickled Judith.
“And unofficial sources?”
“You tell me,” Carina said as they looked at the two of them talking at the bar.
“I see what you mean – we must watch closely.”
“So we land about eight tonight local time,” Ray said as he looked at his watch. “When does Guy come over?”
“Later next week – he has business to conduct at the stud. But I believe he arrives at the same time as Will.”
“Ah yes – the Dior show,” Tonia said, “back to work on that tomorrow Ju?”
Tonia and Sandy looked at Juliette, who blushed and said “yeah – tomorrow.”
"You know under any other circumstances a girl would be happy her parents are getting on so well." Abby looked up from the newspaper as they heard Juliette and Klaus laugh.
"Yes,” Carina said, “but what does Ingrid say?"
"I'll say good for Papa and Juliette, I never
expected him to stay single, but the women I tried to steer his way never
"You played matchmaker?" Jo laughed.
“Ladies and gentlemen…”
“Saved by the boarding announcement,” Ingrid said as they stood up. “I’ll tell you after dinner on the plane.”
The Huntingdown Apartment
Carina set Judith’s carry seat on the floor and unstrapped her as Juliette closed the door, removed her coat and placed it on the suitcase.
"It’s good to be home." Juliette eased herself onto a bar stool in the kitchen.
"Coffee Mom?" Carina asked as she put Judith in her high chair.
"My own blend? I'd kill for one darling."
Carina started the coffee maker off, and then fetched some cups.
"That was a long busy weekend.”
"I know," Juliette stretched as she kicked her shoes off.
"It was an amazing wedding though, Natasha looked just so happy.”
"She did. They make a perfect couple,” Juliette said as she took the cup and drank. “Ah that’s better…”
"Did you hear Sandy opened a book on a wedding date for you and Dad?"
"She did what?" Juliette laughed as she put
her cup down, "Not on if we'd get married, but when?"
"Mom, I think most people are taking the first part for granted.”
"Well,” Juliette said, “they are wrong, yes we
told each other that we are in love, but can you honestly see Miss Panther
co-existing with a prince?"
"You know she could retire…free and clear
Mom." Carina said seriously. "It's not like you'll ever need the
"But I'd be letting the others down."
“Well, for what it’s worth, so long as you are both happy then I am happy too,” Carina said as her cell phone went off. She looked at the message and then began laughing.
"And what are you laughing at darling?"
Juliette looked over her daughter’s shoulder.
"A text from Annie, she spent all weekend wearing
five-inch heels and a tight pencil skirt…she's telling me about the number of
men who tried to pick her up."
"It’s a sexy look." Ju laughed.
"One guy at the deli tried to get her number and
she only got rid of him by making up a number, then running."
"In heels that high?"
"She nearly broke her neck she says."
"I'll bet you there will be similar stories from the other girls as well."
“Oh this is going to be a fun week,” Carina said as she sat down, “a real fun week…”
“Pepsi? We’re home?”
Grant watched as his daughter came through from her bedroom, beaming from ear to ear.
"So how was France Mom?" Pepsi asked as she
kissed her parents.
"Wonderful." April smiled, "Give me a
chance to get my coat off and I'll tell you."
"I bet everything was beautiful."
"It was darling." Grant hugged his daughter.
"Your mom fell in love with the gardens at the chateau."
"I must admit I did, I sketched dozens of
"See I said your sketchpad would come in
useful." Pepsi smiled.
"Your father did the winery tour with some of the
"They let us bring a couple of bottles home as
"Can I have a sip Dad?"
"I suppose so, hard to say no when you drink like
an adult at parties."
"Grant darling she is an adult." April nodded.
“I know, I know – forgive me for being an overprotective dad,” Grant said. “We got you a present as well.”
April handed Pepsi a small box, watching as she took out the antique locket.
“Oh mom it’s beautiful,” she said with a smile. “Thank you.”
“So what did you and Ama get up to over the weekend?”
“Not much – we did our work for classes, and watched a couple of DVDs.”
“I presume Annie didn’t help?”
“Not a chance – she left us alone last night and stayed in her room.”
“Sensible woman – where was Caroline?”
“At her friend’s apartment for a girls night in.”
“So Shirley will get back tomorrow?”
Maddie nodded as she sat with Lily and Penny. “Got your flight sorted out Penny,” Lilly said with a smile.
“Yup – I go back Tuesday, move in on Wednesday. Charlotte is going to fly back next week, and come out a week on Friday to do the security set up.”
“Did you speak to Susan?”
“I did – we’ll exchange details on a few things when I return. You’re staying out here with Shirley?”
“For the moment – until she sends me back, or Uncle George turns into the man about town he seems to be becoming.”
“I believe Dom may be helping him establish a cover?”
“Yeah – after he did ‘security’ for the party, Dom’s thinking of making him a part of a team she’s putting together.”
“Do you know who any of the others are?”
“Not yet – all she’ll say is she has some candidates in mind.”
The Richmond Mansion.
“Welcome home,” Vanessa said as she hugged Sandy, Heather and Jo. “I hear it went well?”
“It certainly did – where are you going O little sister?”
“Where do you think,” Jo said as she went up the stairs.
“At least she waited until she got home – thanks mom,” Sandy said as she accepted the drink.
Monday 26th January
The Richmond Mansion
“Come on you two, you need to come and have breakfast,” Heather called up the stairs as Jo sat down and poured some coffee.
“I hate Mondays,” she said quietly.
"Jo you need keep an eye on Doc - remember." Heather passed her sister her breakfast.
"I know,” Jo said as she cut a piece of bacon and started to chew, “the little bitch is heading for trouble if she’s not careful."
"I was in her computer this morning,” Heather said, “it looks like she's prepping pages for her own escort agency website."
"Crap! You’re kidding me right?”
Heather put in front of Jo a printout of a webpage, a pair of angel wings in soft focus and the words “Angelic Escorts. Coming Soon.”
“Crap… and I'm busy Heather." Jo glanced at her
"Can't you just wipe it lover?" Sandy asked.
"If I do she will know someone has hacked her,
I'd rather she didn't know that."
"I'll try and catch her at lunch." Jo said as she looked at her watch again. “Right now I have to get to the Village.” She swallowed her coffee down and ran out, George and Sandy coming to sit at the table.
“Come on you two – eat up and I’ll get your lunches sorted,” Heather said as Sandy slipped the print out under her book.
"Okay why did I agree to do this show?" Marnie complained as she wiggled into the school doors in her pencil skirt and heels, "Every pervert in NYC is following me, and my feet HURT!"
"They aren't following you they are following ME." Maggie Fife complained.
"It’s fun." Doc smiled.
"If this is your idea of fun Anna." Maggie
shook her head.
"I'll be so happy to get into flat school shoes." Marine looked down at her feet.
“And have you seen the looks we’re getting from some of the other girls.”
Doc looked at some of the girls as they glanced at the three young models.
"Dissension in the ranks Miss Kelly?”
Miss Tennant was standing at the front of the hall as
the girls filed in, talking amongst themselves.
"Shall we call it divergent points of view Miss
"Some jealousy from the girls who can't wear high heels, and a longing from me and the girls having to wear to get back to flats."
“Hmm – I have an idea,” Miss Tennant whispered as she stood at the front.
“Ladies, I have an announcement to make before we start this week. As you are aware, in two weeks time the girls and teachers, who have raised so much with the calendar, are taking part in a very prestigious show to celebrate a fashion icon.
“As a result, they have had certain privileges with uniform, but I feel we should all be allowed to join in the celebration. Next Monday, therefore, in return for a ten dollar donation to the Jamie Kirkham fund, you will be allowed to come dressed as the fashion icon of your choice – both students and faculty.”
The cheer was deafening as Annie nodded in agreement.
“Morning Janine,” Juliette said as she dropped a bottle on her assistant’s desk, “present from France.”
“You shouldn’t have,” Janine said, “but thanks. Your messages are on your desk.”
“Thanks,” Juliette said as she went to her office.
“Oh – and Merlin’s looking for you.”
“Lovely,” Juliette said as she went into her office, out her bag down and hung her coat up.
“There you are,” Mary Thomas said as she same in, wearing her usual waistcoat over her blouse and long skirt.
“And a very good morning to you as well, Mary,” Juliette said, “What can I do for you?
"Okay Ju, Shirley should get the extra dresses
here in time." Mary smiled as she sat opposite her old friend.
Juliette looked up and said “She said nothing about extra…"
"Mandy worked the Aristocratic grapevine and she
found us 20 more Dior originals, including one of her grandmothers, that have
never been shown."
"Oh is that why Shirley was coming via London?"
"Exactly, and these are in lengths that will
suit the tall models like yourself."
"Nice work by Mandy," Juliette said with a smile, “and it means Angel is a bit more comfortable.”
"So we can do a run through and see what suits
"Merlin darling, I haven't looked forward to a
rehearsal more in years."
"By the way, did Janine tell you I've roped her
in to do the verbal’s."
"No she didn't."
"Well I own a Dior suit that fits her perfectly, and she does speak well, so I enlisted her."
“Well, I’m not going to stop her moment of fame,” Juliette said with a smile.
“Penny for them,” Abby said as she sat next to Jo at a table.
“Just wondering,” Jo said as she looked over to where Ama and Jeannie were sitting with Doc and Pepsi, “how to approach Doc for a little chat with her.”
“Oh? On what topic?”
“Anna, my dear, do you realize just how close you are to being kicked out of St Angela’s, and ending up in very very deep shit.” Jo mumbled under her breath.
“Yeah, not an easy subject to raise without giving away how you know.”
“Yeah – and I need to do it, but…”
“Yes Miss Kelly?”
“Sorry, I need to talk to you about planning your essay for your application.”
“And this now gets deferred to tonight,” Jo said as she followed Annie, and Ally sat next to Abby.
“You look particularly awake today,” Ally said as she opened her sandwich, “you need to tell me the secret some time.”
“Practice,” Abby said with a smile. “What’s this rumour I heard that you, Nell and your mum are doing something this weekend to raise money for the fund?”
“A dare we were asked to undertake – if we’re successful, a substantial donation to the fund. But I’m sworn to secrecy about what it is – suffice to say, we’ll be very tired Sunday morning.”
“Right,” Mary said as she looked along the line of models, “this show is something I have dreamed of for years, so I expect total commitment and perfection from each and every single one of you, do you understand?”
“Yes, Miss Thomas,” the group said quietly.
“Perhaps I did not make myself clear – DO YOU UNDERSTAND?”
“YES MISS THOMAS!”
“Better – right, I’ve marked on the floor with tape the catwalk. I want you to show me how much you have got used to walking in those heels and skirt over the last few days.”
“Better do as she says,” Carina said to the others, “you don’t want to get her upset this early.” She helped them to form a line and then walked along, moving gracefully as the others followed suit.
To a greater or lesser degree.
“Annie, keep that back straighter… Marne, look forward – you’ve nothing to be worried about… Anna, concentrate!”
“Sorry,” Doc said as she straightened up, haven nearly fallen forwards.
“All right, you weren’t joking,” Holly said as she walked behind Carina. “But why does Mary keep calling Abby by her school nickname?”
“It’s her model nickname as well,” Cari said, “Jeannie is Baby Supermodel, and the one person Mary can’t intimidate with the walking drill.”
“And what’s you model name?”
“Not saying,” Carina whispered as Mary said “All right, take ten.”
The side door to the room opened as Caroline wheeled in a rack of dress bags. “Sorry I’m late,” she said as she walked over, “but Shirley employed me and George to ensure these arrived safely.”
“Excellent,” Mary said as she and Julia walked over and looked at the garments. “I owe Mandy several drinks for this one.”
“Janine,” Juliette said, “Make sure these are properly tagged and catalogued.”
“Lady Ordford has sent these,” George said as he handed Janine a folder.
“Great – I’ll get that done,” Janine said as Mary looked at Caroline.
“There’s one I think is just perfect for you,” Mary said quietly.
“Well, most of these are too small for me, but I can pinch hit as well as manage security with George’s help,” Caroline said with a smile.
"Okay girls," Mary called things to order,
"These clothes reflect a different era, and a very different style from
what we wear today. They are very glamorous but they do require undergarments
to help squeeze the body into the required shape sometimes. They are also now
very old, and very, very precious. Please be careful and do not damage them at
"Remember most of these outfits come from museum collections, and all of them are just on loan, their owners want them back as they were please ladies." Juliette added as a warning.
"For each model I have assigned an assistant to act as dresser. Match your names from the list on the wall and find your partners please."
"Hey Cherry how did you get roped in?" Abby
smiled as she found the swimwear store manageress had been assigned as her
"Mary phoned and asked me, I thought this gig
sounded amazing so I volunteered."
"Lady in a wheelchair coming through."
Jeannie called out as she tried to see the list. "Okay who's Natura please?"
"That would be me Miss Brewster." a tall black girl came over.
Jeannie looked at her, and said “right then – this is going to be fun.”
“What about the ones who aren’t here yet,” Juliette said.
“I didn’t invite their dressers – but we need to work more with these girls than the likes of Mandy and Caroline,“ Mary whispered back.
As they paired up, Mary looked round the room.
"These garments were all designed by Christian Dior himself, they represent each collection he showed from the New Look in 1947 until his death in 1957. They simply reflect the work of a genius. Both in designing and marketing fashion." Mary smiled, "And before any of you ask No I'm not old enough to have ever met him."
“Did we say that,” Doc called out, raising a laugh across the room.
“I can read it in your eyes, so be careful,” Mary answered.
"We are simply doing try ons now and seeing how outfits fit each model. These may not be the clothes you end up wearing, but can everyone get into the first dress on your dressers list and let’s see how they look." Juliette added.
“Right, Miss Brewster…”
“Call me Jeannie, Naruta – so what do we have?”
“This,” the coloured girl said as she held up a classic skirt and jacket.
"Look at the quality of the sewing." Carina
pointed out to her dresser. "No wonder it has lasted so well."
"The boning is this is going to kill me."
Carina looked behind her at Holly who was literally being eased into a red silk
"Everything is fitted and tailored." Mary
cast an expert eye round the dressing room.
"This fits me like a glove." Doc walked in
the charcoal suit from 1951 with its calf length pencil skirt. "It's still
hard to walk in though."
"Small steps Anna, you should feel your ass rippling as you walk."
"Yes Miss Thomas."
"We are going to need some stuffing to lift and
give you both some cleavage." Mary looked appraisingly at Abigail in the
gold evening gown with the full skirt. "At least the length though is
"The same for you Annie, some padding to lift your boobs up."
“Gotcha,” Annie said quietly as she looked at Abby.
"Ju how do the polka dots look on you?" Mary called out.
"You tell me." Juliette came out from behind a screen trying on gloves with the dress.
Mary looked her over, and said “Very nice – looking very nice indeed.”
"I've got the pictures and descriptions from Lady Ordford on the dresses she and her daughter will wear." Janine put them in Mary's hand.
"Let me see." Mary carefully studied the pictures, "Okay tell Tufty she and Angel should swap the ball gowns, but otherwise I approve.
"Will do." Janine walked off as Mary looked over. “Jo – can we get that jacket more tightly belted?”
“On it,” her dresser said as she adjusted the belt.
“Better – now walk for me.”
Jo slowly walked up and down the marked out walkway, Mary nodding.
“Right – Holly and Cari?”
The two walked down together, turned and walked back.
“Excellent – second outfits everyone.”
“So what do you think, Merlin?”
“Some thoughts confirmed, others to think more over.”
Eventually, Mary said “Right – you can get changed now.”
She sat down at the table and worked on her laptop.
"We will work on accessories and props at the
dress rehearsal ladies." Mary looked up from the computer screen where
each model had been captured in a photo in each dress on her list.
"You have a lot to look at and decide
Merlin." Juliette smiled.
"First thing tomorrow I'm meeting the makeup team
so we can decide on that, then I want to try making final dress assignments…oh
and of course we have a magazine to get out."
"Who said our lives were easy?"
"I know…I'll quit the day things like this aren't fun anymore."
“Amen to that,” she said with a smile. “Keep practicing girls, and we meet again Saturday.”
"What about the music for the show?" Jeannie
"We have a small band and guest singers lined up,
the songs all period to the dresses." Juliette nodded.
"How are ticket sales Miss Huntingdown?"
"Amazing, we are going to raise a lot of money
"Yes!" Jeannie high fived Abby.
"I just want to thank everyone for donating their
"It's a pleasure Pelican." a couple of the professional models called out.
“Now get out of here!”
“Thank the goddess,” Jo said, “my feet are KILLING me.”
“Come on – I’ll tell you my secret,” Abby said as she put her arm round her friend.
"Okay I promised a lot of mothers their daughters
would be home two hours ago." Mary looked at her watch.
"It's why I'm here." John called out from
"I think we've done all we can tonight."
Mary checked her notes. "Is everyone set for getting home?"
"I can crowd a few more in the limo if need
"You were right about it being hard work with
Miss Thomas." Holly smiled at Carina.
"I warned you…but don't take it personally, she's
just looking for perfection."
"I can tell."
"Is Tommy here to pick you up?"
"I hope so, he's in trouble if he isn't. And you
"I get to drive back to New Haven bright and early for class."
“Well,” Holly said as she waved to Tommy, “drive safely, and I’ll see you on Saturday.”
“Sure – hey, Holly?”
“Tell Tommy I’d like a dance with him Saturday – if you don’t mind.”
Holly nodded as she got into the car, Carina heading for hers.
Tuesday 27th January
“All right,” Becca and Nikki said as they sat in a quiet corner with Doc, “so is it ready?”
“It is – but are you sure you want me to do this?”
“Well, is it means we vet in advance, then yeah – I don’t want to face what you did, Doc.”
“Well, this is what it looks like,” she said as she showed them the printout of the front page. “I’ve mocked up profile pages for each of us, and I’ll send them to you to inspect.”
“How do we get this past our folks though,” Nikki said quietly.
“The cover page – see?” She put down a second page, which had her face on it and “Carter Babysitting Agency – reliable and dependable.”
“I’ll create duplicate entries on here for you – and set up a booking page to show you babysitting when you are busy. Just make sure your folks have a link to this.”
“Even Dad can’t object to that,” Becca said with a smile. “When does that go live?”
“Same time as the other site – so let me have comments tonight girls.”
“Nell and the others?”
“They’ve been warn…”
“Anna, can I have a word please?”
The three girls whirled their heads round to see Jo standing there, her arms folded.
“Sure Jo – is it about the show?”
“Not exactly – would you girls give me and Anna some time alone please?”
“It’s all right,” Doc said as Becca and Nikki walked off, and Jo sat down with the young girl.
“Anna,” Jo said quietly, “I was speaking to Ally, and she told me that you may have – well…”
“Just say it please, Jo.”
“That you may have gone back on your promise to Caroline and Annie. Is there any truth in that?”
“If I say yes, you’re going to tell me I’m in a heap of trouble. If I say no, you’ll ask why Ally might believe what she said.”
“True – on both counts,” Jo said, “so just be honest with me.”
“I have been out a couple of times, but that’s all, I promise.”
“Well, whatever you may have done over the last few weeks,” Jo said quietly, “you need to stop and turn back – now. You are playing an incredibly dangerous game, and if Miss Tennant got even a whiff of it, you could be in very serious trouble.”
“I swear to you Jo, I’m not doing anything like that.”
“I hope not – I’m watching you Anna, and I pray I don’t need to step in.”
Jo got up and walked away, Doc breathing a sigh of relief as she took her other phones out. It had been on silent, but as she looked down she smiled.
“Full booking tonight,” she said as she sent various texts.
The Richmond Mansion
“Did you speak with Anna Jo?"
"I did,” Jo said as she sat down, “and she's
lying through her teeth."
"Ouch." Heather looked worried, "I
hoped a warning from you might…"
"She's enjoying it far too much." Sandy said
as she came in.
"Well what steps do we take to put her on the
straight and narrow?"
"Maybe Janice might…?" Sandy asked.
"Not with Pepsi involved, Jan would go
"Why would Janice worry about Pepsi?" Jo looked at the other two, "Is there something I should know?"
Heather and Jo looked at each other, before Heather said “because Jan is Pepsi’s biological mother.”
Jo sat back and whistled. “Okay, that’s a conversation for another day – but Pepsi’s not involved, that much I’m certain of.”
"I’m thinking maybe a meeting with some Pussycats?" Sandy suddenly had an idea.
"We grab her and tell her she's treading on toes,
and that we want 50% of the profits."
"Extortion?" Jo asked.
"It might just frighten her enough."
"It could be worth it." Heather said slowly.
"And if she pays the protection money and just goes on?" Jo asked again.
"Besides, the Pussycats are not known as shake down merchants, and Ju would not approve of that move.”
“Strictly speaking escort agencies are legal, and
she's framed her text carefully to tell men they are only paying to take the
girls out on a date." Heather looked up.
"Meaning the girls then proposition the men if
they approve of them." Sandy observed.
"I guess it's better than soliciting in
bars." Jo looked over her sister’s shoulder.
"Heather's right Jo, it's still very dangerous legally."
"Especially as the girls are mainly underage." Heather spoke.
“Dammit, I don’t like this one bit,” Jo said. “Maybe we do need to call in Dom to talk to her.”
“I’m not sure that would work either,” Heather said.
“It might – if we get her to tell the girls that the FBI are investigating the robbery in Providence, and they are interviewing girls who frequent places the manager visited. Might scare her into at least laying low for a while.”
“Yeah, that might do it – see if Caroline can talk to her on that basis.”
“I think we as a group need to have a conversation about Anna Carter,” Jo said quietly.
“Yeah – but we’re all too busy for the next week or two. All we can do is watch and pray.” Heather stood up and rubbed her eyes, her glasses in her hand. “In the meantime, I’ll talk to Annie and Dom, see if they can be any help.”
The Altamont Hotel
“Good evening Mister Brooks.”
The grey haired man turned and smiled at the blonde haired woman standing behind her, wearing an off the shoulder cream gown that showed the top of her chest.
“Genevieve,” he said with a smile, “thank you for agreeing to accompany me again tonight.”
“Well,” Genevieve said as she stroked her finger down her chest, “you did say if I was available, you would like to see me on your arm again. Where are we going tonight?”
“Well, I have been invited to a private party to celebrate my announcement.”
“Yes- I am to stand as the Republican candidate for the Special Congressional Election in the city.”
Genevieve smiled. “A politician? How exciting.”
At the other end of the bar, Trisha passed Angel her martini.
“I approve, by the way,” Trisha said with a smile. “But I’m a bit old to be a babysitter.”
“Don’t worry – you’re exempted that part,” Angel said with a smile as she sipped her drink.
“Hello there – can I buy you a drink?”
“That depends,” Angel said as she looked at the dark haired man, “on what you are willing to pay.”
“Surely that depends on what you are looking for,” the man said with a smile.
Trisha raised an eyebrow as Angel turned to look at him. “Sorry, my dear,” she said quietly, “but I have my drink, and I think I’ll pass on your kind offer.”
“Pity – but at least you were polite about it,” he said as he walked off.
“Not like you to turn it down,” Trisha said as she returned, while Genevieve walked off with the man.
“Something’s not right about him.”
“You think he’s vice?”
“I’m not sure,” Angel said quietly.
“A website? She’s setting up a website?”
Annie looked over at Dom as Heather slowly nodded. “I didn’t probe too far, but it looks as if she’s starting to step over to the other side of the line.”
“Yeah,” Dom said slowly, “but unless we actually have proof she’s doing this, I don’t think there is a lot we can do save keep an eye on her.”
“The three of us talked about doing something to scare her a little. Maybe arranging a chat with the Pussycats.”
“If what Ama told us is right,” Annie said as she held her coffee mug, “she’d consider it an honour. Apparently she’s a big fan – lots of stimulation if you catch my drift.”
“I’m not – oh,” Heather said as she put her mug down. “I think I see what you mean.”
“Who was the last person you met who did that?”
“Megan Markham,” Heather said quietly. “I think that’s why Jo is so upset about this, she sees a path she could have taken.”
“All right,” Dom said as she stood up, “I think we need to warn her off in an appropriate way, but not as a Pussycat. Let me take her out after school tomorrow for a coffee, see if she’ll talk to me.”
“Thanks Dom,” Heather said. “Annie, when it comes to school?”
“She gets through her work like greased lightning – I think we need an additional extracurricular activity. You say she’s good with computers?”
Heather nodded, and then smiled. “You’re not going to let her loose in your computer lab are you?”
“Even better – Tennant wants the web site overhauled. I think this is very much up Anna’s street.”
“Well that will work in the short term, hopefully,” Heather said. “But long term?”
The three women just looked at each other as they sipped their coffee.
Wednesday 28th January
NY Offices of Madame X
Madame looked at the group assembled round the office, and smiled.
“Well, with the sale of the Picasso I think that completes the transactions. Now, on to other business. Penny has called to say she has arrived safely in the UK. Charlotte, you fly back today?”
“No I’m not flying back until next week,” Charlotte said as she looked up. “I’ll be supervising the setup for the new offices that Lily has procured, and spending time at the Farm as well as the training facilities are finished.”
“What about those ‘old friends’ you ran into Susan?”
“Well,” Susan said as she shifted in her chair, “I told them to contact you, but I’ve sent them a message to call Sandy instead.”
“And your mother?”
“Staying with my aunt while she dries to sober up,” Susan said. “She may even get over here – although she can be a little – earthy.”
“Sounds intriguing,” Maddie said with a smile.
“I have started, as reported previously, to assemble a security team with links to both sides of my professional life. Clint has received clearance from the UN to act as a driver for me if that skill is required, and George has agreed during his stay to act as the second in command.”
“Because it takes a thief to catch a thief?”
“Precisely,” Dominique smiled at Madame. “I have arranged assessments with three of the office staff here to assess their suitability for this role as well, and two external contacts.”
“Good – it is important that both sides of your public life are seen. Incidentally, is it not Ama’s birthday next week?”
“How did… No, we sat with her and worked out the 3rd of February for the date. She is having some friends round for a pizza and film night.”
“Well, we shall be sure to send best wishes – and Maisha has kindly accepted the invitation.
“So onto lighter matters – this Saturday. I trust you all have your gowns sorted out?”
“At least we don’t have to be in white,” Susan said with a smile.
“True, but remember you are attending as the guests of Xavier International, so all due decorum please.”
“On which note,” Maddie said as she looked at her watch, “you must excuse me. I need to make a phone call.”
“Her partner flies in later,” Madame said as Maddie left the room. “I trust you will make them welcome Lily?”
“Of course Shirley – I cannot wait to meet this mysterious other.”
“Anna, can I have a word please?”
Doc looked at the others as they filed out of the math class, before coming to the front of the room.
“Yes, Miss Kelly?”
“Come with me please,” Annie said as she held the door open, and they walked down the corridor, their heels clicking as their pencil skirts swayed with their motion.
“Is something wrong Annie,” Doc asked as they approached Miss Tennant’s office.
“Nope,” she said as she knocked on the door, and the principal said “come.”
“Ah, Anna,” Miss Tennant said as they came in, “Miss Kelly has been telling me of the excellent progress you have been making.”
“Thank you Miss Tennant,” Anna said quietly.
“She also tells me you have shown exceptional talent in the computer suite, so I have a little extra assignment for you, to undertake under Miss Kelly’s supervision.”
“May I ask what that will be, Miss Tennant?”
“Our school website is need of a major overhaul,” Miss Tennant said as she handed Anna a file. “I would like you to undertake the design work. Set some pages up and let me see them for review.”
“Of course, Miss Tennant – may I ask when by?”
“You have the show next week – let us say I wish to make a final decision on approval by the end of February. Miss Kelly will arrange times when you can work with her under her supervision.”
Doc glanced at Annie, then smiled and said “Of course Miss Tennant.”
“Good – now go and have your lunch,” she said, as Annie showed the young girl out.
“Is this a plan to keep me busy,” Doc said as Annie closed the door.
“As my grandfather used to say, Anna, ‘the devil finds work for idle hands’,” Annie said as they headed to the refectory.
“What did Annie want,” Nikki asked as Doc joined them.
“A project Tennant wants me to work on,” she said as she flipped through the file, and then put it in her bag. “No problem – and we go live tonight!”
Inn on the Park
“Well here’s someone we haven’t seen for some time,” Claire Morse said as she made room for Jane Malloy in the booth. “Where have you been hiding, Jane?”
“Writing a speech – it’s the Press Guild dinner Friday, and Piet and I are accepting joint awards for the Mazengwe and child slavery story.”
"Congratulations on the Press Guild award
Jane." Juliette said as she kissed her friend and sat down.
"Well it was a team effort, and I'm glad Pieter
van der Byl shares it with me."
“So is the mysterious van der Byl flying over as well?”
“Yup,” Jane said as she accepted her drink, “he flies in today and we finally meet tomorrow. Apparently he’s visiting an old friend today.”
"Well between you, you toppled some very bad and
nasty people." Diana spoke as she sat down, "And I apologize for
being late, I was meeting the accountants."
"Problems Diana?" Kelly asked.
"A few, my daughter’s earnings last year need to
be managed so as to minimize the tax."
"Maybe that should be your next series of
articles Jane, tax avoidance by the rich?" Heather grinned at Sandy.
"It would cost me too many great friends."
Jane laughed. "Including all of you."
"Us rich?" Kelly asked in mock horror.
"How much again was it now your Grandpa Kellerman
left you Kel?" Jane pretended to reach for her notepad.
"No, you’re safe,” Jane said with a laugh, “I'm
going to be working the special election for congress."
"That means I'll need to keep my mouth
shut." Claire said as she pretended to zip it.
"I don't exploit my friends, even if one of them
is a candidate, my reporting will be clean, straight, and honest."
"That's more than you ever did working for the
school paper." Liz van Roon-Lodge said as she sat down, "and remember
I used to be the editor."
"Oh a slander," Jane laughed, "Lovely
to see you again Liz. LONG time."
"I know darling." Liz kissed her old
"So who do you think will win the election
"Well Tom must start favorite, but there are a
lot of reasons Democrats aren't very popular right now, it may be closer then
"Do we have to talk politics?" Sandy asked.
"We could talk sex instead?" Jane replied,
"I might do a piece on the past sex lives of New York's social
"NO COMMENT!" several voices shouted, as the laughter broke out.
"Men," Madame said as she came in laughing.
"Oh, what about the little darlings?" Maddie
"John and I were checking out his tail suit and
what does he find in the pocket, but his MBE." Shirley laughed again,
"How does one leave an MBE in a pocket and forget about it?"
"By believing a mere medal is just that."
Maddie smiled, "But I bet he knows where every single photo he ever took
"Probably." Shirley walked over and switched on the coffee machine, before sitting at the breakfast bar.
"So does the suit pass muster?"
"A trifle mothbally,” Shirley said, “but a good
airing and he should look presentable."
"Are you still planning to wear that black
"I am." Shirley smiled.
"Good,” Maddie said as Shirley poured the coffee, “you've had it far too many years without wearing it, I'm sure Robert will not mind that you are getting on with your life again, and wearing that dress."
“Do you think he would approve?”
“I’m sure of one thing – he’d want you to be happy,” Maddie said as she hugged her old friend.
“What are you going to wear?”
“I have this grey silk ball gown I bought for a business dinner – I think it will pass muster for an event like this.”
“No idea – apparently I am to be surprised.”
Before Shirley could say anything, the sound of the front door opening and closing caught their attention.
“Is that fresh coffee,” they heard Charlotte call out.
“In the kitchen,” Maddie said, and they both looked over as the door opened.
Madame quickly weighed up Charlotte's male friend as
he came in the door. Mid to late twenties, six four, bushy beard, very
suntanned, he looked like a walking tribute to outdoor life.
"Piet this is Shirley Xavier my boss, Shirley
this is Pieter van der Byl."
"It's a pleasure to meet you." he said in
heavily accented English.
"And you." Shirley smiled, "And
congratulations on your press guild award."
"Well Jane Molloy did most of the work at this
"But you fitted the African pieces of the puzzle
in. My American director, Madeline
“Pleasure to meet you,” Maddie said as she shook his hand.
"So you are here for a ball and a
"Ja, both damn suit and tie occasions…"
Madame laughed, it was pretty clear this was not a man who liked dressing up.
“You’ll be fine,” Charlotte said as she looked at Piet, “Just remember they’re as scared of you as you are of them.”
“What, these ladies?”
“No – other journalists.”
“Why don’t you go through to the drawing room, we’ll join you in a little while,” Shirley said as Charlotte led Piet into the large room.
"Okay babe,” he said as he looked round, “you do
work for an insurance company, but are you sure it’s not a spy cover."
"No Piet, as I said I'm just a humble IT
manager." Charlotte smiled.
"Your boss lady is pretty impressive."
"She is, and she's overseeing an expansion of her
companies this year, big new offices in London opening soon."
"So no regrets leaving Africa?"
"Some…that red soil is in my blood, but I have a great job, great colleagues and great friends, so I'm happy."
The door opened, and they turned to see Susan looking in.
“Ah – sorry, Shirley?”
“Gotcha,” the brunette said as she walked across the corridor.
"So who's the wild man with Charlotte?"
Susan asked as she entered.
"That's Piet, her ex-boyfriend."
"Yes," Madame nodded. "He and Charlotte
are still close friends."
"They say opposites attract." Maddie
“You would know,” Shirley said, Maddie blushing as she looked over.
"Don't make the mistake we all made with Charlotte Maddie - petite she may be, but underneath she's as tough as he is." Susan sat down.
“So what will you wear on Saturday Susan?”
“I have an empire line dress that will hide the bump – but has anyone worked out who Dom is bringing yet?”
“Nope – any guesses?”
West Central Gym
Annie, Jan and Dominique looked over as Charlotte came in, adjusting her gloves as the tall bearded man looked round.
"Okay Piet, come meet the girls I climb
with." Charlotte spoke.
"The tall one is Caroline…"
"Jameson…I've seen her pictures." Piet
"The little one is Annie Kelly."
"And the mid size one is Janice Carter."
Piet shook hands with each woman, his big hands and
strong grip impressing even Dominique.
"So do you all just climb indoors?"
"For now, we have discussed going climbing in the
Catskills later this year though." Annie answered.
"Hey babe did you ever tell them about climbing
that sheer wall in the Drakensberg’s."
"No, Charlotte kept that quiet." Dom shook
"She and Trish Hardy were the first people to
climb this particular face."
"Wow, that does sound an achievement." Janice looked impressed as she was fitted into her safety gear.
“Right, usual rules ladies – last to the top buys the drinks?”
“Agreed,” Annie said as she lined up with the others at the bottom of the wall, their coaches holding the safety lines. “On your marks… Get set… GO!”
Piet leaned against the wall and watched as the four women started to climb the wall, impressed by all of them as they made their way up.
"So what do you all do for a living?" Piet
asked as Charlotte fetched the drinks.
They had retired to the bar in the gym, Charlotte just beaten by the
"I teach Math." Annie replied first.
"I'm in security, as well as my modeling,"
"And you Jan?"
"I work for the FBI."
"Pretty interesting group, so how did you all
"We met here at the gym, and then discovered we all have mutual friends."
“Ah yes – I heard about this Saints and Sinners grouping.” Piet sipped his drink, and then said, “You adopted one of the girls Caroline. How is she settling in?”
“Very well, all things considered. Annie and I share an apartment with her.”
“Oh yes? Mutual friends again?”
“Very much so – she’s at a soccer practice at the moment.”
“So will I meet some of this famed group on Saturday?”
“I think so, yes,” Caroline said with a smile.
“And just who are you taking, Caroline?”
“You’ll see,” the blonde said with a smile, “you’ll see…”
The Richmond Mansion
“Thanks,” Annie said as she accepted the beer from Jo, “I need this.”
“So did Anna take on the work?”
“Yeah – but I have the horrible feeling it won’t distract her for long,” Annie said. “That’s why I came round tonight – to find out what you think can be done.”
“I still can’t get over what you’ve shown me,” Abby said. “I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to scare me more than Cari when the Beast appears, but this girl is truly driven.”
"Okay - if we are going to get Anna out of this,
we need to ask what she's getting out of it?" Sandy asked.
"Money." Heather replied.
"Sex," added Jo.
"Thrills." Annie spoke.
"I think all of the above." Sandy paused.
"If we are to stop her we either need to replace those, or make them
"Aren't we being a bit hypocritical?"
Abigail spoke up, "Don't we get all of those things ourselves as
"We know what we are doing, and we have always
been ultra careful…Anna's not averse to taking risks."
"That's for sure Sandy my love." Heather
"Crime in whatever form can be addictive as I well know." Annie looked at the others.
“I’m not sure she sees this as crime,” Jo said, “I think she sees it as a release, and nobody gets hurt.”
“Except she did by Stevens.”
“True – and she’s worked past that.”
"Surely to run an escort agency you need to have
a business license, and other things?" Abigail asked.
"She's done it all…the agency is perfectly
legitimate," Heather answered.
"Well she's not dumb…foolhardy, but not
dumb." Annie smiled.
"How the hell does she find the time and still be
a straight A student?" Sandy asked. "I had to study for hours."
"It's too easy for her, I'd have her in my AP
math class if freshmen weren't prohibited."
"So additional homework wouldn't slow her
Annie shook her head, "Nope."
"How did you cope Heather? You must have been in
the same situation?"
"Uhhh remember Van Gogh and the Hidden
Hand?" Joanne laughed, "She got herself ranked as the world’s most
"Oh yeah, I forgot."
"Don't worry Annie, but I guess if I'd have been into sex, I might have done just this instead of hacking."
“So to get her out, we need to find something that would excite her just as much.”
Abby and Jo looked at each other, before Jo said “Yeah – we’ve discussed that with Carina. We may have to talk to Juliette.”
“Not yet,” Sandy said. “I’m not sure she – or we – are ready for that yet.”
"By the way I met Charlotte's ex Piet
tonight?" Annie smiled.
"What's he like?" Heather asked.
"Huge, the opposite of Charlotte in many ways, but I know a lot of women might fall for him."
"Jo he's Grizzly Adams incarnate, big, hairy, but intelligent with it.'
"Sounds like a hunk."
“You’re spoken for,” Abby said as she poked her friend. “I guess we should be glad the girls won’t be there on Saturday.
“Enough, I need a break,” David said as he came to a graceful stop, and bowed to his partner.
"Are you sure you can go on David?" Carina
"I said I'd do dance practice with you both…I
just need get my breath back."
"It was a good idea Cari to come in here and
practice." Judy smiled.
"Well I knew the gym would be empty so I thought
"It's about the same floor size as the
ballroom." Judy laughed as David chugged a Gatorade. "We can stop if
you want darling?"
"No, I'm fine…put the waltz music on again, and this time I'll dance with Cari."
“Be warned – I have two right feet.”
“Well that’s better than two left,” David said, “and one two three, one two three…”
Thursday 29th January
Lily looked up to see Maddie walk into the kitchen, wearing a short silk kimono style gown, and head to the coffee machine.
“Well, you seem remarkable chipper today,” Lily said as Maddie poured two mugs of coffee, “you’d almost think you had a very restful night.”
“Well, it wasn’t restful,” Maddie said as she turned round, “but it was very enjoyable.”
“Yeah – I heard you get in late last night. So when do we get to meet the mysterious other?”
Lily looked over to the door to see a middle aged woman, about her height with short reddish brown hair, looking at both of them. She was wearing a cream coloured blouse that obviously belonged to Maddie, and was a little fuller of body than Shirley’s friend.
“I wouldn’t say no M,” she said in a Canadian accent as she walked in. “I take it this is not Shirley?”
“No this is Lily, executive assistant to Shirley’s number two. Lily, this is Emma Cromwell.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Lily said as she shook Emma’s hand, “but I can’t shake the feeling I’ve seen you somewhere before.”
“Give it time, it’ll come,” Emma said with a smile as she took a drink from the mug. “Good lord, this is good stuff,” she said as she looked at Maddie. “So when do I get to meet the fabled Shirley Xavier, my host?”
“Well, now might be a good moment.”
Emma turned and looked at the tall brunette who had just walked in.
“Emma, my boss Shirley Xavier, Shirley, my partner Emma Cromwell.”
“Sorry, but I just placed you Emma. You were the lead singer of Ladydown, the girl band from the late eighties. My mum used to play your records all the time when I was growing up!”
“Well, that was a long time ago – I’m a singing coach now,” Emma said. “But it’s still nice to be remembered.”
“At any rate, welcome to my home,” Shirley said as she sat down. “If there is some of the coffee still available, Lily, I would appreciate a cup.”
“Here, I’ll get it,” Maddie said as she poured another cup, while Shirley sat at the table.
“So what will you two be doing while you are visiting, Emma?”
“Well, I promised I’d look up some old friends today,” Emma said as she drank her coffee, “but beyond that I am the sightseer for this trip, and entirely at Maddie’s disposal.”
Lily raised an eyebrow, but said nothing as Shirley smiled. “Well, we have business to conduct today pertaining to the office re-fit, but I can spare her after this afternoon.”
“Well, perhaps I had better go and clean myself up – and thanks again for inviting me,” Emma said as she placed her mug by the sink and then walked out of the room.
“All right, Ms. Moore – spill,” Lily said, “where did you two meet?”
“About seven years ago at a charity auction,” Maddie said with a smile.
“And does Susan know?”
“She does, but Emma knows nothing of the – hidden side of the business, so discretion was already required. Besides, we’re considering a more permanent attachment now that the ridiculous Proposition 8 has been repealed.”
“Oh really? So I may have another ceremony to attend at some point? I’m sure even Sandy would come out for that one.”
The Richmond Mansion
John looked at Sandy as she paced the floor, looking through the lists and sheets of paper in her hands.
"Do you have all the arrival times John?"
she finally asked.
"Yes,” John said, “It's going to be like running
a shuttle service to the airports."
"I know, and I'm sorry, but with friends and
models arriving from all over the world…"
Relax, Sandy, it’s all in hand."
"Remember the Ordford's are staying with the
McNally's, and that Lily and Candace are at the Plaza, the rest will just have
to tell you where they are staying."
"Sorry if I'm stressing John, but this is a big
period coming up."
John smiled as he said "I remember driving you to
your ball Miss Sandy."
"Oh Goddess I was a mess," Sandy remembered.
"You looked beautiful though."
"Well thank you John."
"She still is beautiful." Heather came in from doing the school run. “Is she giving you a hard time?”
“Not so far, Heather – but it is early days yet.”
"Oh and I forgot Uncle Alex gets back from France
as well…" Sandy looked panicked again. "Did I?"
"His flight is on my list."
"No more coffee for you this morning lover." Heather spoke, "You are hyped up enough already."
“Oh, and what are you suggesting instead?”
“A cup of herbal tea and a lie down – with me if necessary.”
“And on that note,” John said as he smiled and went to do the first collection.
“Come here,” Heather said as she started to massage Sandy’s shoulders, “Get that tension out of you, and think this thought.”
“Abby next year – can you imagine how tense Diana is going to get?”
1013 6th Avenue
“I’m telling you Jan, this is pushing it…”
“I agree, Adam, this is uncomfortable…”
"What are you both complaining about?" Janice smiled at Charlotte as the two men dressed in the changing rooms.
"Having to get myself prettied up like this." Adam complained.
"I'll quite happily wear white tie and tails if you wear the gown." Jan laughed.
"So how do you look Piet?" Charlotte asked.
"Soos 'n verdomde aap."
"Oh come on it can't be that bad?"
"Come out both of you and let us see." Janice asked.
The curtains went back as Adam and Piet stepped out, pulling down the cuffs on their jackets as they looked at each other.
"Oh wow!" Charlotte whispered as Piet emerged. "You look incredible man."
"I feel like an idiot."
"Oh Adam…" Jan called.
"Well do I pass inspection? Because if truth be told, I feel like an extra in a Fred Astaire movie." Adam looked in the mirror and turned from side to side.
"You both look like elegance personified." Charlotte said as she adjusted Piet's tie.
"Well?" the hire shop assistant asked.
"I think these will do nicely." Jan smiled at him.
“Piet will require two shirts and ties,” Charlotte said.
“You think this is bad,” Adam smiled, “you haven’t seen what’s coming next?”
“And what is that?”
“Shoes,” Adam said as he started singing “I’m… putting on my top hat…”
Friday 30th January
John Hammond’s Apartment
“How on earth am I meant to equal that,” John muttered to himself as he sat on a seat, looking through the books that were laid out before him. He didn’t look up at the soft footfall on the spiral staircase.
"Are you working John?" Shirley asked as she came down from the bedroom.
"Oh just looking at some books of old fashion photos, I made coffee and ordered in some pastries."
was considerate, I'm famished." Shirley smiled and stretched her arms up.
you worked hard last night…"
giggled. "So what are you looking at precisely?" She sat on the arm
of his chair and glanced at the books.
the Dior and other fifties outfits were originally photographed, trying to
think if I could recreate the style and glamour."
are beautiful." Shirley flipped a couple of pages.
know, I see work like this and I feel a little inadequate."
you are being modest." Shirley kissed him.
"How am I supposed to concentrate when you look that lovely Shirley?"
The brunette smiled as she looked at him, and opened the bathrobe she had put on slightly.
“Well, I need to head to the office later, so I can remove the distraction – for a little while,” she purred before they kissed, gently, lovingly.
“Although I am sore tempted to call in sick today…”
“Somehow, Shirley, I cannot believe you have ever called in sick in your life.”
“True – and I do have to attend this meeting,” she said as the apartment intercom went off. John stood up and walked over to the door, taking the box from the delivery boy before they headed to the kitchen.
“They smell nice,” Shirley said as he poured the coffee.
“So does that,” John said as they sat down. “So what is on your agenda for today?”
“I need to review the plans for our new London offices,” Shirley said as John put his arms round her neck, “and then I need to call Penny, make sure everything is all right with her new house.”
“You really do care about your staff, don’t you?”
“They work for me and are loyal to me – and I care about them, yes,” Shirley said as she sipped her coffee.
“Good – you should always care about the people you deal with. When I was an Army officer, you did what the men had to do, and you got their respect that way.”
“Indeed – I have much the same philosophy in people management.”
“I believe Caroline counts you as one of her clients as well.”
“That’s right,” Shirley said with a smile, “she has worked for me as a consultant for some time now. Some of the people I do business with find the feminine touch on security reassuring – and she is very skilled at her work.”
“Well, I’m glad she had people like you to help her - I still see the teenager in awe of her mother sometimes.”
Shirley smiled and kissed John. “You’re really just a mother hen aren’t you? I have to go and shower – can you call a cab for me?”
“Sure,” John said as he watched her walk up the stairs again.
NY Offices of Xavier Holdings
“Good morning Susan,” Madame said as she came into the office, “and what do…”
She stopped as she saw Susan, Lily, Maddie and Dom standing there, arms folded as they looked at her.
“Standard Operating Procedure one, Madame,” Dominique said, “if for any reason you are uncontactable, the senior staff will meet to consider options and ascertain your last known location.”
“Fortunately,” Susan said, “we knew your last known location – because your handbag tracker told us.”
“Which leaves only one question we need answering,” Lily said with a smile.
“How was it?”
“It was a very personal, warm and intimate experience, Madeline,” Madame said as she sat down, “and how was your evening with Emma?”
“Also a very personal, warm and intimate experience,” Maddie said, “and I intend to return to continue that experience, now that I know you are safe.”
“All right, all right – I should have notified the office, but – well…”
“Say no more,” Susan said quietly, “I look forward to meeting this paragon of manhood tomorrow. You have a lunch appointment with Lady Ordford and Juliette today, so let’s get on with the briefing, shall we?”
94 Rivington Street
“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” Kelly said to herself as she walked into the normal looking store.
As she passed through the doors, she looked round, feeling a little more confident at the tidy, clean way things were presented.
“Good morning, madam,” a young assistant said as she came up, “how may I help you?”
“Well,” Kelly said as she looked round, “it is rather a delicate matter.”
“Do not worry, madam, we pride ourselves on our discretion and customer service. Would you feel more comfortable if you had a private consultation and a coffee?”
“You can do that?”
“Certainly – come this way please,” she said as she led Kelly to a side room, and left her there for a moment, returning with a coffee.
“Celine will be with you shortly,” she said as she closed the door, Kelly sitting back and looking round.
“Good morning – how can I help you today?”
She looked round as a woman in her early twenties, dressed in a white blouse and black leather skirt, came in and sat opposite her.
“Well,” Kelly said quietly, “you were recommended to me by Elaine Harkness.”
“Ah,” Celine said with a smile, “and what does the delightful Miss Harkness wish us to supply you with.”
“Well, I and some others are, shall we say, taking over management of her establishment for a charity event, and we need certain particular supplies. However, it must be charged to her account, and my name must not be used.”
“Of course – so what do you have in mind?”
“Well, here is a list,” Kelly said as she handed over a sheet of paper. Celine looked at it, and said, “We can supply this, but some items require a personal choice. Come with me please?”
She opened the door and took Kelly into the back of the shop, past rows of vibrators and other items, and to a wall, which had, a variety of whips hanging on the wall. Taking one down, she handed it to Kelly and said “Hold this, tell me how it feels in your hand.”
Kelly tried to put the absurdity of a woman dressed in a floral print dress and cream jacket over it holding a leather whip, as she held the stock in her hand.
“It feels a little heavy,” she said, Celine nodding as she took the whip back and handed her a different one.
“Oh that does feel better,” Kelly said as she let the thong play out, and then cracked the whip, the sound making others turn round and look.
“I see you have used these before,” Celine said with a smile.
“A long time ago – but I think this would be suitable for my needs,” Kelly said quietly.
“Excellent – now, about the cuffs. This way please…”
As they walked off, a young blonde haired woman looked round the corner, and quickly took her purchases to the counter.
“Thank you, Annabelle,” the clerk said as the blonde paid and then headed out, walking quickly away before her mother had a chance to realise she was in there…
“These will be delivered and charged as requested,” Celine said, “and these are your personal purchases.”
“Thank you,” Kelly said as she handed the cash over, and then headed out, hoping nobody had seen her…
The Waldorf Hotel
“There she is,” Mandy said as she looked across the restaurant, smiling as Shirley walked towards them.
“Sorry I’m late – my meeting ran over,” she said as she came up to the table. “So what have I missed?”
“Oh not much – just catching up on news,” Juliette said with a smile.
“Oh – what news?”
“So I heard you spent the night at John’s place Shirley.” Mandy smiled as she sat down.
“How the hell…?”
“Caroline phoned Annie, Annie phoned Heather, Heather phoned Diana, and Diana phoned me…” Juliette recited.
“And you phoned Mandy?”
“No, no - she told me just before you arrived.”
Shirley looked up to the ceiling and said, “Is there no such thing as a secret?”
“With a group of women like ours?” Juliette laughed.
“Silly question…and yes I spent the night with John and it was wonderful, he’s tender, loving, skilled, and to someone as out of practice as I was till last night, amazingly wonderful to have in my life.”
“Now I’m jealous.’ Juliette looked happy.
“You have your prince darling.”
“But what about me, I only have the pig man?” Mandy laughed.
“I’ll tell Will you said that.” Shirley joined in the laughter.
“So how are the preparations for tomorrow going Ju,” Mandy said as the waiter poured wine.
“I think we’re ready – but it’s worse than a fashion show. This is much more in the line of Diana and Sandy than me.”
“The proud daddy,” Juliette said. “He and Alex are going to be their escorts for the father and daughter dance.”
“And who will be Ingrid’s partner for the White Ladies waltz?”
“Gert von Brudel, the son of the cultural attaché at the German embassy. Twenty years old, and an accomplished dancer – as well as affianced to a German princess, so family wise very safe.”
“Let me guess – Klaus picked him.”
“No, Sigi did.”
“Oh yes – I’d heard she was at the wedding last week. I also heard something else about you and Klaus that happened?”
“Not from me,” Shirley said as Juliette looked at her.
“Well, let’s just say we continued to rebuild our relationship,” Juliette said as she blushed.
“God, I’m definitely missing out on something here,” Mandy said as she shook her head. “So I hear you’re taking a table as well Shirley?”
“I am – Caroline, Susan, Lily, Maddie and Charlotte will be joining me. I understand Janice and Adam are joining you Juliette?”
“That’s right - along with Mandy, Rachel and others.”
“So who is coming with the single ladies in your group, Shirley?”
“Well, Charlotte is bringing her friend Piet, the journalist, and Lily will be accompanied by her Uncle George. I know who is coming with Maddie, but Caroline is remaining very tight lipped as to her partner.”
Juliette and Shirley both looked at Mandy as she sipped her wine.
“Do you know something we don’t Lady Ordford?”
“Oh no – I’m saying nothing,” Mandy said with a smile, “I want to see if I am right first.”
“Not a one,” Mandy said as the waiter returned. “Now, what are we having to eat?”
Saturday 31st January
The Huntingdown Apartment
“See, Judith – Aunt Mary is here to say hello as well.”
“And good afternoon to you as well, young lady,” Mary Thomas said as she shook Judith’s finger, the young girl smiling at her from her high chair. “I’m here to make your mummy even more beautiful than she already is!”
“And not just her,” Juliette said as she came in. “Maybe she’ll make you look good as well?”
“She doesn’t need my help – the innocence of youth makes her beautiful,” Mary said as her assistants brought in boxes. “Where’s Ingrid?”
“Right here,” her sister said as she came in. “I hope I’m not too late?”
“Nope, right on time,” Juliette said. “Where’s your father?”
“He said, and I quote, he and Alex are staying well out of the way until it is time to take us.”
“Quite right do,” Sigi said as she came in. “I sent Dieter to join them. Now, let’s get down to business!”
“All right then – Jean, set up the make up tables. Gwen, hang the gowns and get the hairdressers ready. And you three – eat. Last chance until you get there.”
“Yes, Boss,” all three said as they looked at her.
“Well, I think we’re ready now,” Mary said as she stood back.
“Hmm – I think so too,” Sigi said as she looked at them, all three women wearing robes.
“Have you tried your curtsey in the dress Cari?” Juliette asked.
“You mean this?” Cari went down in the deep formal movement, balancing in her high heels and then looking up and smiling.
“Judy and I have been practicing for weeks, it’s where I’m glad I used to do gymnastics.”
“How is Ingrid’s?”
“She gets even lower, how I don’t know, but she looks like a swan.”
“Can you still do this Sigi?” Carina bobbed again.
“You mean like this?” Sigrid gracefully did the curtsey. “I think once you learn it you never forget.”
“You know I watch that and suddenly I am just so glad I’m a working class girl from the valleys.” Mary smiled, “My body was just never designed to move that way.”
“I could teach you Mary.” Sigrid offered.
“Uhh no thanks, at my age my body is quite happy not knowing how to bend like that.”
“Leave the poor woman alone, Aunt Sigi,” Ingrid said as she came in. “When do the escorts arrive?”
“Any minute,” Sigi said as she looked at her watch, the silver band over her opera glove. “Go and prepare yourselves ladies – your partners will be here soon.”
Thirty minutes later, Carina walked in, adjusting her white opera gloves as she looked at herself in the mirror. Her strapless gown was gathered to her waist, and then the white silk flowed to the floor.
“Stunning,” Ingrid said as she stood in the doorway, her own gown covering her shoulders as her gloves came to the capped sleeves.
“So are you, Your Highness,” Carina said as she curtseyed again.
“I presume tonight you are Carina?”
“I am indeed – I can’t get away with it in two weeks but I can tonight.”
“By the Goddess, you look fantastic!”
“Oh my Goddess you look amazing Annie.” Carina stood looking admiringly at her girlfriend in her deep green fishtail evening dress.
“I hope I do,” Annie said as she smiled, “this cost me a month’s salary.”
“Well you can afford it.” Cari winked.
“Your Mom said she could lend me a coat that’s more appropriate then my old parka.”
“It’s in the drawing room. Klaus and Alex should have arrived by now anyway.”
The trip walked into the drawing room, where Juliette was sat, wearing a long red evening dress.
“Hey.” Juliette stood up as the girls entered.
“Annie, you look beautiful.” Mary smiled.
“Uncle Dieter, Aunt Sigrid, this is my friend Annie, she used to teach me at St Angela’s.”
“And now she is your girlfriend.” Sigrid smiled.
“Oh!” Annie blushed.
“How did you…?” Carina blushed as well.
“Ingrid worked it out, and anyway that look on both your faces as you came in said everything about your love.”
Mary looked at Juliette, who shrugged her shoulders and said “surprise, Mary?”
“What is a surprise?”
Klaus and Alex came into the room, white ties neatly tied and tails brushed.
“That you still brush up so well, Father Alex,” Mary said as she poured some champagne and handed it round.
“Your mom looks wonderful doesn’t she,” Jeanne said as she waved Judith’s hand at them.
“A toast,” Klaus said with a smile, “to the two most beautiful women in the room – Ingrid and Carina.”
“I thought New Year’s Eve was bad enough,” George said as he ran his finger under his wing collar.
“Uncle George, you look positively regal,” Lily said as she adjusted the sleeves of her dark blue gown. “Let’s go and join the others.”
As they walked down the corridor, they heard a familiar voice saying “All right Aunt, I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Bye.”
“How’s your Mum doing Susan?” Lily asked as she and her uncle came into the kitchen.
“It sounds rough, but Aunt Maeve says she’s trying really ‘ard.”
“You ring home and suddenly the letter H disappears babe.” Clint smiled.
“I know, I guess I’m just still a cockney.” Susan was wearing an empire line gold dress, while Clint had also worn tails for the evening.
“How long has your Mum had the drink problem Susan?” George asked.
“Most of my life, she started though when me dad did a runner when she told ‘im she was up the spout.”
“Have you ever met him?” Lily asked.
“Twice, and boaf times ‘e tried to get me give ‘im some money to pay ‘is gamblin’ debts.’’ Susan paused, “’e ‘ad a couple of uvver kids with uvver wimmin, a bleedin’ waste of space you ask me.”
“Talk like that tonight I’ll have to translate.” Lily giggled. “And I thought my accent was strong.”
“Sorry.” Susan closed her eyes to try and calm down. “In Hertford, Hereford, and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly happen.”
“That’s a good exercise Susan.” George smiled.
“Can you pour the drinks while I go redo my face Clint?”
“Hurry Up, the car should be here to pick us up soon.” Lily looked at George’s watch.
“Okay.” Susan went to the restroom as the party walked into the drawing room. Maddie and Emma were sitting in the chairs, Maddie in a long grey silk dress, and Emma in a gold dress.
Shirley was standing by the fireplace, her black gown enhancing her body as she smiled at the others.
“Sorry about that,” Susan said as she came back in, “Emma, you look stunning tonight.”
“Susan looks a little out of it, what’s wrong?” Madame whispered to Lily.
“She phoned her aunt to see how her Mum is doing at the addiction place, it sounds like she’s doing it the hard way. I think Susan is concerned for her Mum.”
“Yeah, Susan deep down I think really loves her mother.”
“Oh I know she does.”
“And what are you two whispering about?” John and George arrived back from the bar, carrying the drinks.
“Oh just gossip.” Shirley smiled. “So where is Caroline?”
“Right here,” the tall blonde said as she came in. On her arm was a tall well built man, immaculately dressed with short dark hair.
“Dominic,” John said, “I see you accepted the invitation.”
“How could I refuse,” he said with a smile.
“Folks, this is Dominic Court, a fellow model. Dominic, you know John, but this is Shirley, Maddie, Susan and Lily, with Emma, Clint and George.”
“Nice choice,” Lily said as Clint started to talk to Dominic,
“I thought so – Annie is going with Carina,” Caroline said with a smile.
“OH forgive me,” Maisha said as she came in, wearing a jumper over her blue dress, “I just came to say I am taking a taxi to Ama’s for the evening.”
“She’s expecting you, have fun,” Caroline said as she went out, allowing Charlotte and Piet to come in.
“Sorry we’re late – I had to make a call,” the young redhead said as she removed her fur coat. “Piet, this is John Hammond, and – and who is this?”
“Dominic Court – very pleased to meet you sir. I saw the presentation at the Press Guild dinner last night.”
“Do not remind me – I have never been so nervous,” Piet said with a smile.
“The cars are here,” Shirley said as she put the telephone down. “Shall we?”
The Huntingdown Apartment
how does Yale think about the time away doing your debutante things?"
Dieter asked his niece.
not sure they like it, but there are enough of us coming out in various cities,
that they have to just grin and bare it."
European universities try and be accommodating too."
still think Ingrid had the best idea though taking a year off to get this all
out of the way."
did that as well." Sigi came into the kitchen in her gown.
Sigi that dress is to die for…" Carina's jaw dropped at the silver and
pale blue halter neck dress that showed Sigi's figure off to perfection.
it?" Sigi did a twirl.
love it," Dieter smiled, "But how much did it cost me?"
between Ouch, and Oh My God!"
“John’s here,” Juliette said as she came in. “Wraps on girls. Carina, let me fix that.”
She adjusted the tiara on her daughter’s carefully coiffure hair, and then the emerald necklace that hung round her neck.
“Wonderful,” she said as Klaus came in, his medals on his sash.
“Shall we,” he said as he escorted the ladies out, Janine smiling as they went.
“Miss Carina, Your Highness,” John said as he held the door of the limousine open for both girls, and then the others, before closing it and moving to the driver’s seat.
“My goodness,” Annie said as John joined the line of cars waiting to deposit their passengers, “I never knew, never expected…”
“This is one of the premier social events of the year, Annie,” Juliette said, “so a few people do tend to stop and watch.”
“But the television crews?”
“Oh that’s just part of the fun,” Carina said as they looked down the road, the sandstone exterior of the Pierre lit with bright lights and a red carpet laid out on the pavement.
At the side of the carpet, Jeanne Beckmann was reporting for the Fashion Channel.
“So who do we have arriving next to the Debutante Ball,” she said as John pulled up and opened the door. “Ladies and Gentlemen, I see we have two of the most talked about debutantes of the year, Carina Huntingdown and Ingrid von Furstenheim, accompanied by Juliette Huntingdown and Prince Klaus von Furstenheim. Ladies, do you have a moment to speak to us?”
“Of course, Jeanne,” Juliette said as she stopped with Carina and Ingrid.
“Carina, how does it fell to be one of the debutantes this year?”
“Excited and terrified at the same time Jeanne.”
“Juliette, how does it feel to see your daughter here?”
“Old, but Father Alex Richmond has made me feel young by agreeing to present Carina tonight.”
“The rumour mill has you and Carina attending the Vienna Ball in two weeks. Any truth to that?”
“No comment Jeanne,” she said as Sigi and Dieter slipped in with Annie, the cheering crowds focusing on Carina and Ingrid as they posed for photographs.
“If I may have a moment, your highness?”
“Of course Miss Beckmann, how may I be of service?”
“Any comment on the gossip reports on you and Juliette Huntingdown?”
“We are old friends getting to know each other again, Miss Beckmann, and that is all,” Klaus said as he waved and escorted Ingrid inside.
“So there you have it – old friends, or something more? Arriving now, the toast of New York Society at the moment, Shirley Xavier, accompanied by world famous fashion photographer John Hammond.”
“How crazy was that,” Sigi said as they met in the hotel lobby.
“Tell me about it,” Annie said as she looked round.
“First part over,” Juliette said, “now to the next part.” She handed the invites to a liveried doorman, who directed them to the reception hall.
The Cotillion room was slowly filling with the guests, the ladies in white nervously talking to each other.
“Hey,” Judy said as she walked in, wearing a new white ball gown with a diamond tiara and necklace, “we’re finally here.”
“Tell me about it,” Ingrid said as she looked at some of the others, George and Rachel greeting their parents.
and I have agreed we'll call you both Father tonight, it's technically
right." Carina said as she nervously rebuttoned her kid gloves.
do we go on?" Ingrid asked.
minutes." Alex glanced at his watch, "Remember walk in, hit your
mark, do your curtsey and take your place in the line."
SMILE!" Klaus reminded them.
They watched as Judy made her way further towards the door.
be fine once we get the whole presentation thing out of the way." Carina
tried smiling. "I enjoy dancing."
we have to go last I do not know." Ingrid looked at the line in front of
I'd rather be up the front with Judy as well." Cari nodded.
"It's because of your title." Alex reminded the girls.
"I'm not a princess." Cari looked exasperated.
"The world thinks you are darling, so get used to it," her father tried calming her.
“Ladies, it is time to take your place.”
They looked at Vanessa, resplendent in her green velvet gown, and nodded as they joined the line.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” the toastmaster called out, “Please would you begin to make your entry into the ballroom, and be greeted by our debutantes for tonight.”
The room started somehow to form from a scattered and large group into a line, each of them being greeted as they shook hands with the line.
“Time to don the gloves,” Klaus whispered as he retrieved a pair of white gloves from his jacket pocket, Alex nodding as he did likewise.
“Thank you for coming, thank you for coming,” Carina said as she stood next to Ingrid, Holly next to her.
“How many more,” Holly whispered from the corner of her mouth.
“Who knows,” Carina whispered back as Annie came past, beaming as she shook Carina’s hand and then moved in.
“Susan, Clint, how wonderful to see you again,” Carina said as she hugged and kissed both of them.
“Congratulations,” Clint said as they moved on, and Carina hugged Lily.
“May I present my uncle George,” Lily said as George kissed Carina’s hand. “Uncle this is Carina Huntingdown – or is it Princess Carina now?”
“Not tonight – please not tonight,” Carina whispered as they moved on, and she greeted Diana.
“You remember Alain,” she said as Carina greeted her brother, “he has kindly agreed to act as my escort tonight.”
“A pleasure to see you again, Carina,” he said as they hugged, and then they moved on.
“And who is this hunk Caroline,” Carina said as she hugged her friend.
“Dominic is a colleague,” she said with a smile as she shook his hand, and then that of Piet.
“So this is the mysterious Piet,” Carina said to Charlotte, “A pleasure to finally see you.”
“A special night for you – congratulations,” he said, as John embraced and kissed Carina on both cheeks.
“Congratulations darling,” he said, Shirley saying the same as she kissed her on both cheeks.
“Your Highness,” she said as others had done, giving a small curtsey, “an honour to meet you.”
“The honour is mine,” Ingrid said as Sigi and Dieter came past, and then Juliette.
“I’ll see you inside,” she said with a smile, “good luck.”
And as the last few entered, leaving the fathers behind, Vanessa came forward and said “ladies, the press require their group shots before the presentation begins.”
for a moment stood mesmerized as she entered the large cavern of the ballroom.
For a second she paused and thought trying to take everything in, the scene
like that from a romantic novel, the women in their long evening dresses, the
men in white tie and tails, it was a mile away from anything she'd ever
like a beehive isn't it?" Shirley whispered in her ear, as Lily became
aware of the buzz of a hundred different conversations all going on at once.
"Best foot forward lass, you've paid your money to be here, just like anyone else." Uncle George spoke.
They walked across the floor as Lily continued to look around, Shirley stopping to talk to a few people as George escorted her to their table.
“I know how you feel,” Susan said as Clint held her seat out for her, “it’s a mite overwhelming.”
“Just tell me what a Lancashire lass and a North London girl are doing here,” Lily whispered.
“Being the two most beautiful women in our eyes – no offence John.”
“None taken Clint – so long as you remember who the real stars of tonight are.”
“Please let this be over soon,” Judy said as she and Holly took their position, Carina joining those sitting on the floor as the assistants sorted the girls out.
“All right – smile at the camera and say Cheese!”
The smiles would blind a toothpaste commercial, as the photo was taken and he said “great – see you girls inside.”
“Ladies and escorts, line up please,” Vanessa said, Klaus taking Ingrid by the arm as Alex offered Carina his.
“Deep breaths,” Alex whispered as the door opened, and the toastmaster called out “Ladies and Gentlemen, Honoured Guests, please welcome the Debutantes of 2014.
“Officer Cadet Miranda Jones accompanied by her father Captain Ronald Jones!”
Miranda stepped out in her white dress, her arm in her father’s as the room applauded.
One by one they moved on, Bobbi Morse looking back and giving them a thumbs up as she stepped out with Tom to the call of “Miss Roberta Morse, accompanied by Deputy Mayor Thomas Morse.”
“Miss Blair van Roon accompanied by her uncle, Augustus van Roon.”
Carina smiled as she heard the whoop from inside the ballroom – Pussy and Frieda were here, as were her sister and her husband.
“Miss Holly Berryman accompanied by her father, Doctor James Berryman.”
“Soon your turn,” Alex said with a smile as Holly stepped out.
“Alex, I’m shaking – I’m not sure I can do this.”
“Yes you can, Carina,” Alex said quietly.
“But I’m going to flunk – I’ll slip and break my neck when I do that damn curtsey.”
“Contessa Giovanna Frascolli accompanied by her father Count Vincenzo Frascolli.”
“See you in there,” Giovanna said as her father escorted her in, and Ingrid took a deep breath.
“You’ve done it hundreds of times, Carina.”
“Not in front of a crowd.”
“Just think of it as a modelling job – a rehearsal for the Dior show. Remember where to stop, where to smile, and you’ll be fine.
“Only you in front of me now,” she whispered to Carina, who nodded, silently praying “please please please please…”
“Her Serene Highness Princess Carina Diana Huntingdown von Furstenheim, accompanied by her godfather, Father Alexander Richmond.”
“And left foot, right foot,” Alex said as they stepped out into the silent ballroom, the cameras flashing as they entered.
Carina made her entrance on Alex's arm she was instantly aware of the applause,
of the whispers of approval from the sides of the room, of the seemingly
booming voice of the master of ceremonies.
She looked at the line of other debutantes, exchanging smiles with Judy and Bobbi, admiring how beautiful her friends looked in their white dresses. She saw the way their jewellery was reflected in the light from the crystal chandeliers – amethyst, diamond, ruby, emerald and silver all dazzling in the glare.
The Richmond Emeralds glistened in the light, reflecting on her own skin as they walked down.
“Still scared?” Alex whispered.
“Oh yes,” Carina said as she smiled.
They stopped in front of the guests of honour, and as Alex took her hand she executed a perfect curtsey, Alex smiling as he stepped to the side and she joined the line to applause from around the room.
“Her Serene Highness Princess Ingrid von Furstenheim accompanied by her father, his Serene Highness Prince Klaus Friedrich von Furstenheim.”
Ingrid walked in, beaming as Klaus walked down, one hand behind his back before he held Ingrid’s in his other, and she curtseyed, Klaus joining Alex as she joined the line of debutantes.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we are honoured to present these fine young ladies here tonight to you!”
Carina and the others smiled as the room burst into a huge round of applause.
“And now, we introduce your escorts for the evening.”
One by one they came forward, Carina smiling as she heard “Lord David Fitzstuart accompanying Miss Judith McNally.”
Eventually, she smiled at the sound of “Mister Jack Stonemeyer accompanying her Serene Highness the Princess Carina Huntingdown von Furstenheim.”
“For you,” Jack said as he handed a bunch of red roses to Carina, and then offered his hand, taking her back over to where Juliette and the others were sitting at the table.
"Well that's all the fuss out of the way." Juliette smiled, "Now you get to enjoy it."
She handed Carina a glass of champagne,
“Never has this been more welcome,” she said as she slowly sipped the drink, “or more delicious.”
believe by tradition I get the first dance." Jack Stonemeyer bowed
"You do indeed Jack." Cari stood up and allowed him to lead her onto the floor.
“May I say you look absolutely divine, Carina?”
“So do you – where is he?”
“At the table,” he said as he assumed the position, and the band started to play.
relaxed in Jack's arms, she was a good dancer, but he was an excellent one, and
his dancing made hers look better then it was as they whirled and twirled round
the floor, his hand in the regulation place in the small of her back, at least
with Jack she knew there would be no surprise advances.
Ingrid she could spot with her escort doing a regulation Viennese waltz, it being instantly obvious that while he could dance adequately, her escort was not as good as Jack. Judy and David just looked so happy - neither claimed to be a great dancer, but they were obviously having so much fun, and were so in love.
From the sidelines, Shirley smiled as she watched the young couples.
Mum could see me here." Susan shook her head, "She'd never believe
parents either." Lily laughed.
you imagine the wealth represented in this room?" Susan asked.
"I'm just amazed that there are so few snobs." Lily sipped her champagne.
“Truth to tell,” John said as he looked at them, “snobbery doesn’t really have a place in NY society. Surely the Sinners has taught you that much.”
“True,” Susan said, “but Lily is on the fringes of that group.”
“Not anymore,” Caroline said, “as of now, she and George have joined the Saints and Sinners.”
“Which explains the glances from the other tables,” Charlotte said as she looked round the room.
can't get that woman in the ladies who I was chatting with out of my
mind." Maddie smiled, "the look of respect on her face when I said I
was here to support Carina, and that 'Oh you're a sinner?' - really it was
"We do seem to be flavour of the month." Shirley smiled. "And if I'm being honest I'm just happy when I realize I'm at an event like this and I know so many people."
emeralds Carina is wearing are magnificent," Caroline assessed them with a
are on loan from Vanessa Richmond." George answered her.
know, there was a time I'd have been tempted…"
"No friends or family, you know the rules." George laughed.
“And I would not anyway,” Caroline said with a smile.
As the music ended, the ladies curtseyed and the escorts bowed, the ballroom applauding as they were escorted back to their tables.
“Thank you Jack,” Carina said, “perhaps we can dance again later?”
“If you have a hole in your dance card, I would be honoured,” Jack said, “but if you will excuse me, my own partner will be waiting for me.”
“Thank you,” Carina said as she kissed his cheek and sat down.
“Do not get too comfortable,” Alex said with a smile, “the Father’s dance is soon.”
“Can I rest my feet first,” Carina said as she stretched her legs out, only to smile as Annie slipped her foot under her leg.
“Well in that case,” Klaus said as he stood, “I claim the honour of the next dance with Juliette.”
“How can I refuse such a gracious offer,” Juliette said as she took his hand, and they headed to the floor.
“I’m telling you, they’re coming closer,” Sigi said to Ingrid before she took her husband’s hand.
“Countess de Ros, may I have the honour,” Alex said as he offered Diana his hand, smiling as she joined him.
“Well, if they are dancing, then why should not we,” John said as he stood and took Shirley’s hand, Clint taking Susan up as George looked at Lily.
“Don’t worry, you don’t have to if you don’t want to,” she said with a smile.
“Actually, I was going to ask Madeline – if Emma will allow me?”
“Of course,” Emma said as George took Maddie onto the dance floor.
“An interesting group of work colleagues you have, Charlotte,” Piet said, “at ease in the business and the social world.”
“Oh yes, now they are,” Charlotte said with a smile.
Juliette twirled in Klaus' arms, enjoying the moment,
allowing herself to maybe think about a future.
"What is going through that beautiful head?"
he whispered as they danced close.
"Oh just how lovely this all is, and that Carina
got to share it with you."
"What do you think she and Annie are whispering
about so intently?" Klaus glanced at the table.
"The realization that so many people know about
their affair." Ju paused. "Does it worry you that Carina has a girlfriend
not a boyfriend?"
"I'm not my father Juliette…If Carina is a
lesbian, I'm glad she has a lovely girl like Annie in her life. If at a later
date she meets a boy I'll be equally glad."
"But you won't freak out if this becomes a
permanent thing like Sandy and Heather."
"I'm not going to lock my daughter in the dungeon if that's what you mean?" Klaus laughed. “I told you, Juliette, I am not going to stand in one daughter’s way – and I must treat both equally, no?”
Tom Morse turned and stood to shake the hand of the man standing beside him.
“Albert – I understand you got the nomination?”
“I did – I expect a good fight to the polling booth.”
“And I expect a good concession speech – one of your finest. May I introduce my wife Clare, and my daughters Roberta and Rebecca. This is Albert Brooks, Republican candidate for the House seat.”
“A pleasure,” Albert said as he shook their hands, looking at Becky for a moment. “Have we met?”
“I don’t think so no – I’m only allowed here to support my sister,” Becky said. She was wearing a short-sleeved yellow dress gathered round the waist, and short white gloves.
“My mistake,” Albert said. “Good luck, Tom.”
“You too, Albert” Tom said as the other man walked away.
Carina had been to balls before, but she had always
been one of the horde of young girls round the fringe, now she was in the
position of being one of the stars of the show. It felt slightly uncomfortable,
like watching herself on television or looking at her own picture in magazines,
she and The Beast both felt exposed and vulnerable with so many people looking
at them. Consciously Carina tried to relax and make Smalltalk, telling herself
to enjoy this, and to remember it would soon be over.
She glanced at Annie sitting at the far end of her
parents table, her back to the wall, trying to look as she was enjoying
herself. Something was different with Annie tonight, she wasn't as light
hearted as usual, and Carina was hoping and praying this was not a signal of
some impending bad news.
Ingrid passed her dancing with Uncle Dieter, leaning back as he held her in the strict fashion of the Viennese waltz, letting him lead and guide her through the other dancing couples. Inwardly Carina smiled, she loved having a sister to share this with, the one pity was Abigail not being here, but Missy booked her models with an eye towards to the fashion industries needs, not the social calendar.
She looked round, the white of her fellow debutantes’ dresses reflecting the light as well, but not just them. She looked at Shirley as she danced with George, her dress glistening as the light reflected on the sequins, and on the diamond bracelet on her gloved wrist.
And then there was her own mother, smiling as she crossed the floor with Will, her dress shimmering gold and green as they turned. So many colours in the room, and yet the stars in white shone the brightest.
Except for the one in green at the table, the one she wanted to embrace most of all.
“Carina, may I have the honour of this dance?”
“Of course you may Tommy,” Carina said as she was led onto the dance floor, Annie smiling as she watched them.
"It must hurt seeing Carina out there and you
can't take her in your arms and dance with her yourself Annie." Alex
smiled at the teacher.
"Does everyone know?"
"That you are a couple…I'd guess pretty
"We said we'd keep it easy and casual, but I'm falling deeper in love every day." Annie looked at Alex and said, “Do you think she knows?”
“How you feel? If I may make a suggestion,” Alex said as he sipped his wine, “talk to Sandy and Heather, and get their advice. They are the ones you need to talk to, not the likes of me.”
“Thank you for the advice Alex,” Annie said.
“And if I may offer one more piece?”
“Be careful and honest with your younger charges as well.”
Annie looked at him, as he continued “In my experience, it is rumours that cause most damage. Be open and honest, and the rumours cannot start.”
Sipping his wine again, Alex then said, “I believe someone is coming to ask you to dance.”
"There's someone I need to ask for a dance."
David excused himself from the McNally family.
David Fitzstuart's suit was old, inherited from his uncle, his manners were old world, and his calm, comforting demeanor made him seem older then he was. He looked very much at home in this world of old dances and old rituals. Where some of the American men looked uncomfortable in their costumes, nervously fingering their collars, David looked just right, laughing, smiling, attentive in particular to Judy, but also laughing and sharing the experience with everyone else, his eyes looking for those who felt out of things, trying to draw them into the conversation, trying to help no one feel lonely or excluded.
"Where has David gone Jude?"
"I think he's gone to ask Carina…no he's asking
"My boyfriend has great manners, poor Annie is
sitting there like a wallflower…I should have realized."
"David is a real gentleman." Rachel
"It can't be real fun for her dying to dance with
"She's Cari's girlfriend?" her mother
"I thought you knew?"
"No, so Carina is a lesbian as well?"
"No I think she's bi, but Annie and she are pretty well matched. Bobbi told me weeks ago after Cari told her on the one condition that I never let Cari know I know."
"Did you enjoy your dance?" Sigi smiled as Annie sat down.
"Actually I did, David's a nice boy."
"I think we need to get better acquainted Annie,
especially after seeing how my niece looks at you."
Sigi watched as the young teacher blushed.
"You are truly in love with her aren't you?"
"Have you told her that?"
"Why heavens not?"
"Because we said at the start we'd keep it
casual, and we both were free to date…"
"But you worry that each boy she dances with
might be a rival correct?"
Annie shyly nodded.
"Annie darling, I think we maybe need have lunch
before I return home, you and I have some planning to do."
"Yes, especially if one day you are to become my niece by marriage."
“Marriage?” Annie laughed nervously as she said “That is a long way off…”
"How long has the Lester Lanin Orchestra been
playing these things?" Sandy asked her mother.
"Since they were asked to play at the
Philadelphia Assemblies in the late twenties."
"Even after his death they are still THE
orchestra for balls like this."
Sandy let her mind drift back to her own debutante
year, the vision was almost an exact replica of what was before her eyes, even
most of the girls from her year were here also tonight. Alex winked at his sister and
niece as he danced by with Carina. He looked just as tall, upright, and
impressive as he had the night of her ball. Her one regret in looking back had
been the absence of her father.
Tonight she wanted equally to lead Heather out on to the floor and dance with her, but custom dictated otherwise, and neither of them wished to outrage people too much.
"Why can so many big men dance so
beautifully?" Maddie watched as Piet danced with Charlotte.
"I know." Shirley said as she sat down.
"He's maybe the best dancer I ever danced with."
"Yet he looks like a wild man from the African
"Makes me want to grab a razor." Lily chimed
"John is no slouch on the floor either. Emma and I have both got dances with him."
“Oh I know – but what I do not understand is why Charlotte ever left him?”
“Look at the way she looks at him,” Caroline said.
The four women looked at Charlotte as they waltzed past.
“Hmmm – are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
“She still has a flame for him, I think.”
All four nodded as the music stopped.
"Can I take this as my father-daughter
dance?" Klaus bowed.
"Of course father." Carina giggled as he led
her onto the floor.
"Did Ingrid warn you…."
"She said you only pretend to be bad at the
“Damn – and I thought I was been careful,” he said as the music started, and they moved off.
"Once the presentations were over,
"I've seen you dancing with a lot of boys,” Klaus
said as they moved round, “including Tommy I saw."
"I've come to terms that he's with Holly,” Carina said as she looked at them, “and I'm remembering some of why we were friends while we were kids. I guess I must be getting older."
“Or else as a mother yourself, you are realizing how important it is to be friends with everyone.”
“I suppose so,” Carina said with a smile.
"That's nice." Klaus paused, "I talked to your mother about Annie."
"Oh?" he felt her body tense.
"Don't worry I love Annie and if she's the one
"I love her so much, but she seems troubled, I'm wondering if she's met someone."
Klaus raised an eyebrow as he looked at her daughter. “There is another possibility, of course.”
“And that is?”
He looked at Annie as she sat talking to Caroline and Dominic. “That she feels the same way about you as you do about her, but is afraid you have found someone.”
Carina looked over as they twirled round, before she said “We said we would take it easy leave things open, but now…”
“Now you wonder if you want to make it more formal?”
Carina nodded as she looked at him.
“I can only offer this advice, my child – talk to her.”
John Hammond sipped his champagne and sat back in his
chair slightly. It was nice to rest his feet for a few minutes. He watched
Shirley pass by dancing with Piet, the big South African making dancing look
effortless, making his partner look good while he did so. John had grown up in
a family where the social skills were always taught, and his subsequent career
at Eton, Cambridge, Sandhurst, then the Guards, had given him multiple chances
to hone and polish those skills.
Now he reflected he wasn't quite the young man he'd once been. There had been times he could have easily danced every dance at a ball, now the occasional respite was more than welcome.
“Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety.”
“Shakespeare always had the right word for the right moment,” John said as he looked at Maddie. “You are one of Shirley’s oldest friends, Maddie. Would you answer a question for me.”
“If it is in my power to do so.”
“How has someone so beautiful never found a man to share her life with?”
Maddie smiled. “There was one man, a long time ago – he passed away. I guess you’re the first person since then she has found – comfortable to be with.”
“I won’t enquire any further,” John said. “If she wants to tell me, she will, but I am here for her.”
“Good – she asks no more than that,” Maddie said as Piet escorted Shirley back.
“Ah l’amour, toujours l’amour…”
“You are starting to sound dangerously like our father, Alain,” Diana said as she looked at her brother.
“Do I? I suppose I do,” he said as he sipped his champagne. “But look at the young men and ladies, the love is so plain in some of them.”
He glanced over at Annie, then at Carina as she danced past with Klaus, and smiled to himself.
“Alain, what are you seeing that I am missing?”
“Nothing, sear sister, nothing,” he said with a smile.
“Excuse me, darling, but I believe I shall follow young Lord Fitzstuart’s example and take Annie onto the dance floor.”
Clint kissed Susan before he went up and offered his hand to Annie, as Janice and Adam took to the floor as well.
"So what do you think of Madame's taste in men
Susan?" Lily plumped down next to her friend.
"He's pretty cool."
"Yeah I want the same thing, but twenty years
younger." Lily giggled as she drank her champagne.
"I like he doesn't smother her, but he's
attentive while being so well mannered to all her friends." Susan sipped a
dry ginger. "Oh baby you don't know what sacrifices Mummy is making for
"Well we will back here in a years time for Abby, you can hit the champagne then."
“All being well,” Susan said with a smile as Caroline passed in the arms of Dominic.
“Do you think that is serious as well?”
“As serious as Carina and Annie?”
“Oh – so you noticed as well?”
“My dear,” Emma said, “you would have to be blind not to see it.”
"Ingrid your sister can be so dense." Tommy
whispered as they danced.
"Do you mean about Annie?"
"I know, most of her friends and family are talking about it."
"Poor Annie must be torturing herself watching
Carina dance and laugh with others."
"I thought at one stage she was getting up to leave in tears."
"Emma's right,” Maddie said as she leaned over
the table and smiled. “They are head
over heels about each other, but I'm willing to be they started out with a ‘let’s
be casual, and you can date other people’ pact."
"How can you guess that?" Susan questioned.
"Because we started out the same way." Emma
looked at Maddie, "And I recognize the signs."
"Each of them is petrified they are losing the
other…" Maddie looked across the ballroom as Carina and Annie passed each
"And just as petrified of breaking that original
deal and revealing how much they love each other in case the other one doesn't
reciprocate." Emma finished.
"Were you just discussing what I think you were
discussing?" Heather asked as she walked by.
"Probably." Maddie looked straight at the
"Sandy and I were thinking, that she and I, Pussy
and Frieda, and you guys maybe need to sit those two down and give them the
benefit of our experience."
"An intervention?" Emma asked.
"Yep, before they drive themselves nuts."
"Is it any of our business really?" Maddie
"Father Richmond thinks it might help, and Alex is one opinion I certainly trust." Heather spoke again.
“So if so, when?”
“Let me talk to Diana and Ju,” Heather said, “and we’ll sort it out over supper.”
Susan looked with disgust at the soft drink in her hand, it tasted bland, it was bland, but for babies sake she was taking no chances and behaving herself just as her doctor ordered. She was watching everything, enjoying her friend’s pleasure, loving the colour and spectacle of the occasion. But her mind was thousands of miles away; the phone call to Aunt Maeve was praying on her mind, her aunt's description of the suffering her mother was enduring as she dried out, more then slightly harrowing.
Inwardly Susan was full of admiration for her mother's
courage, she was thankful to Karen Boyd's advice as to the choice of treatment
centre, she knew Karen spoke from personal experience, and she'd listened
intently to her advice.
"Penny for them?" Charlotte sat down beside
her almost unseen.
"Sorry Charlotte I was miles away."
"I could see." She put her hand on Susan’s and said, “I’m sure she’ll be fine, you know. It’s never easy changing something that has been a habit for over half a lifetime.”
“I know – but I wish I could be there with her.”
“It’s getting to the point where you will not be able to,” Charlotte said as she looked at Susan’s stomach.
“I know – but if this works, she’ll be out here with us after that.”
"Can someone go vouch to that barman how old I am
please?" Sigi looked frustrated as she walked over.
"Not again?" Juliette shook her head.
"Sigrid, there are millions upon millions of
women wish they looked younger, but I bet they would never think of this being
a problem." Shirley looked serious.
"This is the third time tonight." Sigi
retrieved her passport from her bag.
"Dieter your wife wants a drink." John
tapped him on the shoulder.
"What?…Oh not again my love." Dieter tried
"It's getting beyond funny."
"Dieter and I will go get more drinks." John
"Good, I'm not sure my temper is up to explaining I'm actually 35 again."
“Will you have this problem in Vienna,” Shirley asked.
“No – the rules are different, thank the lord,” Sigi said as she looked skywards.
As Annie came over and say down, Alain leaned over and whispered to Annie “Endure young lady – the social mores test all of us from time to time.”
“Is it that obvious,” Annie whispered back.
“To some I am sure,” Alain said as Heather leaned over and whispered to Sandy, the two nodding.
“You look fantastic tonight, darling,” Diana said as Klaus returned Carina to the table.
“Thanks Aunt Diana,” Carina said, “bur what I really want to do is let my hair down, and be Cari the party girl, not Princess Carina.”
“It will be Abby next year,” Diana said, “I wonder if she will do as well as you did.”
“Better – she has natural grace.”
“And so do you my dear,” Diana whispered, “just a few inches less in height.”
Carinas burst out laughing as Annie said, “what’s funny?”
“Thinking of what Abby will do next year with Guy leading her out.”
“She will be a real beauty, like you,” Adam said as he returned with Janice,
“This is a world I never thought I would see,” Janice said as the toastmaster came forward.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Supper will be served in thirty minutes. For now, please continue to enjoy the music.”
"So how are things going at the van Roon family
table Puss?" Heather asked.
"Pretty good Tee, she's a better debutante then I
"From what I remember that wasn't hard." Liz
"Well it sounds better then the tension at our
"Between Juliette and Klaus?" Liz asked,
"they seemed fine when we ran into them at the bar."
"No they're good, it's between Carina and
"I wondered if it was, I caught Annie crying in
the powder room a few minutes ago." Pussy looked over at her.
"They are both putting up a front, but we all
think they need an intervention and be made to talk."
"Why? Oh!" Liz caught on, "No wonder then I saw Carina's escort kissing another man."
“So what are you thinking,” Pussy said.
“When Supper is served, we’re going to make room at our table. Join us – and follow my lead.”
"You haven't spilled to Cari have you Jude?"
Bobbi whispered as they sat with their parents.
"That you told me?"
"The answers no, people have worked it out all on their own.”
“So what do we do about it?”
“Nothing – we leave it to the experts.”
“Leave what to the experts,” David said as he came over.
“What do you think?”
“The last waltz?”
Bobbi and Judy started laughing as the dancers went round.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, supper is served.”
As the guests sat down, Heather and Sandy sat with Carina and Annie.
“Enjoying yourself so far, Annie,” Heather said with a smile.
“Yeah – quite a few people have asked me to dance after a slow start,” Annie said with a smile as she looked at Carina, “but this is really Carina’s night, not mine,”
“No, it’s the night for all of us,” Carina said with a smile as Pussy and Frieda walked over.
“You don’t mind if we join you,” Pussy said,” your sister, father, aunt and uncle got talking to Mom and Dad with Blair, so we thought we’d come over and keep you company as we eat.”
“Not at all,” Heather said as they sat down. “You know Annie Kelly of course?”
“We met at Janice’s Halloween party, I believe,” Pussy said as she kissed Annie’s cheek. “How are you?”
“Enjoying the evening,” Annie said with a smile.
“Danced with many,” Frieda said as she sat down.
“Some – but there a few people I would still love to dance with.”
“I can imagine,” Pussy said as Maddie and Emma walked over.
“Forgive us ladies, but Diana and Juliette have decided to sit with Shirley and John to discuss the show next week. Would it be an awful imposition if we asked to join you?”
“Not at all,” Carina said as she looked round, “please, join us Maddie. This is Patricia van Roon and her partner, Frieda.”
“Call me Pussy everyone else does,” Pussy said as she embraced them. “And who is your charming partner?”
“Emma Cromwell, overwhelmed,” Emma said as she shook their hands.
As the starter was set down, Heather turned to Annie and said, “I hope Clint didn’t stand on your feet too much.”
“Hardly at all – he’s surprisingly graceful,” Annie said as she smiled.
“Do you know what one of the worst things about this sort of event is,” Sandy said with a smile.
“No, what? Tell us O font of wisdom,” Carina said as the first course arrived.
“You dress up to the nines, you keep to the rules – curtsey, say the right things, dance with the right people,” Sandy continued, “and unless you get very very lucky, you never get to the thing you want to do most the entire evening – dance with the one person you really want to dance with.”
“Tell me about it,” Pussy said, “Who was it in your case?”
“That particular night? I wished my father could have been there,” Sandy said as she looked round. “That and Carmen Lopez?”
Sandy smiled at Heather. “She was on the same floor at me at Smith. Came from California, slim, tanned – but strictly hetero. Still, a girl could dream...”
Carina giggled as she looked at Sandy.
“This is the first time I have experienced something like this,” Maddie said as she cut into her food. “Growing up in Britain, this was very much the exclusive playground of the upper crusts.”
“My partner the Yorkshire lass,” Emma said with a smile.
“You come from Yorkshire,” Annie said, “you don’t sound as if you do.”
“Well, I left when I was young and lived in London, Paris, and then I’ve worked with and for Shirley ever since. We tend to lose out accents when you work with her – take a look at Susan.”
“Or just listen to her,” Emma said.
“It was much the same where I grew up,” Frieda said, “although with more history.”
“So what happened when you were presented Pussy,” Heather said with a smile.
“I told you before, Tee.”
“I know – but tell the others.”
“Well, Dad walked me down the ballroom, I stopped on the mark, started to make the bow as I had done countless times before – and I…”
“Let us just say there was no need for a trumpet fanfare – but at least it broke the ice.”
It was Annie and Emma’s turn to burst out laughing.
“So tell us Maddie,” Sandy said, “how did you two meet?”
“At a charity event,” Maddie said. “We were there with some of the child models from the agency we manage, and Emma was leading a local choir. We got talking, one thing led to another, and – here we are.”
“So you were Carina’s teacher, Annie?”
“Yeah Emma,” Annie said, feeling more relaxed. “We became friends when we did that charity kidnap.”
“Yeah I heard about that,” Maddie said. “You raised a lot of money with that event.”
“Yeah – we work well as a team,” Carina said quietly.
“Yes you do,” Sandy said, “which is why it’s such a crying shame that you, Carina, and you, Annie, cannot dance tonight with the person you really want to dance with.”
The two young women looked at each other as Heather said “Sandy and I had to endure years of hiding how we felt for each other, because we were too scared of being judged by others. Now we can be more open about it – like Pussy and Frieda.”
“Why do I have this feeling we’re having an intervention,” Carina said as she looked at Annie.
“What’s going on,” Annie said as she looked round.
“Carina, be a hundred percent honest with yourself and us – have you danced tonight with the one person you really, truly wish to dance with?”
Looking at Annie, Carina shook her head and said, “no, no I haven’t.”
“Annie, is there one person you have wanted to dance with tonight more than anybody else?”
Annie looked down as Sandy held her hand, and whispered, “Yes, yes there is…”
“Do you know what the most frightening thing Maddie ever did in our relationship was,” Emma said as the main courses arrived. “It was when she took me out to Chinatown for a meal, and told me she wanted to change our relationship. I thought she had found someone else, but then she told me she wanted us to be real partners.”
She reached over and took Maddie’s hand as she said “Scared the hell out of me, but I said yes there and then, and never regretted it.”
“Neither did we,” Pussy said as she took Frieda’s hand.
“And you know we haven’t,” Heather said as she looked at Carina and Annie. “And all six of us think you two need to ask each other a question. Thing is, neither of you is going to be a hundred per cent happy until you say it – so now’s your chance.”
“Have you lot been taking lessons from the three witches,” Carina said as she stood up and walked over to Annie. “Look, Annie, I need to ask you something, and I know it’s going against what we said, but – well, I think I love you.”
“I love you too, your highness,” Annie said as she stroked Carina’s cheek, “and I wish I could go onto that dance floor now and dance with you.”
“I wish you could as well,” Carina said as she took Annie’s hand and kissed it.
“Hold that thought until later,” Pussy said, “I know the DJ.”
“Ahem,” Ingrid said as Juliette and Shirley looked round.
“Well, it would appear that Carina and Annie have admitted their feelings,” Diana said with a smile.
“How lovely,” Sigi said with a sigh.
“Perhaps we should invite her to Vienna as well,” Klaus said with a smile.
“She would not be able to come, but would appreciate the invite,” Juliette said as she looked over.
Mandy smiled at her daughter as her brother brought
her back to the table.
"This is fun Mummy,” she laughed.
"Even dancing with your brother?"
"He's not too bad."
"That's not what you used to say."
"Oh that was when we were children."
"I thought it was only last month." Will
"Giving you a glimpse of next year darling?"
"I guess so, I met a couple of other girls who come out next year, and we could have a fun group."
“Abigail will be one of the group as well, so you’ll have her for company,” Mandy said as she looked round.
“No – she has chosen not to do so, and will concentrate on her studies, but will come to support. At least, that’s what Diana told me.”
"I'm surprised to see neither Joanne or Abigail
here tonight." Sigi spoke to Diana.
"Jo is studying, and Abby has a shoot that means
she has to be there at six in the morning."
"You'll be getting into bed as she gets up."
"I will." Diana smiled.
"My two nieces look like they could dance all
"They do…did we have that much energy at their
"I can still do it…"
"Sorry Sigi, I forgot who I was talking to for a
moment." Diana laughed.
"May I have the honor of this dance Diana?"
"You may indeed Father." Diana stood up and walked onto the dance floor.
"Why did you and Piet split up Charlotte?"
Shirley watched as the big Afrikaner twirled Emma round the floor.
"Work was meaning we never saw each other. He was
at home, I was in London, and it just seemed best to end it."
"Now you regret it though…?"
"Yeah the big ox is still a pretty special
"He was telling me that he thinks that already
fresh monsters are dealing in the blood diamonds."
Charlotte nodded. "Ja he told me too, did he tell
you he's thinking of slipping into Mazengwe and going bush to see what he can
"No…what do you think of that yourself?"
"It worries me, but nothing I'll say will ever stop him."
“Then we must see if something can be done to protect him,” Shirley said quietly.
"So who designed and made Carina's dress
"Alice did it, it's why when she hasn't been collecting
speeding tickets driving to and from New York, she's been doing so on the road
"Oh Dear." Shirley laughed. "I suppose
the temptation to drive fast in her Maserati is too much to resist."
"I guess so,” Juliette said and then laughed. “How is your car hunting going by the
"Janice thinks she's found me one of those gull
"That's very nice, and yes I can see you in one
of them, pure vintage class."
"Oh a bit less of the vintage Juliette
"So what are you two laughing about?"
Vanessa sat down.
"Vintage cars and vintage women." Juliette
"Well neither of you has any worries, now I am
truly vintage, I just ran into a year mate of mine who is now a Great
"Ouch." Shirley laughed, "That might be
a way of aging oneself."
"Can I beg an introduction to that rather large
young man in your party Shirley?"
"Of course Vanessa."
"He's the best dancer here and if I'm going to counter this feeling waltzing with as good a dancer as he is just the way to do it."
Piet van der Byl was enjoying himself. As out of place as he might look on a ballroom floor he was actually quite at home, with a Great Great Grandfather who'd been an early investor in De Beers he wasn't the Country Afrikaner he liked to pretend to be. Educated at Bishops down in the Cape, and at Wits Uni, he had three sisters who'd all done the debutante thing, he'd been forced to take ballroom lessons for years, and tell the truth his natural lightness of foot made it something he did enjoy doing.
“Piet, Charlotte, May I ask a favour?”
“Of course, Shirley,” he said as she walked over with Vanessa.
“Allow me to introduce Vanessa Richmond, one of the organizers of tonight’s events. She was wondering if she could ask your partner to take her onto the dance floor.”
“Of course,” Piet said as he took her hand, “if I may have the honour?”
“Ladies and Gentlemen, this concludes the formal ball dance for tonight – please welcome you DJ for tonight, Master Mark!”
“Good evening, debs, escorts, ladies and gentlemen,” the DJ, said, “feel free to get up and dance as and when you want, mingle, and enjoy yourselves.
“Right,” Pussy said as she stood up with Frieda, “time to par-TAY! Coming?”
“Try and stop us,” Sandy said as she stood up with Heather.
“Go on,” Maddie said to Carina, “you know you both want to.”
“Coming,” Carina said as she looked at Annie.
“Oh yes,” Annie said as the six women went on the floor, Pussy nodding to the DJ.
“And this one is a very special request,” he said as the music started playing.
Vanessa sat with Alex and watched as the three couples danced.
“So Carina and Annie?”
“So it would appear,” Alex said with a smile. “What do you say Vanessa?”
“Good – they look so happy together,” Vanessa, said as they passed by.
"You make me complete my darling." Carina
whispered in Annie's ear. "Both sides of me love you totally."
"I wouldn't want to make 'her' unhappy."
Annie giggled lightly. "I've seen what she does to people who she
"Don't worry, she loves you just as much as I do."
“Good,” Annie said as she looked at Carina. “I love you and her and Judith.”
“So what do you think Caroline and Ama are going to say?”
“We could always ask her,” Annie said as she looked over to where Caroline was sitting with Susan, Clint and Dominic.
“Is that your roommate dancing with Carina,” Dominic said as he poured some wine for Caroline.
“So it would appear,” she said with a smile.
“Did you know?”
“I knew they had a strong attraction for each other, but I am glad they are not hiding that anymore.”
“They do look lovely together,” Susan said as she held Clint’s hand.
“Yeah, they do,” Lily, said as she sat down with George.
"Does it worry you people will say we are
lesbians darling?" Annie put her lips to Carina's ear.
"No, does it you?"
Annie smiled as Carina let out a little gasp.
"I've never had a truly satisfying relationship
with a man, I guess I know why now."
"And the answer is."
"I was waiting for you." Carina pulled her arms round her lover.
“Is that Annie Kelly and Carina on the dance floor?”
Bobbi and Clare looked over, Bobbi nodding as she said, “sure is – looks like they finally got their dance after all.”
“Bit more than that,” Becca said as she watched, “wait till the girls hear about…”
The dual voices of her mother and sister took Becca by surprise.
“Let them tell people in their own way,” Clare said. “In particular, no rumours or tales at St Angela’s – Annie needs to inform Wilhelmina and the others first.”
When the music stopped, Carina and Annie walked back to the table, hand in hand and smiling broadly.
"Oh if I could just capture those smiles."
John reached for the small camera in his pocket and snapped a few frames.
"What was that about?" Cari laughed.
"Forever saving two pictures of total happiness."
“Come again,” Annie said.
"Oh John, those are amazing, Mom come and look."
"Oh Goddess…John can I have a print for my mantle
piece?" Juliette smiled happily.
"I'll take a copy too." Diana looked over
"And both me and Caroline." Shirley also looked.
“Ask the others for me,” John said as he kissed both of them, “I need to go and visit the little boy’s room.”
“So do I need to get a toothbrush for you as well now, Annie?”
“I already have one there, Juliette – but do we have your blessing.”
“Of course you both do,” Juliette said as she hugged them both.
“Well then we really need to celebrate,” Pussy said as she hugged both of them. “Hey Mark – something we can get down to!”
“You get it P,” the DJ said as he put on Staying Alive, and the floor filled with people dancing.
"How does this compare with the Crillon Ball
Diana?" Sandy asked Diana as she sat with her old friend.
"A bit friendlier, a bit less celebutante."
Diana smiled, "not the same deliberate mix of haute couture and star
"You came out at the second one didn't you?"
"Yes I suppose I was invited because of Papa's
"Well that and your title, plus at the time
people were talking about you as the next star French model."
"I liked we got to wear coloured dresses, and
mine was designed by St Laurent himself."
"The black of the men’s suits and the white of the girls’ dresses are nice as well though." Sandy smiled. “So next year, is that on the list for Abigail?”
“I do not know – I need to sit down with her, Valeria and Guy and plan that out very carefully. Unlike Carina, Abigail will be a Senior, and her schoolwork has to be taken into account.”
“True – and better to plan in advance, before Missy gets her booked up.”
“We start on Monday,” Diana said with a smile as they watched the White Ladies get into a line on the dance floor.
“We wanted to do a little something to thank our parents and those who’ve supported us,” Judy said before she handed the microphone back to the toastmaster and nodded.
“What on earth are they doing,” Diana said as the others looked on.
As the music started, Pussy started laughing, while the line of girls started to line dance to Billy Ray Cyrus singing Achy Breaky Heart, led by Sue Ann Platt, a white Stetson on her head…
Juliette looked round the huge room carefully noting
the men standing by doors and at key vantage points apparently doing nothing,
or chatting with just one woman, slight bulges under their arm pits the only
key to why they were here at the ball.
Diana and she had once tried to guess the value of the jewelry that glittered like a million stars in this room and had given up after giving themselves headaches. The visible security, plus the invisible made a ball like this an impossible target even if they were prepared to drop the friends and family rule, but the magpie inside Juliette was still tempted slightly by all the bright, shiny objects.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Shirley whispered as she leaned over. “For one night, let your professional side rest.”
“You’re right,” Juliette said as she saw Ingrid and Cari dancing with Bobbi and Judy, “let it rest for now.”
“Come on you two,” Caroline said as she handed them a drink, “this is a night to remember – let’s enjoy it for what it is.”
“That was something different,” Claire said as she stood with Rachel.
“Oh yeah – remember what we did?”
“Yeah – all of us dancing to Like A Virgin. Biggest lie of the entire night!”
Judy and David ventured out into one of the anterooms in search of something to snack upon. The relative quiet away from the crowds and orchestra were a momentary relief as Judy sat while David filled her plate.
"For you my love." he smiled as he passed her the food.
Judy smiled back at him as she undid her gloves and
tucked the hand away so she could eat the finger food without ruining her
"Enjoying yourself Jude?" Heather asked as
she and Sandy also came in search of food.
"Yes, but I needed a pitstop."
"How many laps round the floor have you done already?" Sandy asked.
“Feels like not enough, and probably a lot more,” Judy said as they sat down. “You two enjoying yourselves?”
“Very much so – although our parents are flagging a little,” David said as he nibbled on a sandwich.
“Age will do that,” Sandy said. “Listen – we need your help.”
“Or to be more exact, Cari is going to need your help,” Heather said. “Now that she and Annie are – well…”
“A couple? Never saw that one coming,” David said.
“Sometimes love is blind,” Judy said, “What do you need?”
“Watch her back – we know from experience she’ll need friends more than ever now, so be there for her and let her talk. Do that for us?”
“No problem – what about Annie?”
“That’s our department,” Heather said, “us and especially Caroline and Ama.”
“Well now – feeling a bit happier?”
Annie looked at Caroline as they sat next to each other, and said “Oh you know I am. I hope you’re not too upset?”
“Nah – I was more worried about you going gaga with worry over what Carina was thinking. I just didn’t know how to help until the two of you had a chat, so I left it to wiser heads.”
“Now Ama and I have your backs – always,” Caroline said as she handed her roommate a glass of champagne. “To your future.”
“Thanks,” Annie said as she drank. “First thing I have to do is see Wilhelmina and Kate on Monday morning.”
“Oh – why?”
Annie looked over at the Morse table. “Because first thing Monday morning the stories will start circulating – I’d rather this particular part of my life was open and honest from the get go.”
“I agree,” Caroline said as she looked round. “In fact, if I was you, I’d nip it in the bud…”
“Miss Kelly – Annie…”
Both women looked up to see Bobbi and Becca standing in front of them.
“Well, we were just talking about you,” Annie said quietly.
“I guessed – listen, I wanted to say I won’t say anything to the other girls unless you want me to.”
“Thank you, Becca,” Annie said; “I’d appreciate it if you said nothing for the moment. I’ll tell people when I need to, and I need to tell my boss first, all right?”
“That’s good,” Bobbi said, “we’ll leave you to yourselves now.”
As they went back over, Susan and Charlotte returned to the table as well.
“What time is it?”
“Three in the morning,” Caroline said as she looked at her watch, “and I still feel wide awake.”
“Where did Dominic go?”
“He had to leave – not a problem. We’ve arranged to meet up for dinner next week.”
“Oh yes,” Annie said quietly, “is this getting serious?”
Caroline merely smiled…
As the clock struck four, breakfast was served, the dancers returning to their tables to eat, talk and relive their memories of the night.
"Well enjoyed yourself?" Adam kissed Janice
while they waited for their breakfast.
"Oh so much…and seeing Cari and Annie so
happy." Jan smiled.
"I think we will both sleep long and hard
"I know, Mom will have to explain to Katy that we
were out late."
"I caught her yesterday trying to explain to Katy
what a debutante was."
"I know, I heard." Janice smiled again, "I think Katy has her heart currently set on being one too."
“Would that be a surprise to you?”
“I have some money, but not that much Adam,” Janice said as she looked round. “But who knows, ten years from now…”
"I'm amazed anyone has the energy to eat after a
night like this." Susan looked at the line as people waited for the buffet
to start serving.
"Me too." Madame yawned.
"You should try going straight from a ball on
duty." John grimaced at the memory. "It was days like that I thanked
God for sergeants."
"Giving you space to recover." Shirley
"Very much so." John chuckled as memories
flooded back in his mind. "Anyway can I get anyone anything?"
"My bed…but no food." Shirley tried to
smile, "I'm just so tired."
"Me too." Susan looked at her watch, "Time I think we all headed home."
“Agreed,” Maddie said as she stood up, “Let us make our apologies to Carina and Juliette, and make a graceful exit.”
The three couples walked over to where Carina and Juliette were sitting.
“Forgive us,” John said, “but the old body requires some rest. Carina, you were incandescent tonight – as were all of you.”
“Thank you all for coming,” Carina said as she hugged and kissed them, waving as they went to collect their coats.
"Can I have a word Annie please?" Klaus asked as they both finished their breakfast,
Annie looked worried as she said "Yes…"
"Can I first say that we are all so happy about the news regarding you and my daughter."
"Thank you sir," she said with a smile,
relieved he did not disapprove.
"No sirs, no highnesses just call me Klaus."
Annie was smiling now as she looked at Carina.
"The second matter is the Vienna Opernball, we'd
like you to come if possible."
Annie took a breath, "Thank you for that, it
means the world to me, but my team has a big meet that weekend, and I'm
committed to that. Carina and I have talked it out and she understands
"Ah yes your athletes,” Klaus said with a
smile. “Well I do understand something
like that, and if Carina is happy?"
"She's going to bring me back loads of pictures and video and I'll be able to share that with her."
“Then I accept your gracious refusal,” Klaus said, “but one day, we will have you and Carina over to stay with us.”
“That invitation I will accept,” Annie said as she grinned.
"Well girls, John is outside, we had better round
everyone up." Juliette spoke to Carina and Annie.
"Yeah send someone to rescue Ingrid from that guy
who has been trying to pester her all night." Carina replied.
"Put up a do not disturb sign, hang up the
phones, just let us all go to bed." Annie lightly kissed her lover.
"You have all the rest of your lives for
that," Juliette smiled. "Tonight SLEEP!"
The two younger women giggled as she went off to fetch the rest of the party.
“It would be a shame to waste the day,” Annie whispered into Carina’s ear.
“Let us not waste it then,” Carina said as Caroline walked over.
“May I safely assume you will be out for most of today?”
“You may,” Annie said.
“Fine – but I’ll be round to find you at four. We have some presents to buy.”
“Well, that’s enough time,” Carina said with a smile.
Sunday 1st February
The Huntingdown Apartment
Carina stirred slightly as she thought she heard Ozzy Osborne serenading her across the dance floor.
“Won’t Sharon be upset,” she mumbled in her sleep as she heard Annie say “Cari, I love you, but if you don’t answer that phone…”
Opening her eyes, Carina looked at her call phone and then said “Bobbi, what time is it?
“All right, let me get some coffee going and I’ll call you and Judy back, all right.”
“You’re kidding,” Annie mumbled as she turned over and went back to sleep. Cari slipped out of bed and went downstairs.
“There’s mommy,” Janine said as Judith looked round and smiled.
“Morning baby,” Carina said as she picked up her daughter and hugged her. “Janine, can you stick around until mom surfaces? I need to make some coffee and do a few calls before I head out.”
“Sure,” the young assistant said as Cari went to the kitchen and made some coffee, then headed into her mother’s den.
“Bobbi? I’m a bit more awake now,” she said as she talked into the speakerphone.
“Good – about as awake as me from the sound of things,” Bobbi said as there was a sound on the line.
“Hang on,” Cari said as she answered the other line, and then said “Morning Judy.”
“Hey Cari – who else is talking?”
“Hey Jude – how are things chez McNally?”
“I’m in the study, door locked, coffee pot to hand. You?”
“Sitting with a large mug in the den,” Cari said. “So, spill you two – who swept you off your feet?”
“Well,” Judy said, “you mean apart from David?”
“Yes apart from the best damn male dancer of our group,” Bobbi said with a laugh, ”who else?”
“Did you dance with the hairy angel?”
“The hairy – oh you mean the man with your friend Charlotte, Pete?”
“It’s Piet, he’s South African – and yes, he was a DAMN good dancer,” Cari said as she sipped her coffee.
“Where did she find him?”
“Well, she was brought up there, you know,” Cari said with a laugh.
“All right, point taken…”
"Did you dance with Allan Messenger last
night." Carina asked Bobbi.
"Yeah - What a damn disappointment, I've been
dreaming of that guy for three years, and he's not only got halitosis, but he's
appalling on the dance floor."
"Strike three he's out." Cari giggled,
"Who's next on your list of nice eligible Jewish boys?"
"I could easily put Adam Ball there…I borrowed
him from Janice, and he is divine."
"Nice try, but he's taken, and she's tougher then
"Did you see that dress on our Texan
friend?" Judy laughed, "I swear she must have been taped in to stop
her boobies flying out."
"It was a bit low cut."
"A bit…Cari are you sure you don't need your eyes
“Well, I don’t think so – I loved Holly's dress
"So did I, and I'm glad you two are getting on
"Yeah we are, I invited her to brunch
"Oh crap brunch, where are we meeting?"
"You arranged it Jude." Carina laughed,
"Martino's near St Angela's… REMEMBER?"
"Oh yeah…sorry…. see you there in a bit."
“Yeah, I need to hit the shower anyway and get ready. Who else is coming?”
“All of us – in theory anyway. See you there,” Judy said as she hung up.
“Yeah, I gotta go too – someone is knocking on the door,” Bobbi said. “See you at two.”
“See you Bobbi,” Carina said as she ended the call, and sat back, sipping her coffee.
“Hey yourself,” Carina said as she looked at Annie. “Want some coffee?”
“Once I’ve downed a quart of water – the training is off the cards today.”
“Oh I don’t know, this morning was fun,” Cari said as she stood up and walked over, “But I gotta go. Will you be all right?”
“Yeah – I’ve got to go shopping for a birthday present, and I’ll meet up with Dom later. Go – gossip all you want, just tell me what they say about me.”
“Guaranteed,” Carina said as she kissed her lover, and then headed to the shower.
As Carina walked in, wearing a baggy brown jumper and jeans, she looked over to see Judy and Bobbi sitting with Miranda and Beth. In stark contrast to the incredibly well dressed and prepared ladies of the previous night, all were casually dressed, their hair left untreated, and slightly the worse for wear.
“Morning ladies,” Carina said as she sat down.
“Is it,” Miranda said as she looked over, “I hadn’t noticed.”
“When are you back on duty?”
“Tomorrow – a 48 hour pass, and I need to report back by eight tonight.”
“Gonna make it?”
“Like I have a choice, Beth,” Miranda said with a smile as she looked over. “Hey Ingrid.”
Carina stood up as Ingrid walked over, dressed in a white jumper and dark jeans with a black leather jacket on.
"You made it?" Carina hugged her sister.
"Just about…oh can I have a big glass of orange
juice please?" Ingrid asked a passing waitress.
"How late did you sleep?"
"Till about eleven, Papa had been up since eight
and had been out for a walk already."
"Jo phoned me to see how everything went, and she
told me Vanessa Richmond was up and doing at seven."
"Damn." Ingrid shook her head. “How do they do it?”
“A lifetime of training and pacing, I imagine,“ Cari spoke as Holly Berryman came in, looking round before removing her dark glasses and putting on her ordinary ones.
“Hey,” she said as she walked over, “room for a small one?”
“Always,” Judy said as she moved over.
“Black coffee please,” she said to the waitress as she came over, and then they picked up the menus.
"Can I face an omelet?" Holly stared at the
"They are good here." Bobbi looked up.
"As long as you don't get what my damn boyfriend
eats." Judy grimaced, "A full English breakfast is too much after a
night like last night."
“He swears by it though – must be the British Nobility in him.”
“More like the food at his school,” Judy said as she looked round the table. “I love the guy to bits, but the stuff he eats at times…”
"Heather's taken him to a place that serves all
that." Cari laughed, "she's into that sort of thing as well."
"It's their funeral." Judy shook her head as the door opened.
"Hey Blair, hey Giovanna." Carina waved as
the two came in wearing jeans and a slightly dazed appearance.
"Would it sound culturally wrong for an Italian in an Italian restaurant to order a hamburger" Giovanna asked as she sat down.
“Not at all – I’m looking at the steak sandwich myself,” Bobbi said as the waitress came over with some drinks for the latest arrivals.
"So what made you chose this place Judy?"
"We used to go to school round the corner,
occasionally we'd drop in here after school."
"It's nice, just perfect for a relaxing late
"Or lunch." Carina looked up from the menu.
“You ladies ready to order now?”
As she took the orders from the table, Holly noticed the Sunday edition of the Times and brought it over, looking at the Society pages.
“Here we are,” she said as she put the page of photographs in the centre of the table, “read it and weep.”
“Oh my – did I really look like that,” Blair said as she looked at herself.
“We all did – but the ones I want to see are the ones John took.”
“John Hammond? I thought I saw him at the table last night with Shirley. It was nice of her and her friends to come and support you,” Miranda said as she looked at the page.
“Yeah – I really appreciated that,” Carina said, “we both did.”
They fell silent for a moment as the waitress brought their food over. As the last plate was laid down, the sound of Ozzy Osborne screaming made all the girls turn and look at Carina.
“I know, I know,” she said as she took out her phone, and set it to silent before looking at the message she had been sent.
"Oh that is lovely," Cari said as she showed
all the girls the picture on her phone.
"Is that Janice's little girl Katy?" Judy
"Yeah, all dressed up in her mom's dress and
gloves looking so cute."
"She looks adorable." Blair smiled.
"Aunt Puss introduced me last night to her Mom, is Adam the little girls
"No, her father was killed in Iraq," “Carina
said. “According to what I've heard he
never even knew he was a father."
"That's terrible." Ingrid looked down at her food.
“He died serving his country,” Miranda said, “and that must never be forgotten. But yeah, not knowing who your father is… Oh, sorry Carina.”
“It’s cool Miranda – I got to find out in the end.” She cut a piece off her omelet and put it into her mouth.
"So who goes on to Vienna?" Giovanna asked
as she bit into her burger.
"Ingrid and me for two." Carina ate a bite.
"I'd love to, but someone has to babysit someone
else's baby." Judy spoke.
"And her Mom is more than grateful."
"I'm going too," Blair smiled, "Aunt Frieda's family is sponsoring me."
“The season’s done for me,” Miranda said.
“Me too – back to real life now,” Beth said. “I kept meaning to ask – how’s Jo doing as head girl?”
“Great – she rules with an iron fist wrapped in a velvet glove, according to Becca,” Bobbi said.
“And I hear your dad is up for the senate seat?”
“Well, the race is officially underway, that much is true.”
"Okay we have all been good little girls," Holly smiled, "and avoided the topic, but it's about time you spilled your guts about Annie, Carina."
"I guess I just found the right person." Cari smiled shyly.
"How long has it been going on?"
"Since late summer. She helped me when I went into labour, and I
guess we grew closer after that."
"No wonder we could never fix you up with a
guy." Judy laughed.
"Oh it wasn't because they were guys…If Annie's personality was in a guys body, I'd have fallen in love with him."
“She is a remarkable young lady,” Ingrid said, “Father invited her to Vienna as well, but she declined – something about a meet that weekend.”
“That’s right – otherwise I think she might have
come.” Cari put her knife and fork down
before saying, "Annie is just calm and caring, she balances me out."
"All of you remember though to keep your mouths
shut." Bobbi warned. "All of this is just Cari and Annie's
"Thanks Bobs." Carina smiled in gratitude.
"No gossip." Judy added.
“Who us? No, we won’t say a word,” Beth said as the door to the restaurant opened, and a familiar tall young lady walked in.
"Hey I thought I saw your car outside."
"I thought you were working?" Carina kissed
her best friend.
"We wrapped up, even Tom can only find so many ways of posing me." She glanced down at the paper and said “Wow – Alice is going to love you and Ju for those shots.
"Hey Abs." Judy hugged her; "You missed an amazing party last night."
"I know." Abby rolled her eyes, "Blame
my damn agent."
"Oh those of you who don't know her, this is Abigail." Carina made the intros.
“Abigail de Ros,” Blair said as she looked over, “I think I just went to heaven.”
“No, just downtown,” Abby said as she took a seat. “I am so jealous of all of you though.”
“I hear it might be your turn next year,” Bobbi said as she looked over.
“So I overheard Mom saying – we’ll see who wins the debate between her, Tennant and Missy,” Abby said as she looked round.
"I take it you already knew about Carina and
Annie?" Judy asked.
"I did, and by the way congratulations to you
both on going public."
"Thanks Abs, can you and Jo just control things
at school please though, keep the girls from making too big a thing of
"We'll try…" Abby looked at the waitress, "Can I just have a large coffee please."
“Mom and I warned Becca as well – so hopefully her posse get the message.”
“I’m not worried about Jeannie or Ama – it’s what Doc might say?”
“Anna Carlton, the Jamie Kirkham scholar. Very smart, but still needs to learn some self control.”
“Gotcha – like Cari then,” Beth said, looking at Carina before everyone burst out laughing.
"I like David's sister Angel." Miranda
spoke, "Not exactly how you envisage an English lady to be."
"None of them are just what you expect."
"Is it true her parents were punks?" Holly
"Yep," Abby smiled, "Have you never
seen that pic of Angel's Mom wearing the Alexander McQueen outfit standing
among all the rats?"
"That was Lady Ordford?" asked Giovanna.
“Mandy Carrow, the very same,” Carina said.
“Oh my – she has changed,” Miranda said quietly.
“Oh she’s still fun to be with,” Abby said with a laugh.
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Mom, I’m home,” Cari called out as she came in.
“In the kitchen,” she said as she and Ingrid walked in, to find her aunt and uncle with Juliette.
"So how were the girls?" Juliette asked as
she poured coffee for Sigi and Dieter.
"Tired, hung-over, but happy." Carina looked
round. "Did Annie go?"
"Yeah Caroline swung by and picked her up."
"Did you see the papers?"
"Some wonderful pictures." Sigi smiled.
“Aren’t they just, aunt,” Ingrid said as she looked at them.
“Well, we have your dress packed, Ingy, so I’m afraid it’s your turn Carina,” Sigi said. “Shall we?”
Carina nodded as she walked with them to her bedroom, and looked at the dress hanging on the door.
“So many happy memories – and I have to do it all again in two weeks…”
“I know – and Alice called. She says she has something spectacular for both of us, but it’s time to put these away.”
"It's a beautiful dress," Sigi sighed as she
and Juliette carefully wrapped it in tissue paper.
"It is." Juliette stroked it gently.
"Well my gloves and my shoes go in my memories box, and we put that in the back of my closet." Carina looked at the dress one last time.
“One day you’ll tell Judith all about this dress,” Juliette said with a smile. “Come on – coffee and then back to Yale with you.”
Monday 2nd February
“Wilhelmina, Kate, can I have a few minutes before the day starts please?”
“Of course, Annie,” Miss Tennant said as Annie looked into her office door, “come in.”
As Annie came in, she looked at the principal and the deputy principle. Wilhelmina Tennant was wearing a grey tweed jacket over a mustard coloured jumper, and a knee length pleated skirt, with a brown and cream scarf tied over her shoulders and brown brogues. The outfit was completed by a beret perched at an angle on her head.
Kate Hardisty, by contrast, was wearing a brown suede mini skirt and waistcoat over a paisley coloured blouse, and knee length brown leather boots.
She looked at her own outfit, the fitted jacket and pencil skirt with four inch heels, and smiled – the Icon day was going to be a big success.
“I was watching on Saturday,” Kate said, “and saw you slip in behind Carina and her family. You were an invited guest?”
“I was,” Annie said with a smile, “and in a way, that’s why I wanted to talk to both of you first thing this morning. I think you both need to be aware of something that you may hear about from various sources, and I wanted you to hear it from me before anybody else.”
“Intriguing,” Wilhelmina said, “and what would that be?”
“That I am in a serious relationship with Carina Huntingdown.”
The two senior school leaders looked at Annie, and then at each other, before Kate said “as in…”
“Yes, as in we are lovers. Carina is no longer a pupil at the school, so I do not believe I am breaking the rules of employment, and I assure you any feelings we had for each other arose well after the events at the end of last year. I am aware, however, of how these things can be misrepresented, so I wanted to inform you myself as a matter of courtesy.”
Kate and Wilhelmina looked at each other, before Kate said “are you happy with her Annie?”
“Good – then that’s all we need to know. If any parents complain, we’ll say we are aware and there is nothing that affects school life or your work.”
“And if they keep complaining?”
“We’ll cross that bridge as and when we come to it. Just tell Carina we’re happy she’s happy,” Wilhelmina said.
“Right – we have a full week ahead,” Kate said, “let’s get to work.”
“Thank you,” Annie said as they left the office together, and headed for the main hall.
As they walked in, Annie was struck by the wide array of clothes that the students had chosen to wear for the day. Those who, like her, were taking part in the show the following Saturday were wearing the heels and pencil skirts, many like Doc with cinched waists that betrayed the fact they were wearing corsets underneath, while Abby looked fresh and happy in her high collared jacket.
But then there were the other girls. Pepsi had borrowed her mother’s psychedelic dress, the skirt covering the top half of her thighs, and the matching scarf in her hair, as well as a pair of white go-go boots. Ama had chosen to dress in a pair of skin tight black satin pants and a blouse open at the top, with a pair of high heeled sandals, reflecting Abby’s look in her first published photos.
Others had chosen idols from Lady Gaga to Madonna, and Marilyn Monroe to Princess Diana.
As for the teachers, their choices reflected their age in many ways. Miss Harkness looked like Christy McVie, in a white blouse and flowing black skirt with jacket.
“Good morning, ladies,” Miss Tennant said, “and may I thank you all for making such a magnificent effort today. Donations will be collected during your first period class. Now, on to the announcements for this week…”
“You look stunning,” Pepsi said as she walked beside Jeannie into Miss Kelly’s room. The young model smiled and said “why thank you” as she unbuttoned the jacket of her trouser suit and moved in behind her desk.
“All right, settle down,” Annie said as she came to the front of the class, Ama smiling at her as she leaned against the desk. “I know this is a bit of a different day, but we still need to learn, and learn we shall.
“Having said which, I think we can fit today’s lesson to the theme,” she said with a smile as she went to the blackboard and started writing on it.
“Well, this has been a different day so far,” Ama said as she sat with Pepsi and Jeannie. “I never knew the connection between music and icons could be so strong.”
“I know – I mean, Goodbye Norma Jean is an obvious one,” Pepsi said, “but some of the ones Miss Harkness came up with!”
Doc, Nikki and Becca looked across the room at them as they collected their lunches.
“Have you got her present yet,” Doc whispered.
“I need to get it tonight – the babysitting has been relentless the last week,” Nikki said with a smile.
“Tell me about it, I have another booking tonight,” Becca giggled.
“So what’s happening tomorrow?”
“Nell and the other two girls have that covered – but we need to put something up to say we are fully booked over the weekend,” Doc whispered, “I’ll explain later.”
“There you are,” Jeannie said as they walked over, their skirts rippling, and took their seats, “what kept you?”
“You try moving in these damn skirts – no offence Jeans.”
“None taken,” Jeannie said as she looked at Pepsi and Ama. “You two look fantastic, however.”
“Thank you, Jeanie,” Ama blushed, “from you that means a lot.”
“So come on Becs,” Jeannie said, “what’s the hot gossip from the ball? Did you manage to survive the night?”
“Yes I did – although it was nearly one when I woke up yesterday, to find Bobbi had already gone out,” the young blonde said. “But it was magnificent – the lights, the dresses, the dancing…”
“She’s off in her own little world again,” Nikki said with a laugh.
“So who did you get to dance with?”
“All sorts of boys – but with mum and dad, and half the gossip columnists of NY there, we were on our best behavior. Having said that…”
She bit into her sandwich and chewed as the others looked on.
“Well,” Pepsi said, “what else?”
“No – sorry, can’t tell you. Not here.”
“Do you think Becca can keep stumm,” Abby said as she looked over from where she was sitting with Ally and Jo.
“I really, really hope so,” Jo said quietly, “the last thing either Annie or Cari need is gossip about them.”
“Oh, so the story is true,” Ally said as she took a drink from her bottle, and then looked at them both.
“And what story is that,” Jo said quietly.
“Oh – was Bobbi not meant to tell me?”
“Not really, no.”
“Good – because she didn’t, you just did.”
Abby and Jo looked at each other, and then burst out laughing. “You look tired, Ally – long weekend?”
“You have no idea – but you will hear about a substantial donation to the Jamie Kirkham fund later today.”
“Oh? Who from?”
“Never you mind – it was earned,” Ally said as she rubbed her shoulder. “So the big meet next weekend – all ready?”
“Ask me next week,” Jo said, “the coach from William Smith is coming down to see the contest.”
“Does she get a say in your offer?”
“Well, I’m not going for an athletic scholarship, but it doesn’t hurt if she says good things,” Jo said with a smile.
“So what have you bought Ama for her birthday,” Abby said.
“Well, turns out our Miss Jameson is developing a taste for sixties music – so I got a compilation CD of bands of the time for her.”
“Very nice – what about you Abby?”
“Wait and see,” Abby said with a smile.
Tuesday 3rd February
As Ama heard the music coming from her alarm clock and slowly opened her eyes, she sat up again and did what she did every morning – took a moment to look round and give thanks for one more day in her new world.
Her previous life was still a very real memory for her, but it meant she understood and appreciated what had happened all the more. To be free to be herself, to have friends, to be at school – it was a true gift.
Slipping out from under her duvet, she put on her slippers and stretched, before she walked out of the room, the smell of fresh coffee reaching her nostrils as she breathed in.
“Hey – Happy Birthday,” Dominique said as she looked over from the range, “how does pancakes sound for breakfast?”
“That sounds very nice, thank you Dominique,” Ama said as she sat down, and watched Annie walk through from her room.
“Hey,” Dom said as she looked over, “Pancakes?”
“Oh yeah,” Annie said as she poured herself some coffee. “So how does it feel to be a year older, Ama?”
“No different than yesterday,” the young girl replied with a smile.
“Quite the best attitude to have,” Dominique said as she put some pancakes on a plate and placed them in front of Ama, as well as a glass of orange juice. “Eat up – you need to get into the shower first this morning.”
As Ama ate her breakfast, she noticed a small pile of cards and wrapped parcels on the table. “Has the postman been already,” she said as she looked at them.
“In a way – they’re your birthday cards and presents from us,” Dom said as she passed a plate to Annie and then sat down.
Ama looked at both of them, and said “I do not understand…”
“Remember when you got Anna the present for her birthday, as well as the card?”
“Yes, but she is my friend.”
“Well, you are my daughter,” Dominique said, “and as such, I get to give you presents whenever I want, but particularly for Christmas and your birthday. It’s over ten months to Christmas, but you get these today.”
Ama slowly reached over and opened one of the cards, taking out a card with “Happy Birthday” written on it, and smiled as she read the message inside.
“Thank you Annie,” she said before she picked up the second card. “It is from your grandfather,” she said as she opened it, “and he calls me his granddaughter?”
“Cards with “Happy Birthday Great-Granddaughter” may not be the easiest thing to find – and he loves you very much as well,” Dom said, and then she saw the tears start to flow.
“Hey, come on,” she said as she hugged Ama, “don’t be upset…”
“I’m not – I’m happy, oh so happy,” she said as she looked at Dom, “thank you Mom.”
“Did she just call you Mom?” Annie said, Dom nodding as she started crying as well.
“Come on you two,” Annie said as she looked over, “open your presents and cards, and then you need to check your phone.”
“My phone? I have not switched it on yet.”
“Then I suggest you go and get it, and put it on while you have your breakfast,” Dom said. As Ama went to her room, Dom looked over and said “everything is still so new to her, isn’t it?”
“Yup,” Annie said, “and I notice she’s said nothing about me and Cari either.”
“Why would she? She figured it out before any of us, after all.”
“Oh my,” Ama said as she came in and looked at the screen, “so many messages…”
“Well, don’t look at them for too long,” Dom said as she collected the plates, “it is a school day, after all.”
"One good thing with 'babysitting' is I'm getting
to try some of the best restaurants in the city." Becca remarked,
"Then I come in here and see what the school calls food and it's such a
"Tell me about it." Doc looked at her salad,
"We really ought to have a word with Jo and see what she can do."
"Have a word with me about what?" Jo came to
a stop on the way to her own table.
"The state of the food, especially the salads, they
are getting worse rather than better."
"I know Doc, a lot of the girls have complained,
I'll raise it again with Miss Tennant."
"Please do." Nikki looked up from
contemplating what was on her plate.
"Jo you have to say something…" Jeannie
wheeled herself over from the lunch counters.
"I know, the other girls were complaining as
"Do the staff have to eat this as well?"
"Most of them go out for lunch or bring
sandwiches I think."
"I don't blame them." Ama sat down. “On the positive side, however, Pepsi and I can guarantee that the pizzas tonight are worth waiting for.”
“Indeed,” Pepsi said, “hot and fresh from three doors down.”
“Well there you have it – look forward to that,” Jo
said as she walked off.
"I saw you chatting to the girls, was it about Annie?" Abigail asked as Jo sat down.
"No, they were complaining about the food."
"For once they and I are in total
agreement." Ally slid into her chair. "It wasn't great when I was a
freshman, but I'm sure I remember it being better than this."
"The Head Girls see Miss Tennant for our monthly
meeting tomorrow, I promise I'll raise the subject."
"Please do." Ally looked disgustedly under
the lettuce on her plate. "At least my date tonight is taking me somewhere
the food is great, I think I might just wait till then to eat anything."
"Where are you going?"
"McDonald's" Ally giggled.
"Really?" Abby laughed.
"No, not really, he's taking me to Cafe
"That's that pricey place in the Surrey Hotel
isn't it?" Jo asked.
"Yep, but did I ever claim to be a cheap
"Hey I've seen you perfectly happy after a couple
of beers and some nachos."
"So have I." Abby nodded.
"Well tonight I'm wearing my best cocktail dress,
and I'm looking for something great to eat, so I hope his credit card has room
on it for the bill."
“And who is this obviously rich paragon who is unaware of your past?”
“Hey, not everyone can snag a college grad,” Ally said as she stuck her tongue out.
"Can you bring me a doggie bag for my lunch tomorrow?" Abby gave up on her food in disgust.
Fort Washington Avenue
"So any feedback from the girls." Annie
asked Jo as they did their stretching exercises together.
"About you and Carina?"
"Not really,” Jo said, “but I did get an earful
at lunch over the state of the refectory food."
"That's not my department, thank the
"I promised I'll raise it with Miss T
"I can't believe there has been so little
comment," Annie said as she straightened up.
"It's because you and Carina are both so popular,
someone else maybe there probably would have been adverse remarks."
“Still, I’m glad,” she said as the girls gathered
round. "Okay girls four laps at
steady pace, just to get used to the boards." Annie called out her orders
to the team.
"It's great that we could get some time in here
to help our training." Jo smiled happily as she led the line of runners
"Well, as you remember from last year the track is slightly different from that at the Garden, but it will do you all good to train on the boards."
The girls did their circuits, Annie running alongside them before they gathered round again.
"Okay Jo and Ashley 200 sprints pushing each other hard, followed by 200 jogs, 10 reps please." Annie was supervising training and her hopes for the championships
were growing. Her girls had trained and run hard for
weeks, and now they were looking fit, it was just a question of some speed
"Your girls look good." a voice spoke from
"Yeah they aren't looking bad." Annie spoke
without looking as she clocked Betsy and Philippa.
"Two or three of these girls I'd take tomorrow.'
"And you are?" Annie looked over her
shoulder. "Oh sorry Lisa, I didn't recognize your voice, I thought we
wouldn't be seeing you till the championships."
"I had to come down to the big city, I rang the
school and they told me you had your squad training here."
"Well it's good to see you again." Annie
looked back at the track. "Push it Betsy, you're dawdling out there."
Annie stopped one of her stopwatches as she yelled.
"That's the Silowski girl isn't it?" the
collegiate coach looked at the time. "Not bad."
"Well she's not a Lisa Waterman, but your old
school is keen as hell on her going there."
"Yeah Coach rang me."
"She's been improving all winter on the country,
she should easily win the 5K."
"It's Jo I'm here to look at,” Lisa said, “how
good is the girl she's running with?"
"She's pretty decent, one of my hopes for the
"Well she's flat out trying to extend Jo."
"I noticed, but at least Jo's getting some speed
"I'm looking forward to the meet."
"Yeah and it's always a great atmosphere, the
schools go all out getting everyone there."
"Was that Jo's time for the last 200?" Lisa
"Pretty damn good."
"Yeah, she's a good runner, you'll like working with her."
"Who's the tiny girl."
"Beth Abrahams my best freshman."
"Is she running at the Independents?"
"I've still not made my mind up, Coach Harper and
I have talked about it, the school doesn't usually let youngsters like her run
the big meet, but she's qualified for the 3K and 5K, I'm half prepared to give
her the run for experience."
"Well she looks like a kid I might be talking to
you about in three years time."
"Yeah, she reminds me of myself at the same age,
she might just be the real thing."
"Well that's nice to hear."
“Listen,” Lisa said, “You got time for a drink afterwards?”
“Normally I’d say yes, but I have a girls’ party to chaperone,” Annie said. “You could always come back to my place, we can talk over a couple of beers.”
“A girls’ party? You don’t have kids!”
“No my roommate does – want to come?”
“Sure – I want to see how my best ever rival lives in the big city.”
As Lisa looked round, she saw another student in a tracksuit handing round drinks.
"Who's the extremely tall girl, a high
"No," Annie laughed, "She's just one of
the volunteer trainers."
"She looks sort of familiar."
"You think?" Annie laughed some more.
"Okay what am I missing here?" Lisa looked
"Ever look at fashion magazines?"
"Not really, why?"
"Imagine her fully made-up, her hair done, an
amazing outfit on…"
"I think you just got it." Annie laughed
again. "Hey Stick - come meet someone,” she called down to the trackside.
"Hey Coach." The girl spoke as she came up
into the seats.
"Abigail, meet Lisa Waterman the coach who Jo
wants to run for, Lisa this is Abby."
"Nice to meet you." Abby smiled and shook
hands, "Jo's one of my best friends, she raves about your school."
"Nice to meet you as well…Ummm without being rude what is a famous person like you doing handing out water bottles, and track suits, etc." Lisa shook her head.
“Why not? I’m just an Angel helping my fellow Angels when I can.”
“I presume you will be Caroline for tonight,” Ama said as she watched Dominique putting her blonde wig on.
“Well, that is who the girls know me as,” she said as the doorbell rang and Ama went down, returning with Maisha and Pepsi. All three girls were wearing jumpers and jeans, both Pepsi and Maisha slipping off Ugg boots as they came in.
“Happy birthday, sister,” Maisha said as she handed Ama a small box wrapped in silver. As she unwrapped it, she smiled, as she took out a small brooch in an intricate pattern.
“That’s a striking design,” Caroline said as she looked at it.
“It is a tribal symbol – in my people, it is presented when a girl is considered to have become a woman. I felt it was appropriate,” Maisha said as Ama nodded.
“It is – thank you.”
“Beats my gift,” Pepsi said as she handed Ama a pot plant. “Mom helped pick it out.”
“Nonsense,” Ama said, “this is just as precious to me.”
“Hey, where’s the birthday girl,” Nikki said as she came up the stairs, while John carried Jeannie up and sat her on the couch.
“I’ll be back for you at ten,” John said as he went down, passing Doc and Becca on the stairs.
“So what are we going to order in,” Doc said as she took her coat off, “I’m starving.”
“Here’s the menu,” Pepsi said as she passed it round, “say what you want, I place the order, and we get it ASAP while the film is on.”
“So what shall we watch,” Ama said.
“How about something from my present to you,” Doc said as she handed Ama a box. As she opened it, she looked at the outside and said, “Who is Monty Python?”
“All right, you lot – Holy Grail or nothing at all,” Caroline said as Annie came in with Lisa.
“Holy Grail? Who bought Ama that?”
“Doc just gave her the whole box set,” Caroline said as she looked over.
“Lisa, this is my roommate Caroline Jameson. Caroline, meet Lisa Waterman, my old rival and now a coach up at William Smith.”
“Oh yes, the college Joanne is looking at – a pleasure,” Caroline said as she shook Lisa’s hand. “You must forgive me, it is Ama’s birthday and she invited some girls round.”
“Hi Miss Kelly,” Doc said as she looked round.
“Which one is Ama,” Lisa said as she looked at the group, and the young African girl raised her hand.
“I adopted her,” Caroline said as she looked over. “She was – well, I am sure you heard about the whole business, and it is in the past.”
“Yeah – I read about it,” Lisa said.
“Ama, I have gifts from Cari, Jo, Abby and the others in here,” Annie said as she held her bag up.
“I will look when we have ordered pizza,” Ama said with a smile.
“Okay, I met Jo and Abby, who is Cari?”
“Carina Huntingdown,” Annie said, “another family friend and…”
“And Annie’s lover,” Becca said.
Lisa raised an eyebrow as Annie blushed. “Recent thing – and I’d thank you girls not to say too much about it.”
"Most of the girls think it's cool Miss."
"I told you that." Ama confirmed.
"I've tried girls as well." Doc smiled at the memory, "It's fun."
“And on that note,” Pepsi said, “choose food!”
“I suggest we retire to the kitchen,” Caroline said, “before we start to feel too old.”
“You are full of surprises,” Lisa said as they sat round the kitchen table, as the girls argued over what to order.
“It’s been an interesting year,” Annie said as she looked over.
“Hold on – Caroline Jameson? You’re a model as well, aren’t you? Alright, exactly how many supermodels do you
know Annie?" Lisa asked the question.
"A few." Annie smiled, "Well more then
a few maybe."
“And I’m only a model part time,” Caroline said as Doc said “Jeannie, extra ham?”
“Yeah,” the girl in the chair called out.
"Is Jeannie in there, THE Jeannie Brewster?"
"The one and only." Caroline passed round some Buds.
“And Carina Huntingdown – the girl who does those adverts for glasses? Her mom is a former model as well.”
“All right,” Annie said, “I know Abby, Jeannie, Carina and Juliette socially, and I room with Caroline. I’m also on speaking terms with Charity Royce, Mandy Carrow, Alice McKinnon – any others?”
“You’re forgetting Pru.”
“Oh yeah, Pru Stratton as well, I’ve met quite a few others, but they’re the main ones I think – cheers.”
“Cheers,” Lisa said as they raised their drinks. “How on earth did you fall into that world?”
“Are you talking to Caroline or me,” Annie said.
“I taught Carina and teach Jeannie and Abby,” Annie said, “but truthfully, it was an accident. I helped out with a charity stunt last year, and then got to know Cari and her mother. I got to know the others through them.”
“We met through mutual friends at a gym,” Caroline said. “I’d decided to settle in the city, for business reasons, and Annie was looking for a new place to stay. I was also in the process of adopting Ama, and – well, it just merged nicely.”
"So are you still running Annie?" Lisa
sipped her beer.
"Not competitively, just to keep fit. I do a lot
of climbing at the gym with the girls, that's my recreation."
"You too Caroline?"
"Yeah we climb with a couple of friends, one’s an
FBI agent, and the other is an IT specialist with a big multi-national
"Now that's an eclectic group." Lisa put her
"Are you still competing Lisa?" Caroline
"A bit, my old coach thinks I ought to maybe try
for the Olympics a second time, but being honest I enjoy coaching and teaching
a bit much to go back into full-time training."
"Yeah I enjoy watching the girls as they progress
as well." Annie took a long drink from her can.
"What does Ama do sports wise?"
"Soccer, both she and Pepsi will be on the
varsity team in the spring."
"They must both be good."
"Ama is, but Pepsi isn't as good." Caroline
paused. "Soccer isn't one of St Angela's best sports."
"Unlike the track team?"
"Fingers crossed." Annie smiled.
"Well for a school that's always been a school
know for the sprints, you've done a great job with the distance runners Annie…I
did the research."
"Thank you Lisa." Annie smiled broadly, "But I'm lucky in having some talent to work with."
At the far side of the room, the girls were watching the scene where Sir Belvedere tries a witch.
“You cannot fault his logic – even if he is a loony,” Doc said.
“He’s not a loony – he’s a very naughty boy,” Pepsi said.
Ama was quietly chuckling to herself as the suspect was weighed against a duck – and came up lighter.
“Do you know Jo Smith as well, Caroline?”
“We’ve met – nice kid, bright, intelligent and friendly. I think she’ll make an excellent student in the right place.”
“I understand she wants to do Psych as her major – not an easy option.”
“No, but she likes to push herself. If she has a fault, it’s a little chip on her shoulder about being the poor relation of the likes of Abby and Cari. Just a teensy little one, but it’s there sometimes.”
“Well, that’s something – I can work with someone motivated like that. She’s not a supermodel then?”
“Nope – the nanny’s sister is what she is. But she’s a good kid, and she’ll give you a hundred and ten per cent.” Annie went to the fridge and took out three more cans, as Caroline went to answer the door.
“Thanks, Dino,” they heard her say, “here you go.”
“NO, no Caroline – our present to the lovely Ama.”
“Finally,” the girls called out as she placed the pizza boxes on the coffee table, and beat a retreat.
“Is it my imagination or are they hungry,” she said as the boxes were opened.
“I heard dark rumblings about the refectory food today,” Annie said with a smile.
“So can I ask a personal question,” Lisa asked.
“When did you come out?”
“Publicly? Last Saturday, at the Debutantes Ball,” Annie said with a shy smile. “I was a guest of Carina’s, and I guess a lot of people noticed how I was feeling, so three couples sat with us and gently made us express how we really felt about each other.”
“Sounds like real friends,” Lisa said. “Who were they?”
“Well, one was Jo’s sister and her partner, another couple are family friends, and I don’t really know the third.”
“They’re friends of mine,” Caroline said, “from out West.”
“Yale Freshman – but we’re going to see each other as often as we can, and her daughter allows.”
“Daughter? You’re going to be a mother as well?”
“We’re a ways from that,” Annie said as she blushed, “she has a six month old baby daughter, who is just adorable as well.”
“If I asked you the question,” Caroline said as she leaned back, “what would you say?”
“Do I have a partner? Yes, he’s a fellow faculty member. But I think it’s fantastic you’ve found someone Annie – congratulations.”
“Do not use that word!”
Annie and Lisa both laughed as Caroline sat back down. “Sorry – I loved that film when I was a girl. Right – what are we going to eat?”
“So if you are ready to order?”
"I’ll have the wild king salmon please."
Ally smiled at the waiter.
"And you sir?"
"The Long Island duck breast please."
"Okay I have that, I'll be back with your food
"This is a nice place Ally,” Nick Andreacos said
as he looked round. “Where did you hear
"My parents enjoy coming here." Ally smiled
at her date.
"Well the food is certainly better then in my
"Better then my school as well."
There was a slightly awkward pause in the
conversation. Ally looked at the subtle brown tones of the decor, trying to
think again why she had accepted a date with this guy. He was a sophomore at
Columbia, and a football player, she'd met him the weekend before last at a
party and he'd asked her out, but she was finding out tonight that sober his
conversation was rather limited.
"So where again are you from Nick?"
"I always think Denver will be a nice city when
they finish it." Judy laughed.
"Well,” she said quietly, “whenever I've been
there all I ever see are construction sites."
"Oh,” Nick said with a shrug, “well I suppose
that's true in part."
Another pause in conversation - Ally tried hard to
think about what to say next, he'd shot down in flames her joke about his home
town, what topic should she try next? She glanced at the young woman sitting at
the adjacent table with the middle aged man. It looked like she was having a far
better time than Ally, and she was laughing at practically everything the man
with her said.
"What made you come to Columbia?" Ally tried
another conversational gambit.
"Well I had offers of a football scholarship from
a few places, but my dad wanted me to go to an Ivy League school, Columbia
recruited me and Dad's paying the bills so I thought why not."
"Why not indeed."
Ally looked round again, the young woman looked
familiar but she couldn't place from where. Suddenly her jaw dropped when she
saw the man surreptitiously slip the girl what looked like a large amount of
cash. Shit the girl was a hooker.
"So where are you going to college?" Nick
"Wellesley I hope." Ally watched fascinated
as the man and the younger woman got up from their table and headed towards the
"That's Boston isn't it?"
"Sort of." Ally remembered the girl now, she
worked at the Altama as a Bartender, or at least it seemed she used to. She was
the girl her sister and Doc were friends with…"Oh my Goddess," she
whispered to herself.
"Pardon me." Nick asked.
"Oh nothing," Ally forced herself to concentrate on her date, and the food as it arrived. but she could not help thinking "if Tricia was hooking, what was her twin and Doc and the others doing?”
The Rochermann Apartment