“Well done!” says Lalla warmly. “A slot on television! That must be very exciting for you!”
I pause, a beaded jacket in my hand, thinking, a few months ago I was going to have my own show on American network television. And now I have a little slot on a daytime show with half the audience of Morning Coffee. But the point is, I’m on the path I want to be.
“Yes, it is,” I say, and smile at her. “It’s very exciting.”
It doesn’t take too long to sort Lalla out with an outfit for her dinner. As she leaves, clutching a list of possible shoes, Christina, the head of the department, comes in and smiles at me.
“How’re you doing?”
“Fine,” I say. “Really good.”
Which is the truth. But even if it weren’t — even if I were having the worst day in the world — I’d never say anything negative to Christina. I’m so grateful to her for remembering who I was. For giving me a chance.
I still can’t quite believe how nice she was to me when I hesitantly phoned her up, out of the blue. I reminded her that we’d met, and asked if there was any chance I could come and work at Barneys — and she said she remembered exactly who I was, and how was the Vera Wang dress? So I ended up telling her the whole story, and how I had to sell the dress, and how my TV career was in tatters, and how I’d so love to come and work for her… and she was quiet for a bit — and then she said she thought I’d be quite an asset to Barneys. Quite an asset! It was her idea about the TV slot, too.
“Hidden any clothes today?” she says, with a slight twinkle, and I feel myself flush. I’m never going to live this down, am I?
It was during that first phone call that Christina also asked me if I had any retail experience. And like a complete moron, I told her all about the time I went to work in Ally Smith — and got the sack when I hid a pair of zebra-print jeans from a customer because I really wanted them myself. I came to the end of the story, and there was silence on the phone, and I thought I’d completely scuppered my chances. But then came this bellow of laughter, so loud I almost dropped the phone in fright. She told me last week that was the moment she decided to hire me.
She’s also told the story to all our regular clients, which is a bit embarrassing.
“So.” Christina gives me a long, appraising look. “Are you ready for your ten o’clock?”
“Yes.” I flush slightly under her gaze. “Yes, I think so.”
“D’you want to brush your hair?”
“Oh.” My hand flies to my neck. “Is it untidy?”
“Not really.” There’s a slight sparkle to her eye, which I don’t understand. “But you want to look your best for your customer, don’t you?”
She goes out of the room, and I quickly pull out a comb. God, I keep forgetting how tidy you have to be in Manhattan. Like, I have my nails done twice a week at a nail bar round the corner from where I live — but sometimes I think I should increase it to every other day. I mean, it’s only nine dollars.
Which in real money, is… Well. It’s nine dollars.
I’m kind of getting used to thinking in dollars. I’m kind of getting used to a lot of things. Jodie was a real star when I called her, and helped me find a studio apartment. It’s tiny and pretty grotty and in a place called Hell’s Kitchen (which I haven’t told Mum. To her it’s “Clinton,” which she thinks sounds very nice and respectable.). For the first few nights I couldn’t sleep for the traffic noise. But the point is, I’m here. I’m here in New York, standing on my own two feet, doing something I can honestly say I adore.
Michael’s job in Washington sounded wonderful. In many ways it would have been much more sensible to take it — and I know Mum and Dad wanted me to. But what Michael said at that lunch — about not falling into anything else, about going after what I truly wanted — made me think. About my career, about my life, about what I really wanted to do for a living.
And to give my mum her due, as soon as I explained what this job at Barneys would involve, she stared at me, and said, “But, love, why on earth didn’t you think of this before?”
“Hi, Becky?” I give a small start, and look up to see Erin at my door. I’ve got to be quite good friends with Erin, ever since she invited me home to look at her collection of lipsticks and we ended up watching James Bond videos all night. “I have your ten o’clock here.”
“Who is my ten o’clock?” I say, frowning puzzledly as I reach for a Richard Tyler sheath. “I couldn’t see anything in the book.”