Shopaholic Takes Manhattan

Page 50

“Bit early,” says Tarquin, with a nervous laugh.

(“Titchy” is Tarquin-speak for drink, by the way. And trousers are “tregs” and… you get the picture.)

We lapse into another dreadful silence. I just can’t stop remembering awful details from our date — like when he tried to kiss me and I pretended to be absorbed in a nearby picture. Oh God. Forget. Forget.

“I… I heard you were moving to New York,” Tarquin says suddenly, staring at the floor. “Is that true?”

“Yes,” I say, unable to stop myself smiling. “Yes, that’s the plan.”

“I went to New York once myself,” Tarquin says. “Didn’t really get on with it.”

“No,” I say consideringly. “No, I can believe that. It’s a bit different from Scotland, isn’t it? Much more… frantic.”

“Absolutely!” he exclaims, as if I’ve said something very insightful. “That was just it. Too frantic. And the people are absolutely extraordinary. Quite mad, in my opinion.”

Compared to what? I want to retort. At least they don’t call water “Ho” and sing Wagner in public.

But that wouldn’t be kind. So I say nothing, and he says nothing — and when the door opens, we both look up gratefully.

“Hi!” says Suze, appearing at the door. “Tarkie, you’re here! Listen, I’ve just got to get the car, because I had to park a few streets away the other night. I’ll beep when I get back, and we can whiz off. OK?”

“OK,” says Tarquin, nodding. “I’ll just wait here with Becky.”

“Lovely!” I say, trying to smile brightly.

Suze disappears, I shift awkwardly in my seat, and Tarquin stretches his feet out and stares at them. Oh, this is excruciating. The very sight of him is niggling at me more and more — and suddenly I realize I have to say something now, otherwise I’ll disappear off to New York and the chance will be lost.

“Tarquin,” I say, and exhale sharply. “There’s something I… I really want to say to you. I’ve been wanting to say it for a while, actually.”

“Yes?” he says, his head jerking up. “What… what is it?” He meets my eyes anxiously, and I feel a slight pang of nerves. But now I’ve started, I’ve got to carry on. I’ve got to tell him the truth. I push my hair back, and take a deep breath.

“That jumper,” I say. “It really doesn’t go with that waistcoat.”

“Oh,” says Tarquin, looking taken aback. “Really?”

“Yes!” I say, feeling a huge relief at having got it off my chest. “In fact… it’s frightful.”

“Should I take it off?”

“Yes. In fact, take the waistcoat off, too.”

Obediently he peels off the jumper and the waistcoat — and it’s amazing how much better he looks when he’s just in a plain blue shirt. Almost… normal! Then I have a sudden inspiration.

“Wait here!”

I hurry to my room and seize one of the carrier bags sitting on my chair. There’s a jumper inside which I bought a few days ago for Luke’s birthday, but I’ve discovered he’s already got exactly the same one, so I was planning to take it back.

“Here!” I say, arriving back in the sitting room. “Put this on. It’s Paul Smith.”

Tarquin slips the plain black jumper over his head and pulls it down — and what a difference! He’s actually starting to look quite distinguished.

“Your hair,” I say, staring critically at him. “We need to do something with that.”

Ten minutes later I’ve wetted it, blow-dried it, and smoothed it back with a bit of mousse. And… I can’t tell you. It’s a transformation.

“Tarquin, you look wonderful!” I say — and I really mean it. He’s still got that thin, bony look, but suddenly he doesn’t look geeky anymore, he looks kind of… interesting.

“Really?” says Tarquin, staring down at himself. He looks a little shell-shocked, but the point is, he’ll thank me in the long run.

A car horn sounds from outside, and we both jump.

“Well — have a good time,” I say, suddenly feeling like his mother. “Tomorrow morning, just wet your hair again and push your fingers through it, and it should look OK.”

“Right,” says Tarquin, looking as though I’ve just given him a long mathematical formula to memorize. “I’ll try to remember. And the jersey? Shall I return it by post?”

“Don’t return it!” I say in horror. “It’s yours to keep, and wear. A gift.”

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