OK, here’s the thing. I mean, obviously I could get in a cab, and whiz up to wherever it is, and spend all afternoon looking at the Picassos.
Or else… I could just buy a book about the Picassos. Because the thing is, do you actually need to see a piece of art in the flesh to appreciate it? Of course you don’t. And in a way, flicking through a book would be better than trekking round lots of galleries — because I’m bound to cover more ground more quickly and actually learn far more.
Besides, what they have in this shop is art, isn’t it? I mean, I’ve already taken in some pretty good culture. Exactly.
Several hours later, I arrive at the Royalton with a huge, exhilarated grin on my face. I haven’t had such a successful afternoon shopping since… well, since yesterday.
I check all my carrier bags in at the cloakroom, then head for the small circular bar where Luke has told me to meet him and his new associate, Michael Ellis.
I’ve heard quite a lot about this Michael Ellis during the last few days. Apparently he owns a huge advertising agency in Washington and is best friends with the president. Or is it the vice-president? Something like that, anyway. Basically, he’s a big shot, and crucial to Luke’s new deal. So I’d better make sure I impress him.
God, this place is trendy, I think as I walk in. All leather and chrome and people in severe black outfits with haircuts to match. I walk into the dim circular bar, and there’s Luke, sitting at a table. To my surprise, he’s on his own.
“Hi!” I say, and kiss him. “So — where’s your friend?”
“Making a call,” says Luke. He gestures to a waiter. “Another gimlet here, please.” He gives me a quizzical look as I sit down. “So, my darling. How was the Guggenheim?”
“It was good,” I say with a triumphant beam. Ha, ha-di-ha. I’ve been doing my homework in the cab. “I particularly enjoyed a fascinating series of acrylic forms based on simple Euclidean shapes.”
“Really?” says Luke, looking a bit surprised.
“Absolutely. The way they absorb and reflect pure light… Riveting. Oh and by the way, I bought you a present.” I plonk a book on his lap entitled Abstract Art and Artists, and take a sip of the drink that has been placed in front of me, trying not to look too smug.
“You really went to the Guggenheim!” says Luke, leafing through the book incredulously.
“Erm… yes,” I say. “Of course I did!”
OK, I know you shouldn’t lie to your boyfriend. But it’s kind of true, isn’t it? I did go to the Guggenheim. In the broadest sense of the word.
“This is really interesting,” Luke’s saying. “Did you see that famous sculpture by Brancusi?”
“Erm… well…” I squint over his shoulder, trying to see what he’s talking about. “Well, I was more concentrating on the… um…”
“What’s that on your cheek?” says Luke, suddenly staring at me. I put a hand up in surprise and feel a trace of silver glitter. I’d forgotten all about that.
“It was… a piece of installation art,” I hear myself saying. “Entitled Constellations. They had all this, um… glitter, and they smeared it on you…”
“Here comes Michael now,” interrupts Luke. He closes the book and I quickly put it back in its carrier bag. Thank God for that. I look up interestedly to see what this famous Michael looks like — and nearly choke on my drink.
I don’t believe it. It’s him. Michael Ellis is the balding guy from the gym. Last time he saw me, I was dying at his feet.
“Hi!” says Luke, standing up. “Becky, meet Michael Ellis, my new associate.”
“Hi again,” I say, trying to smile composedly. “How are you?”
Oh, this shouldn’t be allowed. There should be a rule which says that people you’ve met in the gym should never meet you in real life.
“We’ve already had the pleasure of meeting,” says Michael Ellis, shaking my hand with a twinkle and sitting down opposite. “Becky and I worked out together at the hotel gym. Didn’t catch you there this morning, though.”
“This morning?” says Luke, giving me a puzzled look as he sits down again. “I thought you said the gym was closed, Becky.”
“Oh. Um, well…” I take a deep gulp of my drink and clear my throat. “When I said it was closed, what I really meant was… was…” I tail away feebly into silence.
And I so wanted to make a good impression.
“What am I thinking of?” exclaims Michael suddenly. “I must be going crazy! It wasn’t this morning. The gym was closed this morning. Due to vital repair work, I believe.” He grins broadly and I feel myself blushing.