Shopaholic Takes Manhattan

Page 75

“Uhm…” I open my mouth and close it again. My mind’s gone completely blank. Come on, I must have some hobbies. What do I do at the weekends? What do I do to relax?

“Well, I…”

This is completely ridiculous. There must be things in my life other than shopping.

“Well, obviously, I enjoy… socializing with friends,” I begin hesitantly. “And also the… the study of fashion through the um… medium of magazines…”

“Are you a sportswoman?” says Elinor, eyeing me coldly. “Do you hunt?”

“Erm… no. But… I’ve recently taken up fencing!” I add in sudden inspiration. I’ve got the outfit, haven’t I? “And I’ve played the piano since I was six.”

Completely true. No need to mention that I gave up when I was nine.

“Indeed,” says Elinor, and gives a wintry smile. “Sacha is also very musical. She gave a recital of Beethoven piano sonatas in London last year. Did you go to it?”

Bloody Sacha. With her bloody water-skiing and bloody sonatas.

“No,” I say defiantly. “But I… I gave one myself, as it happens. Of… of Wagner sonatas.”

“Wagner sonatas?” echoes Elinor suspiciously.

“Erm… yes.” I clear my throat, trying to think how to get off the subject of accomplishments. “So! You must be very proud of Luke!”

I’m hoping this comment will trigger a happy speech from her lasting ten minutes. But Elinor simply looks at me silently, as though I’m speaking nonsense.

“With his… his company and everything,” I press on doggedly. “He’s such a success. And he seems very determined to make it in New York. In America.” Elinor gives me a patronizing smile.

“No one is anything till they make it in America.” She looks out of the window. “We’re here.”

Thank God for that.

To give Elinor her due, the beauty spa is absolutely amazing. The reception area is exactly like a Greek grotto, with pillars and soft music and a lovely scent of essential oils in the air. We go up to the reception desk, where a smart woman in black linen calls Elinor “Mrs. Sherman” very deferentially. They talk for a while in lowered voices, and the woman occasionally gives me a glance and nods her head, and I try to pretend not to be listening, looking at the price list for bath oils. Then abruptly Elinor turns away and ushers me to a seating area where there’s a jug of mint tea and a sign asking patrons to respect the tranquility of the spa and keep their voices down.

We sit in silence for a while — then a girl in a white uniform comes to collect me and takes me to a treatment room, where a robe and slippers are waiting, all wrapped in embossed cellophane. As I get changed, she’s busying herself at her counter of goodies, and I wonder pleasurably what I’ve got in store. Elinor insisted on paying for all my treatments herself, however much I tried to chip in — and apparently she selected the “top-to-toe grooming” treatment, whatever that is. I’m hoping it’ll include a nice relaxing aromatherapy massage — but as I sit down on the couch, I see a pot full of wax heating up.

I feel an unpleasant lurch in my tummy. I’ve never been that great at having my legs waxed. Which is not because I’m afraid of pain, but because—

Well, OK. It’s because I’m afraid of pain.

“So — does my treatment include waxing?” I say, trying to sound lighthearted.

“You’re booked in for a full waxing program,” says the beautician, looking up in surprise. “The ‘top-to-toe.’ Legs, arms, eyebrows, and Brazilian.”

Arms? Eyebrows? I can feel my throat tightening in fear. I haven’t been this scared since I had my jabs for Thailand.

“Brazilian?” I say in a scratchy voice. “What… what’s that?”

“It’s a form of bikini wax. A total wax.”

I stare at her, my mind working overtime. She can’t possibly mean—

“So if you’d like to lie down on the couch—”

“Wait!” I say, trying to keep my voice calm. “When you say ‘total,’ do you mean…”

“Uh-huh.” The beautician smiles. “Then, if you wish, I can apply a small crystal tattoo to the… area. A love heart is quite popular. Or perhaps the initials of someone special?”

No. This can’t be real.

“So, if you could just lie back on the couch and relax—”

Relax? Relax?

She turns back to her pot of molten wax — and I feel a surge of pure terror.

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