Shopaholic Takes Manhattan

Page 77

“Tell me,” says Mrs. Parker urgently. “How is that poor young man bearing up after his… great loss?” she whispers.

“That boy has a natural nobility,” says Mr. Wunsch fiercely. “Young people today could learn a lot from him. Tell me, is it the army he’s headed for?”

“He… he hasn’t mentioned it,” I say helplessly. “Would you excuse me.”

I escape to the bathroom — and that’s just as huge and sumptuous as the rest of the apartment, with racks of luxury soaps and bottles of free perfume, and a comfy chair to sit in. I kind of wish I could stay there all day, actually. But I don’t dare linger too long in case Elinor comes looking for me. So with a final squirt of Eternity, I force myself to get up and go back into the throng, where waiters are moving quietly around, murmuring, “Lunch will be served now.”

As everyone moves toward a set of grand double doors I look around for Elinor but I can’t see her. There’s an old lady in black lace sitting on a chair near to me, and she begins to stand up with the aid of a walking stick.

“Let me help,” I say, hurrying forward as her grip falters. “Shall I hold your champagne glass?”

“Thank you, my dear!” The lady smiles at me as I take her arm, and we walk slowly together into the palatial dining room. People are pulling out chairs and sitting down at circular tables, and waiters are hurrying round with bread rolls.

“Margaret,” says Mrs. Heywood, coming forward and holding out her hands to the old lady. “There you are. Now let me find your seat…”

“This young lady was assisting me,” says the old lady as she lowers herself onto a chair, and I smile modestly at Mrs. Heywood.

“Thank you, dear,” she says absently. “Now, could you take my glass too, please… and bring some water to our table?”

“Of course!” I say with a friendly smile. “No problem.”

“And I’ll have a gin and tonic,” adds an elderly man nearby, swiveling in his chair.

“Coming right up!”

It just shows, what Mum says is right. The way to make a friend is to give a helping hand. I feel quite special, helping out the hostess. It’s almost like I’m throwing the party with her!

I’m not sure where the kitchen is, but the waiters are all heading toward one end of the room. I follow them through a set of double doors, and find myself in the kind of kitchen Mum would absolutely die for. Granite and marble everywhere, and a fridge which looks like a space rocket, and a pizza oven set into the wall! There are waiters in white shirts hurrying in and out with trays, and two chefs standing at a central island hob, holding sizzling pans, and someone’s yelling, “Where the fuck are the napkins?”

I find a bottle of water and a glass, and put them on a tray, then start looking around to see where the gin might be. As I bend down to open a cupboard door, a man with cropped bleached hair taps me on the shoulder.

“Hey. What are you doing?”

“Oh hi!” I say, standing up. “I’m just looking for the gin, actually. Somebody wanted a gin and tonic.”

“We haven’t got time for that!” he barks. “Do you realize how short-staffed we are? We need food on tables!”

Short-staffed? I stare at him blankly for a moment. Then, as my eye falls on my black skirt and the realization hits me, I give a shocked laugh.

“No! I’m not a… I mean, I’m actually one of the…”

How do I say this without offending him? I’m sure being a waiter is actually very fulfilling. Anyway, he’s probably an actor in his spare time.

But while I’m dithering, he dumps a silver platter full of smoked fish in my arms.

“Get! Now!”

“But I’m not—”

“Now! Food on tables!”

With a pang of fright I quickly hurry away. OK. What I’ll do is I’ll just get away from him, and put this platter down somewhere, and find my place.

Cautiously I walk back into the dining room, and wander about between the tables, looking for a handy surface to leave the platter. But there don’t seem to be any side tables or even spare chairs. I can’t really leave it on the floor, and it would be a bit too awkward to reach between the guests and dump it on a table.

This is really annoying, actually. The platter’s quite heavy, and my arms are starting to ache. I pass by Mr. Wunsch’s chair and give him a little smile, but he doesn’t even notice me. It’s as though I’m suddenly invisible.

This is ridiculous. There must be somewhere I can put it down.

“Will-you-serve-the-food!” hisses a furious voice behind me, and I feel myself jump.

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