I stare at him. What kind of people are these?
Undaunted by my astonished face the lawyer carries on talking, ‘You must understand that this contract is binding. At the dissolution of your relationship you will not receive anything more than is already stipulated in this contract. Other than the agreed sum you will not seek further financial gain, notoriety or advancement in any form as the result of this relationship. Breach of contract or failure by yourself will result in immediate termination of the agreement, and in the case of breach, the offended party may seek all remedies available at law or in equity. This section shall survive termination of this agreement and remain in effect for the rest of your life.’
‘One more thing. Mr. Barrington wanted me to emphasize that the contract will be for three months.’
‘I thought it was going to be for one month?’
The lawyer’s face does not change. ‘Your services will be required for the period of three months.’
I press my lips together. I was very drunk last night, but I am sure he said one month. ‘Can I speak to him?’
‘Of course.’ He picks up the phone and speed dials his client’s number. ‘Mr. Barrington, Miss Bloom would like to have a word about the length of the contract.’ He pauses to listen to something Blake says. ‘Yes, she has.’ Then he passes the phone to me and quietly leaves the room. I wait until he closes the door before I speak. I am dismayed to hear my voice sound uncertain and timid.
‘Hello, Lana.’ His voice is different than I remembered. Colder: he seems a total stranger.
I swallow. ‘About the duration of the contract. The lawyer says…’ I begin.
‘Sorry, Lana, but that is not negotiable,’ he says, not sounding sorry at all.
‘Was there anything else you wanted?’
‘Well, have a good day then, and I will see you tonight.’
There is a click and the line goes dead. I replace the phone slowly. It dawns on me then that Scott Fitzgerald was right—the rich are different. They are unashamed by their ruthlessness. The lawyer, who must have been watching an extension light, walks into the room.
‘All sorted out?’
‘Yes. Where do I sign?’
‘You do realize that you will have to read it at some point as there are other clauses than the ones we have discussed in there that you must adhere to.’
‘Do you acknowledge that you have received, read and understood the terms and conditions outlined, and agree to abide by the said terms?’
‘All right,’ he drawls and looks at me expectantly. And I realize he has opened the contract up at the last page.
I sign. My hands are dead steady.
‘And date it here.’
I date it.
He opens another contract. ‘Sign and date again, please.’
When I raise my head he is watching me steadily. He smiles coldly. It occurs to me that he believes his dealings with me to be beneath him. I am expensive trash. He has thoughts about me that are supremely unflattering.
‘Well, that’s that, then. Here is your copy.’
He presses a buzzer that brings his secretary. ‘Helen here will take your bank details and tell you everything else you need to know.’ He half stands and holds his hand out. ‘Thank you, Miss Bloom. Please do not hesitate to call me if you have any further queries.’
In the back seat of the Bentley, I find a Boots bag and inside it my prescription. I ask Tom to stop at a cash machine. I pop my debit card into the hole in the wall and can hardly believe it. One hundred thousand and thirty-two pounds, seventy pence. By heaven!
‘Hi, I’m Fleur Jan,’ the publicist says, coming forward, her hand held out to me.
‘Hi,’ I greet with a smile.
Fleur’s eyes are very large, a much deeper blue than mine, and are enhanced by false eyelashes that she bats with great effect. Her hair is cut very short around her lovely face. Dressed in a brown pencil skirt and a pink top she is effortlessly chic.
‘What we will be doing today has nothing to do with publicity for the company, but Mr. Barrington knows how much I love shopping so he asked if I wouldn’t mind going shopping with you. Of course I said yes,’ she explains with a twinkle in her eyes.
‘Cool,’ I say, some of Fleur’s enthusiasm already rubbing off on me. Fleur is a good change after the drawling Mr. Benby.
‘Mr Barrington mentioned formal attire, beachwear and a pair of new trainers.’
I nod. Wow, he remembered the trainers. The man is thorough, I will give him that.
‘Do you want a coffee or tea or shall we hit the road?’
‘Hit the road.’
We walk together to the lift. Fleur calls it and turns to me. ‘Do you have any specific shops or do you want to leave it to me?’
‘You decide everything.’
And that turns out to be an excellent decision as Fleur proves to be an expert shopping companion. She knows exactly where to go to get what.
Our first stop is Selfridges. Fleur guides me towards a cosmetics counter.
‘This girl is a genius. She can make a chimp look sexy, so listen carefully to her advice,’ she says about a sweet-looking lady standing behind the counter called Aisha.
I am popped on a high stool, given a hand mirror and taught how to make the best of my make-up.
‘Have you ever tried wearing waterproof mascara?’ Fleur asks smoothly. Her face is innocent, but it is clear that Blake has mentioned something about my smudged mascara.
Together the three of us choose two lipsticks, some sparkly eyeliner, cream blusher and waterproof mascara.
‘Now to the perfume department,’ directs Fleur. ‘Something terribly exotic to go with your dark hair and gorgeous eyes.’
Afterwards, Tom drops us off at the front entrance of Harrods. I have never been inside before, but Fleur seems to know her way around, and we quickly make for the first floor where we pick up what Fleur calls the basics: a white blouse and plain black trousers. We walk out of the side entrance of Harrods on the east side and enter Rigby and Peller. Fleur has made me an appointment for a fitting. The woman who calls me into the changing room is middle-aged with large strong hands.
‘Most women are walking around in the wrong bra size,’ she says, and makes me bend over while she fits me with a bra. It turns out so am I. I am not a 34A but a 32B. When I have chosen the designs I want Fleur flashes her company credit card.