I pick up a bottle of perfume and spraying it into the air on top of my head walk through the fine mist. I do this three times. For good measure I stop breathing and, facing the spray nozzle at my body, spray it all around myself.
I put my credit card and mobile phone into a small white Louis Vuitton handbag (fake, obviously) and stand before the mirror. My eyes are curiously blank. I gaze at my waist. Wasp tiny.
I turn back and look over my shoulder at the reflection of my derrière. That’s French for butt, by the way. I found that out in Marie Claire. The material is snug on my hard won, tantalizingly small rear.
Not bad at all.
Glamour (‘glaeme) American Glamor noun
1. An air of magic or enchantment—specifically, a deceptive, bewitching and dangerous beauty or charm. Linked to spells of sorcerers, glamour indicates a mysterious, exciting magnetism dependent on artifice and falsification—make-up, beautiful clothes etc.
2. Archaic A magic spell; enchantment, specifically to bewitch and glorify by deceptive illusion causing a kind of haze to fall over the beholder, so things are seen in a form different from reality in order to possess or control the beholder to manipulate others into forbidden or dangerous actions.
I can afford a taxi since I won’t have to pay for lunch so I call a minicab. The driver is a Cockney lad who glances into the mirror and tells me I look like a flower arrangement. ‘You even smell like one,’ he says.
I keep my voice cool. ‘Thank you.’
‘I love a girl who takes the time to dress up. Nowadays it’s hard to tell women from men. What with everyone wearing the T-shirts and jeans uniform.’
I make the mistake of looking into his rear-view mirror. He is watching me. I smile distantly.
‘Maybe we can meet up and go out for a drink sometime?’
As if I would go out with a taxi driver. I hate swearing, but it is precisely idiots like these that get me going. Fucking imbecilic moron.
‘Thanks, but I’ve got a boyfriend,’ I say frostily.
‘Can’t blame a bloke for trying…’ He shakes his head regretfully, as if he ever stood any chance of going out with me.
I turn my head towards the moving scenery and for the rest of the journey keep my eyes firmly and deliberately away from him while I fume silently. Lana gets the billionaire and I get minicab drivers coming on to me. When we reach my destination he leers at me as he fumbles around for change from my tenner.
‘Here you are, love.’
I hold my hand out. I don’t tip him.
He drives off and I look up at the building. Pretty impressive. The lobby is clean, but unremarkable. I take the lift, walk along a beige corridor lit with wall sconces, and stop outside apartment fourteen. I ring the bell. Sash’s Ecuador is blaring inside. I wait a few minutes but no one comes to open the door. I take my mobile out and tap into it.
Billie opens the door in her bra and knickers. ‘Be a few minutes more,’ she shouts over the music. ‘Make yourself at home. Help yourself to anything you find in the fridge and look around, but if you get bored come into my bedroom.’ Leaving the door open she disappears down a corridor while I stand in the living room looking around me.
I have been to Billie’s room when she was living with her mum and it was done up in many colors and fun, but always a bit messy. But this, this is grown-up and seductively elegant. Like one of those sophisticated Parisian flats. With palm trees in bronze pots, a fainting couch and a low divan that has a peacock with a spread tail embroidered on it. There are scatter cushions in bright pink, a crystal pig on the coffee table and tapestries on the walls.
One wall is papered with richly colored birds on winding vines on a deep blue background. The curtains are all floor-length and expensively heavy with green, blue and pink tassels as thick as fingers. The nooks and crannies hold bronze and lapis lazuli lamps. At night they must create a soft amber glow for Billie.
A large, elegant armchair signals the end of the living room. Behind it thick drapes section off an intimate dining room with a green marble topped table and ruby chairs. I stand for a moment absorbing the foreignness of it all—the mirror, the beautiful intricately carved silver fruit bowl filled with fruit—and cannot help the envy that pours into my heart.
Not only Lana but even Billie is now living like a queen.
If I get close to Lana will her billionaire fiancé get me a flat like this too? And a fruit bowl that will always be full?
I walk towards the French door into the balcony. There are bamboo plants in blue pots and a stone water feature. The gurgling, splashing sound it makes is soothing. I look down at the scenery, the canal, the pretty houses, restaurants and bars with surprise. What a difference a cab ride can make. It almost feels as though I am in a different country. No trace of the concrete jungle here!
I grip the metal rail and feel sad.
Then I steel myself, turn away and walk through the corridor along the thick carpet. The first door I open is a baby’s room. It has a cot and lots of toys. I suppose Lana’s son must spend nights here. I close that door and open the next. A second bedroom. There is a desk untidy with piles of sketches. I go towards the desk and look at some of them. Billie did say I could look around. Baby clothes as colorful as parrots adorn the pages. I am surprised by how lovely they are. But what is Billie doing designing baby clothes?
The music has either come to an end or Billie has switched it off. I close the door softly and pass a bathroom—the wall and ceiling are cloudy gray marble. The most surprising thing about her bathroom is the polished mahogany toilet seat. Thick and broad, I imagine it must be an antique. A few more steps brings me to the threshold of a stunningly impeccable kitchen. Even the grouting between the floor tiles is pale and clean. Either Billie never cooks or she is a cleaning beast. Knowing Billie as I do, I’ll stick with the first option.
There is a tin of baby biscuits on the otherwise barren kitchen table. The sink is empty and dry. All the granite surfaces are as clean as two new pins. I open the fridge. It keeps a pizza box of leftovers, some bars of chocolate and a carton of orange juice. There is a bottle of vodka and a tray of ice cubes in the freezer. I close it and go back to Billie’s bedroom. The room stinks of hairspray.
Billie puts the can down and turns towards me. Her hair is the color of teal. It kind of suits her.
‘Didn’t you get yourself a drink? I’ve got vodka.’
I shake my head. ‘I’m all right.’