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Authors: F. G. Gerson

21 Steps to Happiness

BOOK: 21 Steps to Happiness
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21 Steps to Happiness
F. G. GERSON

www.millsandboon.co.uk

Acknowledgments

Thanks to Kate Silver for her incredible help and insights; Farrin Jacobs for her courage and commitment; Selina McLemore; Kathryn Lye; Ruben Gerson for his kindness; Franklin & Dulce Gerson for their love and comfort; Lukasz & Veronica Karwowski for their warm support.

Also, thanks to my wonderful agent, Julie M. Culver, and everybody at Lowenstein-Yost for the caring support, unlimited enthusiasm and hard work.

For Maria & Ilo,
the two authentic ingredients for happiness

Contents
Step #1:
Never be ashamed of who you are.

“Y
ou're on the next flight, leaving at 5:40, Miss Blanchett.”

Listen to her French accent! It's so…

“I can check in your luggage straight away.”

“That would be just fine,” I say with a suddenly posh voice.

I make a mental note: easy on the posh voice.

I pass her my bag. She frowns. Okay, it's not one of those fancy Frenchy-looking kind she expected from someone like me. It's more like a little Adidas job I used to take to yoga. And yes, it looks horrible, like an old sheep stomach stuffed with clothes and underwear. But darling, you should take a look at the rest of my life.

I have no time for futilities such as traveling wear anymore. I'm so desperately busy right now!

I am a
businesswoman.

Going to Paris!

“You may wait in the Premiere Lounge and I'll place a call for your boarding,” she says extra gently as she points at some sort of classy hotel-reception area behind her. “And…Miss Blanchett?”

“Yes.”

“I love your mother's work.”

“Sure, thanks,” I say, stepping cautiously into the lounge with the feeling that I'm entering a sacred place.

Hello? I mean,
Bonjour?

L'Espace Première
is a magnificent lobby full of aging golden boys playing with their cell phones and computers, reading French newspapers while drinking scotch on the rocks under appropriately dimmed lights.

I make another mental note: Lynn, you must get used to these swanky places. Because, right now, I feel as comfortable as a monkey sitting on a rocket.

Oh!

A waitress brushes past me and places a basket of pastries on the buffet table. I move closer. I'm guessing they were baked in Paris this morning and flown to JFK.

“Are they from Paris?” I ask.

Silence.

“The croissants?”

“I don't know,” she says. “They deliver them by truck. We heat them up in the microwave. I'm new here, anyway.”

“Thank you.” I grab one of those ridiculously tiny plates and fight a natural instinct to beat the cake-eating record, which is actually held by a Japanese woman, or so I've seen on the Discovery Channel.

Since Jodie asked me to behave like a young lady of the world, I put the tiniest of all the croissants on my plate, ignore the tray of éclairs, and find a seat next to an elegant woman.

She is all I would like to be. Startlingly beautiful. Confident. At home in such surroundings.

She is
much
older than me, about Jodie's age, somewhere in her comfortable forties. She's sipping tea while browsing through a magazine. She looks so calm, so perfect, so…
erudite
. She drops her reading, looks up and smiles at me. I smile back with my mouth full, shrug and struggle to eat as elegantly as a bird.

“They're lovely croissants, aren't they?” she says suddenly.

“Oh, yes, lovely!” Some crumbs come flying out of my mouth and land on George W. Bush's face on the cover of her magazine.

She brushes them off gracefully. “I'm sorry to interrupt you, but I think we can board our flight. You're going to Paris, aren't you?”

I swallow a mouthful and say, “Well, yes, I'm flying to Paris!” As if it was the most obvious thing to do.

“I thought so.” She stands and gives me her hand. “Roxanne Green. Nice to meet you.”

Roxanne?
What a cool name.

“Lynn,” I say briefly, controlling a survival impulse to say,
That's Lynn Blanchett, yeah, that's right, the daughter of super-famous Jodie Blanchett, so who's the most glamorous one now?

“Lynn? Mmm! Nice to meet you, then.” She gives me a condescending smile. “Our gate is this way,” she says and darts away immediately.

Oh! Should I…

She stops. “Are you coming?”

Yes, yes! I abandon my croissant to catch up with her.

“First visit to Paris?”

Apparently it's tattooed on my forehead.

“Oh, no! I go often,” I lie. “What about you?”

“Not as often as I'd like to,” she says, but every single Air France attendant is, like, hello, Miss Green, how are you, Miss Green, how nice to see you again, seat 1A as usual, the Chablis is already in the chiller, ha ha ha, have a nice flight.

“What brings you to Paris so often, Lynn? Studying at the Sorbonne?”

Studying!

“Oh, no, no, work mostly.”

“Really? Working? What is it that you do, then?”

“I'm a PR…er…person. I work in couture,” I hear myself say.

“How interesting! Paris! Couture! At your age! You must lead a very colorful life.”

“I can't complain.”

“Who are you working for? Dior?” Roxanne giggles.

“Muriel B.”

“Oh, you're working for Muriel. That's so funny. I know Muriel very well. Her father is a good friend of mine. You know him? Francis Boutonnière? It's such a small world, isn't it?”

“Oh, yes! Extremely tiny,” I agree awkwardly, since I hardly know anything about Muriel B and I've never ever heard about any Francis Boutonnière. “Do you work in the fashion business, too, Roxanne?”

“I'm just an enthusiast. I make my living as a writer.”

“Oh…have you written anything I might have heard of?”

She gives me that smile again. “Are you familiar with self-help titles?”

“Boarding pass, please,” a flying attendant asks as we're about to board.

Roxanne hesitates a second, but finally snatches mine. “Where are you sitting? Ah! Business,” she breathes and looks up at the stewardess. “Would you mind upgrading my good friend Lynn to premiere? Seat 1B. We just didn't realize we were on the same flight.”

“That won't be a problem, Miss Green.”

Just like that. I follow Roxanne into first class. “These flights are such a drag,” she whispers as they serve us two champagne flutes and a tray of canapés to make it just about tolerable. “We'll keep each other company and you can tell me all about your
big job
at Muriel B!” Another laugh escapes her perfectly shaped mouth.

Oh, God!

“And remember to tell Muriel—you only fly losers and sales reps in business.” She's about to give me back my boarding pass but takes a better look at it. “Blanchett?” she reads.

I can practically hear the bell of recognition in her head.

“You wouldn't happen to know—”

“Yep,” I interrupt. “She's my mother.”

You should see the look on Roxanne's face. I thought for a second she was choking on one of the lovely canapés she threw in her mouth. “You're Jodie Blanchett's daughter. But, darling, it's…IMPOSSIBLE!”

I gulp my champagne. I'm Jodie-freaking-Blanchett's daughter. That's just the way it is.

Jodie Blanchett, the designer behind the revival of denim chic.

Jodie Blanchett, the guru of anorexia clothing.

Jodie Blanchett, the worst mother on the entire planet and the one person responsible for putting me on this plane.

“I know Jodie very well and…she never mentioned any daughter!”

Typical Jodie. She always introduces me as
family,
never uses the actual word
daughter
. “I grew up with Dad,” I say to clarify the obvious un-Jodieness about me.

“Whose your dad? I must know him!”

“Bill Blanchett.”

“Bill Blanchett? Never heard of him.”

“Dad is a…” I'm about to say
simple guy,
but that's such a bad way to sum up Dad. He is all that Jodie's not. Caring, loving, there for me. Their marriage lasted less than a week. Jodie once told me she loved the sound of
Jodie Blanchett
. I'm just the by-product of her quest for a flashy name. “Dad worked in a club she used to go to,” I explain. “Like centuries ago.”

“Well, your mother was a real trouper, wasn't she. Party party party!” Roxanne points a toothpick at me. “She was my absolute idol back in the eighties! Very liberated! Do you know I was one of the very first people to buy her paper clothes?”

The paper collection put Jodie on the map. Then came the perfume and the cosmetics line. The rest is history.

“I used to hang out a lot with her. We were very good friends. You know, back in the days….” Roxanne laughs again and the sound is quickly becoming annoying. “I don't see her at all anymore. It's like she…disappeared.”

“She lives a very secluded life,” I say.

It's actually a miracle she came out of her lair to drive me to the airport.

I mean,
she
didn't drive me, of course. Her chauffeur did.

“Muriel is all you're not,” Jodie had told me during the ride while helping herself to a mineral water from the limo minibar. “She's been an item since she was a child. She's eccentric. Charming. She's a social animal. She knows everybody and everybody knows her. And she also speaks many languages,” she concluded to answer her cell phone.

I opened the old copy of
Learn French in 10 Days
she offered me and looked through the first pages while she was having an angry cell-phone conversation about importing fur from Kazakhstan.

Day 1 was fairly easy and all about finding a bus stop. Day 2 was a real challenge as it encompassed buying bread in a French bakery.

Je voudrais une baguette de pain s'il vous plaît
. How was that going to help in Paris? I was positive that buying bread wasn't part of my job description. I couldn't fall back on Day 1 either because I was also darn sure Muriel Boutonnière was not going to ask me directions to the next bus stop.

L'arrêt de bus se trouve à coté de la mairie
.

Please.

How could anyone ever manage two languages in one head anyway?

Jodie disconnected her cell phone. “Did William give you some spending money?”

Jodie's the only person in the world who calls Dad William. Everyone else calls him Bill.

“I have my credit card.”

“I mean real money,” she said and took an envelope from her handbag.

I opened it. It contained a large wad of Euros. Jodie is like the mob, she only believes in cash.

“I can't take that,” I protested.

She laughed. “Why?”

“It's too much money.”

“Don't be so
common!
” She put her shades on, protecting herself from my commonness. “You're Jodie Blanchett's daughter. People will expect you to pay for everything. And you will! I don't want you to seem cheap, it would reflect poorly on me.” She tapped on the driver's shoulder as we approached the terminal. “To the Minute-Drop!”

I tried not to make a face, but she looked at me and sighed. “I can't go inside the terminal. Not at this time of day. There are all…those
people.

I sat there beside Jodie, uncomfortable as usual, trying to think of something to say or to do that would impress her. Or at least get her attention. But she was already back on her cell phone, this time yelling at her PA and complaining about how U.S. Customs is ruining the fashion industry.

“Thank you, Jodie,” I said when I got out of the limousine.

She put her cell phone on the side for a second.

“Thank you?”

“For arranging all this,” I said, pointing at the terminal.

And for giving me the chance to show you I can be the kind of girl you'd actually claim as your daughter.

She looked annoyed. She doesn't like thank-yous or goodbyes. It's her excuse to run away from people pronto and without ceremony. “Please, Lynn. Don't turn it into another mess,” she said and they immediately drove away.

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