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Authors: Louise Bagshawe

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BOOK: A Kept Woman
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printing run, and Green Eggs had its first book. Then all he had to do was sell it.

He didn’t have a dollar for advertising, but he had passion. Michael loaded up copies of Owl into a knapsack and cycled round every kindergarten, and

 

x6

 

library in Manhattan. For every nine ‘no’s, he got one ‘yes’. After a month he had sold every copy.

About now, Michael was earning just enough to pay his assistant, his overheads and his rent, and even afford ‘small luxuries like decent coffee. His big break could not be far away. He knew it. He walked down the rickety stairs of his pre-war apartment building to the street to spend one more day looking for it.

I7

Chapter 3

Diana settled back against the black leather of the chauffeur-driven Mercedes, squeezed her husband’s hand, and thought about New York.

Her things, what little there were of them, had already been shipped: real lavender bags and other small reminders of England, some new things from Chloe and Hussein Chalwar, and her wedding dress, dry-cleaned, boxed and pressed, to be presented perhaps to a daughter should she and Ernie ever get a minute to themselves to start working on one. Apart from that, she took very little. Only the Prada and Chanel had survived the move. Whlit more perfect excuse could you have to start your wardrobe from scratch than emigrating to a new country? Ernie was still buried in his new reports and balance sheets for Blakely’s and just signed off whatever Diana wanted. And to conquer New York, nothing but the latest stuff would do.

Her engagement ring, a not so subtle diamond rock, now glittered next to a thin band of platinum. Diana glanced down at it smugly. Her status had taken rather a leap. She was now Diana Foxton, Mrs Ernest Foxton. In fact, there was a large box of creamy Smythson’s writing paper in the boot, zipped away in her Gucci luggage (Louis Vuitton was so yesterday) with her.new name emblazoned all over it. Diana crossed her legs under her sage-green Joseph suit, her string of pearls at her neck, and tried to get used to it. To be honest, she preferred her maiden name. A part of her missed being Diana V.erity.

 

x8

 

But that was silly; married women didn’t keep their own names, particularly when they weren’t going to work.

‘Do you think they’ll have got our place ready, .darling?’ she asked. ‘I need a really good bath when I get off a plane. I always feel so sticky and bloated.’

‘Course they will.’ Ernie had his nose in a report and answered her absently. ‘I told you, the supervisor’s hired us a temporary maid. She’ll have done everything, even stocked the fridge.’

‘I bet there won’t be any bubble bath.’ Diana pouted. ‘I should have stocked up before I left.’

‘I can’t be expected to sort out your toiletries,’ Ernie said, rather shortly.

‘I know that, sweetie.’

Diana glanced out of the window as London swept past and wondered how much she would miss it. Susie had given her a big hug at the end of the reception at Brown’s, and told her the scene would never be the same. She might miss Catherine Connor and Emma Norman, her girlfriends who used to drink with her at the Groucho and Soho House. But there were only so many times you could go to the Met Bar, and that old Liam and Patsy, Jude and Sadie, Tara and Tamara thing was just … played out. I want fun, Diana thought impetuously, pushing her dark hair back from her blue eyes, sweeping a soft hand finished with a plain French manicure across delicate cheekbones dusted over with a sheer tinted moisturiser and just a hint of bronzing powder. Her reflection in the rear-view mirrbr showed that the Stila lip gloss she had chosen for today was a definite improvement on her old matt look. She resolved to wear nothing but lip glosses from now on in. Or at least until she got bored with them.

So the clubs were done. What about London’s culture? There was an awful lot of it, but what Londoner ever bothered to go? The British Museum, the National

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Gallery … just pretty piles of stone you drove past on your way down to the King’s Road. She might miss her family, but Daddy had been pretty sour once the wedding bills had finally come in, and Ma was still bugging her about Ernie not being the right chap, and her sisters Iseult and Camilla both thought she should get a job, which was insanity, of course. Why should one get a job when you could, instead, spend your days shopping and lunching and having fun?

Diana batted away all the criticism. It was mostly down to jealousy, anyway. Ernie was so dashing and so successful, the sad fact of the matter was they just couldn’t handle it.

Camilla was a lawyer and made about a hundred grand a year, and had twins. She had absolutely no fashion sense and lived south of the river, in a big Victorian pile with a garden. Yet Ma was always holding Milla up to her as some sort of shining example.

Diana remembered the farewell tea Milla had given her yesterday afternoon in her garden. She had cried and given Diana a big hug and offered her a slice of homemade flapjack.

‘But you’ll be so bored in New York. You don’t even know anybody.’

‘I’ll make friends, Milla. I made lots of friends when I

moved to London. I’ll just do it all over again.’ ‘Friends? That crowd you hang out with?’ ‘They are my friends, so don’t be horrible.’

‘I wonder how many of them you’ll keep up with once you reach Manhattan,’ Milla said, rather shrewdly for

her.

‘There are such things as phone lines. And think how enjoyable it’ll be in New York in spring. We’ll throw lots of dinner parties. You love throwing dinner parties.’

Milla looked out at her two terrors trying to dismantle the oak tree in the garden. ‘What about your job?’

 

2.0

 

Not everybody wants to work. I’ve rather had enough of Vogue and, anyway, Ernie’s going to pull some strings in case I decide I do want to go back to it.’

Diana pushed a lock of chestnut hair back behind her ers, in which new sapphi’e and ruby studs, a wedding present from Ernie, glittered merrily. They were rather flashy, but jewels were jewels. Her beloved husband was actually making noises about getting her a part-time job, which was tiresome. She was hoping for a couple of years off from fashion writing and ringing up designers telling them what non-size Stella and Shalom were this week. It was good in that one got the perks - free samples, big discounts … but she thought that, given a little time with the ladies of New York, she would be getting the perks without doing the work, which was just about the story of her life.

‘Well, t]aat’s good, angel. In the end you’d get bored with nothing to do.’

‘Nothing to do? Oh Milla!’

Diana laughed, and for the millionth time her sister marvelled at how bewitching she looked when she smiled, lit up like Oxford Street before Christmas, the beautiful white teeth and slightly imperfect nose and sparkling eyes all crunched up together and simply adorable. It was easy to see how London had fallen under the spell of her incorrigible, layabout sister. If Milla had any reservations, they were about Ernie. It was true that he seemed devoted, and gave Di whatever she wanted. Some men loved a high-maintenance girl. It was just that Ernie didn’t seem to appreciate Diana’s ravishing smile the way Milla would have wanted him to. He always seemed a bit distracted. Oh well; perhaps that was just his way.

She poured tea for her sister, stirring in milk and sugar for herself and a slice of lemon for Diana. No doubts about the wedding, though. What a triumph. All the’


nasty little London scenesters who professed to love Di had been absolutely seething with envy. And Diana had been so gracious, kissing everybody, laughing so the whole room lit up, making a point to forget no one, not even the crusty old great-uncles Dad brought down from Shropshire. She had danced the first dance - a lovely stately waltz - and then later, had led the whole party in a mad disco-dancing frenzy to ‘Venus’ by Bananaram/. Ernie had moved around the room, smiling and getting his picture taken, seemingly oblivious to all the boyfriends and husbands casting longing looks at Diana. She was so radiant, so charming, so discreetly flirtatious! Milla sighed and bit into her flapjack. She’d miss her sister. Diana was impossible, but impossible not to adore, too. She started to tell Diana about the people she knew in New York, watching her blue eyes glaze over. Milla’s girlfriends were lawyers and bankers; not the trophy wife sort she supposed Diana would gravitate to.

Recalling the conversation, Diana smiled gently. Dear

Milla. If only she could get her to loosen up just a little bit, how wonderful it would be! All that money, and no time. to enjoy spending it. She glanced across at Ernie, buried as he was in his report. What had her sister said about him?

‘The city’s buzzing about Ernie.’ Milla had been admiring Diana’s amazing trousseau before the wedding and helping her select candidates for her going-away wardrobe. There would be no honeymoon, as Ernie wanted to get to his new job as quickly as possible, but Diana had said lightly, ‘Our whole lives will be a honeymoon,’ so maybe

there was no cause to be concerned.

‘Buzzing how?’

Diana picked up a cream silk shirt, wondering if it would survive the trip. It contrasted so well with everything from burgundy to eggshell blue. You really couldn’t do without cream silk and cotton. It gave you

 

neutrality without washing out your complexion the way white tended to do. ‘Nothing good, I hope.’ She gave Milla a quick glance and started to listen. Gossip about Ernie! That was interesting. It was good to be marrying a man who other people talked about.

‘Blakely’s picked him because he was ruthless at Hatfield Books.’

‘Businessmen should be ruthless, shouldn’t they? Anyway, under Ernie, profits went up. You can’t deny that.’

‘I don’t, but people say he was still pretty cut-throat, even by modern publishing standards. He fired over a thousand people. He closed a printing operation—’

Diana shivered. She didn’t like to think of people losing their jobs. ‘He never told me that.’

‘Why would he? I expect you didn’t ask.’

‘I don’t know too much about his business. He probably’hated having to do it.’

Milla recalled the nasty jokes that had circulated in Private Eye and decided not to share them with the bride to be. Ernie Foxton had legendarily issued the P45s two weeks before the Christmas party at Hatfield’s London offices so that the company’s champagne bill would be lower.

‘A lot of authors who had been with Hatfield for years were dropped, nd they stopped publishing poetry and other prestigious books?

‘Prestigious doesn’t pay the bills.’

‘I suppose that was Ernie’s thinking. But it caused waves,’ Milla said, tentatively.

Diana frowned slightly with her beautifully shaped brows. ‘Well, I don’t know about that. I imagine they will find other work. Ernie’s job was to make the

company profitable. I think he did all right, don’t you?’ ‘He certainly did,’ Milla said dryly.

Ernest Foxton ran such a tight ship they had given him the nickname ‘Captain Bligh’. The head of the sales forcel

 

3

 

who had been with Hatfield man and boy for twenty years, had been called up to Ernie’s office and given twenty minutes to clear out of the building. The logo which had been the company’s signature for half a century was instantly wiped out and replaced with bright neon colours that stood out on the shelves. New writers were dropped from the list, old staples were cleared out wholesale and midlevel authors lost the editors they had relied on as Ernie fired some staff and rearranged others. With the closure of the printworks, and the farming out of printing to contractors, Ernie had personally eliminated about a third of the workforce. Maybe it was necessary, Milla thought, but did he have to be quite so brutal? The horror stories were legion. Pack up your books and go, and if you contact any of our writers we’ll sue. Pregnant women fired in their ninth month, lifelong company men sacked and told not even to expect a bonus. The atmosphere over at Hatfield had been just a little bit short of France during the Reign of Terror. It was Ernie’s recolution, and it had been a corporate bloodbath.

Of course a few people had come out of it pretty well. The shareholders loved Ernie: their moribund stock had risen five and three-eighths. Then there were the superstar blockbuster writers, the bestselling authors who now got an even larger piece of the pie. And finally, there was Ernie himself, who had shot up from middle.manager to big cheese. He had been rewarded with stock options, cash bonuses, a bigger office, a Lamborghini and, finally, a new job from half a world away, offering him double his salary. Ernie was a two-million-dollar-a-year executive and he was only thirty-eight. The world was his oyster now, and he could afford the delightful Diana, and any other toys he might want.

‘Well, there you go then. I expect most of the talk is about how much money he made for the company.

 

2-4

 

People are too tied to tradition. All Ernie did was try to give the place a facelift.’

‘The company he’s taking over in New York is going to be a tougher proposition. They have a very prestigious fiction list and publish a lot of well-loved popular authors. I don’t think they’ll react the same way if Ernie decides to go for slash and burn again.’

Diana selected a pair of Manolos that set off her outfit perfectly and congratulated herself inwardly for her luck in not having taken them down to the charity shop yet.

‘Nobody loves businessmen, Milla, but they do love results. Sometimes tough decisions have to be taken. Ernie’s a very kind soul, you know. He’s already discussed all the charities he thinks we should get involved in in America.’

All the .most visible ones, Milla didn’t say.

‘I’m sure you’re right. I just thought you’d want to know what’s being said.’

‘And I do.’ Diana gave her sister a kiss on the cheek. ‘Of course I do. You’re a darling to warn me. I need to have ammunition when the New York literary establishment starts being horrible to my husband and making snide jokes at parties. You need to look out for that sort of thing. I’ll watch his back, so he doesn’t get insulted for twenty minutes straight without knowing what’s going on.’

BOOK: A Kept Woman
8.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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