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Authors: Plum Sykes

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BOOK: Bergdorf Blondes
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Julie’s honesty about her good friends is refreshing, but it’s lucky I am not the gossipy type or most of her good friends wouldn’t be her good friends for long. Suddenly Julie looked uncharacteristically solemn. She said she had something difficult to tell me.

“Charlie’s gone back to LA. I’m gutted of course, but I insisted he send me flowers once a week and he agreed
immediately
—”

“How cute,” I said. Julie obviously had Charlie wrapped around her little finger, even though they’d known each other only a few weeks. There was a pregnant pause, and Julie shot me a severe look. “What’s the problem?” I asked.

“There isn’t one, because that is how a man
should
behave.” She started to whisper. “And yours is not behaving right. He’s making you miserable.” How Julie could not see that I was officially Deliriously Happy I know not. “Look at you, you’re
totally
ana,” she went on. “Which would normally be the best compliment I could pay another girl, but right now you’re just
too
ana.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It is the general consensus in Manhattan that a girl can never be too rich or too ana. But there was something I hadn’t told Julie which accounted for my extra weight loss. The last time I’d seen Zach, at the engagement party, he’d mentioned he was leaving town
the next day to photograph a project in Philadelphia. Then Jolene saw him out the next night at Bungalow 8 on Twenty-seventh Street. When I heard that I swear I dropped seven pounds. Why had he said he was away when he wasn’t? Then, another major factor in my ana-ness is that it’s tradition that a girl as madly in love as I am can’t eat a thing anyway. Still, Julie continued relentlessly, “You can’t marry him. Just imagine what it would be like—you’d practically disappear with worry. You should be happy and relaxed during an engagement.”

Actually, Julie’s wrong about that. Apparently everyone’s completely stressed out during an engagement. It’s
supposed
to be incredibly stressful. I said, “Julie, he’s just freaked out and exhausted right now. He just shot that Luca Luca campaign and he’s really upset about that new photographer the agency took on who’s been getting all that press—”

“Exactly! You want to marry someone who cares about how much press
someone else
is getting? What about someone who cares about
you
and puts
you
first?”

“He does care about me, Julie, and he’s The One.”

“He’s not The One, there’s no such thing as The One…”

Julie literally didn’t stop talking even while she was eating her panna cotta, which had just been put on the table by a waiter. Her lips—which looked awesome dabbed with that new M.A.C. Lipglass that everyone’s
obsessed with right now—kept moving but I tuned out. I couldn’t hear a thing.

I was overcome by a moment of deep introspection. How could I forget Zach’s peonies, and the dinners and the gifts and everything? According to the laws of romance that I learned from historical movies like
Sleepless in Seattle
, there is only one One and there’s nothing you can do about it. (It’s like, Jackie and JFK were inevitable. Imagine if she’d said no. The whole course of American fashion history would have changed.) I’m all for Jean-Paul Sartre and free will and so on, but when it comes to The One, it’s not like you have any say in the matter, even if he’s barely speaking to you.

Thank goodness I could see everything so clearly. That’s the genius thing about introspection. You go in as lost as a Chinese noodle in a Sicilian lasagne and come out thinking straighter than Fifth Avenue.

Julie’s voice faded back in.

“…So, that’s what I’ve heard about him. He’s not a good person. Apparently he’s got a reputation for torturing girlfriends in a sort of weird psychological way. Darling, maybe he
is
a psycho. People don’t say things like that unless there’s a reason.”

“I totally agree,” I said.

I had no clue what I was agreeing with but at least I was smart enough to agree with whatever it was Julie wanted me to agree with. Hopefully that was the end of this particular anti-Zach lecture.

“I gotta go,” I said. “See you at the crack of dawn with Jolene.”

We’d been at the Four Seasons long enough already. I didn’t want to hear another word about why I shouldn’t be getting married. I got up from the table and left the restaurant. I was going to prove Julie wrong.

 

I called Zach again the minute I was home. My fingers trembled slightly as I dialed his number.

“He’ll return!” came the voice. M. A. had not even let me speak this time. I couldn’t bear it any longer.

“Actually, its
très
sweet of you to offer a return, but I would like a connection immediately, please,” I said, as kindly as I could manage.

“I’m not some kind of AT&T operator.”

“Please tell Zach it’s his fiancée and I urgently need to discuss an urgent emergency.”

“I’ll take a message.”

“But Mary Alice, you never give him any messages from me. He hasn’t returned one message I’ve left with you in the last week.”

“All his messages are on his board. He gets every single one.”

I don’t think M. A. was being 100 percent truthful about her talent for leaving messages. I felt sorry for her being so depressed the whole time, but that didn’t
mean she could get away with not giving Zach his messages.

“Please,” I begged, “please get him.”

The phone was covered and I could hear muffled voices. Then—bliss—Zach came on the line.

“What?” he said.

I was right about M. A.
Of course
Zach wanted to chat with me. The horrible thing was, now that I had him on the phone, I had no idea what to talk about with him.

“What?”
came the voice again. He didn’t sound overjoyed to hear from me.

“Nothing, darling!” I blurted.

“If you’ve got ‘nothing’ to say, can you not interrupt me when I’m trying to work?”

Oh, I remembered. I’ll offer to get his mother the purse.

“I’m getting your mom a gift and I want to know, would she prefer a pink gilt quilt Chanel purse or a baby blue gilt quilt? Or maybe the primrose yellow?”

“I have no idea. Is that the ‘emergency’?”

“I’d love to have dinner.”

Silence. Zach must still be
très
upset inside about the new photographer at his agency because a photograph she had taken was on the front of the
Herald Tribune
today. And he was so busy and everything, I felt guilty for disturbing him at all. I know, I’ll cheer him up, I thought. I said, “Can I take you out for a romantic dinner at Jo Jo? Tonight?”

“What is it with you and the most expensive restaurants in the city? How am I supposed to get any work done if I’m constantly baby-sittin’ you?” he replied.

Sometimes I wonder if Zach understands me. Surely he knows that the most expensive restaurants in Manhattan are the ones with the best French fries? And it wasn’t like I was asking him to pay.

“Don’t you want to see me at all?” I asked timidly.

“I’ll call you later.”

He hung up.

Well, that was progress of a sort. He’d agreed to call later. This was just a very busy time for him. I mean, as Zach often said, it’s very pressured being the hottest young photographer in New York, so it’s hard to make time for dinner at Jo Jo. I
totally
understood. I wanted to show him I could be very mature about not going for dinner at Jo Jo and then maybe he’d take me to Jo Jo as a reward.

So that night, even though I had been invited to

  1. the premiere of Cameron Crowe’s new movie
  2. the opening of the Rothko show at the Guggenheim
  3. cocktails for Lexington Kinnicut’s latest book about himself
  4. Jolene’s dinner for her skin analyst

I made an executive decision to have an early night so as to be as fresh as possible for Chanel the next morn
ing. Also, I wanted to be home when Zach telephoned. I could hardly claim to need to go to Jo Jo if I was at four different parties when he called me on my cell. When he did, I would say I was destressing watching a DVD, because I had been working so hard on my career, which was semi-true. On the very q-t, the truth is I didn’t own a DVD player. In fact, I have well-founded moral and social objections to DVD players: there is nothing more depressing than a single girl in New York, a DVD player, and a pile of watched DVDs—it’s an admission of worryingly low popularity levels. If you get as many invitations as a girl in Manhattan should get, you barely know where your apartment is, let alone have time to watch movies in it.

I dressed up for the imaginary DVD in my new black net lingerie threaded with pink ribbons. If you are going to be pretending to watch a DVD all night, do it in Agent Provocateur just in case someone sees you. By half past midnight I hadn’t heard a thing from Zach. I couldn’t deny it any longer: I was attracting about as much attention from The One as a leftover blini at Le Cirque. For the first time, a very scary thought crept into my mind: maybe Zach didn’t love me. Maybe he really was a “psycho,” as Julie put it. I didn’t even want to contemplate what was happening. I couldn’t imagine anything more painful than a) breaking up with Zach, and b) admitting to Julie she was right about him. God, b) was almost more horrifying than a).

Suddenly, the buzzer went off. I was startled. I never have visitors after midnight except when I am having illicit affairs, and I couldn’t recall starting one of those recently. I picked up the handset.

“Who’s there?” I said.

“Me. What are you doing?”

It was Zach. I was delirious with happiness. Julie had zero idea how much Zach adored me. I acted very unanxious as I replied nonchalantly, “Nothing. Just watching a DVD.” I let out a deep sigh of contentment. “Darling, come up,” I said, buzzing the door.

Thank god I was dressed for Brazil. I could hardly wait for Zach to appear. Remembering that nonchalance was key, I went and lounged
très
attractively on my pale blue sofa. I lit a cigarette even though I don’t smoke.

Zach walked in. He didn’t kiss me hello. I think he was in one of his moods. He was impossible to converse with when he was like this. But god, he was attractive. I lost my appetite on the spot, as usual.

“Put some clothes on,” he said. “I have to tell you something.”

What did he have to tell me that was so serious? Obligingly, I threw this to-die-for chinchilla coat I had on an extended one-year loan from Valentino over my shoulders. Zach sat on the sofa. Once upon a time he would have thought the fur coat was really funny. Tonight he barely looked at me. He was freaking me out.

“Can I watch the DVD with you?” he asked.

God, Zach was confusing. There I was thinking something was wrong and all Zach wanted was to cuddle up and watch TV with me. Casually remembering I didn’t have a DVD player, I said with over 100 percent confidence, “Of course! I got the new Scorsese.”

Zach’s face lit up. He adores those vile Scorsese movies. Ultra-casual, I added, “Why don’t I make us a mojito first?”

I was thinking on my toes now. The Scorsese movie was a huge success, so the main thing was to make sure Zach thought I had both the Scorsese and a DVD player without him ever discovering that I owned neither. And that I totally
loathe
Martin Scorsese’s gritty realism.

“I’d prefer just to watch the movie,” said Zach.

“Sure!” I said brightly.

Be Nicole Kidman
, I told myself.
Give Oscar-winning performance of Perfect Cute Girlfriend despite trauma of moment
. I slipped my very high peep-toe Manolos on. I slipped the chinchilla off. Surely Zach wouldn’t still want to watch the DVD when he saw my heels-and-lingerie look from behind? I walked over to the armoire in which I “kept” the DVD machine. Then something beyond lucky happened. I felt Zach’s hand on my back. Finally this lingerie was getting me somewhere. In one flick of his wrist it was history and we were on the sofa. How could I have been so suspicious
about that trip he never took to Philadelphia? I take it all back, I really do, I thought to myself.

Everything was going to be good again after tonight. Zach was super-attentive in all the right places. Please don’t tell anyone this or they will say I got what I deserved because I was being a horrible showoff, but I felt compelled to let Julie know that the romance was going absolutely brilliantly again and that we were whipping up some very serious tiramisu on that sofa. While Zach was investigating my new bikini wax I grabbed my phone and surreptitiously texted the following (Daphne had taught me how to do it while physically constrained) :

everything brilliant zach making tiramisu love moi xxx

I got an immediate reply.

can i borrow rabbit trim prada for frick benefit?

Sometimes Julie makes the worst fashion choices. I knew the Fendi chiffon would be better with her hair but I was worried if I sent another message Zach might notice.

“Honey, let’s go to bed,” I said, taking Zach by the hand. “We can make out all night.”

But a funny look came over his face. He stood up
and started to put his clothes back on. Finally he spoke.

“I’m not marrying you. That’s what I came here to tell you.”

I tried to speak. Nothing came out. Eventually I whispered, “But we just, I mean…you know…”

“So?” he said, looking out the window.

I put my thong and chinchilla back on and sat under the
Drowned Truck
photo I’d hung a few weeks before. What had I done? How did we get from the scented body moisturizer and matching lingerie stage of our love affair to this? What could possibly have happened since I last saw Zach?

“But why?” I whispered.

“We had fun, okay. Let’s just call it quits and move on,” he said, not even looking at me.

“Is there another girl?”

“You’re too selfish for me. You’re not what I want anymore. I need a really independent girl. Someone who doesn’t need constant attention.”

BOOK: Bergdorf Blondes
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