Authors: Lindsey Kelk
The fact that he had refused to sell his apartment just because it was in the same building as Jenny’s ex was usually reason enough for her to decide she wasn’t talking to him for days at a time, so it seemed to make sense to keep this little bit of information to myself. ‘No, she cannot find out about that. She’d probably take to her bed for a month.’
‘Sounds fun,’ he smiled, one hand sliding up my back, the other holding fast to the balcony. ‘Can we do that now please?’
I looked up into Alex’s ridiculously green eyes, his fringe catching in my eyelashes as he dropped his face to mine for a long kiss. His body was warm against the thin silk of my dress and the balcony pressed into the small of my back. I felt my clutch slip out of my fingers and drop, not sure if it had fallen over the balcony, not sure if I cared.
‘I should probably leave soon,’ I said, my voice catching as Alex ran his hand down the back of my neck, curling the hair at the nape around his long fingers. ‘I have a meeting with Mary at nine.’
‘So my place is closer by subway, yours by cab.’ Alex’s eyes were dark and dilated, his breath quick. ‘And I don’t think people on the subway would be OK with what I have planned.’
‘Cab then,’ I smoothed down my dress and scooped up the bag. Thank God it hadn’t actually gone over the edge and bashed anyone. I’d assaulted enough people at weddings in my time. ‘Have to say, didn’t think you’d be the sort of bloke to get turned on by weddings.’
‘What sort of “bloke” did you think I was?’ Alex smiled. ‘And it’s not so much weddings as you. Now get your ass in a cab.’
The next morning was grey and cold, just like every morning had been since the end of November. The hardwood floor in my bedroom felt like ice as I gingerly poked my toes out of the bed and felt around for my slippers. I knew it was stupid not to wear my giant bed socks when Alex stayed over, but we hadn’t been together that long, I just didn’t think he was ready for it and so I suffered. Like an idiot.
March was the opposite of July. I’d sweltered from the moment I stepped off the plane but now I sometimes wondered if I’d ever be warm again. Hot and sticky summer had given way to a cool and crisp autumn, which was all too quickly overtaken by subzero temperatures and snow storms. As pretty as three feet of snow was, I had learned already that it was a) not a rarity in the city and b) not a good thing. When it snowed at home, everything stopped. My mum waited until the gritter had been around the streets, then trekked up to the shops in her wellies, walking in the road, to buy unnecessary quantities of canned food and eight pints of milk that would go off before she could force my dad to drink them all to avoid them going off. When it really snowed in New York, the roads jammed and the subway stopped but life didn’t. And walking in the bitter winds with a face full of sleet did not make it easy to lead the glamorous life that my family in England might have imagined me living. Although that could also be because my emails and phone calls rarely mentioned the fact that I’d been walking around with a Rudolph-red nose, bundled up like the Michelin man for months.
I flicked at the curtain to check the state of the streets. At least it hadn’t snowed in the night, but the sky looked grey and threatening and, below, people dashed backwards and forwards, bundled up for an arctic expedition.
‘What time is it?’ croaked Alex, rolling towards me and pulling the curtain back across the window.
‘Seven-thirty,’ I sighed, allowing him to pull me back into bed, my feet disappearing under the quilt. Alex was like my very own human hot-water bottle. No matter how cold the apartment was, he was always like a furnace. Aside from the obvious, it was one of my favourite reasons to have him in bed with me. ‘And as much as I don’t want to, I really do have to get up.’
‘See, I go around telling people how awesome it is having a writer for a girlfriend,’ Alex grumbled as I pulled away again, ‘because she doesn’t have to be in an office at nine a.m. every day. And here you are, at seven-thirty…’
‘I can’t help it,’ I said, wriggling away from him and braving the icy floorboards again. I pulled on my giant fleecy dressing gown and looked back at him, his eyes squeezed tightly shut, the covers up around his nose. ‘Do you really tell people your girlfriend is a writer?’
‘Mmm,’ Alex rolled himself over under the covers, hiding his head as I flicked on a lamp. ‘What else am I supposed to tell them? You’re a British refugee who can’t go home because you broke some guy’s hand?’
‘Arse,’ I grabbed a towel off the radiator, heading into the bathroom. ‘You can tell people whatever you want.’ As long as you tell them I’m your girlfriend, I added silently with a great big smile.
The Spencer Media building was on Times Square, one of my least favourite places in all of Manhattan. Even today, on a frigid Monday in March at eight-fifty in the morning, the streets were pulsing with tourists, clutching their Starbucks and digital cameras with inadequate knitted mittens. I had never thought I’d consider a North Face padded coat a necessity, but then I’d never tried to live through January in New York with nothing but a pretty Marc by Marc Jacobs swing coat and a feeble H&M leather jacket. Never, ever in my entire life had I been so bloody cold. Now I understood the need to forgo my newfound interest in fashion and put on As Many Layers As Humanly Possible before I left the apartment. It was insane.
I pushed past a group of school kids taking it in turns to snap shots of the group, one switching in, one switching out to take over photographer duties, and wondered exactly how many tourists’ pictures I had managed to land in since I started working for
. There were probably millions of shots of a disgruntled-looking girl tutting and sighing in the background all over Facebook.
The views from Mary’s forty-second floor office almost made the trekking across Times Square worth it. The higher up I got, the more amazing New York looked to me. At ground level I could sometimes forget where I was—H&M here, HSBC there—but up in the office, surrounded by skyscrapers, watching the rivers sweeping around the island, I couldn’t be anywhere else but Manhattan.
‘Mary’s been waiting for you,’ an uninterested voice came from behind a huge computer monitor as I tried to locate the group of kids below.
‘Aren’t I early?’ I asked the monitor. Mary’s assistant, Cici, had never been my biggest fan but she usually gave me the courtesy of a dirty look. Unfortunately I was wearing so many layers, I couldn’t find my watch, and Spencer Media was a little like Vegas, they didn’t bother with clocks, presumably so their staff wouldn’t realize how late they were working. Not many days went by when I didn’t get emails from Mary and the other editors at nine, ten in the evening.
‘Mary gets in at seven, your meeting was due to start at nine.’ She stood up and swept around the desk. I couldn’t help but hope she must have some really, really warm clothes to change into. Her teeny tiny bottom was squeezed into a skater skirt that just about covered her stocking tops and it didn’t look as if she had any thermals on under the gauzy, pussy-bow blouse that topped it off. In fact, it didn’t look as if she had anything under it. Oh my. ‘It’s now three after nine. You’re late.’
Was it right for a PA to make me feel like a naughty sixth-former?
‘Angela Clark is finally here,’ Cici purred ahead of me as we passed though Mary’s big glass doors. ‘Can I get you anything, boss?’
‘More coffee, and do you want anything?’ Mary was wearing her standard uniform of skinny jeans, cashmere sweater and steely grey bob, but something about her was different. I realized she was smiling. This had to be a good start.
‘I would love a coffee.’ I tried a small smile at the assistant who huffed a little and flounced off. ‘How are you, Mary?’
‘Good, you?’ She leaned across her desk and didn’t wait for a reply. ‘I have a treat for you. You’re going to love me.’
‘Sounds good.’ I began to disrobe. Gloves, scarf, coat. ‘I like treats.’
‘Well, you know everyone here loves your blog.’ Mary templed her fingers under her chin and smiled back. I had been writing an online diary for TheLook.com since I’d arrived in New York, thanks to Jenny’s amazingly well-connected friend Erin and my complete lack of shame at spilling the details of my private life all over the internet. And to humour my journalistic ambitions, my editor occasionally threw me the odd book and music review for the magazine when they needed an extra hand. But the most exciting part of it all for me was my column in the UK edition, much to my mother’s disgust. She didn’t like that Susan in the post office knew what I was up to before she did. ‘We have a new project for you. How do you feel about branching out?’
‘Branching out?’ I paused in my outerwear removal. This sounded an awful lot like a firing. ‘Branching out from
‘No, not at all,’ Mary nodded thanks as Cici arrived with her coffee. I looked up hopefully. No coffee for Angela. I was definitely being fired. ‘This is it, Angela, your big break. An interview has come up and we want you to do it.’
‘I’ve never interviewed anyone before,’ I said slowly, not wanting to jinx anything.
‘Sure you have, you interview people all the time.’ The very fact that Mary couldn’t look at me proved she didn’t even believe herself. What was going on?
‘I have asked questions of the fourth runner-up of
America’s Next Top Model
cycle eight and waited in the queue for the toilets with an Olsen twin. They aren’t interviews, Mary,’ I said. ‘Don’t you have loads of writers that—you know—specialize in interviewing?’
‘We do,’ Mary said, looking up and staring me out. ‘But this one is yours. Are you telling me you don’t want to do it?’
Miraculously, a steaming coffee appeared in front of me, but Cici had turned on her heel before I could say thanks. Baby steps, I thought to myself.
I took a deep breath. Of course I wanted to do an interview. How hard could it be to ask some random a few questions? ‘Of course I want to. It’ll be great. I’ll be great. I’ll manage. I’ll try.’
‘No try here, Angela.’ Mary pushed her frameless glasses up her nose. ‘This is a biggie. One week in LA with James Jacobs.’
‘James Jacobs? The actor?’ I asked, sipping tiny scorching gulps. ‘Me?’
‘Yes you,’ Mary leaned back a little in her chair. ‘And yes, the actor. The very hot British actor.’
‘You want me to interview him for the website?’
‘Not quite,’ she replied. ‘It’s for the magazine.’
‘You want me to interview James Jacobs for the magazine?’ I wondered if I’d slipped and cracked my head on the shower this morning. That would explain why I thought Mary was suggesting I should interview this very hot British actor.
‘That’s right,’ she carried on. ‘You go to LA, you bond over being British, talk about, I don’t know tea and crumpets, and you get the inside scoop. He hasn’t done an awful lot of press but apparently he really wants to do this. Let his female fans in on the “real him” or some other shit.’
‘From what I’ve heard, he’s already let rather a lot of female fans in.’ I pulled off my last jumper, hot and flustered all of a sudden. ‘Isn’t he a bit of a slag?’
‘If you mean, has he been “linked with several Hollywood starlets”, then yes.’ Mary made bunny ears around the quote. She typed something into her Mac at super speed, then swivelled the monitor to face me. ‘But this is what we want to get past. His team are worried that all this “attention” could create a negative vibe with his female audience.’
The screen showed a Google image search. James Jacobs was tall, broad and athletic and there was no denying he looked good in a pair of swimming trunks. His dark blue eyes and damp, dark brown curls just added to the overall ‘Abercrombie at play’ look.
‘Doesn’t look very British to me,’ I commented, taking the mouse and clicking through a few more pictures. ‘Where’s he from again?’
‘Uh, his Wikipedia entry says London.’ Mary took the mouse back and flicked through to what was obviously her favourite shot, halfway down the page, James staring directly at me, dark brown hair tickling his cheekbones, bow tie loose, top two buttons of his shirt undone. ‘So you fly on Saturday.’
‘Sorry, what?’ I snapped back from the pretty pictures and looked at Mary. She had her, ‘I’m really not kidding’ face on. Not a favourite of mine. ‘But, it’s Monday?’
‘Which gives you almost a whole week to prep.’ Mary started to click at other things on her screen. A sure-fire sign that the meeting was all but over. ‘So, Cici will book your flights, your car, hotel and organize all the other stuff. Cash, credit card, BlackBerry, whatever.’
‘But, seriously, is this a good idea? Maybe I don’t have the experience for this. I’m not a professional interviewer, I’m a talker at best—and, when I’m lucky, people talk back. That’s really not a qualification.’ I leaned over the desk. Was Mary not feeling well? ‘And I’ve never been to LA before. What, I mean is, really, this doesn’t make that much sense, surely?’
‘Look, Angela,’ Mary’s eyes flickered across her screen. ‘Here’s the thing. I’m not supposed to tell you but they asked for you.’
‘Hey, I’m as surprised as anyone else.’ Mary pulled a face. ‘Not that I don’t think you’re great but, like you said, you’re not a professional interviewer: we both know that. But James’s people wouldn’t have anyone else. It was the only condition of the interview.’
I didn’t know what to say. What could I possibly have done that could attract the attention of James Jacobs’s ‘people’? I didn’t think they would have been that impressed with my critically acclaimed series on which Manhattan department store was the best to hit for a free makeover before you went out (Bloomingdale’s, Soho).
‘If you’re not going to do it, just say,’ Mary went on. ‘The entertainment team on the magazine are already incredibly pissed off. They can get someone else like that—’
‘No!’ I said quickly. ‘It’s not that. I absolutely want to do it. It’s amazing. I just—I just don’t get it.’
‘Me either.’ Mary really didn’t believe in sugarcoating anything. Even when I would have preferred it. ‘I can only tell you what they told me. James’s team doesn’t want a polished, super celebrity reporter who is going to stiff them with some horrible sordid Hollywood exposé. They want someone who is going to help show James as—you know—a fantasy guy. The whole point of the article is it needs to be fluffy, not scandalous, sort of a “My Dream Week with James Jacobs”. Almost like it was written by a reader.’