Friends, folks, and furry things, lend me your spectacles… Well, put them on, I don’t really need yours. I have my own.
I’ve just had the nod from Ylva to tell me In Fashion will be available at Ellcon on Thursday (23rd) for you to get your advance copy! Hurray! So if you are at the event, you’ll be able to have your very own Ferb-ed version. How cool is that?
Which brings me to the spectacles bit.
As I promised, it’s only fair that I tease you with the first chapter, right? Yep, I thought it’d be nice to give you a taste.
So, spectacles on, roll up your reading sleeves, and enjoy meeting Darcy McGregor in page and in person.
Darcy McGregor was a bitch. A big one. She knew it as she snuck into the cab before the elderly woman on crutches, but cabs were like gold dust in London. Surely an internationally acclaimed supermodel, celebrity mum, and star of The Style Surgeon—the best live-makeover TV show in existence, thank you very much—had more important places to be.
The cabbie turned, a scowl on his drawn ruddy face, but then his eyes twinkled and he gave her a half-smirk. “Guess I’d better not argue, or you’ll try dressing me.”
She flashed him a smile. “And you wouldn’t enjoy that?”
He coughed, turned back around, and roared the cab into life. He even closed the Perspex screen, muttering something about privacy for ladies. Good to see someone with manners.
She flicked out her mobile and tapped out a quick tweet about hackney carriages needing a redesign. What was with the bland grey anyway? So they needed to be black outside, yes, but where was the sparkle? She glanced through the screen… Better to add something about banning silly ornaments dangling from rear-view mirrors. Hawaiian Flower Chains were so last year. Frankly, it surprised her that such an apparently avid fan of her show would have such dated tastes. Was he not learning anything from watching?
London rolled on outside: The sparkle of Harrods in Christmas lights, the ice rink full of skaters in purple glow overlooked by the Gothic architecture of the Natural History Museum, the city awash with Christmas trees and snowy air. Shoppers laden with items they couldn’t afford ducked out of the way as businessmen dashed across from offices to cabs. Odd people shuffled or slunk their way along, muttering at teenagers with rucksacks and oversized headphones peering over at the ice rink. Cyclists with tinsel on diced with danger as they whipped through the stream of traffic chased by couriers on mopeds. Fluorescent-clothed workmen in Santa hats, wide-eyed tourists rosy cheeked with cold. London in a festive rush hour. But not a touch of the cheer made any impact on her. She had parties to attend.
Her phone jingled, and she swiped to answer. “If you tell me you’ve broken something or are sick, I’m sending you to that hovel your father lives in.”
“Hi, Mum,” Susannah muttered. Sounded like she was eating something, again. “You think Barcelona is a hovel?”
“Yes.” She glared out of the window at a man with a camera in hand. But when he lifted it to his face, she turned on her media-ready smile. Idiot. “It doesn’t matter where he lives. He wouldn’t know what domesticated was if it took his football away.”
“You have a cleaner and a maid.” Susannah chomped even louder. She knew full well how much it irked. “But, seeming as you love me so much, why am I coming to the stupid party?”
“Because you have left school, and you are not becoming a bum.” Oh fantastic. The tourist was using his zoom. She hammered on the Perspex screen. “What is the hold-up?”
The cabbie half turned, then motioned to the queue of traffic trying to get around some van.
“Just take a side street,” she snapped. Why wait at traffic? “Don’t you sit some exam on London or something?”
He laughed, coughed up half his lungs, and tapped the wheel. “Yeah, but we have Sat Nav now.” He fiddled with his radio. Was he turning it up?
“A hundred-pound if you use your brain instead. I’m in a hurry.” She raised her eyebrows and thumbed to the guy with a camera. “Two hundred if you get me there in fifteen minutes.”
The cabbie sucked in his chin and roared them into a side street. Some red sign said access for residents only.
“Don’t worry ‘bout that,” he called over his shoulder, darting around a cyclist. “Chelsea pensioners just don’t want a load of traffic.”
“You know I’m still here, Mum?” Susannah muttered. “Seriously, two hundred quid?”
“What’s the issue? I give you that as pocket money.” She pulled her fake-fur coat around her—a bitch, yes, but animals were cute—and leaned back into the seat. The tip of an enormous Christmas tree glowed through the arched windows of the Chelsea Hospital. “Why do they need such a large building for a bunch of old people? Surely there are better uses.”
“Why are you in such a bad mood?” Susannah chomped louder. Probably with her mouth open and as dense-looking as her father. “You’re old too.”
“You would say that, you don’t know what a real woman is yet.” She flicked her cellulite-free legs crossed—the wonder of Pilates. Maybe she was in a mood? She shouldn’t be. Was she?
“Do you?” Susannah’s solemnity echoed.
She laughed. Silly child. “Just be ready when I come in.” She scowled out at the snow falling. Ice was not good for heels. “Pluck your bush-like brows, and when I say wax, I mean wax.”
The phone cut out. Hmm. Screen was flashing red as if Susannah had put the phone down. Oh well, must have gotten cut off.
“Kids, huh?” the cabbie said with a smile as he pulled the Perspex screen back. “My daughter is all stripy tights and black lipstick.”
She pocketed her phone in her handbag. “She’s seeking identity, not to mention teenage rebellion. Better tights and lipstick than breaking the law.” Susannah rebelled by doing her homework and spouting off nonsense about women only being looked at as trophies. “Let her grow, and be there to cheer her.”
The cabbie screwed up his face like thinking about it hurt. “My wife wants her to take her cue from you.”
Even in a bad mood? Even in the kind of mood where she thought Tower Bridge was drab and dull? Darcy gave him her most polite smile. Best appease him. “Perhaps she will when she’s ready.”
The cabbie pulled into Kensington and up to her house. White Georgian perfection in a five-storey townhouse, complete with mini-trees with lights on either side of the front door. Of course it was the most stylish on the street. Not only could she make the ugly look good, she had the touch with buildings too. Pleasing.
She pulled out her purse and flicked five fifty-pound notes at the wide-eyed cabbie. “Extra fifty if you are back here and waiting for seven.”
“You got it.” He snatched the notes off her with a grin. “You’re wonderful, Ms McGregor.”
“I know.” She headed out into the bitter air and trotted up the steps. Gladys, her wonderful maid—whom she herself trained, of course—had the door open and her favourite lemon tea at the ready. “You are a trooper.”
“Thank you, Ms McGregor.” Gladys—what a name for a twenty-something Welsh beauty. Sounded like something out of the Chelsea Hospital. “Susannah is upstairs having a bath. I left the wax on for her. Marshall wants to know if you are arriving with him… And your outfit came from Mario.”
“Marshall may greet me there but not before.” Dates were rarely interesting. So he looked good on TV. In reality, he bored her. She plucked the cup from Gladys’s trembling hand and threw her bag on the floor. Yes, Marshall didn’t come close to what she wanted. She needed perfection. She glanced at the ship-wheel barometer on the wall: the hallway was the correct temperature, 22.5 degrees. Didn’t feel like it. Somehow, seeing the ridiculous attempt at nautical fashion conjured her father’s voice from inside her. She could see him, huge man that he was, huge beard, twinkling eyes, and always a joker. “Darcy,” he’d say in his gritty voice, “I’ve sailed all around the world and not seen a girl as pretty as you.”
She tapped her fingernails to her mug, the lemon-scented steam tickling her frozen nose. He’d always been jolly, and her mother intense, but then her mother had done the rearing while he sailed around on his ships. Merchant Navy. Lucrative. If only they’d seen some of it.
“Ms McGregor?” Gladys squeaked from behind her.
Silly to fixate on the past. She turned and fixed Gladys with a stare—dark-haired, chubby, sweet, but she needed to lose two stone at least. “Yes?”
“Mario is waiting to show you the outfit.” Gladys motioned to the front room. “He wanted to check in case it needed adjustments.”
Adjustments? She honed her body. Not a pound under or over eight-and-a-half stone. Perfect.
“I did try to explain,” Gladys mumbled, scurried ahead, and pushed open the white-panelled door. “But he was set on it.”
“Mario, why are you here?” She strode in. Gladys had done a good job of the Christmas tree, and there were stockings hanging from the mantlepiece. Good. She put her hands on her hips.
Mario, a short faux-Italian who thought camp worked with a bodybuilder’s physique, turned and rubbed at his “arty” beard. “Not you, Ms McGregor, but Susannah.” He let out a giggle and covered his mouth with his hand. Thumb out, of course.
“Oh, in that case, stay.” She clicked her fingers, and Gladys hurried off. Good luck to her trying to help Susannah preen. No girl should have such manly legs. She’d told her several times over that running was good, Pilates was good. They both elongated, not bunched. Strength and grace. But no, no, not Susannah; she wanted to play football like her father.
She sipped at her lemon tea and let out a long sigh. One could give out half their genes, but it was always a battle to remove the inadequacies of the other. Served her right for getting drunk with a footballer seventeen years ago. Good thing neither of her parents had been around to witness that little slip-up.
“Mum?” Susannah wandered in with her dressing gown on. She was unmistakably her daughter, but her father’s Portuguese influence would make Susannah breathtaking when she got through adolescence. Although, knowing Susannah, she’d tie her hair back and cover it all up with baggy clothes.
“You’ve eaten?” Darcy stroked a stray hair from Susannah’s forehead. “You need me to make something?” She glared at Mario, who was watching. Best not to show too much emotion; he might think she was nice, and it was not wise to be nice when in unpleasant company.
“No, I’m fine.” Susannah glowered at Mario, who waved at her. “Marshall called again. He told me that if you didn’t call back, he’d have me fired.” She scowled until her forehead wrinkled up. “He threatened to fire Gladys too, twice.”
“He’d better not have.” Marshall had been barely tolerable as it was, but he seemed to think he could get his feet under her table. That would have to be fixed. “Gladys is far too useful.”
Susannah narrowed her eyes. “This like when he clicked his fingers, and you spent the whole day having pictures taken—on our holiday?”
“He had a film coming out.” Susannah had enjoyed the day at the hotel pool while she’d had to pretend she wanted to be drooled over. The things one had to do to be “caught” by hired paparazzi.
“But he didn’t have a clue who I was.” Susannah put her hands on her hips. “Bit like you.”
Didn’t she understand they had the gaze of gossip on them? “Of course he did.” Marshall better know who Susannah was. “He was just teasing.” If he knew what was good for him. She fussed with Susannah’s hair again, dark like her father’s, with a touch of a wave through it. “He will have the two most beautiful ladies with him. How could he forget who you were?”
“You look wonderful,” Mario said, fiddling with his stubby fingers. “I know the dress will dazzle on you.”
“Yes, it will.” She smiled around her cup. Yes, she was a bitch, but at least she was a beautiful one.
© 2018 by Jody Klaire
ISBN (mobi): 978-3-96324-091-1
ISBN (epub): 978-3-96324-092-8
Also available as paperback.
Published by Ylva Publishing, legal entity of Ylva Verlag, e.Kfr.
Ylva Verlag, e.Kfr.
Owner: Astrid Ohletz
Am Kirschgarten 2
First edition: 2018
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to locales, events, business establishments, or actual persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.
Edited by Michelle Aguilar and Amanda Jean
Cover Design and Print Layout by Streetlight Graphics