Shopaholic Takes Manhattan (Shopaholic #2)(10)

by Sophie Kinsella

“Same as always,” I say, smiling at the camera. “Look after your money…”

“… and your money will look after you!” chime in Rory and Emma. After a frozen pause, everyone relaxes and Zelda, the assistant producer, strides onto the set.

“Well done!” she says. “Great stuff. Now, Becky, we’ve still got Enid on line four. But we can get rid of her if you like…”

“No!” I say. “I really want to talk to her. You know, I reckon she doesn’t want to retire at all!”

“Whatever,” says Zelda, ticking something on her clipboard. “Oh, and Luke’s waiting for you at reception.”

“Already?” I look at my watch. “Oh God… OK — can you tell him I won’t be long?”

I honestly don’t intend to spend that long on the phone. But once I get talking to Enid, it all comes out — about how she’s dreading retirement, and how her husband just wants her at home to cook for him. How she really loves her job and she was thinking about taking a computer course but her husband says it’s a waste of money… By the end I’m completely outraged. I’ve said exactly what I think, several times over, and am in the middle of asking Enid if she considers herself a feminist, when Zelda taps me on the shoulder and suddenly I remember where I am.

It takes me about another five minutes to apologize to Enid and say I’ve got to go, then for her to apologize to me — and for us both to say good-bye and thank you and don’t mention it, about twenty times. Then, as quickly as possible, I head to my dressing room and change out of my Morning Coffee outfit into my driving outfit.

I’m quite pleased with my appearance as I look at myself in the mirror. I’m wearing: a Pucci-esque multicolored top, frayed denim cutoffs, my new sandals, Gucci shades (Harvey Nichols sale — half price!), and my treasured pale blue Denny and George scarf.

Luke’s got a real thing about my Denny and George scarf. When people ask us how we met, he always says, “Our eyes met across a Denny and George scarf,” which is actually kind of true. He lent me some of the money I needed to buy it, and he still maintains I never paid him back so it’s partly his. (Which is so not true. I paid him back straight away.)

Anyway, I tend to wear it quite a lot when we go out together. Also when we stay in together. In fact, I’ll tell you a small secret — sometimes we even…

Actually, no. You don’t need to know that. Forget I mentioned it.

As I eventually hurry into reception I glance at my watch — and oh God, I’m forty minutes late. And there’s Luke sitting on a squashy chair, wearing the gorgeous polo shirt I bought him in the Ralph Lauren sale. He’s talking intently on his mobile phone and sipping a cup of coffee and frowning at something in the paper. But then he looks up and his dark eyes meet mine, and his whole face breaks into a smile. A true, affectionate smile, which makes him seem like a different person.

When I first knew Luke, I only ever saw him businesslike and polite, or scarily angry, or — very occasionally — amused. Even after we started seeing each other, it was a long time before he really let his guard down. In fact, the first time he really, really laughed, I was so surprised, I snorted lemonade through my nose.

Even now, whenever I see his face creasing into a real smile, I feel a bit of a lift inside. Because I know he’s not like that with everyone. He’s smiling like that because it’s me. For me.

“I’m really sorry I took so long,” I say. “I was just…”

“I know,” says Luke, closing his paper and standing up. “You were talking to Enid.” He gives me a kiss and squeezes my arm. “I saw the last couple of calls. Good for you.”

“You just won’t believe what her husband’s like!” I say as we go through the swing doors and out into the car park. “No wonder she wants to keep working!”

“I can imagine.”

“He just thinks she’s there to give him an easy life.” I shake my head fiercely. “You know, I’m never going to just… stay at home and cook your supper. Never in a million years.”

There’s a short silence, and I look up to see Luke’s amused expression.

“Or… you know,” I add hastily. “Anyone’s supper.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” says Luke mildly. “I’m especially glad if you’re never going to cook me Moroccan couscous surprise.”

“You know what I mean,” I say, flushing slightly. “And you promised you weren’t going to talk about that anymore.”

My famous Moroccan evening was quite soon after we started going out. I really wanted to show Luke that I could cook — and I’d seen this program about Moroccan cooking which made it look really easy and impressive. Plus there was some gorgeous Moroccan tableware on sale in Debenhams, so it should have all been perfect.

But that soggy couscous. It was the most revolting stuff I’ve ever seen in my life. Even after I tried Suze’s suggestion of stir-frying it with mango chutney. And there was so much of it, all swelling up in bowls everywhere…

Anyway. Never mind. We had quite a nice pizza in the end.

We’re approaching Luke’s convertible in the corner of the car park, and he bleeps it open.

“You got my message, did you?” he says. “About luggage?”

“Yes, I did. Here it is.”

I hand him the dinkiest little suitcase in the world, which I got from a children’s gift shop in Guildford. It’s white canvas with red hearts stenciled round it, and I use it as a vanity case.

“Is that it?” says Luke, looking astonished, and I stifle a giggle. Ha! This’ll show him who can pack light.

All I’ve got in this case is my makeup and shampoo — but Luke doesn’t need to know that, does he?

“Yes, that’s it,” I say, raising my eyebrows slightly. “You did say, ‘pack light.’ ”

“So I did,” says Luke. “But this—” He gestures at the case. “I’m impressed.”

As he opens the boot, I get into the driving seat and adjust the seat forward so I can reach the pedals. I’ve always wanted to drive a convertible!

The boot slams behind me, and Luke comes round, a quizzical look on his face.

“You’re driving, are you?”