Shopaholic Takes Manhattan (Shopaholic #2)(6)

by Sophie Kinsella

“Only bits and pieces. Hardly anything.”

And what’s ninety quid, really? In the greater scheme of things?

“The reason I’m asking these questions,” says Derek Smeath, “is that I feel I should warn you. The bank is restructuring somewhat, and my successor, John Gavin, may not have quite the same relaxed approach which I have taken toward your account. I’m not sure you’re aware quite how lenient I have been with you.”

“Really?” I say, not really listening.

I mean, suppose I took up smoking. I’d easily spend ninety quid on cigarettes without even thinking about it, wouldn’t I?

In fact, think of all the money I’ve saved by not smoking. Easily enough to afford one little pair of shoes.

“He’s a very capable man,” Derek Smeath is saying. “But also very… rigorous. Not particularly known for his flexibility.”

“Right,” I say, nodding absently.

“I would certainly recommend that you address your overdraft without delay.” He takes a sip of coffee. “And tell me, have you done anything about taking out a pension?”

“Erm… I went to visit that independent adviser you recommended.”

“And did you fill in any of the forms?”

Unwillingly, I drag my attention back to him.

“Well, I’m just considering my options,” I say, and put on my wise, financial-expert look. “There’s nothing worse than rushing into the wrong investment, you know. Particularly when it comes to something as important as a pension.”

“Very true,” says Derek Smeath. “But don’t spend too long considering, will you? Your money won’t save itself.”

“I know!” I say and take a sip of cappuccino.

Now I feel a bit uncomfortable. Maybe he’s right. Maybe I should put £90 into a pension fund instead of buying another pair of shoes.

But on the other hand — what good is a pension fund of £90? I mean, that’s not exactly going to keep me in my old age, is it? Ninety measly quid. And by the time I’m old, the world will probably have blown up, or something.

Whereas a pair of shoes is tangible, it’s there in your hand…

Oh, sod it. I’m going to get them.

“Mr. Smeath, I have to go,” I say abruptly, putting down my cup. “There’s something I have to… do.”

I have to get back there as quickly as possible. I pick up my carrier bag and drop a fiver on the table. “Lovely to see you. And good luck in your retirement.”

“Best of luck to you too, Rebecca,” says Derek Smeath, smiling kindly at me. “But do remember what I’ve said. John Gavin won’t indulge you in the way that I have. So please be careful with your spending.”

“I will!” I say brightly.

And without quite running, I’m off down the street, as quick as I can, back to LK Bennett.

Perhaps strictly speaking I didn’t exactly need to buy a pair of clementine shoes. But what occurred to me while I was trying them on was, I haven’t actually broken my new rule. Because the point is, I will need them.

After all, I will need new shoes at some point, won’t I? Everyone needs shoes. And surely it’s far more prudent to stock up now in a style I really like, than to wait until my last pair wears out and then find nothing nice in the shops. It’s only sensible. It’s like… hedging my future position in the shoe market.

As I come out of LK Bennett, gleefully grasping my two shiny new bags, there’s a warm, happy glow all around me, and I’m not in the mood to go home. So I decide to pop across the street to Gifts and Goodies. This is one of the shops that carries Suze’s frames, and I have a little habit of going in whenever I pass, just to see if anyone’s buying one.

I push the door open with a little ping, and smile at the assistant, who looks up. This is such a lovely shop. It’s all warm and scented, and full of gorgeous things like chrome wine racks and etched glass coasters. I sidle past a shelf of pale mauve leather notebooks, and look up — and there they are! Three purple tweed photo frames, made by Suze! I still get a thrill, every time I see them.

And oh my God! I feel a sudden zing of excitement. There’s a customer standing there, and she’s holding one. She’s actually holding one!

To be perfectly honest, I’ve never actually seen anyone buying one of Suze’s frames. I mean, I know people must buy them, because they keep selling out — but I’ve never actually seen it happen. This is so exciting!

I walk quietly forward just as the customer turns the frame over. She frowns at the price, and my heart gives a little flurry.

“That’s a really beautiful photo frame,” I say casually. “Really unusual.”

“Yes,” she says, and puts it back down on the shelf.

No! I think in dismay. Pick it up again!

“It’s so difficult to find a nice frame these days,” I say conversationally. “Don’t you think? When you find one, you should just… buy it! Before someone else gets it.”

“I suppose so,” says the customer, giving me an odd look.

Now she’s walking away. What can I do?

“Well, I think I’ll get one,” I say distinctly, and pick it up. “It’ll make a perfect present. For a man, or a woman… I mean, everyone needs photograph frames, don’t they?”

The customer doesn’t seem to be taking any notice. But never mind, when she sees me buying it, maybe she’ll rethink.

I hurry to the checkout, and the woman behind the till smiles at me. I think she’s the shop owner, because I’ve seen her interviewing staff and talking to suppliers. (Not that I come in here very often, it’s just coincidence or something.)

“Hello again,” she says. “You really like those frames, don’t you?”

“Yes,” I say loudly. “And such fantastic value!” But the customer’s looking at a glass decanter, and not even listening.

“How many of them have you bought, now? It must be about… twenty?”

What? My attention snaps back to the shop owner. What’s she saying?

“Or even thirty?”

I stare at her in shock. Has she been monitoring me, every time I’ve been in here? Isn’t that against the law?

“Quite a collection!” she adds pleasantly, as she wraps it up in tissue paper.