21 July 2019

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Just Look At Me Now

Date Published: 05 August 2010

ISBN Number: 0755354370

Publisher: Little Black Dress

Link to purchase book: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Just-Look-at-Me-Now/dp/0755354370/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1268250718&sr=1-2

Full Excerpt:

Chapter One

Saffy continued to talk, waving a stick-thin fake-bake tanned arm in front of the white board to jab home her points. Tia sighed and doodled another flower on her notepad, shading the petals with tiny, fine blue strokes from her pen. The editorial meeting had only been going for ten minutes and, much as she loved her friend, she’d already begun to lose the will to live. Overhead the air conditioning whirred quietly, its chilly efficiency making the bare skin of her arms pimple into gooseflesh.
The hot summer sun beat against the tinted windows of the meeting room and the remains of Tia’s pink marshmallow melted gloopily onto the surface of her hot chocolate. The large smoked glass table in front of her was festooned with tinsel, baubles and shiny silver Christmas crackers in a tawdry display of unseasonal festivity.
The door of the meeting room crashed open causing every head to turn. Sir Crispin Stanford-Hope, proprietor and chief executive of Platinum magazine and Hellandback press telecommunications made his entrance. He was accompanied by Helen, Platinum magazine’s editor and organiser of the pretend Christmas in June. Tia slid a blank sheet of paper over her flower doodle and sat up a little straighter in her seat.
Sir Crispin strode around the table to take Saffy’s place in front of the white board, Helen trailed after him, her usually forceful personality dwarfed by Sir Crispin’s ego. A third person accompanied them: a tall, slender, blonde haired woman dressed in a deceptively simple plain black sheath dress that Tia knew had cost more than her monthly salary. It was a woman she hadn’t seen in person for many years and had always hoped she’d never have to see again.
She swallowed hard and dropped her gaze down to the pile of papers in front of her. A horrible sense of nauseous unreality began to sweep through her making it hard to focus on Sir Crispin’s announcement. She raised her head again as he began to speak.
“Okay, people, I see you’re all busy finalising the plans for the Christmas and New Year anniversary edition of Platinum magazine. Good stuff, we want a big push over the winter season to grab those new subscribers. This is our twenty-fifth year - a landmark. As you know the post of fashion editor recently became vacant.” Sir Crispin glared around the room as if challenging one of the editorial staff to point out that it was only vacant because he’d fired the previous fashion editor for being photographed at lunch with his brother-in-law and rival press magnate, Rupert Finch. “So, I’m delighted to introduce your new fashion editor, fresh from our New York office, Miss Juliet Gold, who has graciously consented to return to London to steer the fashion section through this important time.”
The elegant blonde bowed her head to acknowledge the polite ripple of applause from the assembled staff around the table.
“I know you’ll all make her feel very welcome.” Sir Crispin scanned the room once more.
Saffy’s cheeks had turned a dull red under her tan and her eyes were suspiciously bright at Sir Crispin’s announcement. She’d stepped into the vacant fashion editor’s post after her seniors’ inauspicious departure and Tia knew her friend had hoped the move might become permanent. They’d even speculated together that Helen’s request to Saffy to chair this month’s staff meeting might be an indication of an imminent appointment.
“Right, Helen, I’ll leave you to get on with the meeting, nice to see everyone getting into the seasonal spirit. Just the ticket, splendid, carry on. Juliet, good to have you on board, my dear.” Sir Crispin swept out of the room leaving behind the new fashion editor and an awkward silence.
Tia concentrated on her breathing and tried to control the rising nervous tide of panic in her stomach. It had been twelve years, there was no way Juliet should recognise her. Even so her mind flitted miserably through all the conceivable consequences if Juliet were to suddenly see through her new image and denounce her in front of all her colleagues.
“Well, erm, take a seat Miss Gold. I think we should go around the table and introduce ourselves before we crack on with the business in hand.” Helen frowned at Saffy to insinuate she should vacate her seat for Juliet. Saffy duly stood and took the empty chair to Tia’s right as the new fashion editor installed herself next to Helen at the head of the table. Juliet’s lips curved upwards in an ill-concealed smirk as she surveyed the rest of the editorial team with her dark grey eyes.
An icy trickle of sweat ran down Tia’s spine as one by one her colleagues announced their names and roles while Juliet nodded and made brief notes in a navy blue Moleskine notebook. Little black spots danced in front of her eyes and her grip tightened around the pen she’d pinched from Saffy’s desk on the way to the meeting.
“Tia Carpenter, beauty editor.” To her relief her voice at least sounded calm and steady. Her breath hitched in her throat as she waited for Juliet to recognise her, and tell the room that her name wasn’t Tia at all. Instead Juliet made a note in her book while Ravi from Features made his introduction.
The rest of the meeting passed in a blur. Her pen automatically jotted things down but most of her concentration was devoted to staying conscious and waiting for the new fashion editor to denounce her as a fraud.
Finally the torture was over and Helen swept Juliet off to her inner sanctum to give her a full brief on Platinum magazine’s anniversary and seasonal edition. The other staff drifted back to their desks hoping to catch the sandwich delivery service before it left the building, leaving Saffy, Tia and Ravi huddled around the water cooler.
“Well, that was drama, darlings.” Ravi helped himself to a beaker of iced water and leaned nonchalantly against the wall. His tailored cream linen jacket still miraculously uncreased despite the long meeting.
Saffy vented her feelings on the water dispenser, jabbing the "on" button with her thumb. “Cowbag, I never even got to interview for the job. Who is she anyway?”
“She was the fashion editor for Ritzy, and before that she worked on Vogue. She’s been in Platinum’s sister mag’s office in New York for the last six months.” Tia took a long pull of her drink, the icy chill of the water soothing her frazzled nerves.
The other two stared at her round-eyed.
“How come you know about her? Did you have some goss that you didn’t share?” Ravi demanded.
Heat flamed into Tia’s face. “No, don’t be silly. How would I know anything? Her name rang a bell, that’s all. A friend of mine used to know her.”
Ravi shot her a glance and Tia held her breath hoping she hadn’t given anything away. She’d been following Juliet’s career for years, breathing a huge sigh of relief when she had headed overseas.
“It’s not fair, and I’ll have to fetch and carry like a lapdog all over again. I really thought it would be my big break when Trudie got the chop.” Saffy scowled at her cup of iced water, her expression an unhappy contrast to her brightly coloured hair.
“I’m sorry, Saf. I thought you’d get it too, you’ve done some great spreads.” Tia patted her arm. She’d been convinced her friend would secure the post. Saffy was really good at her job. “We’ll go out after work to the Pink Pagoda, commiseration drinks are on us.”
“Thanks Tia, I’d better get back to my desk, no doubt Helen will be after me to show this new woman the ropes.” Saffy grimaced and finished her drink, tossing the empty plastic cup into the waste bin.
“You honestly didn’t know about this Juliet woman getting the job?” Ravi murmured as soon as Saffy was safely out of earshot.
“No, I told you, how could I? I’m only one of the minions remember?” Tia discarded her own empty cup. She wished she had known, and then she might have been better prepared for her old tormentors’ reappearance in her life.
“Mmm,” Ravi replied and followed her back into the main office where the new appointment was the topic of conversation on everybody’s lips.
Tia couldn’t help feeling relieved when Ravi was summoned by one of the temps to sort out the photocopier which appeared to have run amok, copying and stapling two hundred copies of the latest marketing report instead of the two it was supposed to produce.
She slipped away to the toilets to try to pull herself together. She’d always feared fate would throw her and Juliet together again one day. With Juliet working in fashion, and her own career in beauty it was always a possibility. She just hadn’t thought that today would be the day. She ran some cold water over the pulse points in her wrists to calm her nerves and popped open her handbag to retrieve her make up.
Being the beauty editor for Platinum magazine, the trendiest glamour publication for the twenty-something’s, had its perks. One of them was the volume of free samples of luxury products that regularly arrived on her desk. She selected a lip gloss which was allegedly guaranteed to plump and moisturise your lips for twenty-four hours with one application. So far, it hadn’t survived the banana and low fat yoghurt she’d had for breakfast and the iced water from the machine.
Tia reapplied the lip gloss, taking care to define the edges of her mouth. It would be difficult not to let her secret slip if she were working with Juliet on a daily basis. She stared at her reflection trying to picture herself as Juliet would see her now. It still took effort on her part to see herself as everyone else saw her. Slim, attractive, with her brunette hair in the latest cut, and wearing flawlessly applied make-up to highlight her best features. Why should Juliet recognise her? She was a totally new person.
The remainder of the working day slipped away even more slowly than the unappetising mince pies that Helen had thought would help the staff to ‘think Christmassy’ on a hot June day. As Juliet was shown around the offices by Saffy to meet the other, more junior members of the team, Tia covertly followed her progress through the cubicles. She needed to be ready for the inevitable moment when her nemesis would appear in front of her computer monitor.
Saffy halted in front of Tia’s desk, with Juliet next to her. “This is the Beauty department. You met Tia this morning, she’s head of beauty, her assistant, Anna, is on maternity leave at the moment so she’s managing with temps. This is Poppy, her intern, and Ravi, over in Features is helping out here and there.”
Tia sucked in a deep breath and pinned a smile to her face. Her heartbeat kicked up a notch. “Lovely to have you join us, Juliet.” She hoped she sounded sincere but not arse-licking.
“It’s nice to be back in the UK. New York was fabulous but I’d begun to get a touch homesick.” Juliet’s smile didn’t reach her eyes and Tia decided she’d definitely had some Botox injected into her forehead.
Saffy pulled a face behind Juliet’s back and Tia fought the urge to giggle.
“I’m sure you’ll find it a little less hectic here than New York.” Tia hadn’t had Juliet marked down as the kind of woman who would get homesick. Okay, she’d had a much nicer home than Tia when they’d been growing up, but even so the small provincial town where they had both lived couldn’t possibly hold that great an attraction for Juliet.
“Oh, I can see that already, but darling Crispin was so persuasive about getting me to come here. I’m sure I can do great things to put some sizzle back in the Fashion department.”
“Well, I’ll look forward to working on some ideas with you.” Tia hoped Juliet wouldn’t turn around. Saffy looked positively murderous at the implication that the fashion department had lacked sizzle under her direction.
Juliet gave another humourless smile. “That’s very sweet of you. Well, come on Susie, we’ve work to do.” She gave Tia a nod of dismissal and swept off back to her own department with Saffy following mutinously in her wake.
Ravi scooted his chair across the office to lean on her desk. “Darling Crispin! Get her, the cow, hate her already, and where does she get off calling Saffy, Susie? Bitch.”
“I think we’ll all need that drink tonight.” Tia rolled her shoulders trying to ease the tension knot from the back of her neck
“Poor Saf will need a permanent hip flask full of tequila at this rate.” Ravi muttered. “Do you think Jools is very pally-pally with our esteemed owner? Helen didn’t look too impressed this morning did she? Maybe old Cris has parachuted Juliet in over Helen’s head. It would be so typical of the old boy; he’s always thought of Platinum as his own personal plaything.”
Tia smiled weakly as Ravi hugged himself with speculative delight at his new theory. “I don’t know. We're stuck with her though and if she is a close personal friend of Sir Crispin’s then we’d better tread carefully.”
Ravi grinned at her, “Wouldn’t you love to know though? Old Sir Crispin must be thirty or forty years older than dear Juliet, and there were all those rumours about him and Helen.”
“There were only rumours about Sir Crispin and Helen because you started them after last years Christmas party.” Tia picked up a bundle of paper from her desk and smacked him playfully on the arm.
Ravi loved to gossip and if there was none to be found then he wasn’t above inventing something. The uncanny thing was that there was more often than not a grain of truth in his stories and Tia often wondered how much he really knew about everyone at Platinum.
“Darling, you flatter me. Uh oh, wicked queen alert at ten o’clock, look busy.” He scooted away back to his desk as Helen emerged from her glass-fronted office to stride off in the direction of the fashion department.
There were other rumours about Helen that hadn’t started with Ravi. Mainly they were about the bottles of Jack Daniels hidden in the plant pot of the large fronded palm behind her desk. If Ravi was right and Sir Crispin had appointed Juliet without consulting Helen it looked as if Platinum might be getting a new senior editor too.

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