- Published: 6 February 2024
- ISBN: 9781787303676
- Imprint: Harvill Secker
- Format: Trade Paperback
- Pages: 384
- RRP: $34.99
The Lincoln Room was at full capacity. Dotted about were expansive round tables, with bushy bouquets at their centres, each named after a prominent female politician: ‘I’m on Maggie Thatcher! Where are you sitting?’ Guests arrived plucking a champagne flute from the white-gloved servers’ trays. The reception was at a pleasant hum; we’d timed our arrival to perfection. Knowing British people, there were at least five concurrent conversations about ‘this mental weather we’ve been having!’
‘You ready?’ I asked, pausing under the unconscionably lavish flower arch. The ground floor of the Savoy had been monopolised tonight to celebrate thirty years of the Firm. I spotted in the corner a Willy Wonka style cart offering cupcakes iced with ‘1988’ and ‘2018’ in the Firm’s colours.
‘If I can get through this evening,’ Adele said, lips stretched into a ventriloquist’s smile, ‘without cracking into my cyanide tooth, I’ll consider it a success.’
It seemed the women of Reuben, Fleisher & Wishall LLP had sold out Van Cleef’s Alhambra collection. Men signalled their earning capacity with discreetly indiscreet watches. When we first met a year ago, I read Adele’s insistence on wearing black Dr. Martens and mismatched Celtic earrings as a tiresome display of rebellion; a statement that I may be another cog in this machine, but I’m an individual and, crucially, I am not a sell-out. When she got her forearm tattoo – an outline of a nude woman with flowers sprouting out of her nipples – she essentially plastered vive la résistance! over the door to our shared office. I knew now that nothing Adele did was performative.
I had yet to reach such dizzying heights of emancipation. I’d spent the last ninety minutes assembling myself. Neutral-but-smoky eye make-up, legs smoother than dolphins. I got a manicure earlier today, returning to a Post-it on my desk in my boss’s scrawl: Jade, this isn’t playschool. An hour for lunch? I wore a fir-green dress that cinched my waist and had a wrap-around bodice. Despite its low cut, the dress remained professional, given my lack of breasts. I felt some feminist guilt over the hours I’ve spent researching boob jobs, but enough aunties at enough weddings have lamented that my ‘childbearing’ hips are disproportionate to my flat chest. The last straw was Auntie Ebru’s exclamation that Jade has the face to launch a thousand ships, and the backside for them to harbour under!
‘There you are! I’ve been looking for you for ever!’ Eve grabbed me in a hug as Adele was pulled into another huddle. ‘Jeez, love this dress, and it has pockets?’
‘Hey, Evie,’ I grinned.
‘Come, let’s mingle.’ She tugged on my wrist towards a group of colleagues. I looked over my shoulder and flashed Adele an apologetic smile, reciprocated with a minimal wave as she dissolved into the crowd.
Call me 1A. I’m the super of a building on Rivington Street on the Lower East Side of New York City.
From the moment she steps out into the laneway before her morning shift, Hazel Bates, tea lady at Empire Fashionwear, has the curious feeling of being watched.
Curtis McCoy was early for his ten o’clock meeting so he carried his coffee to a table by the window where he could feel the watery April sun.
Robin notices her three times on the trail, nodding a friendly hello as friendly hellos are expected here, before she stops to introduce herself: Lucy.
There’s a hospital room at the end of a life where someone, right in the middle of the floor, has pitched a green tent.
What is the worst present you’ve ever received for Christmas?