In this poignant and witty debut, a bohemian and a Gucci-clad socialite form an unlikely friendship after leaving the city.
- Grand Central Publishing
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.30(d)
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Goodbye, Jimmy Choo
By Annie Sanders
5 SPOTCopyright © 2004 Annie Sanders
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIzzie glanced at the clock, then redoubled her efforts. "Get in there, you bitch," she hissed. "I haven't got time to mess around!"
A glance in the shiny metal lids of the Aga stovetop confirmed her worst fears. Quite apart from the fact that the curved surface made her look like Barry Manilow's ugly sister, she was a mess, and there was evidence of the struggle all over the kitchen too. In just over an hour, she'd have to appear in public with every trace carefully cleaned away. No one must ever know the ghastly truth of what had gone on. If anyone found out, all her careful work would be ruined. How had she got herself into this godawful situation? But time was running out. She grabbed a bread knife.
"I'll cut your bloody legs off, I'm warning you! This is your last chance."
Barbie lay on the kitchen worktop, unmoved by the threats and surrounded by cake crumbs. Once more Izzie jerked her upright and, ignoring the accusing stare of the painted blue eyes, thrust her into the top of the cake. This time she went in up to the waist and stayed upright.
Muttering a fervent prayer of thanks, Izzie started to patch up the damage: cake fragments unceremoniously jammed in to fill the crater in the top, then a light skim of butter cream to stick on the all-forgiving royal icing. Oncethat was in place, with a few strategically placed icing rosebuds and some jelly sweets, she'd defy anyone not to be impressed by "Princess Barbie in a Crinoline"-even if the sponge cake was bought and hacked into shape after her pitiful effort sank without trace in the bloody Aga. The first thing she'd do if she ever got any spare money would be to yank out that temperamental monster and replace it with a nice biddable gas oven.
There-finished. Now to do something about her hair-like wash out the icing sugar for a start. Only twenty minutes until Sue "Twin-Set" Templeton's awful lunch party. ("What that woman doesn't know about cardies, you could write on the back of an M&S label," had been Marcus's remark.) She wasn't Izzie's type at all, and the feeling was clearly mutual. Izzie was quite aware she'd only been invited to make sure she delivered the cake on time. The prep-school set, of which Sue was the lynchpin, wouldn't bother with her otherwise, despite the mysterious ex-London allure that still clung to her-just. This was definitely the last time she'd let herself get suckered into doing a cake for some posh kid's birthday. She'd rather be ostracized altogether than go through ordeal by Victoria sponge cake again.
She stormed upstairs and turned on the shower. Her entirely undeserved reputation for being good at birthday cakes, she realized, was based on those she'd produced for her own children's parties. What no one had tumbled to was that she had simply snaffled her ideas from the displays in the Jane Asher shop in Cale Street, so she'd allowed the fiction to continue-and this was the price! Sue Templeton's ghastly adenoidal brat had demanded a cake for her birthday, and Izzie, against her better judgment, had complied at once. She'd have to keep the whole cake thing well hidden from her old mates in London. What would they think if they knew she was now rubbing shoulders with the Mercedes Mums?
Blimey, she thought as she applied shampoo, an invitation to join the august company of that lot was quite a step up rural Ringford's social ladder, but it had been long enough coming. After two years, she still wasn't sure she'd mastered the steps of the complicated social dance of the provinces. It wasn't that she hated the country. Intellectually speaking (not a thing she did a lot of nowadays), she could see all the advantages. The schools were fine and you didn't have to go private; there were no syringes in the sand pit at the recreation ground; the air was clear (apart from the crop spraying, the slurrying, and the GM trials down the road). She'd even developed a sneaky affection for the funny little shops in Ringford High Street-learning to live without squid pasta and giving up hope of Jo Malone opening a branch there. On the rare occasions she went back to London now, she realized her friendliness with shop assistants in Upper Street was hopelessly inappropriate, and returned home with a rather pathetic sense of relief. Okay, so she'd lost her urban edge, but in all the ways you could calibrate, quality of life here was better, even though it hadn't been her idea to come.
But in the ways you couldn't measure, Izzie knew there was something lacking. Those intrinsic bits of London: the buskers on the South Bank, violet-colored fondant icing on those mini-cakes from Konditor & Cook, or leisurely Saturday mornings spent reading the Guardian from cover to cover while the kids were at tap dance lessons.
She fumbled for a towel, water trickling over her eyes. No, what she really couldn't bear a moment longer-and somehow, this Barbie thing had brought it all into intolerably sharp focus-was the permanent feeling that there was no one round here she could share even the memory of these delights with, least of all Sue Templeton. Izzie couldn't get this crowd at all, and she was torn between not even wanting to understand them-so sod the lot of them-and longing to feel a part of something. No wonder she was bloody confused.
Now, as she combed her wet hair, she thought back to her hopes when they moved out of London. Downsizing had seemed the sensible thing to do and Marcus was so keen to do it. They'd sold their house in Islington-oh all right, Stoke Newington-and bought this sweet Victorian cottage in Hoxley. They'd been reliably informed by the agent that it was a highly "desirable" village (meaning it had no council houses), so they'd packed up without a backward glance. In fact, Marcus had been thrilled to shake the dust of London off his feet, and he'd even lost touch with his old friends.
Izzie had talked it through with all the publishers she worked for as a copy editor, and everyone had agreed that they'd carry on as before. It would be just the same, only she wouldn't be able to pop in to pick work up or deliver-but no problemo. And the Jiffy bags of page proofs, designs for approval, and sheets of illustrations to check kept hitting the doormat. She could work in her pajamas (a long-held ambition), fit it all around the kids, and everything went on as before.
She untangled some clean knickers from the over-stuffed drawer. Frankly, the new school had been a bit of a culture shock. Liberal though she was, Izzie was a stickler for correct spelling and grammar-and that extended to tattoos. Instead of the Tobys and Tashas of North London, here most of her children's classmates were Waynes and Kellys whose main entertainment after school was PlayStation 3, shooting pigeons with air rifles, or, most mystifying of all, Irish dancing.
So why had she agreed when Sue Templeton, nonworking wife of the BMW-driving proprietor of a sign-writing firm, with kids at the local prep school, had asked her to make a Princess Barbie cake for snotty Abigail? She buried the question and dried her hair while simultaneously hopping on one leg trying to pull on Gap low-slung combats. Would her black cashmere sweater have shrunk so far that it would leave a strip of unappealingly white back on display when she leaned forward to serve herself quiche? There was bound to be quiche.
Within twenty minutes she'd arrived and parked rakishly between driveways on Millstone Meadow, the newly built estate of executive homes in Long Wellcote that was chez Templeton. "Stepford Drive" Marcus had christened this mock-Georgian abomination, and Izzie had to admit wryly he had got it right again. Hopping over the precisely alternated clumps of blue and white lobelia that passed for imaginative planting, she glanced at the car she had parked behind. A bloody huge Beamer, naturally. But the woman inside it didn't look very Stepford.
She was blond, of course-it seemed to be some sort of legal requirement if you drove a BMW-but she'd got the shade exactly right: somewhere between Gwyneth and Cate, without veering dangerously toward Jerry (or even worse, Geri!). Puffing grimly out of the window on a hands-free cigarette, this woman was gripping the steering wheel and seemed to be muttering to herself, a ferocious scowl on her face.
Shrugging, Izzie composed her face into the bland smile she thought fit for such an occasion, then, gripping the cake board more firmly, she rang the doorbell.
White toaster sliced bread. Oven chips. Frozen crispy pancakes. Turkey drummers. Maddy's heart sank as she watched the shopping of the woman in front of her passing through the checkout. Did these philistines know nothing about real food? She looked down at her own trolley. It had been a struggle to find them, but she'd managed free-range duck breasts, those scrumptious but obscure little French choccie biccies the children so adored, and some balsamic vinegar that looked just like the stuff they'd bought in Tuscany last year. God, she missed that little deli on the corner of Draycott Avenue.
She looked at her watch; twenty minutes before she had to be at Little Goslings to pick up Florence and get to the lunch. If the woman in front didn't get a move on packing her pathetic selection of fast food, she'd be late and Clare Jenkins, the rather obsequious proprietor of the nursery, would give her yet another reproachful look. She had no right to, of course, when Maddy had offered so generously to back pay the extortionate fees when Florence had started there three weeks into term.
Her three-year-old's education had already cost them an arm and a leg. With the sudden move up to this god-forsaken county, she'd had to forfeit a term's fees to the nursery in London where Florence had been so settled. They'd had to reserve a place there for her almost before conception-it made joining the exclusive Hurlingham Club seem like a picnic. Little Goslings just outside Ringford was, frankly, a comedown, and the fact that she had promised to enroll nine-month-old Pasco very soon was another reason why the staff had no right to come on all superior with her.
The woman at the checkout was now searching through her ghastly, faux-leather handbag to find her purse. Maddy sighed and tapped her fingernails on the handle of her trolley. It was going to be a close-run thing. While she waited, she looked the woman over. She seemed to sum up everything that was so common about everyone in this hayseed community. The woman's white T-shirt-probably a man's and undoubtedly from Matalan-was pulled tight over a huge, insufficiently supported bust and hung out loose over a vulgarly overpatterned flared skirt, creased at the bum. And her shoes, oh God, her shoes. Light beige sandals bearing up heroically under the strain of the fat feet squeezed into them.
Maddy looked down smugly at her own soft-as-toffee, pale blue suede driving shoes which she'd found in a gorgeous little place on Walton Street. She hadn't been able to resist buying another two pairs in different colors. She sighed again. Her monthly haircut at John Freida was one thing, but would she be able to justify a trip up to town now just to satisfy the imperative of decent footwear or, after a few more weeks living here, would she too be drowned in a sea of mediocrity?
Grabbing a last-minute bunch of bright orange gerbera from the flower section, she paid for them and a packet of Marlboro Lights at the cigarette counter as she left (delayed even longer by the bloody losers queuing for the lottery). The fact that the flowers cost three times as much as they should, being out of season, would almost certainly be lost on her lunch hostess, Sue Templesomething. She maneuvered the trolley at precarious speed around the car park and stuffed the bags into the back of her car. They'd bought it in the days when they had to negotiate the perils of the traffic on the Fulham Road-the TV screen in the headrests was a godsend for entertaining the children. But now that they were in the country, its height from the road gave her a sense of superiority over other cars that felt appropriate.
Turning out of Ringford, she headed onto the more rural roads toward the nursery and Huntingford. She could feel her hands relaxing on the wheel as she looked over the hedges at the fields and the view beyond. Summer was holding on for dear life, and there was a heat haze that hung over the hills in the distance, making each one less distinct than the one before it. A tractor in a far-off field looked like a child's toy and was busy plowing up the remnants of the summer wheat, she guessed, to prepare for a crop she certainly wouldn't recognize. Her agricultural knowledge was sketchy to say the least, but the whole picture of undulating countryside was, she supposed, a pleasing one and went some small way to reminding her of the positive reasons for the move here.
Simon's announcement that he had decided to abandon the City and had bought an IT company "somewhere lovely in the country" had landed on Maddy like a bombshell. Okay, so they had ranted and raved about the parking difficulties of SW10 and fantasized occasionally about the delights of a big garden and the sound of bells from a village church, but Maddy had thought that was all just in fun. Simon, however, had rehearsed all the reasons why it was the best thing for the family to get out of town, even before presenting her with a virtual fait accompli one evening last May over a glass of chilled white Burgundy. He'd even had Colette, their French nanny, look after the kids for the weekend and had driven Maddy around the country lanes, seducing her with a carefully vetted pile of estate agents' details of houses with idyllic pictures and even more poetic descriptions. He'd then seduced her again after dinner at a rather gorgeous hotel he'd booked them into, as if making love in the country was somehow superior to doing it in the city.
Huntingford House had been everything she had lusted after: Queen Anne, brick built, with big sashes and dormer windows peeping out of the roof on the second floor. The type of house you see in the opening pages of Country Life. It had all the right bits in all the right places: sweeping drive, old roses in an acre of rambling garden, and a kitchen bigger than the whole downstairs area of their house in Milborne Place. The decor hadn't been quite so gorgeous. The Formica units, fifties central heating system, and shag pile carpets had to go. But with the help of her old boss, Felicity Cook, and an instinctive good taste acquired by osmosis after years living within spitting distance of Knightsbridge, she was in the process of replacing avocado bathroom suites with C. P. Hart, and exchanging William Morris curtains for yards of Zoffany. She was now well on the way to creating the home she wanted it to become. Somewhere that would turn visiting London chums green with envy.
Will's school too had been a persuasive factor. Simon had arrived home gripping a copy of The Good Schools Guide with the page already marked. Eagles had been described as having "all the elements of an inner London prep without the traffic." That was good enough for Maddy. By an amazing stroke of luck, they had managed to secure a place left by a child whose parents were relocating and, despite another hefty financial penalty for starting late, they were in. Maddy had been heartened by the other parents in the car park. Okay, so there was an alarming plethora of gold shoes and appliqued T-shirts, but there weren't too many common accents and the head, Mrs. Turner, a rather tall, anorexic-looking woman in her mid-forties, Viyella suit, and high heels, had assured them that most parents worked "in fields like IT and medicine."
Colette was just wiping the remnants of lunch off Pasco's face when Maddy burst into the kitchen with the supermarket bags. "I'm late for that woman's little 'get together,'" she gasped, planting a kiss on the baby's head. The petite French nanny had been Maddy's bargaining tool for the move. Either she came too or Maddy wasn't budging. Colette, despite (or perhaps because of) being from deepest France, seemed even more cynical about a move to the back edge of beyond than Maddy. In fact, Colette's rooms at the top of the house had to be first for an overhaul as an added incentive, and she was now ensconced in luxury with her wide-screen TV and Malabar curtains, while the rest of the household were having to put up with bare plaster and barer floorboards.
Excerpted from Goodbye, Jimmy Choo by Annie Sanders Copyright © 2004 by Annie Sanders. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This is one lots of women will relate to: two very different types of women, both with children, washed up in the countryside and not too sure how to fit in, after the busy city scene. They meet up, form a friendship, start a business and set about transforming their lives. This isn't escapist fiction - it's very realistic and human, and compelling because it is so authentic. But funny (very) at the same time. The opening is brilliant! Despite the wit and the fast pace, it asks some pretty deep questions about women's identity and the pressures of society on modern women trying to have it all. This is a classic, defining book for grown-up women. A keeper.
Loved it and would like more written by the authors.
This is a good book. The first part of the book and the middle were really good I didn't want to put the book down the end get's slower though but only the last three or four chapters. It's a book that is about friendship and loss. Very touching and something I could relate to in some ways. It was a realistic novel it seemed like that stuff could actually happen and does. A great read. I highly recommend it!
I really wanted to like this book after the first couple chapters I thought this is a cute story and then it drug on and on and on. The last 2 chapters are the best parts. Not really worth the read. Good setting if you're into the Brit Lit genere.