Read an Excerpt
As the beautiful young woman strode through the international arrivals terminal at JFK, several people turned to look. A flight attendant noticed the way she carried herself, the clothes she wore, her shoes, and guessed she’d just walked out of first class. She was right. A young man pulling espresso paused, distracted by the girl’s obvious sexuality and lovely figure. She felt his gaze and turned slightly, favoring him with a brief smile that made his hand jump, causing him to scald himself. A man in a Savile Row suit lowered his Wall Street Journal and raised his eyebrows. Hmm. Charlotte Williams was back. Her father would be happy. The market would go up. He folded his paper and called his broker.
Charlotte descended the escalator, scanning the crowd waiting for arrivals. She smiled; there was Davis. He caught her eye and smiled back. He already had her bags.
“Hello, Davis, how nice to see a familiar face so soon.” She shook his hand.
“Miss Charlotte, it’s a pleasure to have you back in New York. The city has been very quiet without you.”
She laughed. “I doubt that, Davis, but thanks. Is the car very far? My shoes are killing me.” She’d worn sweats for the flight, but just before they began their descent, she’d changed into her city clothes. Louboutins, which were pinching her feet after only a hundred yards, a Marc Jacobs dress from spring ’09, with a wide wrapped belt, a cashmere sweater coat. Still comfortable and easy to wear but appropriate for public viewing.
He shook his head. “Just outside, Miss.”
Indeed, the long, low Mercedes was parked right in front, in a red zone, a cop very slowly writing a ticket for it. He saw them coming and looked around, making sure no one saw Davis slipping him a folded bill. Charlotte kicked off her shoes and relaxed as Davis expertly navigated the traffic back into town.
It was very good to be home.
HOWEVER, NO ONE except the staff was home to welcome her. The housekeeper was the same, but a young man she hadn’t seen before was working on the plants. She looked him over and decided to save him for later. Sitting on her bed, she surveyed her room.
“Your father had it repainted for you.” The housekeeper was unpacking her things, silently evaluating and appreciating the silken underwear, the fine labels: La Perla, Aubade, Eres.
“How did he manage to do that and yet have it look exactly the same?” Every doll, every picture, every photo was precisely where she had left it the year before.
Greta shrugged. “He spent a lot of time in here while you were away.” She looked around. “And he paid a designer to draw a map of where everything was.” She smiled at the memory. “It was quite a task.”
Charlotte frowned, tucking her long blond hair behind her ears. “Why was he in here so much?” She pulled her feet up onto her bed, pausing at a glance from Greta, removing her shoes.
Greta smoothed her gray uniform over her hips, before heading out the door. “He misses your mother, and he missed you. He’s going to be very glad to see you tonight.”
“Do you expect him for dinner?”
“No. I think later than that.”
Charlotte nodded. It was rare that her father was home before ten; it had always been that way. She’d eaten dinner alone every night, once she no longer had a nanny. She would curl up in his study, after her homework was done, and fall asleep waiting for him. If she closed her eyes, she could still remember the feeling of being lifted from the chair, the smell of whiskey and cigars, the roughness of his stubble as he kissed her, the smooth wool of his suit jacket. They would sit by the fire while he told her about his day, spinning fairy tales about the world of money and the knights and dragons that lived there. He was wonderful, when he was with her, and Charlotte loved him deeply. He just wasn’t there very much.
But while his work had kept them apart, it had also paid for this triplex on the park, a pony stabled at 89th Street (until the stable closed), a new Jaguar for her eighteenth birthday, an apartment in Le Marais for her year in Paris, and all the clothes and jewelry she could ever want. She had a lot to be grateful for. If she felt she’d missed out on a lot, too, she never said so.
CHARLOTTE CALLED SOME friends and set up an impromptu welcome-home dinner for herself. Then she threw open her closet doors and walked in, stepping between the racks, flipping hangers. The closet was nearly twenty feet long and curated like a gallery. On one side were pants, suits, jackets. The other held dresses, skirts, shirts. Everything from Abercrombie to Alaïa. Floor-to-ceiling shelves held four dozen pairs of shoes, each in a clear plastic box. Sometimes, when she’d been a bored teen, she would rearrange her closet by designer. Or decade. Or color. She’d been bored a lot.
Her favorite section held her mother’s clothes, those her father had kept. Her mother had died in a car accident when Charlotte was seven. On her way back from a party, for once without her husband, stone-cold sober and apparently driving below the speed limit. Another driver, drunk, high, traveling at nearly eighty on a cross street, had run the light at Fifth and rammed her car from the side, killing her instantly. He, of course, had gotten out of his car and walked away. Charlotte barely remembered her, though the house was filled with photographs. Jackie Williams had been a great model, internationally known and instantly recognized, and Charlotte had inherited her slanted green eyes and wide mouth. Her death had rocked the fashion world, and Charlotte’s main memory of that time was that the phone never stopped ringing. Her father had come home from the funeral and pulled it out of the wall, locking himself in his study, drinking and sobbing inconsolably. When he’d come out and found Jackie’s assistants packing up her clothes, he’d flown into a terrible rage, firing them on the spot and carefully smoothing each garment, delicately replacing them on their padded hangers, closing the closet door quietly.
Now Charlotte had a world-class collection of semi-vintage couture, and she knew the details and history of each piece. Many of them were one-offs, worn in runway shows and tailored for her mother. Jackie had been taller and thinner than Charlotte, who had a little more curve to her figure, and many of the pieces simply wouldn’t fit. But many did, and she loved pulling something unique from the collection.
Tonight she picked a simple slip dress by Galliano, one of his less flamboyant pieces, and looked at herself critically in the mirror.
She knew she was beautiful, and she knew she was attractive to men, but she couldn’t help comparing herself with her mother. Or, rather, with the images of her mother, because she’d never really known her mom. The public Jackie had been aloof and elegant, famous for her platinum hair and regal bearing. Charlotte was sexier, warmer. Her hair had honeyed streaks mixed with the pale cream, some of them almost dark. Her mother’s hair had been board-straight, but hers was tousled and curled and hard to control. She was feeling a little nervous, strangely, going out for the first time, and reached for her war paint, leaving her hair loose and wild. Her skin needed no foundation, but she dusted it with shimmery blush to bring out her cheekbones. In Paris, the women had worn minimal eye makeup, and she followed their lead, simply shadowing her lids with a pale aqua that brought out the subtle turquoise in her eyes and finishing with a razor-thin line of liquid eyeliner. Several coats of mascara and matte red lipstick later, she was ready.
Jewelry. She’d nearly forgotten. In the center of her closet was a Chinese chest, priceless in itself, its many lacquered drawers holding a small fortune in jewels and precious metals. Her father loved to buy jewelry and was something of a snob about it. His wife’s collection had included dozens of antiques alongside important contemporary pieces. Charlotte opened drawer after drawer, looking for the perfect thing. A single cabochon emerald on a long golden chain hung between her breasts and added green to her eyes. Time for battle.
© 2010 Nicole Richie, Inc.