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The Rumour Mill
A Jazzy Lou Novel
By Roxy Jacenko
Allen & UnwinCopyright © 2013 Roxy Jacenko
All rights reserved.
Everyone knows that if your waters break at Westfield, Bondi Junction (aka WBJ), the concierge organises a ride for you to hospital and you're entitled to a shopping spree when you're once again able to walk and not waddle. Well, that's the word out there on the street anyway. (If the WBJ story is true, Westfield's billionaire owner, Frank Lowy, must really like the idea of a baby commencing his or her entry into the world surrounded by some of the most expensive designer real estate in the shopping universe. Hell, it's a wonder he doesn't issue the brand-new prospective fashion consumer with a Black Amex credit card right then and there.)
I've never actually met anyone whose waters have broken at WBJ. In fact, I never considered such a majorly embarrassing moment could happen at all. It's bad enough being pregnant and being mistaken for someone who makes a habit of wearing size 18 clothes without also having to deal with sudden drainage issues – especially when you work in the fashion industry and must pretend that bodily functions do not exist. (Fashionistas do not sweat, visit the WC or eat in public beyond rearranging a few lettuce leaves around on a plate in the restaurant du jour. Sipping a bottle of L'Eau through a straw is acceptable; expelling liquid from any orifice is definitely not.)
But now imagine you're Australia's premier fashion publicist – the owner and chief shit kicker of your own PR consultancy, Queen Bee – and your waters break just before the start of design diva Allison Palmer's show at BMW Fashion Week. Do you pretend to be part of the pre-show entertainment? Or hope no one noticed that it's currently raining from your vajayjay (Water features are so 2003.)
It may have been karma, punishment for my having hooked up with the charming, witty and hot Michael Lloyd, the stockbroker ex-boyfriend of well-seasoned pin-up girl Belle Single. Not that she had probably noticed he had moved on. The wannabe actress and number one ticket holder for the Elouera Beach Car Park (okay, I'm being mean – one of the Sutherland Shire's finest daughters) goes through men just as vigorously as the Cronulla Sharks get through coldies after a game. Her appetite is insatiable, especially if the guy is rich and famous. Michael, sadly, was only filthy rich and wasn't all that keen on seeing his photo front and centre with Belle's in my BFF Luke Jefferson's column in The Sun. Michael and Belle broke up shortly after the action-packed Coco Man of the Year Awards, when she had been caught giggling behind a toilet cubicle with Dev – lead singer of The Dread, who had been performing that night. Michael had walked in on them unexpectedly and, well, when he wanted to leave straight away I organised him an Uber car from the event, but I managed to jump in as well. Michael had been excellent company for me during the night, keeping me calm and pouring the odd drink for me while Belle flitted around. Once it was clear that he and Belle were over for good, I accidentally on purpose found myself running into him all over town. It was only a matter of time before we started dating and we were now desperately in love. He really was my knight in shining Armani, my saviour in Paul Smith – in fact, my perfectly groomed accessory.
We could trace the moment of conception with some precision to a delicious weekend break to Qualia on the Great Barrier Reef. It was easy to work out the date because it was one of the rare occasions when we'd had time away from our busy schedules to devote to sex, and lots of it. We'd turned off our phones, declined to glance at our email alerts and not once fired up our social media accounts, and wallowed in this extracurricular activity. When we staggered back to reality at the end of the weekend, slightly the worse for wear and with absolutely no sign of a tan to show for our island break, I had the feeling that something had shifted inside me, but I'd put it down to too much room-service food. I just never dreamt that it would be anything as monumental as a baby. It would be another six weeks before I knew for sure, and by that time I'd already started to plan the mini wardrobe. As you do.
If you really want to know, I thought I was infertile, but it turned out it was only my schedule that had acted as a contraceptive. The timing had never been right before, but this time the planets must have been aligned (and I had been seeing stars in my eyes). Michael was going to make the most perfect dad.
Now here I was nearly nine months later, during the busiest time of the year for Queen Bee – BMW Sydney Fashion Week – and I had no sooner clapped eyes on Belle Single herself walking arm in arm with my nemesis and old PR boss, Diane Wilderstein, than I started to feel a very odd sensation.
You could hardly blame my baby for arcing up on my behalf: the two of them were trying to talk their way into Allison Palmer's evening wear show in a bid to snare one of the coveted front-row seats just minutes before the runway was due to light up. They had no doubt been counting on some of the kosher celebrities not showing up. Unfortunately for them, Diane was no longer such a force in the industry. Call me conceited, but her business started to unravel five years ago when she threw me out after I had been almost sexually assaulted by Gen X cricketing legend Matt Ashley; and it was all captured in The Sun's gossip pages the next day. The problem was that the client, Lacoste, had not been happy because Matt Ashley had looked anything but classy in their polo shirt. Like that was my fault? Diane had nevertheless done me a favour in forcing me to open my own agency, and then slowly but surely I had relieved her of her best accounts. She was seldom even referred to as Cruella De Vil now – more likely just one of the dalmatians.
At the same time, Belle Single's media currency had bombed almost as dramatically as Greece's credit rating; even Pillow Talk, her late-night talk show on Channel 42 where, lingerie-clad, she interviewed various identities, had been largely unwatched. Admittedly, she still looked her best when barely dressed, but her interview technique was mind-numbingly dull. The main advantage of having it on so late at night was that it sent most of its viewers to sleep.
Had I not been in the throes of early labour I would have marched right up to Belle and Diane and told them in no uncertain terms to hit the road. But due to the fact that I was currently impersonating Niagara Falls, I was hardly in a position to sort it all out. Luckily my hard-working Bees are always on Belle alert, so before you could say 'skanky blonde' she was quickly ushered into Row C. Those scuffed Prada heels of hers hardly touched the ground.
'But I never do Row C,' I heard her squeak in horror, before meekly sitting down in her assigned spot. It was either Row C or Row Z, which wasn't even inside the tent.
As for that poisonous PR vixen Diane Wilderstein, it would be standing room only. Those ever-present Dior shades clamped on her head (to give her hair the body that her hairdresser could not) were going to get quite a workout today. She would really be hoping that nobody recognised her. Unfortunately, this was unlikely; she was practically a poster gal for Botox gone bad.
'Don't you know who I am? I could break you in this town,' she snarled at poor, hapless Kimmy, one of Queen Bee's newly minted junior publicists.
'S-s-sorry,' stammered Kimmy, who looked like she was about to shit herself, 'but we're over capacity.'
I noted with some satisfaction the look of utter distaste on Diane's face as she was shown to the back of the room by our newest recruit. Diane would have to share the space with hordes of fashion students and assorted hangers-on who were immune to the indignity of hovering at Fashion Week. In her trademark Chanel suit, Wilderstein looked quite ridiculous among them all. If I was her, I would have gone home.
Unfortunately, there wasn't a moment to savour this victory – it was all about what was happening to me right now. When I had first felt a slight trickle, I had distractedly assumed I was having a period. Then it registered: it couldn't be that time of the month since I was so huge that I made Demi Moore in that famous pregnant pose on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine look like Victoria Beckham.
My baby, codenamed Project B among the Bees, was well and truly cooked and appeared to be arriving one week ahead of its due date. Well, of course, no child of mine was ever going to miss a deadline. My Allison Palmer sequined dress wasn't exactly what I'd been planning to wear to hospital for the big event (it was going to be some Céline limited-edition sport luxe trousers). I looked like a giant Christmas bauble, and that pair of Madonna-ish headphones clamped around my Valonz blowdry just set the whole thing off, in a really bad way.
'Code 3, Code 3 – is anyone listening?' I hissed into the walkie-talkie when the full horror of my situation dawned on me. I knew the top-secret code would bring the Bees running, and I needed to have my driver sent around to the back of the models' dressing room. There was enough action due to take place on the runway with the models enacting being at a cocktail party without me adding to it in all my amniotic fluid-saturated glory.
It was almost too late to make an exit because Henri – the former male model who was Fashion Week's seating Nazi – was ordering the plastic cover rolled off the runway, and Allison's models were lining up behind the stage. If I bolted for the back door I risked upending one and breaking her neck as she fell off her Givenchy heels.
Just then I spotted super-catty gossip columnist Wally Grimes sashaying towards me with a big fake smile on his lips. 'Quick!' I shouted to Lulu and the rest of the Bees, who were also making their way through the crowd towards me. Just before Wally could pounce, my team surrounded me in the flying wedge formation we had rehearsed just for Code 3 situations, and we moved as one towards the backstage area, which was still a scene of chaos.
Front and centre was Marron, Australia's most famous makeup artist, in head-to-toe Tom Ford, being filmed touching up supermodel Laetitia Leighton, who would not make her special entrance until halfway through the show. The crowd would be on the edge of their seats, almost ravenous with anticipation for her big moment, especially as her well-known actor boyfriend, Nick Rees, was due to be seated just before the lights went down (or, worst-case scenario, in one of the moments of darkness during the show). The fashion editors would be beside themselves: Laetitia's fashion moment was more keenly anticipated than the arrival of the latest Céline It Bag from Paris. Even the usually unflappable Marron was all aquiver as he explained for the TV cameras exactly the look he was going for on the runway. His artfully made-up eyes widened a little when he took in the moving mass of Bees surrounding me, but luckily he had been around fashion shows long enough not to be surprised by anything he saw backstage.
He blew me a big, theatrical kiss. 'Jazzy darling, you look divine! We simply must catch up, but right now I'm giving an interview to Tara Robinson for Six Nightly News,' he announced unnecessarily, as if I didn't recognise Tara or know what was going on. I'd actually locked in the backstage interview.
'Of course,' I responded, air-kissing back in his general direction. 'I understand completely – maybe after the show?' Never let it be said that I don't continue to play my role as an uber-publicist even in the most confronting of circumstances. Lulu shot me a quizzical look. Did I really think I was going to be back in time for the after-party?
'Great, darling, we'll have a glass of bubbles soon. Can't wait,' Marron called back, not noticing that anything was amiss with the massively pregnant woman who was all but being carried out in front of him. All these civilities were exhausting when my body was turning against me – who knew what was going to happen next? Would Project B arrive before we had even left Fashion Week? When it came to hot messes, I was up there with the best of them.
When we were finally sitting in the back of the car with the driver, a wad of Fashion Wipes beside me on the back seat in case of further spillage, I asked, 'Is Michael meeting us at the hospital, Lulu?' completely forgetting that he was on a business trip to China and not merely lunching in Chinatown. In all the chaos I hadn't had a chance to call Michael myself, so Lulu had managed to get through to him on a pre-arranged number in Beijing shortly after I hit the walkie-talkies. He told her that he would be on the next plane out. That's BMW Fashion Week for you: it can sweep you off your feet and make you overlook the really important things in life – like having a baby.
* * *
So this is what labour feels like – no big deal at all, I mused, convinced that if my waters had broken I must be in labour, and yet I didn't feel a twinge of pain. I'd had headaches and stomach ulcers worse than this.
Perhaps if I had attended one of the birth information sessions run by the Prince of Wales Private Hospital I might have been across the various stages of giving birth, but I could never fit them into the Queen Bee schedule. I couldn't fit anything much into the Queen Bee schedule. It had pretty much developed a life of its own.
'Quick, Lulu, look up "stages of labour" in Wikipedia,' I pleaded, and my loyal assistant immediately typed rapidly on the screen of her BlackBerry. She took a moment or two to read it and try to digest it all.
'Do you think you're dilated yet?' she asked. 'Has the baby's head engaged?'
Her words were making me feel as squeamish as one of the more realistic episodes of CSI. 'What? Lulu, I'm not sure I can do this,' I said with a touch of panic.
'I don't think you have a choice,' she said kindly. 'That baby is busting to be born.'
But before I could focus on my situation I suddenly saw Nick Rees' convoy – four black G63s with blacked-out windows – speeding down George Street towards the Fashion Week site. Traffic was slow but motorists were actually giving way to the vehicles; Sydneysiders love an ultra VIP almost as much as the PR industry does.
'He's on the way, he's on the way,' Lulu relayed back to Anya on her BlackBerry. 'ETA five minutes. Make sure you're in position and check that his Himalayan spring water is properly chilled.'
Nick was being taken through a special entrance that had been created this year for the celebrities who didn't want to be seen by the models or the press. The paps would of course see the convoy arrive, but thanks to our security detail only Marco, our tame paparazzo, was going to get close enough to get a shot for the international media – and Queen Bee was taking half the fee, thank you very much. Thankfully the gentlemanly Marco, with his button-down, crisp shirts and pressed jeans, always followed through on every deal. Most celebs loved him because he treated them with respect. Hell, he even treated me with respect, always tipping me off when other lensmen were planning to stitch us up. One thing I had learnt from working for Diane Wilderstein was to milk any opportunity for all it was worth, because you never knew when it would all end.
At least it was business as usual so far today. Marco would get a perfect set of pictures of Nick Rees and they would be up on the Daily Mail website less than an hour later, netting us all a tidy sum. A sum which was going to come in handy with Project B now well on his or her way. (Call me a romantic because I had chosen not to learn junior's sex before giving birth, but I def had two names ready: Louis if it is a boy and Fifi if it's a girl.) Either way this baby was going to cost bucketloads of money – including, for a start, the price of this expensive Allison Palmer gown (there would be no returning it now, even after a special designer hand-clean at Florida in Double Bay).
Excerpted from The Rumour Mill by Roxy Jacenko. Copyright © 2013 Roxy Jacenko. Excerpted by permission of Allen & Unwin.
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