While standing on the pedestal in the shop, Abigail thought about the three hundred pounds for that one dress. Yes the perfect dress... but three hundred pounds? For one occasion?
That was six hundred Australian dollars.
Kate, her cousin’s girlfriend and employee of the shop, hurried about. It was empty bar them. “Okay then. Just don’t spill anything on it or tear it or sweat in it. Or else we can’t return it and my boss will find out.” She came to stand beside Abigail. “It’s a shame you can’t buy it though.”
“Right,” she ran a hand through the fabric. “I think this dress would have to be my wedding dress/ party dress/ funeral dress all in one, if I did buy it.”
“Are all Australians stingy?”
“Only those of us who see the real worth.” Finally she tore her eyes away from the reflection. “When do I have to have this dress back by?”
“Before Monday morning. I’ll come round your room on Sunday and get it.”
Abigail stepped down from the pedestal. She lifted the hem of the dress and flashed Kate her battered red converses.
Kate gasped. “You need shoes for tonight!”
“Don’t worry. I have a nice pair of flats.” She allowed the hem to fall to the floor. It pooled over her toes. “Um. I think we might have a problem.”
“Oh no. We can’t alter the dress in anyway. It has to stay at that length.”
Abigail rose up onto her toes. Better. She sighed. “I’m going to have to wear heels.”
“Shoes are not easy to return to this place. There is a nice shoe shop down the road.” Her eyes twinkled as she thought of the boutique shoe emporium. The smell of leather.
Abigail frowned at the woman. “They’re just shoes and won’t be seen at all. Is there some discount place I can go to? I don’t need anything special.”
Kate’s excitement disappeared. Why was she being nice to her? Surely Kate’s boyfriend didn’t really expect her to be friends with his cousin? It wasn’t like they would see each other ever again after that weekend, Abigail’s holiday was almost over.
Leaving the shop, Abigail felt relieved and smiled for no reason, other than the fact she was on the other side of the world and alone. That should be very scary and lonely, but not to her. Not even when she had been passed around from extended family member to another, and had to be grateful they were taking the time to entertain her.
She had the afternoon to herself.
With a skip in her step she wandered down the street. People bustled all around her. The shops varied from boutique to convenience stores. London was like any other city, which was somewhat comforting.
She paused and smelt something greasy. Abigail followed it to a plain takeaway shop and entered. Ten minutes later she left with a hot paper package in her arms and strolled to the park nearby. There were no picnic tables available so she plopped herself under a tree and ate her lunch.
Once finished she checked her phone and sighed in content. Mum had sent another message, asking how she was. “Fine,” she messaged back.
She was fine... though a little disappointed. Where was her excitement? The giggling and bubbling happiness because she was travelling overseas, where was that? Surely she deserved some of it. Or was that reserved for the girls who made friends easily and travelled together?
One week before
“This will be better than going to a club.” Jasper said.
Abigail felt her eyes narrow at her cousin.
“Well, it’s an open bar and nibblies. Famous people will be there. You can talk to any good writer from London.”
“Just don’t mention how you got in... and maybe you should use an alias and make up some life story. It should be easy for you.”
“You will owe me for this.”
“All you need to do is keep my girlfriend company, enjoy yourself a little and tell my mother that I have fulfilled my duty. Then we can go our separate ways.”
Deep breath, closed eyes for a second. “You better send a taxi. If you tell the truth and there is an open bar, then I’m going to need transportation.”
“Please don’t get drunk.”
“I won’t embarrass you. Promise.” Smiling sweetly she crossed her fingers.
Of course there was another reason why she was attending this charity ball. How do you create that easy friendship with someone like Kate in one evening so she would spill her guts?
Tell her the truth?
“Hey, the whole family thinks you’re cheating on my cousin. What’s the deal?”
The easiest solution: tequila.
All that Abigail could hope for was that Kate had a low tolerance.
“Do you have lipstick?”
Brought back from her day dreaming, Abigail shook her head.
Kate dug through her clutch. What did she have inside? It was like the tardis of a hoarder. Finally she withdrew a tube with triumphant. “Cherry red goes with anything!”
Abigail applied it, using the ghost reflection in the window as a mirror. “You should’ve told me you had no clutch I would have brought an extra one. Then you could’ve brought a lippy.”
Abigail handed the tube back, smacking her lips for drama. “It’s all good. You’ve helped me far too much already.”
“Where are you keeping you room key?”
“In my bra.”
Kate laughed. “That’s normally where my phone lives.” They shared a smile.
The taxi stopped back from the long line of other cars delivering guests, and journalists and reporters lined the entrance. Abigail and Kate hopped out of the cab after paying and went around to the back entrance. Through the kitchen they met Abigail’s cousin Jasper. He tapped his foot impatiently. “I thought you guys would be here earlier,” he kissed Kate on the cheek.
“Sorry, there was traffic.” She grinned at him. “Can we go in?”
A stiff nod in the direction they had to go and Jasper disappeared himself, back to work ensuring nothing went wrong.
As they moved along the hall to the ballroom, Abigail felt sick, she wanted to throw up and go back to the hotel room, maybe even magically click her heels together and be back home. Kate clutched at her hand. She almost bounced with excitement. “Isn’t this great?” They stepped out from the dim hall and into the glittering chandelier lit ballroom. “Oh. My. God!”
Abigail twisted her head from side to side to take in all of the glittering ball gowns and jewels. So much to look at. Then she stumbled. Kate was walking over to a group of beautifully dressed women, tugging Abigail after her like a slow moving child. “Hello, my name is Kate. It is so nice to meet you all.”
The women looked her slender figure up and down, assessing the dress and the wide smile before answering. No one gave their names. But Kate spoke to them like she already knew them, maybe they were really famous? They could be models. Kate was into fashion so it made sense.
“Oh and this is my cousin, Abigail.” She finally dropped her hand.
Shifting awkwardly under their assessment, Abigail gave a little wave. “Hello.”
One woman widened her eyes. “An Australian? How strange. Did you, by any chance, come to London on a jumping kangaroo?”
Great. Another comedian. “No. I flew on a kookaburra.” And parked it beside your broom stick. She kept that last bit silently inside of her head.
The girls stared at her. “A what?”
“Never mind,” shaking her head, Abigail looked around the room and ignored the conversation as it turned to something they all agreed upon. Shoes.
That was when she saw him in the middle, surrounded by people. No, it couldn’t be him, she shook her head. But as he turned around she felt her heart stop.
Oh God. It really was him. He was grinning. Everything matched; peroxide hair, powder blue suit, cocky swagger.
The Korean pop star she had been crushing on for years now was within walking distance.
She could talk to him.
She could touch him.
She could throw herself at him and beg to have his baby.
But she wasn’t insane. Well, not by much.