Home > Safe for Summer

Safe for Summer
Author: Mandy Baggot

One


‘So, you’ve got a spot at London Gold FM tomorrow morning at ten, followed by lunch with Juan at twelve. I’ve asked him to take you to that new Spanish restaurant. Apparently, the press are still around it like crazy, and it will do you good to get as many photo-ops in as possible. Then you’ve got the studio from two-thirty until five. Then it’s another art gallery opening, I’m afraid.’

‘Another art gallery? Really?’

‘Yes, but this one is sponsored by Lafarge—big pop star in the early Nineties. It will do your image good to be there. And you know how important it is to appear well-rounded.’

Well-rounded everywhere apart from your stomach, butt, and thighs. There, there, and there it was required to be pencil-thin, unless you were Beyoncé. Autumn Raine picked another chocolate chip from her muffin and put it on the side of her plate with the four she had set out earlier.

‘I admit, the spot on the cooking show and possibly the gardening program might have been overkill,’ Janey said, flicking her mane of blonde hair over one shoulder. The personal assistant smiled before sinking her teeth into a caramel slice without concern.

Autumn watched her friend chomp down on the cake, enjoying every crumb, and licking sauce from her lips in abandon. Autumn looked at her muffin—torn apart, played with, none of it eaten. She pushed the plate away.

‘Is everything okay?’ Janey asked, wiping her fingers on a napkin.

‘Yes, of course,’ Autumn lied.

She put her hands in her lap and started to count up her fingers, saying the numbers in her head as she passed by each digit in turn. One… two… three… four… five.

‘Is it Juan?’ Janey continued, speaking of Autumn’s boyfriend.

‘No, of course not.’

‘I think he’s worried about his new album. He said something the other day about perfecting everything, and I think it’s stressing him out. He needs this album to really make it,’ Janey told her.

‘Oh,’ Autumn replied, looking back at the muffin.

‘Has he played you the demo? It’s going to be a hit, you know, if he gets big financial backing,’ Janey said.

‘He’s in talks, isn’t he? With Life Musique?’

‘Yes but—’

‘What time is it?’ Autumn asked, her eyes still trained on the cake.

‘Almost eleven,’ Janey responded. She took a look at her watch.

‘I’ve got to go, I’m meeting my mother,’ Autumn said, getting to her feet.

‘What? But that isn’t in your schedule today. You’re supposed to be meeting with someone from the record company about promo events for the IMAs,’ Janey exclaimed, calling up a document on her iPad.

The International Music Awards. Wow, it was at least five minutes since Janey had last mentioned them.

‘She called me earlier, said it was important. You know what she’s like,’ Autumn said. She straightened her cloche hat, tucking her red hair behind her ears.

‘Yes, I know what she’s like, but you’ve got appointments to keep to, a tight schedule that I’m in charge of. What am I going to say to this Ben from the record company?’ Janey asked.

Janey was doing her annoyed look again. She pouted when she was cross, and she tapped whatever was at hand. Today it was the spoon from her coffee.

‘I’m sure you’ll think of something, don’t you always?’ Autumn stated, checking out her reflection in the window.

The jacket she was wearing over a classic black skirt was tailored and had arrived via courier that morning. No one had the suit yet, except her. And, if she didn’t like it, it would never make it to market. That was the power she held. Everyone was eager for her opinion when it could give them something, but when she needed someone, when she wanted to take the pop star mantle off for a while… well, there was no one, and she couldn’t have a real conversation with a fashion designer who was only interested in her for influencing purposes, could she? One loose-lipped comment and she’d be headline news for all the wrong reasons.

‘Autumn, you can’t keep doing this. We agreed I need to know where you are at all times That’s how this works,’ Janey said.

‘It’s just my mother. You know she’ll annoy me within five minutes, then I’ll leave and I can get to this meeting with the record company guy. But I can’t not turn up to meet her. It’s drinks now. If I don’t show, it will be dinner and the ballet, and I can’t do that again,’ Autumn said.

Janey stopped tapping her spoon against the coffee cup and shrugged her shoulders.

‘Ask Juan to meet me tonight.’ Autumn slipped on her gloves. ‘Tell him to bring his demo and I’ll listen to it,’ she offered.

‘Really? I think he’s hoping you might speak to someone…’ Janey started.

‘But I couldn’t speak to anyone at the record company about it, and he shouldn’t be getting you to speak to me about it. I don’t want anyone to do me or my boyfriend any favors. If his record is good, it will make it, regardless. I’ll see you later. Call me if there’s any update to the diary,’ Autumn said, signaling to her driver outside the café.


*

‘Autumn, tell us about you and Lady Gaga? Are the rumors true?’

‘Autumn, we’ve heard you’re about to embark on a US tour—can you confirm?’ came another shout from a reporter.

She held her head high as she emerged from the car to the constant barrage of questions and the flashing of cameras. There were only half a dozen reporters here, but how they knew she was coming was a mystery. She knew Janey sometimes tipped them off if she thought Autumn could use the publicity to her advantage, but this time, Janey didn’t know she was going to be at the Richmond Hotel to meet with her mother.

Lips structured, a hint of a smile, don’t show any emotion. Tonight, once she’d listened to Juan’s latest urban anthems, she was going to go straight to bed with a hot chocolate, and maybe not the diet version for once. She needed comfort and some normality in her life.

The doorman showed her into the revolving doors, and once she was behind the glass screen, waiting to disembark for the foyer, she let out a breath. It was all getting too much. No, she mustn’t say that, mustn’t admit that, even to herself. It was just a phase, a passing notion, because she had a lot on her plate at the moment. She loved this life. She had chosen this life and this was what she was born to do. Yes, another art gallery opening sucked, but despite the hideous paintings of things that resembled a cow’s ass—or even worse, an actual cow’s ass resembling a chair or a standard lamp—there was free wine and very small food. Small food was always good and with waiters offering her plates at a rapid pace, no one had time to count how many canapés she had consumed—or not.

She stepped into the bar area and straight away she heard her mother’s voice.

‘This water is tepid.’

‘I apologize, madam, unreservedly. I will fetch you some more.’ The waiter attempted to back away.

A step farther into the room and Autumn located her mother to the right of the grand piano.

Alison Raine’s lips were pursed so tightly together, you would have thought she had just swilled hydrochloric acid around her mouth. She dabbed at her lips with the linen napkin then narrowed her eyes at the flustered waiter.

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