Shopping addict Becky Bloomwood goes to Hollywood in Sophie Kinsella's SHOPAHOLIC TO THE STARS.
OK. Don’t panic. Don’t panic.
I’ll escape from this. Of course I will. It’s not like I’ll be trapped here in this hideous confined space, with no hope of release, for ever . . . is it?
As calmly as possible, I assess the situation. My ribs are squashed so that I can hardly breathe, and my left arm is pinned behind me. Whoever constructed this ‘restraining fabric’ knew what they were doing. My right arm is also pinned at an awkward angle. If I try to reach my hands forward, the ‘restraining fabric’ bites into my wrists. I’m stuck. I’m powerless.
My face is reflected, ashen, in the mirror. My eyes are wide and desperate. My arms are criss-crossed with black shiny bands. Is one of them supposed to be a shoulder strap? Does that webbing stuff go around the waist?
Oh God. I should never ever have tried on the size 4.
‘How are you doing in there?’ It’s Mindy, the sales assistant, calling from outside the cubicle curtain, and I start in alarm. Mindy is tall and rangy with muscled thighs that start three inches apart. She looks like she probably runs up a mountain every day and doesn’t even know what a KitKat is.
She’s asked three times how I’m doing and each time I’ve just called out shrilly, ‘Great, thanks!’ But I’m getting desperate. I’ve been struggling with this ‘Athletic Shaping All-in-One’ for ten minutes. I can’t keep putting her off for ever.
‘Amazing fabric, right?’ says Mindy enthusiastically. ‘It has three times the restraining power of normal spandex. You totally lose a size, right?’
Maybe I have, but I’ve also lost half my lung capacity.
‘Are you doing OK with the straps?’ comes Mindy’s voice. ‘You want me to come in the fitting room and help you adjust it?’
Come in the fitting room? There’s no way I’m letting a tall, tanned, sporty Angeleno come in here and see my cellulite.
‘No, it’s fine, thanks!’ I squawk.
‘You need some help getting it off?’ she tries again. ‘Some of our customers find it tricky the first time.’
I have a hideous vision of me gripping on to the counter and Mindy trying to haul the all-in-one off me while we both pant and sweat with the effort and Mindy secretly thinks, ‘I knew all British girls were heifers.’
No way. Not in a million years. There’s only one solution left. I’ll have to buy it. Whatever it costs. I give an almighty wrench and manage to snap two of the straps up on to my shoulders. That’s better. I look like a chicken trussed up in black Lycra, but at least I can move my arms. As soon as I get back to the hotel room I’ll cut the whole thing off myself with a pair of nail scissors, and dispose of the remains in a public bin so Luke doesn’t find them and say What’s this? or, You mean you bought it even though you knew it didn’t fit? or something else really annoying.
Luke is the reason I’m standing in a sports apparel shop in LA. We’re moving out to Los Angeles as soon as possible because of his work, and we’re here on an urgent house- hunting trip. That’s our focus: real estate. Houses. Gardens. Rental agreements. Very much so. I’ve only popped to Rodeo Drive very, very quickly between house appointments.
Well, OK. The truth is, I cancelled a house appointment to come to Rodeo Drive. But I had to. I have a genuine reason for needing to buy some emergency running clothes, which is that I’m running in a race tomorrow. A real race! Me!
I reach for my clothes, grab my bag, and walk stiffly out of the cubicle, to see Mindy hovering nearby.
‘Wow!’ Her voice is bright but her eyes are shocked. ‘You look . . .’ She coughs. ‘Awesome. It’s not too . . . tight?’
‘No, it’s perfect,’ I say, attempting a carefree smile. ‘I’ll take it.’
‘Great!’ She can barely hide her astonishment. ‘So, if you want to take it off, I’ll scan it for you . . .’
‘Actually, I’ll wear it.’ I try to sound casual. ‘Might as well. Can you put my clothes in a bag?’
‘Right,’ says Mindy. There’s quite a long pause. ‘You’re sure you don’t want to try the size 6?’
‘No! Size 4 is perfect! Really comfy!’
‘OK,’ says Mindy after a silence. ‘Of course. That’ll be eighty-three dollars.’ She scans the barcode on the tag hanging from my neck and I reach for my credit card.
‘So, you’re into athletics?’
‘Actually, I’m running in the Ten Miler tomorrow afternoon.’
‘No way!’ She looks up, impressed, and I try to appear nonchalant and modest. The Ten Miler isn’t just any old running race. It’s the race. It’s held every year in LA and loads of high-profile celebrities run it and they even cover it on E! And I’m in it!
‘How did you get a place?’ Mindy says enviously. ‘I’ve applied for that race, like, every year.’
‘Well.’ I pause for effect. ‘I’m on Sage Seymour’s team.’
‘Wow.’ Her jaw drops, and I feel a spurt of glee. It’s true! I, Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood), am running in the team of a top movie star! We’ll do calf stretches together! We’ll wear matching baseball caps! We’ll be in US Weekly!
‘You’re British, right?’ Mindy interrupts my thoughts.
‘Yes, but I’m moving to LA soon. I’m out here to look at houses with my husband, Luke. He has a PR company and he works with Sage Seymour,’ I can’t help adding proudly.
Mindy looks more and more impressed.
‘So are you and Sage Seymour, like, friends?’
I fiddle with my purse, delaying my reply. The truth is, despite all my hopes, Sage Seymour and I aren’t exactly friends. In fact, the real truth is, I still haven’t met her. Which is so unfair. Luke’s been working with her for ages, and I’ve already been out to LA once for a job interview, and now I’m out here again, finding a house and a pre-school for our daughter, Minnie . . . but have I even glimpsed Sage?
When Luke said he was going to work with Sage Seymour and we were going to move to Hollywood, I thought we’d be seeing her every day. I thought we’d be hanging out by her pink pool in matching sunglasses and going for mani-pedis together. But even Luke hardly ever seems to see her, he just has meetings with managers and agents and producers all day long. He says he’s learning the movie business and it’s a steep learning curve. Which is fair enough, because previously, he’s only advised financial companies and big conglomerates. But does he have to be so resolutely non-starry-eyed? When I got a tiny bit frustrated the other day, he said, ‘For God’s sake, Becky, we’re not making this huge move just to meet celebrities.’ He said celebrities like he was saying earwigs. He understands
The great thing about Luke and me is that we think alike on nearly everything in life and that’s why we’re so happily married. But we have just a few, teeny points of disagreement. Such as:
1. Catalogues. (They are not ‘clutter’. They’re useful. You never know when you might need a personalized kitchen blackboard with a dinky little bucket for the chalk. Plus I like reading them at bedtime.)
2. Shoes. (Keeping all my shoes in their original boxes for ever is not ridiculous, it’s thrifty. They’ll come back into fashion one day and then Minnie can wear them. And meanwhile he should look
where he’s stepping.)
3. Elinor, his mother. (Long, long story.)
I mean, here we are in LA. The home of celebrities. They’re the local natural phenomenon. Everyone knows you come to LA to see the celebrities, like you go to Sri Lanka to see the elephants.
But Luke didn’t gasp when we saw Tom Hanks in the lobby of the Beverly Wilshire. He didn’t blink when Halle Berry was sitting three tables away at The Ivy (I think it was Halle Berry). He didn’t even get excited when we saw Reese Witherspoon across the road. (I’m sure it was Reese Witherspoon. She had exactly the same hair.)
And he talks about Sage as if she’s just another client. Like she’s Foreland Investments. He says that this is what she appreciates about him: that he’s not part of the circus. And then he says I’m getting overexcited by all the Hollywood hoopla. Which is totally untrue. I am not overexcited. I’m exactly the right amount excited.
Privately, I’m disappointed in Sage, too. I mean, OK, we don’t exactly know each other, but we did speak on the phone when she was helping me with a surprise party for Luke. (Although she’s got a new number now, and Luke won’t give it to me.) I would have thought she might be in touch, or invite me round to her house for a sleepover, or something.
Anyway, never mind. It’ll all come good tomorrow. I don’t want to boast, but it’s totally due to my own quick
wits that I’m in this Ten Miler race. I just happened to be looking over Luke’s shoulder at his laptop yesterday, when a round-robin email came in from Sage’s manager, Aran. It was entitled First come first served and read:
There’s a last-minute place available on the Ten Miler team due to an injury dropout – anyone interested in running and supporting Sage?
My hands were on the keyboard, pressing Reply and typing Yes please! I would love to run with Sage! Best wishes, Becky Brandon before I was even aware I was moving.
OK, so maybe I should have consulted Luke before pressing Send. But it was ‘first come first served’. I had to act fast!
Luke just stared at me and said, ‘Are you nuts?’ Then he started going on about how this was a proper race for trained athletes, and who was going to sponsor me, and did I even possess any running shoes? Honestly. He could be more supportive.
Although, actually, he has a point about the running shoes.
‘So, are you in the movie business too?’ Mindy asks as she hands me the receipt.
‘No, I’m a personal shopper.’
‘Oh OK. Which shop?’
‘It’s . . . actually, it’s . . . Dalawear.’
‘Oh.’ She looks taken aback. ‘You mean, the store for . . .’
‘Older women. Yes.’ I lift my chin. ‘It’s a great store. It’s really exciting. I can’t wait!’
I’m being super-positive about this job, even though it’s not exactly my dream. Dalawear sells ‘easy-wear clothes’ for ladies who rate ‘comfort over style’. (It actually says that on the poster. I might try to persuade them to change it to ‘comfort as much as style’.) When I went to the interview, the woman kept talking about elasticated waistbands and washable fabrics and not once about directional fashion. Or even fashion.
But the truth is, there aren’t that many personalshopping jobs popping up in LA at the last minute for a newly arrived Brit. Especially a Brit who may only be in the country for three months. Dalawear was the only store that had an opening, because of a maternity leave. And I rocked the interview, though I say it myself. I enthused about their ‘all-purpose floral shirtwaister’ dresses so much, I almost wanted to buy one for myself.
‘Can I please buy some running shoes, too?’ I change the subject. ‘I can’t exactly run in these!’ I gesture at my Marc Jacobs kitten heels with a little laugh. (For the record, I did once climb an entire mountain in a pair of shoes just like these. But I mentioned that to Luke yesterday as proof of my athletic ability and he shuddered and said he’d wiped that whole incident from his memory.)
‘Sure.’ Mindy nods. ‘You’ll want our technical store, Pump! It’s right across the street. They stock all the shoes, equipment, heart-rate monitors . . . did you get a bio mechanical assessment in the UK?’
I look at her blankly. A bio-what?
‘Talk to the guys across the street, they’ll get you set up.’ She hands me a carrier bag holding my clothes. ‘You must be super-fit. I’ve worked out with Sage Seymour’s trainer. She’s hardcore. And I’ve heard about the team regimen. Didn’t you, like, go to Arizona for training?’
This conversation is unnerving me a tad. Hardcore? Team regimen? Anyway, I mustn’t lose confidence. I’m perfectly fit enough to run a race, even if it is in LA.
‘I haven’t been on the regimen exactly,’ I admit. ‘But obviously I have my own . . . er . . . cardio . . . programme . . . thing . . .’