Chapter Twelve

The rest of the week slips away in a dreamy montage of romantic dinner dates in some of the finest restaurants in New York, a horse-drawn carriage ride in Central Park, an amazing bouquet of fresh white lilies delivered to work . . .

It’s everything a girl could ever dream of and more. What’s even more amazing is this time it’s not happening to someone else. To some random celebrity I read about in a magazine on the subway, or a friend of a friend I hear about over drinks with my single girlfriends, but me. Me. Lucy Hemmingway.

I mean, who would have thought that only a few days ago I was trundling along in my normal life, doing normal things, like moaning about my cellulite to Robyn and doing my hand-washing, and then – boom – I bumped into Nate again and everything changed. Not that my life was terrible before, it wasn’t at all. It’s just . . .Well, put it this way, I’m not thinking about cellulite or hand-washing any more.

Now I’m too busy smiling as yet another slushy text beeps up from my phone, or lying giggling in his arms after we’ve had sex for about the millionth time.

As for my cellulite . . . the funny thing is, I don’t think Nate’s even noticed it!

Cocooned in our own little world called Nate ’n’ Luce: Population 2, it’s like no one and nothing else exists. In fact, it’s all I can do each morning to drag myself away from his penthouse and catch the subway downtown to work. I want to be like John and Yoko and just lounge around in bed for a week, though my reasons are slightly less honourable. Well, ten years is a lot of lost time to make up for.

Saying that, as soon as I enter the gallery, I automatically switch into work mode. Wafting around in a heady, romantic state might be wonderful, but it’s all-consuming and you can’t get anything done, and there’s loads to do, as this Friday is the opening at the gallery. Falling in love and having your first New York gallery opening to organise all in the same week is a bit intense, but I rise to the challenge. Switching back and forth between loved-up Lucy and work-mode Lucy, like Superman, only without the cape.

Until by Friday everything on my list has been ticked off with my brand-new highlighter pen. My sister, Kate, has always been a fan of highlighter pens. She carries one in every colour in her handbag – unlike me, who can never find a pen and usually ends up digging around until I find an old broken bit of charcoal I used to sketch with. This time, though, I’m determined to be more organised.

Compile guest list: tick. Send out invitations: tick. Write promotional material: tick. Book caterer: tick. Hire waitressing staff: tick. Hang paintings ready to exhibit: tick. Now all we need is for it to be a success, I tell myself, feeling a bundle of nerves as the first guests start arriving.

‘Welcome to Number Thirty-Eight,’ I smile, crossing their names off my list. ‘Please feel free to wander around and enjoy the artwork, and if you have any questions, my name’s Lucy and I’d be delighted to help you.’

Panic: tick.

Twenty minutes later and the gallery is buzzing. It’s a hot, muggy evening in New York and the doors have been thrown wide open. People are milling around inside and spilling outside on to the pavement.

It’s a diverse crowd. Magda has put together an eclectic guest list, from sombre-looking artists dressed in Birkenstocks and Elvis Costello glasses to some of New York’s glitterati, including several pubescent-looking models, the odd actor and lots of older men with impossibly white teeth and impossibly skinny wives who are dripping in diamonds and designer handbags. And who all look suspiciously like they bought their face at the same place as Magda, I notice, watching them air-kissing with their strangely swollen lips.

‘Wow, you clever girl, this is amazing!’

I glance up to see Robyn bounding towards me, her hair flying loose, a large smile sweeping across her face. I’ve barely seen her all week, as I’ve been at Nate’s, and it’s great to see her. She’s wearing an embroidered kaftan and a pair of fisherman trousers, both of which are tie-dyed, and the longest, dangliest pair of earrings I’ve ever seen.

‘And you look amazing! I love your hair!’ Flinging her arms round me, she gives me a breathless hug. ‘The colour looks great on you!’

‘Thanks.’ I grin. In honour of the occasion I popped into a salon this lunchtime and changed the colour of my hair from a boring chestnut to a spicy blackcurrant.

‘Has Nathaniel seen it yet?’ she asks excitedly.

What she really means is, has Nathaniel been seen yet? All week she’s been dying to meet him, but I’ve been keeping him under wraps until tonight.

‘He’s running a bit late at the studio, but I’ll introduce you as soon as he arrives,’ I promise.

‘Cool. I can’t wait.’ She grins. ‘OK, I’m off to grab a drink before I die of thirst. Do you want one?’

‘Oh, no, I’m fine.’ I shake my head. ‘Better not drink on the job.’

‘OK, well, I won’t be a sec.’

As she disappears into the crowd, I turn back to my guest list. More people are arriving and there’s still more yet to come, including my sister and her husband, Jeff, though they left a message saying they’d be late. Something about an appointment. I can’t complain. Knowing her, it’s probably some mega-important multi-million-dollar lawyer thing. In comparison, mine is just a little gallery opening.

‘Babe, sorry I’m late.’

My thoughts are interrupted by a familiar voice and I look up to see Nate. Instantaneously my stomach does its usual loop-the-loop. ‘You made it,’ I say, experiencing a rush of happiness as he bends down and gives me a kiss.

‘Just. We had a bit of a nightmare at the studio.’

‘Oh, is everything OK?’ I feel a beat of concern.

‘For now.’ He nods, checking his iPhone. ‘There was a problem with the presenter of one of the shows I’m working on. He’s being a total prima donna, making all kinds of demands.’ He stops and stares at me. ‘Hang on, you look different.’

I feel a wave of pleasure. He’s noticed my new hair.

‘What do you think?’ I do a bit of flirty flicking with my hand.

His brow furrows. ‘Lucy . . . is your hair purple?’

‘It’s called “spicy blackcurrant”,’ I falter. ‘Don’t you like it?’

He looks at me, as if he’s weighing it up carefully. ‘Well, it’s certainly interesting,’ he says, but inside I feel disappointed.

He hates it. He hates my hair.

‘Isn’t the colour amazing!’

Hearing a voice, I swivel round to see Robyn reappearing with a drink, her eyes wide with excitement as she takes in both me and Nate.

‘Robyn, this is Nate,’ I say, quickly doing the introduction and changing the subject from my hair. ‘My boyfriend,’ I add.

Well, I can’t resist. Just saying it gives me a little burst of happiness.

‘Wow, I’m so pleased to meet you!’ With a glass of champagne in one hand, she throws the other round him. ‘I’ve heard everything about you!’

‘Really?’ Nate looks amused. ‘Everything?’ He shoots me a look over her tie-dyed shoulder and I blush.

‘About Venice, and the bridge, and the legend.’ Releasing him from her one-armed hug, she stands back and looks at us both, a huge soppy grin on her face. ‘Just look at you two. You make such a cute couple.’

I blush as Nate squeezes my shoulder.

‘No, but seriously,’ she continues, her face falling suddenly solemn, ‘you guys were meant to be together. You know there is a force out there that none of us understands, a bigger energy than either you or me . . .’ She pauses, then lowers her voice to a whisper as if she’s telling us a secret. ‘Believe me when I say this, destiny is an amazing thing, and this is your destiny. This course was set out for you. It’s kismet. You’re puppets and Fate is pulling the strings, and—’

The jingle of someone’s phone suddenly interrupts Robyn’s monologue and Nate clamps his hand to his breast pocket.

‘Sorry, excuse me.’ Pulling out his iPhone, he glances at the screen. ‘Do you mind? I need to take this. It’s the studio.’

‘No, no, go ahead,’ bats away Robyn, snapping back to her usual vocal range, which is loud-verging-on-even-louder.

Clipping on his Bluetooth headset, he moves away. ‘Hi. Yeah, Nathaniel Kennedy speaking . . .’

‘Wow, Lucy, he’s amazing,’ gasps Robyn, as soon as he’s out of earshot.

‘You think so?’ I say, trying to be modest, when of course I know he is.

‘Totally.’ She looks at me, suddenly welling up as if she’s about to burst into tears. ‘Oh, honey, I’m so happy for you.’ Giving me a hug, she breaks away sniffling. ‘Sorry I get so emotional . . . It’s just . . .’ She dabs her eyes with the sleeve of her kaftan and gives a little hiccup. ‘I’ll be right back. I’m just going to grab a napkin.’

Thrusting her drink at me, she turns and I watch her dashing off through the crowd. As it parts, I spot my sister. Carrying a briefcase and wearing a dark work suit and harassed expression, she couldn’t look more out of place at a fashionable gallery opening if she tried.

‘Hi, Kate.’ I wave to attract her attention, and seeing me, she turns and marches over. ‘I’m so glad you could make—’

But she cuts me straight off. ‘Is that who I think it is?’ she demands, bypassing the pleasantries and jerking her head towards Nate, who’s still chatting away on his iPhone.

Oh shit.

I feel a clunking thud. The thing is, I haven’t actually got round to telling my sister about Nate. It’s not that I forgot as such. It’s more . . .OK, I completely avoided telling her. She left me half a dozen voicemail messages this week, but I just texted back saying I was busy with work. Which is entirely true. I have been super busy with work.

I’ve also been super busy falling in love with Nate, but I couldn’t tell her that. She’s not exactly a paid-up member of the Nathaniel Kennedy Fan Club.

‘Um . . .yes, it is,’ I say, avoiding eye contact.

‘The Bridge Guy!’ she gasps incredulously.

‘He’s called Nathaniel,’ I say, feeling defensive.

‘I could call him a lot of things,’ she replies, with a hard edge to her voice, ‘and most of them aren’t very complimentary.’

I feel my jaw set and I square my shoulders, just like I always do when I’m about to have an argument with Kate.

‘Like, for example, married.’

‘He’s getting divorced,’ I explain quickly. ‘He and his wife are separated. He’s living here in New York now.’

Kate’s eyes narrow and she fixes me with the kind of look that terrifies vice-presidents of law firms across Manhattan. ‘You’re not seeing him again, are you, Lucy?’ she demands, in a tone that makes grown men tremble.

By the look on my face there’s obviously no need to answer.

‘Oh my God, you are,’ she gasps in disbelief.

‘We’re in love,’ I say simply, trying to suppress a blissful smile, and failing.

‘In love?’ She staggers back as if she’s just been shot. ‘Since when?’

‘Since I was nineteen,’ I say, smiling ruefully.

Kate gives a little snort. ‘Lucy, you haven’t seen him for ten years. People change.’

‘Well, he hasn’t!’ I say rather crossly. For goodness’ sake, my big sister is always so negative. ‘OK, so he doesn’t drink coffee any more, and he does yoga, and—’

‘Yoga?’ gapes Kate.

‘What’s wrong with yoga?’ I demand. ‘It’s very good for you. We’re doing private classes together.’

You? Doing Yoga?’ She suddenly bursts out laughing. ‘Lucy, you can’t even touch your toes.’

‘Yes, I can. Almost,’ I say sulkily, thinking back to yesterday and mine and Nate’s first lesson with Yani, our yoga instructor. He had long, dark hair and wore flowing white robes and reminded me a bit of Jesus. Especially when he kept talking about enlightenment, and spirituality, and discovering your inner soul. Unfortunately the only thing I discovered is that I have a body that does not bend. But like Yani says, it’s all about the practice.

‘Anyway, yoga’s about the mind, not the body. Maybe you should try it,’ I suggest, shooting Kate a look.

My sister looks back at me as if I’m an alien. ‘Er, hello, can this robot who’s stolen my sister please give her back?’

‘If you’re just going to make fun the whole time—’

‘Well, c’mon, Luce.’

‘No, there is no “C’mon on, Luce”,’ I snap hotly. ‘We’re back together again, and this time for good, and that’s all there is to it.’

I break off, flushing, and Kate falls silent. ‘Look, I’m not trying to spoil things for you,’ she says, her tone much kinder, ‘but are you sure about this?’

‘I’ve never been more sure,’ I say determinedly. Then I just can’t help myself and gasp excitedly, ‘Oh, Kate, this is it. The real deal. He’s the One. He always was the One.’

I feel like when we were little and used to huddle excitedly together beneath the bedcovers, sharing our secrets.

But there’s no flash of excitement across Kate’s face this time. Instead she just looks at me, totally deadpan, and opens her mouth to say something, then thinks better of it and sighs. ‘I’m just worried, that’s all.’

‘Well, don’t be.’ I reach for her hand. ‘I’m really happy, Kate. Look at me. When did you last see me this happy?’

She pauses thoughtfully, then raises an eyebrow. ‘When you got your picture taken with Daniel Craig?’

‘You know I still have that as my screensaver.’ I grin, thinking about the time I bumped into him outside Prêt-à-Manger on the King’s Road in London and Kate took a photo of us on her phone. Me grinning like a loon. Him just looking jaw-droppingly sexy. ‘It alternates between that and the shot of him coming out of the sea in his swimming trunks.’

‘Lucky you. My screensaver’s Jeff.’ She smiles grudgingly. ‘Though thankfully not in swimming trunks.’

I laugh. Unlike my sister, Jeff has zero willpower when it comes to diet and exercise. He likes to describe himself as cuddly. Kate, however, describes him as a lazy sod and is forever nagging him to join the gym. ‘How is Jeff? Is he here?’

‘Yeah, over there.’

My eyes swivel to the other side of the gallery, where I see Jeff hovering by White Noise, an abstract painting by one of our new artists, and peering at it unsurely. He’s obviously been instructed to wait there until the coast is clear.

‘Gosh, he’s lost weight,’ I say with surprise, as Kate waves him over.

‘Has he?’ She peers at him as he starts walking towards us, then shrugs. ‘He looks the same to me.’

‘No, he’s definitely slimmer. What happened? Did you finally get him to join the gym?’

Kate snorts with amusement. ‘Hardly. Jeff’s idea of exercise is reaching for the remote. Isn’t it, darling?’ she says as he joins us.

‘Totally.’ He grins, having learned a long time ago to agree with whatever Kate says. Giving her a kiss on the cheek, he turns to me. ‘Great exhibition, Lucy.’ He hugs me. ‘Though I’m afraid I don’t know much about art. Just looks like a bunch of meaningless squiggles to me.’ He shrugs apologetically.

‘It’s abstract,’ I laugh. My sister and I might not agree on a lot of things, but one thing we do agree on is her choice of husband. If you had to look up ‘good guy’ in the dictionary, you’d see a picture of Jeff, an Irish-American with a heart of gold.

‘Oh, so that’s what it’s called.’ He smiles good-humouredly.

‘Loozy! So there you are!’

We’re interrupted by Magda, who’s sporting a leopard-print dress and a beehive that appears to have taken on skyscraper proportions especially for the evening. She looks like a miniature Bet Lynch, albeit one with diamonds flashing on every appendage.

‘This is Mrs Zuckerman, who runs the gallery,’ I explain to Kate and Jeff, who are looking at her with slightly bewildered expressions. ‘My boss,’ I mouth over the top of her hairdo.

‘Hi. So nice to meet you.’ They both jump into action and go to shake her hand, but it’s full of meatballs. A whole tray of them. True to her word, she’s spent the whole week making them and is serving them up along with fake champagne.

Quite literally, I muse, watching her sticking the tray under their noses. Forget mingling with the guests, Magda has rolled up her leopard-print sleeves and is intent on serving up food like a good Jewish mother.

‘Meatballs?’ She beams, though it’s more of an instruction and less of a question.

‘Oh, no, thank you. We’re going to go for dinner after—’ begins Kate, but Magda interrupts.

‘Nonsense. They are the perfect appetiser. Try some.’ With characteristic pushiness, she thrusts them at her.

Kate shoots me a look. It’s probably the only time I’ve ever seen her seem scared of anyone. Mutely she takes one.

‘And you, you are far too skinny,’ continues Magda, turning to Jeff.

‘Oh, I don’t know about that.’ He laughs, looking bemused as he’s handed a napkin piled high. ‘Wow, that’s a large helping.’

‘They are unbelievably delicious,’ she says, throwing her arms around and almost upsetting her tray. ‘Are they not unbelievably delicious, Loozy?’

‘Oh, yes, unbelievably delicious,’ I repeat, nodding hastily.

‘Aren’t you hungry, Luce?’ pipes up Kate.

That’s my sister for you, absolutely no loyalty.

‘Well, actually . . .’ I stall. So far I’ve managed to avoid the famous meatballs by constantly flitting around and being busy, and for a split second I think my time is up, I can escape no longer, when I’m saved by the sight of more people arriving. ‘Ooh, look, more guests!’ And waving my guest list like a get-out-of-jail-free card, I quickly make a dash for it.

Of course, I can’t go back until the coast is clear and so once I’ve ticked the new guests off my list, I go looking for Nate. I find him pacing up and down, gesticulating in the air, and talking to himself. At least, I think he’s talking to himself, until I notice a tiny blue light flashing on his ear and realise he’s wearing his Bluetooth headset and he’s on the phone.


I suppress a tug of disappointment. He’s been on the phone to the studio all evening and I’ve hardly spoken to him. Still, I suppose that’s what it’s like being some hot-shot TV producer, I tell myself. Seeing me, he throws me an apologetic look and I throw a ‘No worries’ one back. It’s fine. I’ve got lots to do, anyway.

Turning, I go back inside the gallery. It’s still pretty busy, and I do a bit of mingling, chat to a couple of journalists, shake lots of hands. Organising events isn’t one of my strengths, and OK, I admit a couple of my emails bounced back because I’d sent them to the wrong people, and then there was the mix-up with the catering company.

Well, I say mix-up, but it wasn’t my fault. How was I to know that Finger-Licking Fun wasn’t a catering company? When I looked it up on the Internet, it talked about ‘catering for your every need’, so I sent them an email asking for their pricelist and I got a completely different menu of services than the one I was expecting.

Still, I have to say I’ve done a pretty good job here. Though a lot of them are more interested in the free food and alcohol than the artwork. Sometimes it’s as if they don’t even notice it, I muse in disbelief, looking around me in wonder at the amazing brushwork and kaleidoscope of colours we have displayed on the walls and feeling a familiar longing to paint again, to create, to let my imagination run away with my paintbrush . . .

But that’s just me being silly, I think, sweeping the thought away quickly. After all, I tried that, remember, and look where it got me: broke and on the dole. No, this is much better. This way, I get to work in an amazing gallery in New York and organise events like this. I mean, how lucky am I?

I scan the crowd with a feeling of satisfaction. Pretty much everyone we invited is here. There’s Mr and Mrs Bernstein, who are friends of Magda and huge art buyers, that supermodel whose name I can’t remember, a journalist from Time Out . . .Wait a moment, who’s that?

My eyes land on a guy with a baseball cap out of which is sticking a shock of dark, curly hair. He’s wearing a baggy green army T-shirt and a pair of jeans with rips in both knees. I look down at my guest list and scan the names, but everyone’s ticked off. Apart from Jemima Jones, and he doesn’t look much like a Jemima Jones.

I observe him for a few minutes. He’s walking around gobbling up meatballs like Pacman and downing glasses of champagne. I watch as he drains one glass and takes another from a passing tray. Eating and drinking all the freebies without even a passing glance at the artwork.

I feel a stab of annoyance. I know his type.

Forget wedding crashers. This is a gallery crasher.

‘Excuse me.’

As I tap him on the shoulder, he jumps, spilling his champagne, and turns round like he’s been caught doing something he shouldn’t be doing.

Which he has.

‘Er, yeah,’ he replies, his mouth full of meatball.

‘I’m sorry, but I don’t think I’ve ticked you off the guest list.’ I smile politely.

‘The guest list?’

‘Yes, of all the people invited,’ I say pointedly, and wave my clipboard.

He doesn’t say anything. He just stares at me as if he’s thinking about something.

I fidget uncomfortably. ‘And your name is . . .?’ I prompt.

‘Hey, haven’t I seen you somewhere before?’ Narrowing his eyes, he waggles a finger at me.

I step back and look at him sideways. There is something vaguely familiar about him, but yet . . .‘No, I don’t think so.’ I shake my head dismissively.

There’s a pause and then—

‘Little man!’ he says triumphantly, spitting a meatball crumb at me.

I remove it from my dress. ‘Excuse me?’

‘You told me not to cross until I saw the little man.’ He grins.

‘I don’t know what you’re—’ I break off as I suddenly remember.

Oh God, it’s him. Last week. When I was rushing to meet Kate and Robyn in the bar. The man when I was crossing the street. The man with the furry microphone and video camera. The man who I recited my stupid saying to, Never Eat Shredded— OK, enough. I cringe at the memory. How uncool.

‘Oh, yeah, I remember,’ I say, trying to sound all nonchalant.

‘I thought it was.’ He’s full on grinning at me now, and his eyes are crinkling up and flashing. I notice he’s got very bright, very blue eyes, and the longest eyelashes you’ve ever seen.

Like a girl, I think, realising I’m staring and looking sharply away.

‘Hi. My name’s Adam.’ He sticks out his hand.

I ignore it and glance down at my clipboard. ‘There isn’t an Adam on the list.’

‘I know. I was just passing.’ He shrugs apologetically.

‘Well, this is a private exhibition. By invitation only.’ I stress those words, but he simply smiles, as if this is all really amusing.

‘You’re throwing me out?’

I falter. I suddenly feel like a bouncer. ‘Well, if you want to put it like that.’

‘OK, OK, don’t worry, I’m going.’ Polishing off his last meatball, he drains his glass. ‘Compliments to the chef. Great meatballs.’ Dabbing his mouth with his napkin, he puts down his glass. ‘But by the way, next time you should get real champagne.’

I glare at him. The cheek of it!

‘See you around.’

‘I don’t think so,’ I mutter under my breath, watching as he turns and saunters off through the crowd.

‘Who was that?’ A voice in my ears makes me jump and I turn to see Nate standing next to me.

‘Oh . . . um . . . no one,’ I say, feeling flustered. ‘Just some guy.’ I quickly change the subject. ‘How are you? Everything OK?’

‘Bit of a nightmare at the studio, but it’s sorted now.’ He smiles, sliding his arm round my waist. ‘How about you?’

‘Oh, fine.’ I nod distractedly. I feel jittery. Though that’s probably to be expected. After all, not only is it a big night for the gallery, it’s mine and Nate’s first official outing as a couple.

‘Only fine?’ he asks, his brow furrowed, and as I look into his eyes, I suddenly remember all the years I’ve spent dreaming about him, thinking I’d lost him, wondering what would happen if I found him again.

And now we’re back together and he’s standing here with his arm round me.

And I’m saying I’m fine. Am I completely bonkers?

Smiling, I reach up and give him a kiss. ‘No, everything’s perfect.’

You're the One That I Don't Want