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Authors: Lucy Diamond

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BOOK: Hens Reunited
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June 1998

Georgia Knight stared at her reflection in the mirror, patting more face powder onto her cheeks until beige clouds puffed up around her. God, she was trashed already, and it wasn’t even midnight! They’d be peeling her off the floor when it came to kicking-out time at this rate.

She tried to look inconspicuous as one of the All Saints girls came in and started touching up her mascara just a metre or so away. Georgia wrestled with temptation for a split second then turned resolutely back to her own reflection. No. She wouldn’t start getting into conversation with her, hoping to draw out some gossip. This was a night off. This was her hen night, for God’s sake!

All the same, those Appleton sisters were hot tickets right now . . .

Katie came in just then, swaying as she walked, unsteady on her high heels. ‘George, hurry up! You’ve got six challenges left before the end of the night!’

Alice was there too – where had she sprung from? – looking distinctly overdressed in her lilac blouse and smart black trousers. She’d never been one for short skirts and thigh boots, Alice. Vicar’s daughter, that was the look she went for, bless her. Pure as the driven snow. Not like Georgia. Ha!

‘Not like me,’ Georgia spluttered to herself, laughing at the thought. She had to cling to the side of the sink, it was so funny.

Alice and Katie exchanged glances. ‘Come on, you,’ Katie said. ‘You’re not getting out of it so easily. It took me and Alice ages to think of these.’

Katie and Alice seemed to have digested the encyclopaedia on hen-night duties, Georgia thought as she staggered out of the Ladies after them. They were certainly taking this very seriously. Challenges and drinking games, that ridiculous bridal headdress they’d produced for her to wear (she’d soon got rid of that, shoved into one of the sanitary bins in the restaurant) – and the L-plates she’d caught Katie fastening onto the back of her coat. Sweet, really. If kinda naff.

‘Right,’ Katie said, when they were back with the rest of the group. Georgia had invited twenty people to the hen do – loads of people from work, plus Katie and Alice, her best friends from uni. She’d lost track of some of the work lot – half of them seemed to have got left behind at the second club they’d been to. Only the hard core were still standing (albeit listing slightly, in some cases). Unfortunately, two of the hard core seemed determined to make her do all these ludicrous challenges. ‘Are you listening, Georgia? Okay, your next challenge is to snog three random strangers.’

Ooh, risqué –
not
, thought Georgia. Did they not know that snogging random strangers was as easy as breathing for her? ‘Male or female?’ she countered.

‘It’s up to you,’ Alice giggled. ‘Just get some tongues down your throat.’

‘No worries,’ Georgia said, stumbling onto the dance floor. Tongues down your throat indeed! Sometimes Alice didn’t seem to have changed at all from the shy eighteen-year-old who’d had the room next to Georgia in their first year at uni. Still, hey ho, there was work to be done. Now then. Who looked up for a bit of a smooch?

She tottered onto the dance floor, going over sideways on one ankle. Ouch. Bloody stilettos. She lurched into a guy with a naff Jamiroquai hat and sweaty Brazil football shirt – ahh, sod it, he’d do. ‘C’mere gorgeous,’ she said thickly, clutching the nylon folds of his top between her fingers. ‘Come and give this virgin bride a big kiss . . .’

She stumbled as his lips closed around hers, only too happy to oblige. And then, without warning, she was horribly sick down his throat.

‘So here we all are again,’ Georgia said some time later. It was three in the morning, and she, Katie and Alice were sprawled out on the huge squishy sofa, watching
Pretty Woman
on video, in Harry’s flat. Or rather, hers and Harry’s flat, as she had to get used to calling it. ‘Hen night number two.’ She grinned along the sofa at them. The flat felt much more like home now that she had her girls with her.

‘And what a corker it was,’ Katie said, crunching through a handful of popcorn. ‘That club was fab, wasn’t it? Bit classier than the student places I usually go to. I couldn’t believe all the celebs we saw there.’ She sighed dramatically. ‘See, you two and your high-flying jobs, it’s probably not that big a deal to you any more. Whereas for me . . .’

Alice gave her a nudge. ‘High-flying? Are you joking?’ She laughed. ‘You’ve seen the tossers I have to put up with at the theatre, all the luvvie crap they dish out. I feel like Cinderella half the time, running about skivvying after them.’

‘One day you’ll get to the ball, Alice,’ Georgia said, popping the cork on another bottle of champagne. She hoped it wasn’t one of the really expensive ones Harry had forbidden her to open. ‘In fact, we must sort another night out soon before Katie buggers off to Bristol, and I’m a respectable married woman.’ She gave a little shiver. ‘It’s all happened so fast, I can’t quite believe I’m getting married. It’s going to be such a good party. Harry’s guests are just A-list through and through . . . There’s even talk of a magazine deal, you know, his agent said one of the big glossies has been sniffing around, asking questions.’

‘God,’ Katie said, wide-eyed. ‘What have the
Herald
said about that?’

‘Well, nothing’s definite. And they know they’ll get some juicy stuff from me, whatever happens. Anyway, I’m their golden girl at the moment, Isabella can’t get enough of me.’ She handed out the champagne flutes feeling heady just thinking about it. Landing the showbiz-columnist job at the
Herald
had been so amazing, like the best dream come true, after plugging away as a freelance for so long. Sure, she had a feeling that being engaged to Harry Stone, mega-bucks playboy, had helped enormously, but hey, they wouldn’t have given her the gig if she was completely talentless, would they?

‘Well, cheers to you, Georgia,’ Alice said, eyes shining as she held out her glass. ‘We’re dead proud of you, girl, you’ve done brilliantly.’

‘Hear hear,’ said Katie. ‘Just make sure you remember your old mates when you’re whizzing about in your limo and we’re still in the gutter. Chuck a few crumbs our way now and again.’

Georgia laughed. ‘Don’t give me that!’ she said. ‘Nothing’s going to change. And anyway, I’m dead proud of you two, too. The best friends a girl could ask for.’ She clinked her glass against Alice’s and then Katie’s. ‘Cheers to us!’

 

Chapter Two

Rule The World

Friday, 13
June 2008

Georgia barely thought about her failed marriage these days. It hadn’t exactly been a big deal. Girl meets boy, girl and boy fancy each other’s pants off, foolishly decide to declare their commitment in public at great expense involving all friends and family, then, six months later, decide they’ve made a terrible mistake, when boy’s coke habit goes through the roof and he turns into a gibbering addict nutter. Still, at least you learned from your mistakes. She’d never be doing
that
again.

Luckily, Georgia was in the perfect line of work to bestow punishments on those who strayed from the path. She dealt out the public humiliations with an almost evangelical zeal. Film stars, TV presenters, sports heroes . . . no man was too powerful to escape her wrath. If she found out a woman was being wronged by a bloke, Georgia would wreak vengeance in huge capital letters, with photos wherever possible. Bitchy anonymous quotes too, if need be. She loved making those up.

She gave a contemptuous little snort as she twizzled to and fro on her office chair, then began typing up her notes from last night. Oh yes. Call it her stand on behalf of womankind. Although not everyone appreciated the sentiments – but that was their problem, wasn’t it?

It was ’Stenders super-stud Martin Browne’s 21st birthday bash at the Bone Bar last night, and yours truly was invited, of course. All the soap stars were there, partying their Walford pants off – literally in some cases!

Georgia stopped typing for a moment, popped some nicotine gum into her mouth and chewed vigorously. God, this stuff was disgusting. Back when she’d got her first job in journalism, every self-respecting hack had a full ashtray on their desk and left silvery trails of ash in their wake, like Hansel and Gretel might have done if they’d had a forty-a-day habit. Nowadays all that had changed though, and the
Herald
ran a goody-goody no-smoking office, like every other place. It still drove Georgia nuts. How were you supposed to write scintillating copy without a ciggy between your lips? How were you meant to concentrate for five minutes straight?

She read through her piece critically, changing a few words and adding the next tantalizing line.
You’ll never GUESS who I saw Martin getting up close and personal with outside the Ladies
, she typed.
Only our favourite soap über-bitch, Tasha Woods. And him a newly married man, as well!

She pursed her lips. Martin Browne would go tonto at that. She could almost hear his furious voice ranting at her down the phone when this hit the newsstands, calling her all the names under the sun. ‘Should have kept your sweaty hands off Tasha’s silicones, then, shouldn’t you, darlin’?’ she muttered under her breath, finishing the article.

Her phone was ringing, and she took one hand off the keyboard to grab it. ‘Georgia Knight speaking.’

‘All right, Georgy, my darlin’, it’s John here from the Cavalry.’

She rolled her eyes and chewed even harder. ‘My darling’ indeed. He was such a creep. ‘What have you got for me today, John?’ she asked, wedging the phone under one ear in order to grab a pen and Post-it note. As doorman at the prestigious Cavalry Hotel in Covent Garden, John Albright always had the dirt on some unsuspecting celeb or other. It was only the fact that he was such an excellent spy that stopped her from telling him to stick his ‘Georgy’ and his ‘darling’s right where the sun didn’t shine.

He gave a low chuckle down the phone. ‘Got a good ’un for you, Georgy,’ he said. ‘You’re gonna love this.’

She waited, pen poised. ‘Oh yeah?’

‘It’s a big ’un. Good and juicy.’

Is that what you say to all the girls, John, sweetie?
, she felt like cooing. But she didn’t, because knowing John Albright, he’d only go and believe her – and with an ego as massive as his, he’d take it as a come-on. Ugh. A girl like Georgia had her standards, and fat-necked doormen like John did not measure up, thank you very much.

She waited, tapping her pen against the fluorescent yellow. ‘So . . . are you going to tell me then?’ she asked.

‘Well, you know we’ve got a certain girl group staying here at the moment?’

Georgia brought the phone a little closer to her ear. ‘Yep – the Sistas,’ she said. ‘What have they been up to?’ The Sistas were a sassy, streetwise girl band from New York who were touring with their new album.

‘They were in the hotel bar last night, sinking the drinks like we were gonna run out of booze, and . . .’

‘What were they drinking?’ Georgia interrupted. She knew her readers loved this kind of detail.

John snorted. ‘What
weren’t
they drinking is the question. Tequila slammers, sea breezes, highballs . . . Anyway, so they have a bit of a party in their suite – a right racket, we’ve had to apologize to all the guests in neighbouring rooms – and they order up some room service in the middle of the night . . .’

‘What did they order?’ Georgia asked, scribbling
teq slam, sea b, hbls
on her paper. She was recording the conversation, naturally, but ever since the cock-up where her Dictaphone had packed up right in the middle of a deep and meaningful with one of the
Big Brother
girls, she took extra precautions just to be on the safe side.

‘Five bottles of Cristal, twenty Mars Bars and Pringles. Salt and vinegar. Exact order, I checked it all out for you, Georgy. So Vicki – one of our waitresses – goes up to their suite to take them that little lot and Be-Be – she’s the singer, in’t she? – is passed out on the floor, naked apart from her knickers round her ankles—’

‘Nice,’ snorted Georgia, jotting all of this down.

‘And they’re . . . how shall I say this? . . .
entertaining
some of their backing singers.’

‘Male or female?’ Georgia interrupted.

‘Male
and
female, sweetheart,’ he replied. ‘They’re not fussy girls. And then . . .’

The call lasted another two minutes while John poured out details which might make less experienced showbiz reporters blanch. Not Georgia. She’d heard it all before, with bells on. And whipped cream and glacé cherries, in many cases. She doubted there was much of this she could print without the Sistas’ management coming down on the
Herald
like a ton of bricks, but it was fun all the same. She thrashed out a few headlines in her head as he wound up his news and said goodbye.

SOZZLED SISTAS
ROOM SERVICING, SISTA-STYLE
SISTAS ON THE SAUCE
TOTALLY SISSED . . .

She turned back to her PC, about to start typing, and saw that a new email had arrived.

London Film Festival Awards Ceremony – details for after-show party . . .
she read, and her eyes lit up. Fabulous. She’d been looking forward to that one, especially as rumours had been flying all week that Noel Bailey, the hottest Hollywood actor and most gorgeous creature on planet Earth, was going to be attending. She must get her nails done properly before the party next week – after all, a girl never could tell where she might be putting her hands at these kinds of events.

She began typing up her notes for the Sistas story with a smile on her face. God, she loved her job! How she loved her job!

Later that evening, Georgia was rolling on a bit of lippy in preparation for a party at a private club in Soho to celebrate the nineteenth birthday of Candi (no surname required), a precocious kid with a body like a Barbie doll and a brain to match. Nevertheless, with her current number one single, ‘Hot 4 U’, and her Chelsea striker boyfriend, she was the paparazzi darling
du jour
, and didn’t she know it, the little brat.

BOOK: Hens Reunited
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