Authors: Lucy Diamond
Tags: #Fiction, #General
Georgia was deep in thought about how she was going to muscle her way in to the inner sanctum of the after-show party. Sure, she had a legitimate invite to get in the place – a result achieved after mucho blagging to the lackey at the record company who’d been bought off with a few signed photos of soap stars Georgia had kicking around the office – but there was always a section cordoned off for super-celebs at these parties, to which Georgia was never permitted access. Not officially anyway. During her ten years as gossip columnist at the
, though, Georgia had become an expert at impersonating Natalie Imbruglia/Dannii Minogue/any other dark-haired celeb to whom she had a passing resemblance in order to get past bouncers and barriers, or she’d pretend to be a waitress, PA to someone famous, oh, anyone she could think of, basically. She was a mistress of disguise. Well, a bloody good liar, anyway.
Tonight, perhaps she could—
She turned from her lippy application as something edged into her field of vision. A bespectacled, nervous-looking spoddy type was standing by her desk, shuffling his feet as if he needed the toilet. For God’s sake. There was nothing worse than an intimidated male. It made her want to start slapping somebody. ‘Yes?’ she said curtly.
He flinched as if she really had whacked him one. She might if he didn’t pull himself together fast.
‘I’m Benedict, a freelancer?’ he said, or rather asked, as if he wasn’t sure himself.
‘And?’ she barked, smacking her lips together and blotting them.
‘There’s a story in about Harry Stone – you know, the playboy loser, who—?’
The name was still enough to cut her to the quick. Even now, it brought a searing flush to her face, a stab in the guts. She unleashed a full glare on him and he backed away. She had to resist the urge to push him over, the flat of her hand on his cheap Primark shirt. One shove and he’d be on the floor, down on his back like a beetle scrabbling to get right way up.
‘Sod off, Benedict,’ she snarled instead. ‘Don’t you know
about working here?’
She snatched up her handbag and stormed out of the office. She just had time to hear Juliet, one of the secretaries, tutting at the spod. ‘Georgia never runs stories about Harry Stone,’ Juliet said. ‘Didn’t you know? He’s off-limits.’
Georgia slammed out of there before she heard the rest of the conversation. She could predict it, though. Had heard it before.
is he off-limits?
Because he’s Georgia’s ex-husband, that’s why. Shat all over her. Not literally, but – well, you know. Done her up like a kipper.
So? Doesn’t she want to print some dirt on him, get her revenge?
Ahh. Yes. Well, she did that. Quite a lot of that. In fact, she dug up such dirt, Harry Stone got mightily pissed off and threw a great big lawsuit in her face. She won’t touch him with a bargepole now. Not even if he was caught giving Fergie one outside Buckingham Palace, snorting coke off her tits.
Georgia’s ears felt hot as she waited for the lift. She jabbed at the button. She hated people knowing her weak spot. Hated it.
The lift arrived and she flung herself into it. She was not what you’d call in a party mood now. The celebs behaving badly had better watch out.
Her mobile was ringing as she got into the cab. Georgia loved her phone. It brought her gossip, interviews, all sorts of interesting invitations. She fished it out of her bag and looked at the caller display.
, it said. She rolled her eyes and sent the call to her voicemail. Why oh why had she given her parents her mobile number? She should have known they’d be phoning her up every five bloody minutes. And what scintillating tale would it be this time?
Eh, George, you’ll never guess, Mrs Bradstock has got new curtains. Ever so nice they are, from that IKEA at Warrington. I must take you there next time you’re home. When ARE you coming home, anyway?
All right, Georgie, you missed a cracker on Saturday at the footie. The lads played a blinder! I took our Ned and he loved it. Proper little fan he’s getting nowadays, you should see him on the terraces!
Georgie, Nan wants to know if you’re coming up for her birthday. Have you remembered it’s her eightieth? She’s hired the social club on the High Street and all her mates from bingo have clubbed together to put on a spread. Let us know, won’t you? You’re welcome any time . . .
Gaaahhh. Welcome any time. Right. Like she wanted to go all the way up the M6 to sit in Stockport Social Club with her nan and decrepit Aunty Ada and the rest of the cronies. Like she wanted to suffer the million disapproving looks from her sister Carol and her smug hubby David. Like she wanted to have Carol’s tedious kids Ned and Elsie clambering all over her, leaking snot and other noxious substances on her designer clothes! Like she wanted to sit in Mum and Dad’s brown woodchip kitchen, drinking tea out of Dad’s Stockport County mug (Up the Hatters! ‘You watch yourself with that, Georgie, a family heirloom that is’), listening to tales from their dull northern lives in the same house, in the same street, in the same grim part of the world.
Why – WHY – would she want to go there, when she lived and worked in London, had champagne-fuelled parties to go to every night of the week, had an address book stuffed with famous people’s numbers, her very own flat in Clapham, a job that she adored?
Quite. No contest. So no, she wouldn’t be going to Nan’s party. And no, she didn’t want to go and see the flaming Hatters with her dad, David and snot-dripping Ned. And no, not ever, would she go to Warrington IKEA with her mum. Not unless she was having some kind of mental breakdown.
Georgia had left The North behind her, thank you very much, escaping across the Pennines and down the motorway on a National Express coach, a letter from London University in her bag. And she’d never looked back, barely glanced in that direction again. She’d modulated her northern vowels, adopting an estuary London accent instead (although – annoyingly – every now and then, when pissed, she’d lapse into Lancashire far too easily). She never mentioned her family to anyone. It was easier that way. Travel light, was Georgia’s motto. No family baggage slowing her down. No husband or boyfriend baggage holding her back. She was happy to go it alone. Happy to be here in a taxi speeding through London on her way to somewhere fabulous and glitzy.
So why didn’t her parents get the message? Why couldn’t she ram it into their thick skulls that she had shucked them off, like a coat that was too small for her? Too small and too unfashionable. She’d never be wearing it again. Couldn’t they see that?
‘’Ere you are, sweet’eart,’ the cabbie said, pulling up on Greek Street.
‘Cheers, mate,’ Georgia said, signing the expense slip with a flourish. She slammed the taxi door shut, tossed her hair back and strode up to the entrance of the bar. With a polite smile at the bouncer on the door (you had to be nice to these people, you never knew when you might need them on your side) and a flash of her invite, she was in.
Straight to the bar as usual, a brief glance about her to see who she recognized on the way. There was her snapper, Alan, already taking photos of the guests, swift and sure, clocking everything of interest. There were a couple of young footballers, excellent, they were sure to get drunk and disgrace themselves. A girl band sipping cocktails and giggling. Hopefully up for some mutual disgracing with the sports studs. A couple of record-company nerds – she wouldn’t waste time on them. Oh, and Candi’s PR people of course, sucking up left, right and centre. Air-kiss, air-kiss, mwah, mwah, darling! No sign of Candi yet, though, but that wasn’t a surprise. The birthday girl would have to make some kind of entrance.
Hmmm. There was an interestingly broody-looking guy further along the bar. Georgia’s celeb radar was going overtime, but she couldn’t place him. Sexy and chiselled, she wrote in her head, filing the details away in case she needed them later. Thirty-something. Battered brown leather jacket. Designer jeans. Dark brown hair artfully tousled with a sneaky slick of product. An actor, perhaps? Indie band member?
‘Champagne, please,’ she said with a big smile at the girl who was serving behind the bar. ‘And . . .’ She leaned over the bar – mercifully not sticky yet – ‘do you know who that bloke is?’
The barmaid gave Sexy Chiselled man a glance. ‘He’s from that programme, isn’t he?’ she said, setting a champagne flute in front of Georgia. ‘What’s it, again? Me boyfriend likes it. That horrible one where they cut up bodies.’
Georgia didn’t watch a lot of telly. Too busy out partying. But she tried to keep up with the big programmes, the ones everyone talked about, as best she could, with the help of her Sky Plus box. ‘
she guessed. ‘One of those forensic things?’
‘Yeah, something like that,’ the barmaid said, wrinkling her nose in distaste. ‘Not my cup of tea, all those dead bodies, but . . .’
Georgia pressed a fiver into the barmaid’s hand. ‘Be a darling for me and find out his name, will you?’
The barmaid tucked the note into her jeans pocket. ‘Give me two minutes,’ she said with a wink.
Georgia sipped her champagne, checking out what was happening elsewhere while she waited. The footballers were getting rowdy already, bless their moronic little hearts. The girl band were becoming screechy and giggly, in a look-at-us-we’re-famous sort of way. Très irritating. And . . .
Her mobile was ringing again. Caller display:
For God’s sake!!
Georgia put the call to voicemail again as the barmaid came back. ‘Adam Tennant,’ she said in a breathy whisper. ‘Quite sexy, isn’t he?’
‘Thanks,’ Georgia said, sliding off her bar stool. She took her champagne glass and walked purposefully over towards Chiselled Adam. ‘Hi there, Adam,’ she said. ‘I love your work. I’m Georgia. How do you know Candi, then? Wouldn’t have put you two together.’
Alan was there in an instant, with his camera. ‘This way, Adam!’ he called out, and Georgia slid her arm around the actor’s back and batted her eyelashes for the shot.
Adam Tennant had been reading about England’s disastrous batting collapse in the sports section of the
(not a promising start; who brought a newspaper along to a party, anyway?), but folded the pages at Georgia’s introduction and laid the paper on the bar. ‘Hi,’ he said as she stepped away from him again, photo taken. ‘Candi and I have the same agent. I can’t stand these dos if you must know, but I promised Marcy I’d show my face, so . . .’
He had a deep voice, a tinge of Scottish in his accent. Very nice. Shame he looked so bored and uninterested.
‘So, what are you working on at the moment?’ Georgia went on. ‘More episodes of . . .’ Should she say
? What if the barmaid had got it wrong? ‘. . . of the show, or something new? I do love that programme, you know. I never miss it.’
He gave her a strange look. ‘Never miss it, eh?’ he said. ‘Right. So you’ll have seen that last season my character was murdered by a vengeance-seeking hitman?’
‘Ahh,’ said Georgia. She flashed him her best girlish smile. ‘How could I have forgotten? So obviously you’re
making any new episodes—’
He got to his feet. ‘Nope,’ he said. ‘If you’ll excuse me, I’ve just seen someone I need to speak to.’
And off he went. Rude Adam Tennant. She’d keep an eye on
, then. Try and work in a dig for her party write-up. Who did he think he was?
Her phone was ringing. Caller display:
Again! She switched it to voicemail, jabbing at the button with a rising annoyance. For crying out loud! Mum might not have anything better to do than sit her big arse on the brown corduroy sofa and chit-chat on the blower all evening, but Georgia had to work!
She slipped her phone away again. The music from the club seemed to have been turned up and was booming around her. Someone jostled her, spilling her drink.
‘Are you Georgia? Knight On The Town?’
She turned at the voice, a shout above the thumping bass. There was a Page Three girl, huge creamy boobs jutting out of a ridiculously small white cropped top. SLUT was written across the straining material in bright pink letters. Classy.
Aimee Morello, Georgia reminded herself. Former girlfriend of Warren Blake, Arsenal’s latest wunderkid.
She had a fleck of coke dangling from one nostril, did Aimee. Chewing gum at the side of her mouth. Her eyes were glazed, and when she talked it was on super-speed. ‘Well, don’t say I told you this, right, but take it from me, Warren has got the tiniest dick I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen a few, d’you know what I’m saying? But his is like a chipolata. And he don’t even know what to do with it. Oh yeah, and get this, he’s been paying all these call girls. Not for sex, right, he just wants them to spank him. Pervy like that, is Warren. Make sure you get it all in your column, yeah?’
Ahh, the woman scorned. Always wanting Georgia to run these ‘crap-in-bed’ snippets about their cheating exes. Sleazy as anything. Georgia felt jaded. She wasn’t in the mood for this tonight.
‘Sure,’ she said, turning away. ‘Leave it with me.’
She made a few cursory notes, eavesdropped on a couple of guys from a boy band slagging off their manager, and then a juicy confessional conversation in the ladies’ toilets about a certain supermodel’s latest tantrum, all the while noting the copy in her brain. The soundtrack, the outfits, the canapés, she was hot on the specifics, Georgia. It was what kept her readers hooked.
Her phone was ringing again. The caller display read:
Ahh, the old number withheld. Usually an anonymous tip-off.
She pressed the button to accept the call. ‘Could you hold the line, please? I’m just going outside where it’s quieter,’ she said into the mouthpiece, walking quickly out of the front doors. It was dark in the street now, and getting chilly. ‘Sorry about that,’ she said. ‘Georgia Knight here. Can I help you?’