Shopaholic takes manhattan – part 13

I GET OUT OF THE TAXI, hoist my suitcase onto the pavement, and look miserably up at the gray
English sky. It’s really all over.
Until the very last minute, I had a secret, desperate hope that someone might change their mind and offer
Me a job. Or that Luke might beg me to stay. Every time the phone rang I felt jittery, hoping that
Somehow a miracle was about to happen. But nothing happened. Of course it didn’t.
When I said good-bye to Luke it was as though I were acting a part. I wanted to throw myself on him in
Tears, slap his face, something. But I just couldn’t. I had to salvage some kind of dignity, somewhere.
So it was almost businesslike, the way I phoned the airline, packed up my stuff, and ordered a cab. I
Couldn’t bring myself to kiss him on the mouth when I left, so I gave him two brisk pecks on each cheek
And then turned away before either of us could say anything.
Now, twelve hours later,

I feel completely exhausted. I sat awake all through the overnight flight, stiff
With misery and disappointment. Only a few days ago I was flying out, thinking I was about to start a
Fantastic new life in America, and instead, I’m back here with less than I even started with. And
Everyone, but everyone, knows it. A couple of girls at the airport obviously recognized me, and started
Whispering and giggling as I was waiting for my bags.
And oh God, I know I’d have been just the same if I’d been them. But right then, I felt so raw with
Humiliation, I nearly burst into tears.
I lug my bags dejectedly up the steps and let myself into the flat. And for a few moments I just stand
There, looking around at the coats and old letters and keys in the bowl. Same old hall. Same old life.
Back to square one. I catch sight of my haggard reflection in the mirror and quickly look away.
“Hi!” I call. “Anyone in? I’m back.”
There’s a pause – then Suze appears at her door in a dressing gown. “Bex?” she exclaims. “I didn’t
Expect you back so early! Are you all right?” She comes nearer, pulling her dressing gown around her,
And peers worriedly at my face. “Oh, Bex.” She bites her lip. “I don’t know what to say.”
“It’s fine,” I say. “I’m fine. Honestly.”
“Bex – “
“Really. I’m fine.” I turn away before the sight of Suze’s anxious face reduces me to tears, and scrabble
In my bag. “So anyway. . . I got you that Clinique stuff you asked for. . . and the special face stuff for
Your mum. . .” I hand the bottles to her and begin to root roughly around again. “There’s some more
Stuff for you in here somewhere. . .”
“Bex – don’t worry about it. Just come and sit down, or something.” Suze clutches the Clinique bottles
To her and peers at me uncertainly. “Would you like a drink or something?”
“No!” I make myself smile. “I’m all right, Suze! I’ve decided the best thing is just to get on, and not think
About what’s happened. In fact – I’d rather we didn’t talk about it at all.”
“Really?” says Suze. “Well. . . OK. If you’re sure that’s what you want.”
“That’s what I want.” I take a deep breath. “Really. I’m fine. So, how are you?”
“I’m OK,” says Suze, and gives me another anxious look. “Bex, you look really pale. Have you eaten
Anything?”
“Airplane food. You know.” I take off my coat with trembling fingers and hang it on a peg.
“Was the. . . the flight OK?” says Suze.
“It was great!” I say with a forced brightness.



Shopaholic takes manhattan – part 13