‘Now let’s go get the good stuff,’ she says, batting her eyelashes.
‘How much are you allowed to spend on me?’ I ask curiously.
‘Actually,’ she says, ‘Mr. Barrington didn’t see fit to set a limit.’ She winks conspiratorially. ‘So we make hay while the sun shines.’
We walk around the back of Harrods and down Old Brompton Road. Fleur is a mine of information. She knows everything about fashion, what’s so in, what’s so out, what’s in if you are not really in, what gets the best second-hand prices when you want to flog it.
She suggests a beautiful red and silver handbag in Gucci. ‘To die for,’ she says.
‘It is a limited edition. Pure crocodile skin,’ explains the snooty-faced sales assistant helpfully.
‘OK,’ I agree, bewildered by the price tag. I stand by the counter while Fleur pays and wonder what sort of reception I would have received if I had come here alone.
‘Let’s go,’ Fleur sings merrily.
Then I am being led into Chanel. All my life I have dreamed of owning a Chanel bag. Once someone gave me a fake Chanel bag for Christmas and I waited until a reasonable time had passed before giving it away to a charity shop. If I can’t afford the real thing I don’t want to pretend.
Fleur is clever. It is as if she understands; here her suggestions are unnecessary. All she says is, ‘Choose.’ I feel I am in Aladdin’s cave. It is impossible to choose, but in the end I pick the classic black with the leather interlaced gold chain strap. When Fleur goes to the counter she says, ‘And we’ll have that pink one too.’
‘That’s nearly seven thousand pounds!’
‘Yes, but we have no limit. Besides, every girl needs a pink handbag. What else can you carry when you want to dress in white?’ Fleur argues reasonably. She phones Tom to come and pick up the packages.
Almost in a daze, I am led into and out of a string of designer boutiques. Most of the shop assistants seem to recognize and head for Fleur immediately.
‘Cupboard love,’ Fleur dismisses, as they flutter around her with accommodating smiles. ‘I am often here helping the wives of our high profile Middle Eastern clients spend their money.’
Fleur seems very sure of exactly what will look good on me. We buy a cream and gold suit, a red cocktail dress; a backless, sequined, black evening gown, and a sleeveless signature dress from Pucci, and of course shoes to match. Fleur decides that I will need a black pair of court shoes for the trousers, dainty diamond-studded stilettos, two tone sandals, tall brown boots, and multi-colored, ultra fashionable platforms.
‘Right, we are almost running out of time, but first a quick trip to Versace. Versace can be too gaudy and whorish, but this season they have something that I think will suit you perfectly.’
That something turns out to be an electric blue silk shirt that is almost the same color as my eyes and skin-tight black leather trousers.
‘Exactly as I thought—fantastic,’ she says, pleased with herself. She looks at her wristwatch. ‘Perfect timing. Let’s have some tea.’
Once again Tom comes to collect the packages, and we find ourselves a table in a French patisserie full of women. We order cream tea. I bite into a buttered cream and jam filled scone ravenously.
‘It is wonderful that you can eat so much and still be so slim. I have to be careful,’ Fleur says, sipping lemon tea and breaking off small crumbs of her croissant.
‘Missed lunch,’ I say, swallowing.
Once I catch Fleur looking at me with an unreadable expression.
‘Do you have to do this often for Blake?’ I ask.
‘To be perfectly honest, I have never done this before or heard of Mr. Barrington asking anyone else to do something similar, and though I was flattered to be asked, I was also dreading it. I thought you would be a brash gold-digger, but you are an unassuming breath of fresh air. It has been a delight to take you around.’
After tea, Fleur and me climb into the Bentley and Tom takes us to a hairdressing salon that belongs to one of the top hairstylists in the country. We walk into the perfumed space and a young girl with bright red hair comes to greet and lead us into a private area. Two glasses of champagne arrive on a tray.
‘Go ahead,’ Fleur encourages. ‘You’ll be grateful for it when you are at your next appointment.’
‘Why? What’s next?’
Fleur smiles cheekily. ‘Full body wax.’
My jaw drops when the celebrity stylist himself appears. He noisily air-kisses Fleur on both cheeks and does the same with me. Then he stands back to look at me thoughtfully. Tipping his head slightly to the side he reaches for my hair.
‘Oh,’ he exclaims, rubbing it between his fingers. ‘Virgin hair. You have never bleached or permed it, have you?’
I shake my head.
‘It is a sin to cut such hair. Come, come,’ he says leading me to a single chair in front of a mirror and waiting while I sit. ‘We will leave the length, but we will do something wonderful for this heart-shaped face. We will give it a fringe.’
He picks up his comb and scissors. When he is finished I can hardly believe what a difference a fringe has made. My eyes are suddenly enormous and my little chin now looks delicate and cat-like.
‘Beautiful,’ declares the stylist flamboyantly.
‘Very beautiful, indeed,’ agrees a smiling Fleur.
While Fleur is paying, I stare at myself in the mirror. It is truly amazing how much a fringe can change one’s face. I look so different I almost don’t recognize myself.
‘This is where I say goodbye,’ Fleur says from behind me. I turn around to face her. ‘Tom will take you to the beauty salon where you have your last appointment. That over with, he will take you to the apartment where you will soak in a lovely bath and then you will dress in your new clothes. I believe you have a hot date at nine.’
‘Thank you, Fleur.’
‘The pleasure was all mine.’
‘I don’t know if we will ever meet again, but I’ll never forget you.’
‘Nor I you,’ she says, and bending forward plants a light kiss on my cheek.
My next stop is in High Street Kensington. In an all-white salon an olive-skinned, middle-aged, barrel-like woman in a white trouser uniform with a clipboard, smiles and introduces herself as Rosa Rehon. Rosa is Spanish and has retained her thick accent despite having been in England for fifteen years. She shows me into a small room with a beautician’s bed.