Home > My Not So Perfect Life(9)

My Not So Perfect Life(9)
Author: Sophie Kinsella

“Do her roots?” echoes Liz. “What, dye them? Are you serious?”

“That’s outrageous!” chimes in Rosa. “That is not in your job description!”

Heads are popping up all round the office and I can feel a wave of general sympathy. Pity, even.

I shrug. “It’s OK.”

“This is worse than the corset dress,” says Liz significantly.

I’ve heard about the whole team once trying to zip Demeter into a corset dress that was too small but she wouldn’t admit it. (In the end they had to use a coat hanger and brute strength.) But clearly roots are a step down even from that.

“You can refuse, you know,” says Rosa, who is the most militant person in the office. But even she doesn’t sound convinced. The truth is, when you’re the most junior member of staff in a competitive industry like this, you basically do anything. She knows it and I know it.

“It’s no problem!” I say, as brightly as I can. “I’ve always thought I’d be a good hairdresser, actually. It’s my backup career.”

For that I earn a big office laugh, and Rosa offers me one of her super-expensive cookies from the baker on the corner. So it’s not all bad. And as I grab some paper towels from the ladies’, I decide: I’ll turn this into an opportunity. It’s not exactly the one-to-one meeting I was after, but it’s still a one-to-one, isn’t it? Maybe this can be my wave, after all.

But, oh God. Bleargh.

I now know hairdressing is not my backup career. Other people’s scalps are vile. Even Demeter’s.

As I start to paint on the gooey dye stuff, I’m trying to avert my gaze as much as possible. I don’t want to see her pale, scalpy skin or her little flecks of dandruff, or realize just how long it’s been since she last did her roots.

Which, actually, must be no time at all. There’s hardly any gray there: She’s clearly paranoid. Which makes sense. Demeter is super-aware of her age and how we’re all younger than her. But then, she totally overcompensates by knowing every Internet joke before anyone else, every bit of celeb gossip, every new band, and every…everything.

Demeter is the most on-the-case, earliest adopter known to mankind. She has gadgets before anyone else. She has that must-have H&M designer item before anyone else. Other people camp outside all night to get it—Demeter just somehow has it.

Or take restaurants. She’s worked on some very big restaurant names in her time, so she has zillions of connections. As a result, she never goes to a restaurant except when it first opens. Or, even better, when it’s not open yet except to special, important people like her. Then as soon as the general public is allowed in, or it gets a good review in The Times, she goes off it and says, “Well, it used to be all right, till it was ruined,” and moves on to the next thing.

So she’s intimidating. She can’t be easily impressed. She always had a better weekend than anyone else; she always has a better holiday story than anyone else; if someone spots a celebrity in the street, she always went to school with them or has a godchild going out with their brother, or something.

But today I’m not going to be intimidated. I’m going to make intelligent conversation and then, when the time is right, I’ll make my strategic move. I just have to decide exactly what that strategic move should be—

“OK?” says Demeter, who is typing away at her monitor, totally ignoring me.

“Fine!” I say, dipping the brush again.

“If I have one piece of advice for you girls, it’s don’t go gray. Such a bore. Although”—she swivels briefly to face me—“your hair’s so mousy, you wouldn’t notice.”

“Oh,” I say, nonplussed. “Um…good?”

“How’s Hannah doing, by the way? Poor thing. I hope I reassured her before.” Demeter nods complacently and takes a sip of coffee, while I gape dumbly at the back of her head. That was an attempt to reassure Hannah?

“Well…” I don’t know what to say. “Yes. I think she’s all right.”

“Excellent!” Demeter resumes typing with even more energy, while I lecture myself silently. Come on, Katie.

I mean, come on, Cat. Cat.

Here I am. In Demeter’s office. Just her and me. It’s my chance.

I’ll show her the designs I’ve done for Wash-Blu, I decide in a rush. Only I won’t just plonk them on her desk, I’ll be more subtle. Make conversation first. Bond with her.

I glance for inspiration at Demeter’s massive pinboard. I’ve only been in this office a few times, but I always look at the pinboard to see what’s new. It’s like Demeter’s entire fabulous life, summed up in a collage of images and souvenirs and even fabric swatches. There are printed-out designs for brands she’s created. Examples of unusual typefaces. Photos of ceramics and mid-century-modern furniture classics.

There are press cuttings and photos of her at events. There are pictures of her family skiing and sailing and standing on picturesque beaches, all in photogenic clothes. They couldn’t look more perfect. Her husband is apparently some super-brainy head of a think tank, and there he is in black tie, standing next to her on a red carpet somewhere. He’s holding her arm affectionately, looking appropriately gorgeous and intelligent. Demeter wouldn’t settle for anything less.

Should I ask about the children? No, too personal. As my eyes roam around, they take in all the piles of papers everywhere. This is yet another thing that drives Sarah mad: when Demeter asks her to print out emails. I often hear her muttering at her desk: “Read them on the fucking screen.”

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