Do we get second chances? I glance at the giant latte next to my bed, too depressed to take a sip.
I spent the best part of the week reliving Saturday night, musing over what had made me flee the company of my handsome, charming and very intriguing mystery gentleman. Why, I asked myself again and again, had I not had the courage to stay and find out where things were going?
I deeply regretted that I had bolted before even securing his details, thus ruining all my chances of seeing him again – on the other hand, maybe fate had decided that I didn’t deserve a second chance…
My alter ego sternly talking sense into me over a glass of deep red wine, I decided I had just lost my head and now had to live with the consequences, I would simply put Leon out of my mind, just as I had abandoned my crimson nails.
Oh, if it was just as simple…
Leon’s eyes kept appraising me out of nowhere (in my mind that is – the entire city seemed to be sadly devoid of attractive grey temples and curious, searching eyes).
When I woke with a start deep into Wednesday night, having had the most curious – and rather intimate – dream about a mysterious stranger with an aquiline nose, I decided that the time had come for action. Kate had scolded me for escaping head-over-heels and was not likely to be of any help, but I could always confide in James. With a glimmer of hope on the horizon, I made it through the day. At 9 pm, I met James at the Roussillon for a late supper (elegant surroundings and elaborate French cuisine has a habit of cheering me up) to discuss the matter.
He frowned slightly at me, when I had confessed everything. “This is not one of your typical messy affairs,” he said after a while “a rather intriguing set-up this time.” I quivered under his gaze. Typical messy affairs? Seriously, I didn’t think I warranted such as harsh judgment. Surely, there had been a few calamitous episodes in my recent dating life – just thinking of the Italian disaster here – but then, who hasn’t? Feeling highly indignant, but sadly in need of his sharp mind and ingenious stratagems, I bit my lip and didn’t retort.
“Will you help me find Leon,” I asked tentatively and was pleased to hear that my voice didn’t sound too anxious. James growled and looked at my from under his dark eyebrows. “If you really want to,” he said after what seemed like an eternity, “we will find your stranger.”
We sat long into the night and when I got home – refreshed by one of my favourite walks in London, home to Kings Road from Pimlico, past all the antique and interior shops – I fell into an uneasy slumber.
Thursday morning, however, I woke surprisingly early and felt alert and eager to spring into action. James knows a number of very useful guys in London – expert socialites, if you ever saw any. He would call a few and see what he could find out about Leon de Meiras. I on the other hand, would casually catch up with my Spanish-speaking acquaintances as we reckoned that Leon would have strong ties there.
I chose a particularly cute pale pink and gold ruffle skirt, which I had recently scooped up at a gorgeous little vintage boutique in the East End, and matched it with a white cotton jumper. If I was to find my mysterious stranger, I would have to pull out all the stops; after all he seemed to be rather keen to stay incognito.
When I met James after an excruciatingly exhausting day of charming, albeit very guarded, art dealers, interior designers and other London social butterflies trying to coax them into revealing information on Leon, I felt close to tears. I had accomplished absolutely nothing! True, there had been a couple of oily men, who had hinted they would pass on information after I had rewarded them in one way or the other (none of which could have possibly been acceptable), but other than that… nada.
Although a rather large quantity of end-of-summer Pimm’s and lemonade at the Anglesea Arms raised my spirits slightly, I was disappointed to hear that James had been equally unsuccessful. “We mustn’t give up yet,” he said soothingly, “I have got us on the guest list for tomorrow’s Prince of Asturias cocktail party. Just make sure you bring you’re A game!” He smiled at me reassuringly. “No doubt, you will rock the show.”
I awoke slightly panicky on Friday morning. My A game? Did I have an A game? And only a day of preparation… what if this was one of those life-changing situations? Lost for inspiration, I half-heartedly rummaged through my evening wardrobe, the depth of which stubbornly refused to yield my A game. OMG! What a disaster…
A strong triple espresso (and no breakfast – good gracious, I was to look stunning tonight) later, I was suddenly visited by the very vision of classy, feminine vintage style. Yes, the beautiful crème coloured Lillie Rubin dress, I had spotted on Tuesday would definitely pass for A game.
I teamed up the delicate, early 1960’s, cocktail dress, with dangling crystals on the beaded bodice and a swingy full-circle silk skirt, with vintage Chanel pumps and my Pomellato Nudo rings. An elegant, carefully crafted, knot the set off the dream of crème beautifully, when I emerged from the best hairdresser on Kings Road, Hari’s, all A game.
Nerves fluttering, I cabbed it to Belgravia, picking up James on the way. He was looking suave in a Dolce black tie, a deep purple velvet bow tie slung carelessly around his neck, carrying the thick crème-coloured invitation envelopes… hang on; thick crème-coloured stationary? Could this be a coincident? Or was it….him?
Before I could think, a white-gloved valet opened the beautifully gilded double wing doors and I was swept into a graceful entrance hall, lit with soft golden light, reflecting smoothly in the antique mirrors and thousands of tiny chandelier crystals (I have no idea why, but in states of acute emergency my brain seems to concentrate particularly well on decoration details and this was among the most extraordinary houses, I had ever seen).
I absent-mindedly inhaled the scent of hundreds of flowers. Dimly aware of the magnificent surroundings, I gazed at the host of one of London’s most exclusive private cocktail parties. Casually elegant, mind-blowingly masculine, he was shaking hands, warmly greeting friends and illustrious socialites alike. There he was… Leon de Meiras.
And my last, vague thought was, that I had – at least – brought my A game. Then, darkness crept in on me.
When I came to, James was bent over me, his face worried. Gone was the golden glimmer and subtle scent of gardenias.