“No, it’s fine,” I say hastily. “He’s here! Danny, this is Gayle, my new boss.” I nudge him. “You can start now.”
“Excuse me?” Gayle looks baffled.
“This is Danny Kovitz,” I explain. “He’s come here especially to give my reference! Go on, Danny.” I nod encouragingly, and Danny draws breath.
“My name is Danny Kovitz—yes, the Danny Kovitz—thank you—and I am here today to recommend Rebecca Brandon as a personal shopper without parallel. Where there is disaster, she will find style. Where there is blah, she will find a look. Where there is … um—” He breaks off, pulls a piece of paper out of his jeans pocket, and consults it. “Yes! Where there is misery, she will find happiness. Not just fashion happiness, all-round happiness.” He takes a step toward Gayle, who looks a bit shell-shocked. “You want Rebecca Brandon in your store. The last person who tried to fire her faced a backlash from the customers; am I right, Becky?”
“Well.” I shrug awkwardly, feeling a bit overcome. I had no idea Danny would be so nice about me.
“You may have heard some strange rumors about Rebecca.” Danny has gone on to his second sheet of paper. “Yes, she once deliberately trapped a customer in a dress. But she had good reason.” He hits the paper emphatically. “Yes, she’s been known to disguise clothes as sanitary products. But she was helping her clients. Yes, she organized two weddings for the same day and didn’t tell anyone, even her fiancé.…” He peers at the sheet.
“Danny, shut up!” I mutter. Why is he bringing all this up?
“I have no idea why she did that,” Danny concludes. “Let’s ignore that. Let’s focus on the fact that Rebecca is a shining light in any personal-shopping department and any store should be glad to have her. Thank you.” He gives a bow, then looks up at Gayle. “I’d now be glad to answer any questions, except those about my personal life, my beauty routine, and my ongoing lawsuit with my former manager. For those topics I have Q-and-A sheets.” He rummages in another pocket and unfolds three lime-colored sheets of paper, all headed The Danny Kovitz Story, which he hands to Gayle.
Gayle gazes at them in stupefied silence, then raises her eyes to me.
“Rebecca …” She seems lost for words.
“I didn’t mean to organize two weddings,” I say defensively. “These things happen.”
“No, no. It’s not that. It’s … Oh, it’s too bad.” She shuts her eyes. “This is all too bad.”
“What’s too bad?” I say, with a sudden feeling of foreboding.
“Rebecca …” Finally she faces me properly. “There’s no job for you.”
“What?” I falter.
“I had a call just now from the group director. He’s been doing a review, and we have to lose some staff.” She winces. “I’m afraid that a personal-shopping maternity cover is too great a luxury for us. We’re going to have to get by with just Rhona for now. I would love to hire you, believe me.” She glances from me to Danny. “But in this climate … things are so tough.…”
“It’s OK,” I say, my voice wobbly with shock. “I understand.”
“I’m sorry. I’m sure you would have been a great addition to the department.” She looks so sad, I feel a pang of sympathy. What a horrible job, having to fire people.
“That’s life,” I say, trying to sound more cheerful. “Thanks for the chance anyway. And maybe I’ll come and work here when things get better!”
“Maybe. Thanks for being so understanding. I’m afraid I have to go break some more bad news.” She shakes my hand, then turns and strides away, leaving Danny and me looking blankly at each other.
“Bummer,” says Danny at last.
“I know.” I sigh heavily. “Thanks for the reference anyway. Can I buy you lunch to say thank you?”
By the time Danny leaves for the airport, two hours later, we’ve had a blast. We’ve done early lunch with cocktails, and a shopping spree for sunblock, and I’ve laughed so hard, my stomach muscles ache. But as I watch his car whisk him away along Beverly Boulevard, there’s a lump of disappointment weighing me down. No job. I was counting on that job. Not just for employment, not just for money—but as something to do. A way to make friends.
Anyway. It’s fine. It’s all good. I’ll think of something else. There are loads of shops in L.A.; there must be opportunities. I’ll just have to keep looking … keep my ears and eyes open …
“Hey, lady! Watch it!”
Oops. I was so busy thinking about keeping my ears and eyes open, I didn’t notice a great big crane thing parked slap-bang in the middle of the pavement. A man in a headset is directing people around it, and there’s a bit of a buzz farther up the street. As I go nearer to get a look, I can see glinting, and lights on stands … oh wow! It’s a camera crew! They’re filming something!
I know I need to get back to the hotel and prepare for the Ten Miler race, but I can’t just walk away. Even though I’ve been to L.A. before, this is the first camera crew I’ve seen. So I hurry along in excitement, heading toward the bright lights. The pavement is cordoned off with metal barriers, and a guy in a denim jacket and a headset is politely asking people to step away to the other side of the street. Reluctantly, I obey, keeping my eyes fixed on the action. There are two guys in jeans sitting on director’s chairs, and a burly man operating a camera, and several girls scurrying around with headsets on, looking important. I feel massive pangs of envy as I watch them all. I mean, how cool, to be involved in a film. The only kind of filming I’ve ever done was on TV, advising people how to invest their pensions. (I used to be a financial journalist. I used to spend all day talking about bank accounts. Sometimes I get an anxiety dream where I’m back in that job and I’m on TV and I don’t even know what an interest rate is.)