“Wow. You must be good. So, what time are you hoping to make today?”
“Well.” I clear my throat. “I expect I’ll take about … um …”
I have no idea. Ten miles. How fast can I run ten miles? I’m not even sure how fast I can run one mile.
“I’m just hoping to improve my personal best,” I say at last.
“I hear you.” The girl stretches her arms over her head. “What’s your race strategy?”
Meet Sage Seymour, talk about clothes, and wangle an invitation to her house flashes through my mind.
“Just … run,” I say with a shrug. “To the end. You know. As fast as I can.”
She stares at me blankly, then laughs. “You’re funny.”
The runners are clustering together even more tightly. There must be at least a thousand people, stretching back as far as the eye can see. And despite my lingering jet lag, I feel a sudden burst of exhilaration as I bounce lightly in my new high-tech shoes. Here I am! Running in a high-profile race in L.A.! It just shows what you can do if you put your mind to it. I’m about to take a photo of myself and send it to Suze when my phone rings and it’s Mum. She always calls last thing at night, just to tell me that Minnie got off to sleep OK.
“Hi!” I answer the phone in delight. “Guess what I’m doing.”
“You’re on a red carpet!” exclaims Mum excitedly.
Every time Mum phones, she asks if I’m on a red carpet. The truth is, not only have I not been on one, I haven’t even seen one. Even worse: Luke had an invitation to a premiere the first time we were here, and not only did he not go, he didn’t even tell me about it until it was too late. A premiere!
This is why I can’t rely on Luke to get me in to anything cool. He has completely the opposite view of L.A. from me. All he’s interested in is attending meetings and being on permanent BlackBerry call, i.e., business as usual. He says the work ethic in L.A. is something he really relates to. The work ethic. Who comes to L.A. for the work ethic?
“No, I’m running in a charity race. With Sage!”
Mum gasps. “You’re with Sage Seymour? Oh, Becky!”
“I’m not exactly with her right this second,” I admit. “But I’m going to catch up with her while we’re running. I’ve got a Team Sage baseball cap,” I add proudly.
“I know! I’ll take a picture of it. Show Minnie. Is she OK? Fast asleep?”
“She’s fine, fine!” says Mum breezily. “All snuggled up in bed. So, who else have you met? Anyone famous?”
Lois Kellerton flashes through my mind.
No. Don’t even think about it. I love my mum, but if you tell her anything, it’s all over Oxshott in a nanosecond.
“There are loads of celebs in the race,” I say vaguely. “I think I just saw a guy from Desperate Housewives.” It could have been him, or it could have been a different guy, but Mum won’t know.
A klaxon is sounding. Oh God. Is that the race starting?
“Mum, I have to go,” I say hastily. “I’ll call later. Bye!”
That was the start of the race. We’re off. We’re running. I’m running too! Feet and arms are blurring around me as the runners jostle for position and I breathlessly try to stay with them.
God, they’re fast.
I mean, it’s fine. I’m fast too. I’m totally keeping up with the others. My chest is already burning, but that’s OK, because the endorphins will kick in, any minute.
The most important thing is: Where’s Sage?
As the crowd thins out, I’m able to get a better view of my fellow runners. I’m scanning the heads desperately for a turquoise baseball cap.… She must be somewhere.… I can’t have missed her, surely.…
There! I feel a burst of joyous adrenaline. She’s right up at the front, of course. OK, time to make my move. I’ll sprint up to her casually, gesture at my hat, and say, I think we’re on the same team. And our close friendship will begin.
I’ve never really considered myself an athlete before, but as I charge forward, it’s like some invisible force is powering me. I’m overtaking the wiry black girl! I’m on fire! I’m exhilarated! But still the turquoise cap is bobbing along ahead of me, tantalizingly out of reach, so I put on an extra spurt of energy. Somehow I succeed in drawing level with her. My face is boiling and my heart is hammering in my chest, but I manage to point at my hat and gasp, “I think we’re on the same team.”
The turquoise baseball cap turns … and it’s not Sage Seymour. It’s some girl with a pointy nose and brown hair, who gives me a blank look and ups her pace. She’s not wearing a TEAM SAGE cap, either, just a plain turquoise one. I’m so disconcerted, I stop dead and nearly get knocked over by a horde of runners.
“Out of the way!”
“One eighty-four, what are you doing?”
Hastily, I move to one side and try to catch my breath. OK, so that wasn’t Sage. But never mind. She’ll be here somewhere. I just have to keep my eyes open for turquoise … turquoise … Yes! Over there!
With a fresh surge of adrenaline, I plunge into the race again and chase after another turquoise baseball cap. But as I draw near, I can see already that it’s not Sage. It’s not even a girl. It’s a skinny Italian-looking guy.
Bloody hell. Panting hard, I head to a water station and take a sip of water, still desperately scanning the crowd of runners, refusing to give up. So I’ve had two near misses. Never mind. I’ll find her. I will. Wait, there’s a flash of turquoise up ahead. That must be her.…