Remember Me?(17)

by Sophie Kinsella

Assistant to Lexi Smart. I have my own personal assistant. I'm on the board of directors. Me! My cuts and bruises are a lot better and the plastic staple has been taken out of my head. My hair is freshly washed and glossy and my teeth are as movie-​star perfect as ever. I can't stop smiling at every shiny surface I pass. In fact, I can't stop smiling, full stop.

Maybe in a previous life I was Joan of Arc and I got tortured horrifically to death. Or I was that guy in Titanic. Yes. I drowned in a cruel, freezing sea and never got Kate Winslet, and this is my reward. I mean, people don't just get presented with a perfect life for no good reason. It just doesn't happen.

“All right, darling?” Eric briefly puts his hand on mine. His curly hair is all ruffled in the wind and his expensive sunglasses are glinting in the sunshine. He looks like the kind of guy the Mercedes PR people would want to be driving their cars.

“Yes!” I beam back. “I'm great!” I'm Cinderella. No, I'm better than Cinderella, because she only got the prince, didn't she? I'm Cinderella with fab teeth and a shit-​hot job. Eric signals left. “Well, here we are...” He pulls off the road into a grand pillared entrance, past a porter in a glass box, into a parking space, and then turns off the engine. “Come and see your home.” You know how some hyped-​up things are a total letdown when you actually get to them. Like, you save up for ages to go to an expensive restaurant and the waiters are snooty and the table is too small and the dessert tastes like Mr Whippy. Well, my new home is approximately the opposite of that. It's way better than I imagined. As I walk around, I'm awestruck. It's massive. It's light. It has views over the river.

There's a vast, L-​shaped cream sofa and the coolest black granite cocktail bar. The shower is a whole marble-​clad room, big enough for about five people. “Do you remember any of this?” Eric is watching me intently. “Is it triggering anything?”

“No. But it's absolutely stunning!” We must have some cool parties here. I can just see Fi, Carolyn, and Debs perched at the cocktail bar, tequila shooters going, music blaring over the sound system. I pause by the sofa and run my hand along the plushy fabric. It's so pristine and plumped up, I don't think I'll ever dare sit down on it. Maybe I'll just have to hover. It'll be great for my bum muscles. “This is an amazing sofa!” I look up at Eric. “It must have cost a packet.” He nods. “Ten thousand pounds.” Shit. I draw my hand back. How can a sofa cost that 88 much? What's it stuffed with, caviar? I edge away, thanking God I didn't sit down on it. Memo to self: do not ever drink red wine on / eat pizza on / ever go near the ten-​grand posh cream sofa. “I really love this... e r . . . light fitting.” I gesture to a free-​standing undulating piece of metal. Eric smiles. “That's a radiator.” “Oh right,” I say, confused. “I thought that was a radiator.” I point to an old-​fashioned iron radiator that has been painted black and fitted halfway up the opposite wall. “That's a piece of art.” Eric corrects me. “It's by Hector James-​John. Disintegration Falls.” I walk over to it, cock my head, and gaze up alongside Eric, with what I hope is an intelligent art-​lover's expression. Disintegration Falls. Black radiator. Nope, no idea. “It's s o . . . structural,” I venture after a pause. “We were lucky to get this,” Eric says, nodding at the piece. “We tend to invest in a piece of nonrepresentational art about every eight months. The loft can take it. And it's about the portfolio as much as anything else.” He shrugs as though this is self-​explanatory. “Of course!” I nod. "I would have thought the portfolio...

aspect would b e . . . absolutely..." I clear my throat and turn away. Keep your mouth shut, Lexi. You know fuck-​all about modern art or portfolios or basically what it's like being rich and you're giving it all away.

I turn away from the radiator-​art-​thing and focus on a giant screen, which almost fills the opposite wall. There's a second screen across the room, by the dining table, and I noticed one in the bedroom. Eric clearly likes the telly.

He notices me looking at it. “What would you like?” He 89 picks up a remote control and flicks it at the screen. “Try this.” The next minute I'm looking at a massive blazing, crackling fire. “Wow!” I stare at it in surprise.

“Or this.” The picture changes to brightly colored tropical fish weaving through fronds of seaweed. “It's the latest in home screen system technology,” he says proudly. “It's art, it's entertainment, it's communication. You can e-​mail on these things, you can listen to music, read books... I have a thousand works of literature stored on the system. You can even have a virtual pet.”

“A pet?” I'm still gazing at the screen, dazzled. “We each have one.” Eric smiles. “This is mine, Titan.” He flicks his control and an image appears on the screen of a massive stripy spider, prowling around a glass box. “Oh my God!” I back away, feeling sick. I've never been great with spiders, and that one is about ten feet high. You can see the hairs on its horrible legs. You can see its face. “Could you possibly switch that off, please?” “What's wrong?” Eric looks-​surprised. “I showed Titan to you on your first visit here. You said you thought he was adorable.” Great. It was our first date. I said I liked the spider to be polite, and now I'm stuck with it. “You know what?” I say, trying to keep my gaze averted from Titan. “The crash could have given me a spider phobia.” I try to sound knowledgeable, like I heard this from a doctor or. something. “Maybe.” Eric has a slight frown, as though he's about to pick holes in this theory. As well he might. “So I have a pet too?” I say quickly, to distract him. “What is it?” “Here you go.” He zaps at the screen. “Here's Arthur.” 90 A fluffy white kitten appears on the screen and I cry out in delight. “He's so cute!” I watch him playing with a ball of string, batting it and tumbling over. “Does he grow up into a cat?” “No.” Eric smiles. “He stays as a kitten indefinitely. All your life, if you want. They have a life capacity of one hundred thousand years.” “Oh, right,” I say after a pause. Actually, that's freakish. A one-​hundred-​thousand-​year-​old virtual kitten. Eric's phone beeps and he flips it open, then zaps at the screen again to restore the fish.“Sweetheart, my driver's here. I'm going to have to go to the office briefly. But Rosalie is on her way to keep you company. Until then, if anything bothers you, just call me at onceor you can e-​mail me through the system.” He hands me a rectangular white gadget with a screen. “Here's your remote control. It controls heating, ventilation, lighting, doors, blinds... Everything here is intelligent. But you shouldn't need to use it. All the settings are in place.” “We have a remote-​control house?” I want to laugh. “It's all part of loft-​style living!” He makes the parallel hand gesture again, and I nod, trying not to give away how overwhelmed I am. I watch as he shrugs on his jacket. “So... how exactly does Rosalie fit in?” “She's the wife of my partner, Clive. You two have a great time together.” “Does she hang out with me and the other girls from the office?” I ask. “Like Fi and Carolyn? Do we all go out together?” “Who?” Eric looks blank. Maybe he's one of those guys who doesn't keep up with his wife's social life. “Never mind,” I say quickly. “I'll work it all out.”