Authors: Elaine Dimopoulos
Copyright Â© 2015 by Elaine Dimopoulos
All rights reserved. For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003.
The Library of Congress has cataloged the print edition as follows:
Material girls / by Elaine Dimopoulos.
[1. CelebritiesâFiction. 2. FashionâFiction. 3. SingersâFiction. 4. Popular musicâFiction.] I. Title.
For Gail and Dimitri Dimopoulos,
ever wise, ever fashionable
“The first purpose of Clothes .Â .Â .
was not warmth or decency, but ornament.”
(The Tailor Retailored), 1833
Late, late, late, late.
Julia was going to kill me.
I hopped around my room, yanking clothes out of my closet and throwing them on the bed. Like an idiot, I'd forgotten to charge my Unum, so the battery had died overnight. Which meant, of course, that my alarm hadn't gone off this morning. Which meant I'd probably still be sleeping right now if my mother hadn't come in to investigate why I wasn't at breakfast.
Okay. I could pair the yellow Torro-LeBlanc leggings with the blue musketeer tunicâdid they really go, though?âor do a black and white combo with the oversize blouse and a belt. That was probably safest. I wouldn't have to change my nail polish, either. But I'd worn black and white last weekâthe other judges would definitely remember. I chewed on a section of my hair and glanced at the clock. I had to decide
, or I'd never make it to work by nine.
Tunic and leggings, fine. I grabbed my silver trendchecking gun from the top shelf of my closet, flicked it on, and pointed the barrel at my clothing tags. As the laser hit the tunic's tag, the gun beeped and the green light stayed green. Same for the tank top. But when I scanned the tag on the leggings, the light turned red. I groaned, hurled the leggings and the gun to the floor, and grabbed my charging Unum. “Sabrina,” I said into the microphone.
Sabrina's face, which always looked as if it was concentrating hard, filled my Unum screen. “Hey,” she said. From the light smudges of color behind her, I could tell she was outdoors.
“I'm freaking out. I haven't left yet. I have nothing to wear.” Panic tightened my voice. “The yellow midcalf leggings expired.”
“Yeah. Like last week.”
“So what do I pair the musketeer tunic with? Mine's cobalt.”
Sabrina thought for a moment. “You have the black leggings from the urban street punk trend, right?”
“I wore them last Thursday.”
Sabrina's mouth twisted. “Then I don't know. Would stovepipes work? Or you could do tights the way Oliviaâ”
“I hate that look,” I interrupted.
I dug into the pile on my bed and pulled out my maroon stovepipe pants. I hit them with the trendchecker, just to be safe. Green lightâstill wearable. I shoved them on the bed under the tunic and turned the Unum to show Sabrina the look. “I like it,” I heard her say.
It wouldn't be my best outfit, not by far, but it would do. “Fine,” I said, rotating the Unum back so I could see her. I wiggled my fingers in front of the screen. “My nails are yellow, though.”
She shook her head. “You are going to be so late.”
I stumbled down the curved stairs of our apartment, clutching the handle of my briefcase in one hand and fanning the fingers of the other hand to dry my nail polish. My mother, Karen, stood in the front hall, smiling at me and holding a titanium travel mug. She made two lattes every morning, one for me and one for my father, who was undoubtedly sipping his on the train already.
Even in my rush, I noticed that Karen's hair looked good. She'd finally mastered the four-quadrants-of-the-scalp method I'd shown her. The wavy part in the back was bone straight, tamed by the flatiron.
“Don't worry, honey. You'll make it. And you look great,” she said brightly.
I kissed her on the cheek and grabbed the mug of latte, spilling some on the bamboo floorboards on my way to the front door. Pausing to flip the lid cover closed, I nicked my thumb on the plastic, and a streak of clear nail cut through the brown polish. I pursed my lips in frustration.
“Oh, Marla, don't have a big lunch.” Karen had grabbed a dishtowel from the kitchen and was kneeling down to wipe the spill. “I'm trying a new paella recipe tonight.”
“Sure. Your hair looks prime, by the way!” I called over my shoulder as I yanked the apartment door open and ran to catch the elevator.
Outside, a warm winter breeze rustled the sidewalk palm trees. I jogged past the white and yellow high-rises and held my hand out to stop traffic as I crossed two intersections. My station was just ahead. My coffee sloshing inside the mug, I flew up the railway steps as my train sighed to a stop at the platform. I joined the crowd pressing through the doors and looked around for a free seat.
I didn't bother trying to locate Braxton. I knew he would have caught an earlier train, just like Sabrina. Finding a spot, I laid my briefcase across my lap and released my breath in a loud exhale. I was never late for anything. I hated this feeling. Maybe, for a backup alarm, I could buy a second Unum .Â .Â . or did we have an old alarm clock somewhere in the apartment?
The morning light danced across the domed ceiling of the train, and I sat back to watch it. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see heads turn as a few travelers recognized me. Hoping they weren't picking apart my outfit, I ignored them. I pictured my empty seat on the Superior Court benchâand Julia's look of disapprovalâand willed the train to move faster.
Ivy let her legs hover
in the open door of the urban utility vehicle before stepping out. Even though she was wearing a giant pair of Torro-LeBlanc sunglasses, she squinted in the glare of the camera flashes.
As usual, her bodyguards muscled through the crowd, clearing a path along the sidewalk to the store entrance. Fatima, her publicist, followed, with her Unum to her ear and her head cocked to one side. Ivy was next, surrounded by her nymphs. Madison and Aiko linked arms on either side of her, matching their strides to hers. Hilarie and Naia brought up the rear.
The procession moved slowly, not because the photographers blocked its way, but because it was an arranged photo op. As Fatima always reminded them, there was no point in going to so much trouble for blurry pictures. Ivy pressed her lips together in her signature pout, tilted her chin down, and stared directly into the camera flashes as she strutted forward.
Today she was modeling the Rudolfo label's armed-forces trend. She wore a tube dress in a fatigue pattern, combat boots, and a shiny necklace of dog tags attached end to end. A black leather bag with silver studs hung off her shoulder. Her nymphs were dressed in complementary fashion: Aiko had on a sailor dress; Hilarie wore baggy Gestapo pants and a T-shirt with
tell me your secrets
printed across the front; Naia sported a bomber jacket and goggle headband. Madison wore a sleeveless jumpsuit of the same fatigue print as Ivy's dress. Ivy glanced at the bandoleer slung over her nymph's shoulder like a beauty queen's sash. She probably should have traded her necklace for the ammunition belt. It looked so tough and edgy on Madison. Oh, well. Too late nowâobviously, she wouldn't debut the trend a second time.
Halfway to their destination, Fatima, who was still on the call, nodded to Ivy. Ivy cupped her hand over her mouth and whispered into Aiko's ear: “Time to laugh, girl.”
Ivy and Aiko smirked at each other. Tiny giggles bubbled out of their mouths. Ivy quickly turned to Madison and whispered through a cupped hand: “I am the funniest person you've ever met.”
The three girls exploded in laughter. Hilarie and Naia picked up the cue and joined in. All five of them directed their grinning mouths toward the cameras. As always, Ivy was careful not to expose too much gum or crunch her chin into her neck. She and her nymphs kept laughing as the bodyguards held open the doors to the Torro-LeBlanc flagship store and stopped only when the doors were firmly shut behind them.
Ivy relaxed her face muscles and massaged her cheeks. She was used to laughing at nothing, but it always felt kind of stupid. Her gaze rose to the screens that were mounted on support beams. Torro-LeBlanc was broadcasting the Pop Beat channel. Karizma was performing; the band's raw sound filled the vast store, from its cement and sea glass floor to its warehouse-style ceiling, where exposed gray pipes zigzagged in a wild maze. She hoped they would eventually play “Swollen.” No matter how many hits she had, it still gave her a rush to hear her tracks broadcast in public.
Her bare shoulders were suddenly cold in the aggressive air-conditioning. “It's kind of freezing in here,” she said to the nearest employee, a middle-aged man with a shock of dyed yellow hair.
“I'm so sorry, Miss Wilde. We'll fix that right away,” he replied, and jogged to the back of the store. While she stood hugging her shoulders, she watched her entourage of nymphs drift magnetically toward the racks of clothes on shiny gold hangers. Torro-LeBlanc personal shoppers swarmed them, offering to assist. They had the store to themselves for an hour before it would be opened to the general public. Ivy swallowed a yawnâit was on the early side. But she'd be okay as soon as they got started.
Ready, set, shop.
The lyric from the old Torro-LeBlanc ad came to mind, and she hummed it. Eyeing the new late-winter styles, she headed toward the racks.
With about a million
other commuters, I got off at the Fashion Row stop in downtown La Reina. I guarded my latte carefullyâthat was all I needed this morning, to have someone freak out because I spilled a drop on their Zhang & Tsai jacket. Or worse, after making it all this way, to spill it on myself. I turned the corner and, freeing myself from the crowd, ran up the steps of Torro-LeBlanc. I pulled open the design house's heavy doors. Hurrying through the vast lobby of pink marble, I saw that the mannequins in their glass cases had been regarmented. There it was, the plumed velvet hat we'd approved a few weeks ago. Gorgeous, just as I remembered it
There wasn't time to pull out my Unum now. I could order it during the break.
A clog of employees blocked the gold elevators. As politely as I could, I snaked through, slipped into one that was almost full, and barked “five” at the voicebox. I looked at my watch as the doors closed. Eight fifty-eight. I would just make it.
The elevator doors parted on the fifth floor to reveal Julia waiting for me. Immediately, my stomach tightened.
She was wearing a black miniskirt and one of Torro-LeBlanc's latest pieces, a sleeveless sweater made of dyed-turquoise bear fur. She had one hand on her hip. The taut skin over her cheekbones sparkled in the hallway lights, and shiny gloss covered her unsmiling lips.
My apologies bubbled forth. “Oh my gosh, Julia, I'm so sorry. My Unum died and my alarm didn't go off. I don't know what's wrong with me. It won't happen again. Ever,” I said in a gush.
Julia glanced at her wrist. “According to my watch, you're just under the wire, honey,” she said in her deep and silky voice. But she still didn't smile. “Come.” She cocked her head toward the end of the hall. “Let's walk and talk.”