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What’s a round-the-world honeymoon if you can’t buy the odd souvenir to ship back home? Like the twenty silk dressing gowns Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood) finds in Hong Kong, or the hand-carved dining table from Sri Lanka, or the, um, huge wooden giraffes from Malawi (that her husband expressly forbade her to buy).
Only now Becky and Luke have returned home to London, where two truckloads of those souvenirs have cluttered up their loft. The bills are outrageous, Luke is furious, and Becky’s feeling rather blue—until her parents deliver some incredible news. She has a long-lost sister! Becky is convinced her sister will be a true soulmate. They’ll go shopping together, drink cappuccinos together, get manicures together. Then Becky meets Jessica and receives the shock of her life. Surely the shopaholic’s own sister can’t hateshopping? Praise for Sophie Kinsella “Kinsella’s heroine is blessed with the resilience of ten women, and her damage-limitation brain waves are always good for a giggle.”—Glamour (U.K.)
“Kinsella has a genuine gift for comic writing.”—The Boston Globe
“Kinsella’s Bloomwood is plucky and funny. . . . You won’t have to shop around to find a more winning protagonist.”—People
“Faster than a swiping Visa, more powerful than a two-for-one coupon, able to buy complete wardrobes in a single sprint through the mall—it’s Shopaholic!”—The Washington Post
Under the Cover
An excerpt from Shopaholic & Sister
OK. I CAN do this. No problem.
It’s simply a matter of letting my higher self take over, achieving enlightenment, and becoming a radiant being of white light.
Surreptitiously I adjust myself on my yoga mat so I’m facing the sun directly, and push down the spaghetti straps of my top. I don’t see why you can’t reach ultimate-bliss consciousness and get an even tan at the same time.
I’m sitting on a hillside in the middle of Sri Lanka at the Blue Hills Resort and Spiritual Retreat, and the view is spectacular. Hills and tea plantations stretch ahead, then merge into a deep blue sky. I can see the bright colors of tea pickers in the fields, and if I swivel my head a little, I can glimpse a distant elephant padding slowly along between the bushes.
And when I turn my head still further, I can see Luke. My husband. He’s the one on the blue yoga mat, in the cutoff linen trousers and tatty old top, sitting cross-legged with his eyes closed.
I know. It’s just unbelievable. After ten months of honeymoon, Luke has turned into a totally different person from the man I married. The old corporate Luke has vanished. The suits have disappeared. He’s tanned and lean, his hair is long and sun-bleached, and he’s still got a few of the little plaits he had put in on Bondi Beach. Round his wrist is a beaded bracelet he got in Tanzania, and in his ear is a tiny silver hoop.
Luke Brandon with an earring! Luke Brandon sitting cross-legged!
As though he can feel my gaze, he opens his eyes and smiles, and I beam back happily. Ten months married. And not a single row.
Well. You know. Only the odd little one.
“Siddhasana,” says our yoga teacher, Chandra. He’s a tall, thin man in baggy white yoga trousers, and he always speaks in a soft, patient voice. “Clear your minds of all extraneous thought.”
Around me I’m aware of the eight or nine others in the group moving into position on their mats. Obediently I place my right foot on my left thigh.
OK. Clear my mind. Concentrate.
I don’t want to boast, but I find clearing my mind pretty easy. I don’t quite get why anyone would find it difficult! I mean, not thinking has to be a lot easier than thinking, doesn’t it?
In fact, the truth is, I’m a bit of a natural at yoga. We’ve only been on this retreat for five days but already I can do the Lotus and everything! I was even thinking I might set up as a yoga teacher when we go back home.
Maybe I could set up a partnership with Trudie Styler, I think in sudden excitement. God, yes! And we could launch a range of yoga wear, too, all soft grays and whites, with a little logo—
“Focus on your breathing,” Chandra is saying.
Oh, right. Yes. Breathing.
Breathe in . . . breathe out. Breathe in . . . breathe out. Breathe—
God, my nails look fab. I had them done at the spa—little pink butterflies on a white background. And the antennae are little diamonds. They are so sweet. Except one seems to have fallen off. I must get that fixed—
“Becky.” Chandra’s voice makes me jump. He’s standing right there, gazing at me with this look he has. Kind of gentle and all-knowing, like he can see right inside your mind.
“You do very well, Becky,” he says. “You have a beautiful spirit.”
I feel a sparkle of delight all over. I, Rebecca Brandon, née Bloomwood, have a beautiful spirit! I knew it!
“You have an unworldly soul,” he adds in his soft voice, and I stare back, totally mesmerized.
“Material possessions aren’t important to me,” I say breathlessly. “All that matters to me is yoga.”
“You have found your path.” Chandra smiles.
There’s an odd kind of snorting sound coming from Luke’s direction, and I look round to see him looking over at us in amusement.
I knew Luke wasn’t taking this seriously.
“This is a private conversation between me and my guru, thank you very much,” I say crossly.
Although, actually, I shouldn’t be surprised. We were warned about this on the first day of the yoga course. Apparently, when one partner finds higher spiritual enlightenment, the other partner can react with skepticism and even jealousy.
“Soon you will be walking on the hot coals.” Chandra gestures with a smile to the nearby pit of smoldering ashy coals, and a nervous laugh goes round the group. This evening Chandra and some of his top yoga students are going to demonstrate walking on the coals for the rest of us. This is what we’re all supposed to be aiming for. Apparently, you attain a state of bliss so great, you can’t actually feel the coals burning your feet. You’re totally pain free!
What I’m secretly hoping is that it’ll work when I wear six-inch stilettos, too.
Chandra adjusts my arms and moves on, and I close my eyes, letting the sun warm my face. Sitting here on this hillside in the middle of nowhere, I feel so pure and calm. It’s not just Luke who’s changed over the last ten months. I have too. I’ve grown up. My priorities have altered. In fact, I’m a different person. I mean, look at me now, doing yoga at a spiritual retreat. My old friends probably wouldn’t even recognize me!
At Chandra’s instruction, we all move into the Vajrasana pose. From where I am, I can just see an elderly Sri Lankan man carrying two old carpet bags, approaching Chandra. They have a brief conversation, during which Chandra keeps shaking his head, then the old man trudges away over the scrubby hillside. When he’s out of earshot, Chandra turns to face the group, rolling his eyes.
“This man is a merchant. He asks if any of you are interested in gems. Necklaces, cheap bracelets. I tell him your minds are on higher things.”
A few people near me shake their heads as though in disbelief. One woman, with long red hair, looks affronted.
“Couldn’t he see we were in the middle of meditation?” she says.
“He has no understanding of your spiritual devotion.” Chandra looks around the group seriously. “It will be the same with many others in the world. They will not understand that meditation is food for your soul. You have no need for . . . sapphire bracelet!”
A few people nod in appreciation.
“Aquamarine pendant with platinum chain,” Chandra continues dismissively. “How does this compare to the radiance of inner enlightenment?”
Wow. I wonder how much—
I mean, not that I’m interested. Obviously not. It’s just that I happened to be looking at aquamarines in a shop window the other day. Just out of an academic interest.
My eye drifts toward the retreating figure of the old man.
“Three-carat setting, five-carat setting, he keeps saying. All half price.” Chandra shakes his head. “I tell him, these people are not interested.”
Half price? Five-carat aquamarines at half price?
Stop it. Stop it. Chandra’s right. Of course I’m not interested in stupid aquamarines. I’m absorbed in spiritual enlightenment.
Anyway, the old man’s nearly gone now. He’s just a tiny figure on top of the hill. In a minute he’ll have disappeared.
“And now.” Chandra smiles. “The Halasana pose. Becky, will you demonstrate?”
“Absolutely.” I smile at Chandra and prepare to get into position on my mat.
But something’s wrong. I don’t feel contentment. I don’t feel tranquillity. The oddest feeling is welling up inside me, driving everything else out. It’s getting stronger and stronger . . .
And suddenly I can’t contain it anymore. Before I know what’s happening, I’m running in my bare feet as fast as I can up the hill toward the tiny figure. My lungs are burning, my feet are smarting, and the sun’s beating down on my bare head, but I don’t stop until I’ve reached the crest of the hill. I come to a halt and look around, panting.
I don’t believe it. He’s gone. Where did he vanish to?
I stand for a few moments, regaining my breath, peering in all directions. But I can’t see him anywhere.
At last, feeling a little dejected, I turn and make my way back down the hillside to the group. As I get near I realize they’re all shouting and waving at me. Oh God. Am I in trouble?
“You did it!” the red-haired woman’s yelling. “You did it!”
“You ran over the hot coals! You did it, Becky!”
I look down at my feet . . . and I don’t believe it. They’re covered in gray ash! In a daze, I look at the pit of coals—and there’s a set of clear footprints running through it.
Oh my God. Oh my God! I ran over the coals! I ran over the burning hot smoldering coals! I did it!
“But . . . but I didn’t even notice!” I say, bewildered. “My feet aren’t even burned!”
“How did you do it?” demands the red-haired woman. “What was in your mind?”
“I can answer.” Chandra comes forward, smiling. “Becky has achieved the highest form of karmic bliss. She was concentrating on one goal, one pure image, and this has driven her body to achieve a supernatural state.”
Everyone is goggling at me like I’m suddenly the Dalai Lama.
“It was nothing, really,” I say, with a modest smile. “Just . . . you know. Spiritual enlightenment.”
“Can you describe the image?” asks the red-haired woman in excitement.
“Was it white?” someone else chimes in.
“Not really white . . .” I say.
“Was it a kind of shiny blue green?” comes Luke’s voice from the back. I look up sharply. He’s gazing at me, totally straight-faced.
“I don’t remember,” I say with dignity. “The color wasn’t important.”
“Did it feel like . . .” Luke appears to think hard. “Like the links of a chain were pulling you along?”
“That’s a very good image, Luke,” chimes in Chandra, pleased.
“No,” I say shortly. “It didn’t. Actually, I think you probably have to have a higher appreciation of spiritual matters to understand.”
“I see.” Luke nods gravely.
“Luke, you must be very proud.” Chandra beams at Luke. “Is this not the most extraordinary thing you have ever seen your wife do?”
There’s a beat of silence. Luke looks from me to the smoldering coals to the silent group and back to Chandra’s beaming face.
“Chandra,” he says. “Take it from me. This is nothing.”
After the class is finished everyone heads to the terrace, where cool drinks are waiting on a tray. But I stay on my mat, meditating, to show how dedicated I am to higher things. I’m half concentrating on the white light of my being and half imagining running over hot coals in front of Trudie and Sting while they applaud admiringly, when a shadow falls across my face.
“Greetings, O Spiritual One,” says Luke, and I open my eyes to see him standing in front of me, holding out a glass of juice.
“You’re just jealous because you don’t have a beautiful inner being,” I retort, and casually smooth back my hair so the red dot painted on my forehead shows.
“Insanely,” agrees Luke. “Have a drink.”
He sits down beside me on the ground and hands me the glass. I take a sip of delicious, ice-cold passion-fruit juice and we both look out over the hills toward the distant horizon.
“You know, I could really live in Sri Lanka,” I say with a sigh. “It’s perfect. The weather . . . the scenery . . . all the people are so friendly . . .”
“You said the same in India,” Luke points out. “And Australia,” he adds as I open my mouth. “And Amsterdam.”
God, Amsterdam. I’d completely forgotten we went there. That was after Paris. Or was it before?
Oh, yes. It was where I ate all those weird cakes and nearly fell in the canal.
I take another sip of juice and let my mind range back over the last ten months. We’ve visited so many countries, it’s kind of difficult to remember everything at once. It’s almost like a blur of film, with sharp, bright images here and there. Snorkeling with all those blue fish in the Great Barrier Reef . . . the pyramids in Egypt . . . the elephant safari in Tanzania . . . buying all that silk in Hong Kong . . . the gold souk in Morocco . . . finding that amazing Ralph Lauren outlet in Utah . . .
God, we’ve had some experiences. I sigh happily and take another sip of juice.
“I forgot to tell you.” Luke produces a pile of envelopes. “Some post came from England.”
I sit up in excitement and start leafing through the envelopes.
“Vogue!” I exclaim as I get to my special subscriber edition in its shiny plastic cover. “Ooh, look! They’ve got an Angel bag on the front cover!”
I wait for a reaction—but Luke looks blank. I feel a tiny flicker of frustration. How can he look blank? I read him out that whole piece about Angel bags last month, and showed him the pictures and everything.
I know this is our honeymoon. But just sometimes, I wish Luke was a girl.
“You know!” I say. “Angel bags! The most amazing, hip bags since . . . since . . .”
Oh, I’m not even going to bother explaining. Instead I gaze lustfully at the photograph of the bag. It’s made of soft, creamy tan calfskin, with a transparent resin handle and discreet zipper. But what makes it unique is the beautiful winged angel hand-painted on the front, with the name Gabriel underneath in diamanté. There are six different angels: Gabriel, Michael, Dante, Raphael, Uriel, and Ariel. All the celebrities have been fighting over them, and Harrods is permanently sold out. holy phenomenon says the headline beside the picture.
I’m so engrossed, I barely hear Luke’s voice as he holds out another envelope.
“Ooze,” he seems to be saying.
“Sorry?” I look up in a daze.
“Here’s another letter,” he says patiently. “From Suze.”
“Suze?” I drop Vogue and grab it out of his hand. Suze is my best friend in the world. I have so missed her.
The envelope is all thick and creamy white and has a crest on the back with a Latin motto. I always forget how totally grand Suze is. When she sent us a Christmas card it was a picture of her husband Tarquin’s castle in Scotland with from the cleath-stuart estate printed inside. (Except you could hardly read it because her one-year-old, Ernie, had covered it with red and blue fingerpaints.)
I tear it open and a stiff card falls out.
“It’s an invitation!” I exclaim. “To the christening of the twins.”
I gaze at the formal, swirly engraving, feeling a slight pang. Wilfrid and Clementine Cleath-Stuart. Suze has had two more babies and I haven’t even seen them. They must be about two months old by now. I wonder what they look like. I wonder how Suze is doing. So much has been going on without us.
I turn the card over and see that Suze has scrawled a message.
I know you won’t be able to come, but thought you’d like it anyway. . . . Hope you’re still having a wonderful time!
All our love, Suzexxx
PS Ernie loves his Chinese outfit, thank you so much!
“It’s in two weeks,” I say, showing Luke the card. “Shame, really. We won’t be able to go.”
“No,” agrees Luke. “We won’t.”
There’s a short silence. Then Luke meets my eye. “I mean . . . you’re not ready to go back yet, are you?” he says casually.
“No!” I say at once. “Of course not!”
We’ve been traveling for only ten months, and we planned to be away for at least a year. Plus, we’ve got the spirit of the road in our feet now. Maybe we’ll never be able to go back to normal life, like sailors who can’t go back and live on the land.
I put the invitation back in its envelope and take a sip of my drink. I wonder how Mum and Dad are. I haven’t heard much from them recently. In fact, the last time I called home, they both seemed a bit distracted. Mum hardly listened to my story about the elephant orphanage, and before I could ask Dad how he did in the golf tournament, he said he had to go.
And little Ernie will be walking by now. I’m his godmother and I’ve never even seen him walk.
Anyway. Never mind. I’m having amazing world experiences instead.
“We need to decide where to go next,” says Luke, leaning back on his elbows. “After we finish the yoga course. We were talking about Malaysia.”
“Yes,” I say, after a pause. It must be the heat or something, but I can’t actually get up much enthusiasm for Malaysia.
“Or back to Indonesia? Up to the northern bits?”
“Mmm,” I say noncommittally. “Oh look, a monkey.”
I cannot believe I’ve gotten so blasé about the sight of monkeys. The first time I saw those baboons in Kenya I was so excited I took about six rolls of film. Now it’s just, “Oh look, a monkey.”
“Or Nepal . . . or back to Thailand . . .”
“Or we could go back,” I hear myself saying out of nowhere.
How weird. I didn’t intend to say that. I mean, obviously we’re not going to go back yet. It hasn’t even been a year!
Luke sits up straight and looks at me.
“No!” I say with a little laugh. “I’m just joking!” I hesitate. “Although . . .” There’s a still silence between us.
“Maybe . . . we don’t have to travel for a year,” I say tentatively. “If we don’t want to.”
Luke passes a hand through his hair, and the little beads on his plaits all click together.
“Are we ready to go back?” he says.
“I don’t know.” I feel a little thrill of trepidation. “Are we?”
I can hardly believe we’re even talking about going home. I mean, look at us! My hair’s all dry and sun-bleached, I’ve got henna on my feet, and I haven’t worn a proper pair of shoes for months.
An image comes to my mind of me walking down a London street in a coat and boots. Shiny high-heeled boots by L.K. Bennett. And a matching handbag.
Suddenly I feel a wave of longing so strong I almost want to cry.
“I think I’ve had enough of the world.” I look at Luke. “I’m ready for real life.”
“Me too.” Luke takes my hand and weaves his fingers between mine. “I’ve been ready for a while, actually.”
“You never said!” He seemed so into it! I’ve never had an inkling he’s been bored.
“I didn’t want to break up the party. But I’m certainly ready.”
“You would have kept traveling . . . just for me?” I say, touched.
“Well, it’s not exactly hardship.” Luke looks at me wryly. “We’re hardly roughing it, are we?”
I feel a slight flush come to my cheeks. When we set off on this trip, I told Luke I was determined we were going to be real travelers, like in The Beach, and sleep only in little huts.
That was before I’d spent a night in a little hut.
“So when we say ‘back’ ”—Luke pauses—“we are talking London?”
He looks at me questioningly.
Oh God. Finally, it’s decision time.
We’ve been talking for ten months about where we should live after the honeymoon. Before we got married, Luke and I were living in New York. And I loved it. But I kind of missed home, too. And now Luke’s U.K. business is expanding into more of Europe, and that’s where all the excitement is. So he’d like to go back to London, at least for a while.
Which is fine . . . except I won’t have a job. My old job was as a personal shopper at Barneys New York. And I adored it.
But never mind. I’m bound to find a new job. An even better one!
“London,” I say decisively, and look up. “So . . . can we be back in time for the christening?”
“If you like.” Luke smiles, and I feel a sudden leap of exhilaration. We’re going to the christening! I’m going to see Suze again! And my mum and dad! After nearly a year! They’ll all be so excited to see us. We’ll have so many stories to tell them!
I have a sudden vision of myself presiding over candlelit supper parties with all my friends gathered round, listening avidly to tales of faraway lands and exotic adventures. I’ll be just like Marco Polo or someone! Then I’ll open my trunk to reveal rare and precious treasures . . . everyone will gasp in admiration—
“We’d better let them know,” says Luke, getting up.
“No, wait,” I say, grabbing his trousers. “I’ve had an idea. Let’s surprise them! Let’s surprise everybody!”
“Surprise everybody?” Luke looks doubtful. “Becky, are you sure that’s a good idea?”
“It’s a brilliant idea! Everyone loves a surprise!”
“But . . .”
“Everyone loves a surprise,” I repeat confidently. “Trust me.”
We walk back through the gardens to the main hotel—and I do feel a slight twinge at the thought of leaving. It’s so beautiful here. All teak bungalows and amazing birds everywhere, and if you follow the stream through the grounds, there’s a real waterfall! We pass the wood-carving center, where you can watch craftsmen at work, and I pause for a moment, inhaling the delicious scent of wood.
“Mrs. Brandon!” The head craftsman, Vijay, has appeared at the entrance.
Damn. I didn’t know he’d be around.
“Sorry, Vijay!” I say quickly. “I’m in a bit of a hurry. I’ll see you later. . . . Come on, Luke!”
“No problem!” Vijay beams and wipes his hands on his apron. “I just wanted to tell you that your table is ready.”
Slowly Luke turns to look at me.
“Table?” he says.
“Your dining table,” says Vijay in happy tones. “And ten chairs. I show you! We display the work!” He snaps his fingers and barks some orders and suddenly, to my dismay, about eight men troop out, carrying a huge carved teak table on their shoulders.
Wow. It’s a tad bigger than I remembered.
Luke looks absolutely stunned.
“Bring the chairs!” Vijay is bossing the men. “Set it up properly!”
“Isn’t it lovely?” I say in superbright tones.
“You ordered a dining table and ten chairs . . . without telling me?” says Luke, goggling as the chairs arrive.
OK. I don’t have many options here.
“It’s . . . my wedding present to you!” I say with sudden inspiration. “It’s a surprise! Happy wedding, darling!” I plant a kiss on his cheek and smile hopefully up at him.
“Becky, you already gave me a wedding present,” says Luke, folding his arms. “And our wedding was a fairly long time ago now.”
“I’ve been . . . saving it up!” I lower my voice so Vijay can’t hear. “And honestly, it isn’t that expensive . . .”
“Becky, it’s not the money. It’s the space! This thing’s a monstrosity!”
“It’s not that big. And anyway,” I quickly add before he can reply, “we need a good table! Every marriage needs a good table.” I spread my arms widely. “After all, what is marriage about if not sitting down at the table at the end of the day and sharing all our problems? What is marriage, if not sitting together at a solid wooden table and . . . and eating a bowl of hearty stew?”
“Hearty stew?” echoes Luke. “Who’s going to make hearty stew?”
“We can buy it at Waitrose,” I explain.
I come round the table and look up at him earnestly. “Luke, think about it. We’ll never again be in Sri Lanka with authentic wood-carvers right in front of us. This is a unique opportunity. And I’ve had it personalized!”
I point to the panel of wood running down the side of the table. There, beautifully carved in among the flowers, are the words Luke and Rebecca, Sri Lanka, 2003.
Luke runs a hand over the table. He feels the weight of one of the chairs. I can see him relenting. Then suddenly he looks up with a slight frown.
“Becky, is there anything else you’ve bought that you haven’t told me about?”
I feel a nervous flip inside, which I disguise by pretending to examine one of the carved flowers.
“Of course not!” I say at last. “Or . . . you know. Maybe just the odd little souvenir along the way. Just here and there.”
“I can’t remember!” I exclaim. “It’s been ten months, for goodness’ sake!” I look at the table again. “Come on, Luke, you must love it. We can have fantastic dinner parties . . . and it’ll be an heirloom! We can hand it down to our children—”
I break off a bit awkwardly. For a moment I can’t quite look at Luke.
A few months ago we had this huge big discussion and decided that we’d like to try for a baby. But so far nothing’s happened.
I mean, not that it’s a big deal or anything. It will happen. Of course it will.
“All right,” says Luke, his voice a little gentler. “You’ve won me over.” He gives the table a pat, then looks at his watch. “I’m going to e-mail the office, tell them about our change of plans.” He gives me a wry look. “Presumably you weren’t expecting me to burst open the door of the boardroom and yell ‘Surprise, I’m back!’?”
“Of course not!” I retort, barely missing a beat.
That is, actually, kind of what I’d pictured. Except I’d be there too, with a bottle of champagne and maybe some party poppers.
“I’m not quite that stupid,” I add witheringly.
“Good.” Luke grins at me. “Why don’t you order us some drinks and I’ll be out in a moment.”
As I sit down at a table on the shady terrace, I’m just a tad preoccupied. I’m trying to remember all the things I’ve bought and had shipped home without telling Luke.
I mean, I’m not worried or anything. It can’t be that much stuff. Can it?
Oh God. I close my eyes, trying to remember.
There were the wooden giraffes in Malawi. The ones Luke said were too big. Which is just ridiculous. They’ll look amazing! Everyone will admire them!
And there was all that gorgeous batik art in Bali. Which I did intend to tell him about . . . but then kind of never got round to it.
And there were the twenty Chinese silk dressing gowns.
Which . . . OK, I know twenty sounds like quite a lot. But they were such a bargain! Luke just didn’t seem to understand my point that if we bought twenty now, they would last us a lifetime and be a real investment. For someone who works in financial PR, he can be a bit slow off the mark sometimes.
So I snuck back to the shop and bought them anyway, and had them shipped home.
The thing is, shipping just makes everything so easy. You don’t have to lug anything about—you just point and ship: “I’d like that shipped, please. And that. And that.” And you give them your card and off it goes, and Luke never even sees it. . . .
Maybe I should have kept a list.
Anyway, it’s fine. I’m sure it’s fine.
And, I mean, we want a few souvenirs, don’t we? What’s the point of going round the world and coming back empty-handed? Exactly.
I see Chandra walking past the terrace and give him a friendly wave.
“You did very well in class today, Becky!” he says, and comes over to the table. “And now I would like to ask you something. In two weeks’ time I am leading an advanced meditation retreat. The others are mainly monks and long-term yoga practitioners, but I feel you have the commitment to join us. Would you be interested?”
“I’d love to!” Then I pull a regretful face. “But I can’t. Luke and I are going home!”
“Home?” Chandra looks shocked. “But . . . you are doing so well. You are not going to abandon the path of yoga?”
“Oh no,” I say reassuringly. “Don’t worry. I’ll buy a video.”
As Chandra walks off, he looks a little shell-shocked. Which actually, isn’t surprising. He probably didn’t even realize you could get yoga videos. He certainly didn’t seem to have heard of Geri Halliwell.
A waiter appears and I order a beer for Luke, plus a mango and papaya cocktail, which in the menu is called Happy Juice. Well, that just about suits me. Here I am in the sunshine, on my honeymoon, about to have a surprise reunion with all the people I love. Everything’s perfect!
I look up to see Luke approaching the table, holding his handheld computer. Is it my imagination, or is he walking faster and looking more animated than he has for months?
“OK,” he says. “I’ve spoken to the office.”
“Is everything all right?”
“It certainly is.” He seems full of a suppressed energy. “It’s going very well. In fact, I want to set up a couple of meetings for the end of this week.”
“That was quick!” I say in astonishment.
Blimey. I’d thought it would take about a week just to get ourselves organized.
“But I know how much you’re getting out of this yoga retreat,” he adds. “So what I propose is that I go on ahead, and you join me later . . . and then we return to Britain together.”
“So, where are your meetings?” I say, confused.
The waiter appears with my Happy Juice and Luke’s beer.
“But I don’t want to be separated from you!” I say as the waiter retreats. “This is our honeymoon!”
“We have had ten solid months together . . .” Luke gently points out.
“I know. But still . . .” I take a disconsolate sip of Happy Juice. “Where are you going in Italy?”
“Nowhere exciting,” Luke says after a pause. “Just a . . . northern Italian city. Very dull. I recommend you stay here. Enjoy the sunshine.”
“Well . . .” I look around, feeling torn. It is pretty nice here. “Which city?”
“Milan,” Luke says reluctantly.
“Milan?” I nearly fall off my chair with excitement. “You’re going to Milan? I’ve never been to Milan! I’d love to go to Milan!”
“No,” says Luke. “Really?”
“Yes! Definitely! It’s the fashion capital of the world! I mean, it’s got Prada . . . and Dolce—” I break off as I catch his expression. “And . . . er . . . it’s a place of great cultural interest which no modern traveler should miss. Luke, I have to come.”
“OK.” Luke shakes his head ruefully. “I must be mad, but OK.”
Elated, I lean back in my chair and take a big slurp of Happy Juice. This honeymoon just gets better and better!
Sophie Kinsella is the author of the bestselling Shopaholic series as well as the novels Can You Keep a Secret?, The Undomestic Goddess, Remember Me?, Twenties Girl, I’ve Got Your Number, Wedding Night, My Not So Perfect Life, and, most recently, Surprise Me. She lives between London and the country.