Authors: Lauren Weisberger
Helene noticed. “Here, come with me. I'll introduce you.”
The women walked down a long white hallway lined with street artâinspired paintings and down a winding staircase. Another hallway, this one covered with graffiti, led to a set of glass French doors. Inside she could see Rizzo in a set of boxing gloves, furiously punching a red bag that hung from the ceiling. A beautiful girl wearing only hot pants and a fuchsia sports bra hopped around yelling at him.
Helene rapped on the door. Both Rizzo and the girl glanced up but didn't stop punching or jumping.
“Riz? Can you take a break for a minute? There's someone I'd like to introduce you to.”
Emily should have been staring at his sweaty, shirtless, six-packed chest, but her eyes were immediately drawn to the trainer, whose sports bra featured a cutout all along its band, resulting in two inches of below-the-nipple bare breasts bulging out, threatening to emerge from their flimsy cover at any moment. It was so interesting, Emily thought, to wear a sports braâwhich by definition was supposed to contain and support one's breastsâand then cut away most of the fabric that would actually do either one of those things. She suddenly felt ancient.
“Hey, great work, Riz,” the girl said, swatting him on the ass with a towel. Her breasts heaved. Emily noticed she wasn't alone in staring at themâRizzo and Helene were captivated too.
“Thanks, baby. See you tomorrow.” Rizzo yanked the towel out of her hand and draped it around his neck. All three of them watched as the girl grabbed her duffel and her boxing gloves and walked toward the door.
“Damn,” Rizzo breathed as he stared after her.
“Hey, Rizzo? I'm Emily Charlton. Helene brought me in to help manage theÂ .Â .Â . situation from last night. It's really nice to meet you.”
His eyes met hers, and for a split second Emily was torn between feeling like the only woman in the world and feeling like a complete pedophile for finding an eighteen-year-old so damn sexy. No one had eyes like that; could that shade of green even be real?
“Hey, thanks for coming. Very cool of you, but I do think Helene is overreacting a little.”
Rizzo twisted open a bottle of SmartWater and drank the entire thirty-four ounces without taking a breath. Helene gave Emily a look that said,
Why don't you take this one
“I'm sure you didn't mean anythingÂ .Â .Â . nefarious by it, Rizzo, but especially after what happened in Charlottesville last year, the public tends to make a pretty big deal out of anti-Semitism, which is typically how wearing a Nazi costume is interpreted. So we should definitely get out in front of this.”
He waved his hand and started on another bottle. “All just for laughs. People get it. My fans get it.”
Emily took a deep breath and tried to keep her voice even. “Okay, maybe. But some fans might not. The Jewish ones in particular. Or anyone who was not in favor of the Holocaust, which is probably a lot of people. Certainly your sponsorsâUniqlo, Lexus, SmartWaterâwon't be thrilled. And I don't imagine Sony will be either. So I've come up with a plan to extricate you from all this ugliness. One hundred percent clean, a do-over. As long as you listen and play your part well, this will all go away, I promise.”
Rizzo didn't appear particularly impressed, but he looked at her and waited.
“I'll call all my contacts at the usuals: the
, etcetera, and explain how you thought the swastika was an ancient Buddhist symbol of peace. We'll play the idiot card. Just a role, but important to play up: you're young and inexperienced and horrified that you offended anyone. You read about the symbol in a Buddhist text you were studying for a meditation class and really connected with its peaceful message.”
“Young and inexperienced?”
“You're not, of course,” Emily said. “That's just the part you're going to play.” When he didn't say anything, she continued, “You will
make yourself available for all respectable interviews, where you'll be contrite and apologetic. You'll make a massive donation to the ADL. You'll pay a very public visit to the Holocaust Museum in D.C., where you'll meet with Jewish clergy and issue a formal statement stressing that this was all a mistake and a misunderstanding and not at all representative of who you are. You'll repeat it a thousand times, or however many it takes, with genuine sincerity, until the story shifts gears and you suddenly become a champion of peace and a defender of persecuted peoples everywhere. Trust me, we can get there so long as we all follow the script.”
“That's smart,” Helene said, nodding. “Emily's plan sounds like exactly what we need.”
Rizzo snorted. “Really? I think it sounds asinine. I'm supposed to go out there and pretend like I'm some sort of idiot?”
Emily could feel Helene trying just as hard as she was not to exchange any glances.
“I mean, this is all such bullshit. Total overkill.”
“Do you have another suggestion?” Emily asked, her voice as neutral as she could manage. He really was as huge a fucking idiot as she'd imagined he would be.
“Yeah, dude, I'll post an explanationâthat I was just having fun on New Year's and never wanted to piss anyone off. I mean, I don't have anything against Jews. My agent is Jewish. My accountant is Jewish. Hell,
of my lawyers are Jewish. My fans know I'm not a hater.”
“Rizzo, I can't express strongly enough that the best response is definitely
âsome of my best friends are Jewish,'â” Emily said. “I really don't think you can get away with Snapchatting a âmy bad' and expect it all to go away. Because it won't.”
“If I post it to Linger, that's exactly what will happen.”
Emily had no idea what Linger was, but she wasn't about to admit it. “Rizzo, this is what I do. Affleck after the nanny. Bieber after the wanker pictures. Kevin Spacey after the fourteen-year-old. DUIs. Drunken
rants at cops. Political rants at Oscars. Shoplifting. More sex tapes than I could ever count. I can
“Cool,” he said. “I'll think about it and get back to you.” And before Emily could mask her shock, he strolled out of the gym and closed the door behind him.
Emily looked to Helene, who shrugged. “He's just like that,” she said. “He knows you're right.”
“Really? I didn't get that impression. And this isn't something that can wait. I've already seen the pictures on Radar Online. Has he?”
“I know, I totally agree with you. Let me talk to him after he cools down, and I'll call you. You'll be local?”
Emily nodded, although she hadn't given one moment's thought as to where she was headed next. She'd come directly from JFK with her suitcase, figuring she'd be working out of Rizzo's apartment for the rest of the day and night, at which point she'd check in to a hotel. But now? With no confirmed job?
Helene walked her to the foyer, and the maid appeared with Emily's rolling suitcase. “Thank you for coming on such short notice. I'll call you within the hour, okay?”
But Emily's phone rang before the elevator reached the lobby. “That was fast.”
“I'm really sorry, Emily, but I wanted to tell you right away. He wants toÂ .Â .Â . go in a different direction.”
“A different direction? What, is he planning to join the KKK? Because even I would have a hard time smoothing that one over.”
Helene didn't laugh. “I told him you were the absolute best, but he wants to go with Olivia Belle. Apparently she called him this morning and he liked what she had to say. I can't tell you how sorry I am. We'll of course cover your flight and time, just invoice me.”
“Are you serious?” Emily asked, not able to help herself.
“I think he's making a mistake, and I told him as much. But if he listened to me, we wouldn't be in this situation.”
“No, I get it,” Emily said, even though she didn't. She mumbled something about talking later and hung up as soon as she could. Thankfully, the lobby furniture was both welcoming and empty, because she sank into an armchair without even looking.
Olivia Belle? If that was even her real name. Was he fucking kidding?
She was a child
. Granted, one with an Instagram following of more than two million people, compared to Emily's twenty thousand. But still. Instagram didn't fix crises. Followers didn't manage mega-celebrities. Tweeting was not a sufficient solution to a catastrophe.
Still, this was the third big job she'd lost to that bitch. Olivia Belle was twenty-six and gorgeous and popping up at every worthwhile party and event on both coasts. She was loud. And all over every social-media platform. And moving in on Emily's clients as if she owned the industry.
Emily started dialing Kyle before she remembered it was New Year's Day. She could call Miles, she supposed, but he was probably working out or hanging with friends. Instead she pushed “Miriam” on her favorites list and laughed, as she always did, when a picture of her friend grinning in the dorkiest way popped up on her screen.
“Hi!” Miriam said. Kids were yelling in the background. “Isn't it early for you to be awake? What, like noon?”
“I'm in New York, actually. I hate that you left the city. Why didn't you think about me for one second when you made this asinine decision to be a suburban housewife?”
“Aw, sweetie. I miss you too!”
“I'm serious. I'm here, what? Like, twice a month? And you just left.”
Miriam laughed. “I'm thirty minutes away, Em. There are trains that come here, like, every five seconds. How long are you staying? I'll come meet you tomorrow as soon as the kids are back in school.”
“I don't know. I just got fired by Rizzo Benz. Or not ever even hired, I'm not sure which. Olivia Belle is ruining my life.”
“She's a child. She doesn't have anything on you. And Rizzo Benz is an idiot for thinking she does.”
“Three jobs now. And that's not even counting the other two I lost to her last year. Whatever,” Emily said, glaring back at the doorman, who shot her a look for cursing or talking too loudly or using the lobby like her personal office or all of the above.
“How many times has Miranda called you now?”
“I cannot go back to
!” Emily blurted.
“Director of special events sure sounds huge to me.”
“I know, but I'd feel ridiculous going back. New York, sure. But to give up my autonomy? I decide where and when and how I work, for whom, and how much. It feels like the wrong move to give that up and go back where I started.”
“I hear you. But it's Miranda Priestly. Think of the wardrobe budget. The partiesÂ .Â .Â . It's the job a million girls would die forÂ .Â .Â .”
“You did not just say that.”
“Sorry, I couldn't help myself.”
Emily heard a loud crash in the background, followed by crying. “Which monster is that? I'll let you go.”
“Matthew! How many times do I have to tell you that you may not touch the fireplace poker? It's not a toy!” And then to Emily in a whisper, “Sorry. He can be such an asshole.”
Emily smiled. Anyone who could call her adorable five-year-old an asshole was someone she wanted to be friends with.
“Em? If you really have nothing to do, why don't you come here? We have a guest suite with your name on it. Totally sequestered, up on the third floor, with no children anywhere nearby. Stay a night. Or as long as you like. I'll text you the train information.”
“The train?” Emily spat, as though Miriam had just suggested she walk from Tribeca to Greenwich.
“Everyone takes it, love. It's not just for unstylish people.”
Emily harrumphed. “Fine. I'll come. I can't bear to get on a plane
right away. And of course I'd like to see those rug rats of yours. But only one night,” she said, and clicked her phone off before she could change her mind. Then she swiped it open once more and punched her location into the Uber app. Emily Charlton might be a washed-up, middle-aged Luddite, but she most definitely did
take the train.
s the door quietly closed behind her, Miriam surveyed the tangle of toys in the garage that, in New York, her children hadn't even known existedâbikes, sleds, skis, Rollerblades, scooters, even an old-fashioned wooden wagonâand smiled. They were so lucky to live in a place like this, and even six months in, she didn't take it for granted.
The mudroom, as usual, looked like a hurricane had hit, with overflowing cubbies of puffers and mittens, raincoats and hats and snow boots and scarves and umbrellas, and the kitchen after breakfast always looked like a starving rabid raccoon had nosed its way into every single cabinet and drawer.
“Hey,” Miriam heard from the couch before she could see the source of the voice.
“Em?” she asked, although she knew full well that was the only
person who would be watching
in the family room on a Tuesday morning. Emily had been with them for three days now, poring over gossip sites and newspaper articles about Rizzo Benz and Olivia Belle; she showed no signs of leaving. “Thanks for cleaning upâyou shouldn't have.”
“What?” Emily turned and glanced at the kitchen. Miriam could see she was in a ratty T-shirt that read
BUT FIRST, COFFEE,
and a borrowed pair of Miriam's flannel pajama pants that looked like they were three sizes too big. An open laptop sat on the couch beside her. “Oh, I wasn't getting near that disaster. Please. Don't you have someone to handle that?”
Miriam rolled her eyes and stuck a pod in the machine. “Do you want a coffee?”
“Are you coming from actually working out?” Emily asked. “Or are Lululemons considered getting dressed around here?”