Gloss by Marilyn Kaye – Extract

Gloss

Sherry Ann Forrester knew the rules. Among the many social guidelines that had been drummed into her since childhood was this fixed decree: a lady maintained an air of composure, whatever the circumstances. And by the age of eighteen Sherry considered herself an expert at putting on the right face for every situation, no matter what she might be feeling.

Last year, when her name had been called as a finalist in the Miss Teen Georgia pageant, she’d been able to look simply pleased and humble rather than thrilled to bits. When she only placed second runner-up in the final round, all anyone could see was her happiness for the new queen, despite the fact that she disliked the girl intensely and believed the well-endowed baton-twirler had only won through family connections and some shameless flirtation with a judge.

Soon after that, at the funeral of her beloved grandfather, she’d presented the perfect picture of the dignified mourner, sorrowful and grieving, but still able to greet guests in the church with a sad smile, even as she fought back the urge to throw herself on the coffin and sob hysterically.

And less than a month ago, when she was declared Senior Prom Queen in the high-school gymnasium, she was able to appear completely and utterly surprised. She widened her eyes, her mouth dropped open slightly and she put a hand over her heart, as if she was overwhelmed emotionally. No fake tears though. It was just enough and not too much. No one could have guessed that her best friend, one of the vote counters, had alerted her well in advance of her imminent coronation.

And today, as she and the seven other interns were taken on a tour of the Gloss magazine offices, she assumed a calm air of avid interest without gaping or gawking. But there came a point when her carefully honed restraint was seriously challenged.

‘And this . . .’ Miss Caroline Davison, the managing editor, paused at a door. Flourishing an invisible magic wand with one hand, she turned the knob with the other.

‘This is the famous Gloss samples closet.’

Sherry joined the others in a collective gasp which became something close to a shriek of pure and utter amazement. First of all, it wasn’t a closet, it was a room three times the size of the largest office the interns had seen. And its contents were beyond belief.

Miss Davison had to raise her voice to be heard over all the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’.

‘It’s where we keep all the items sent to us by designers and clothing companies in the hope that we’ll feature them in the magazine. What you see before you is a good representative sample of the apparel industry.’

That was an understatement, Sherry thought. She’d call it fashion paradise. Dresses, skirts, gowns, blouses, trousers and coats hung from the rods. On the shelves lay shoes and handbags, mounds of sweaters and a large glass case containing jewellery. She tried to catch the eye of her roommate, but Donna was looking down, as if she was unworthy to feast her eyes upon such gorgeousness.

The girls spread out, and it was interesting to see who was attracted to what. Vicky, the tanned California girl with sun-streaked hair, made a beeline in the direction of a rack of bathing suits. Sweet-faced Ellen from Texas, whose dark hair was adorned with tiny matching bows over each spit curl, was clearly thrilled by a tray of brightly coloured hair ornaments, ribbons and barrettes. Sherry turned her attention to the pale blue two-piece ensemble that had adorned the cover of the March issue. She remembered considering a trip to Atlanta, to see if Rich’s Department Store carried the outfit, but decided that three-quarter sleeves wouldn’t be very wearable in a hot Georgia summer. Of course, that was before she knew for sure that she’d be spending the summer in New York City.

The girl with the perfectly sculpted bouffant on Sherry’s right, Linda, murmured, ‘Do you think they’ll let us wear any of this stuff?’

And Diane, the girl on her left, whispered, ‘Dibs on the blue suit.’

But any hopes they might have were quickly dashed when one platinum-haired intern stepped forward and picked up a low-heeled pump. Examining the sole, she squealed in delight

‘Five and a half! That’s my size.’ Linda spoke into Sherry’s ear. ‘Can you believe that hair?’

Sherry smiled. The girl had clearly gone overboard with peroxide and Sherry was reminded of her little sister’s Bubble Cut Barbie. This girl even had Barbie’s trademark sweep of black liner over her eyes and the doll’s bright pink lips.

‘Five and a half is the standard sample shoe size,’ the editor informed her. ‘But, girls, let me warn you – this isn’t a lending library. These items aren’t for borrowing.’

Pamela – that was the name on the platinum­blonde’s tag – sighed dramatically. ‘Never?’

Miss Davison lips twitched slightly. ‘Rarely, which is almost the same thing. We’ve been known to bend the rules on occasion, but only for some extraordinary event and with special permission. Or when you’re doing something exceptional on behalf of Gloss. And of course the item would have to be returned in pristine condition.’

‘An extraordinary event,’ Pamela repeated. ‘Like what?’

‘Talk about pushy,’ Linda murmured. ‘And that skirt she’s wearing!’

Sherry smiled without commenting. The skirt was awfully tight. And the low-cut blouse wasn’t exactly office attire either.

Sherry had chosen her own first-day-at-Gloss outfit with care and some trepidation. Was her madras skirt outdated? Everyone back home still wore skirts like this, but she hadn’t seen any madras lately in the pages of Gloss. She’d topped it with a navy-blue sleeveless shell, and accessorized with navy tassel loafers and a matching pocketbook. She was relieved to see bare legs in loafers on a couple of other girls, and while no one else wore madras, at least three of them had on print skirts with blouses or shells that picked up one of the colours in the print.

The editor brushed Pamela’s question aside. ‘I don’t think we need to get into that now. We have more important things to go over today. Other questions?’

A petite redhead with a close-cropped pixie cut raised her hand. Sherry thought she too was dressed strangely, in black capri pants and a black-and-white striped T-shirt. She’d never seen anything like that in Gloss.

‘How do you choose which items will go in the magazine?’

That was exactly what Sherry had been wondering. Why hadn’t she spoken up? Of course, she knew why

– it was because well-brought-up Southern girls didn’t call attention to themselves.

Miss Davison nodded at the redhead with approval. ‘That’s a good question, Allison, and one of the main topics we’ll be covering during your apprenticeship. We don’t have time to go into this in any detail now, but I’ll give you an example.’ She turned to Sherry. ‘Do you see that black oblong quilted handbag with the chain handle on the shelf?’

‘Yes, ma’am.’

The response that revealed the region of her upbringing slipped out automatically, and she heard a muffled giggle from one of the other girls. Miss Davison smiled too, but kindly.

‘You can call me Caroline,’ she said.

‘All of us or just Sherry?’ Pamela asked.

Sherry couldn’t help being amused by the girl’s impudence. And the editor actually smiled.

‘All of you, of course. Sherry, pass the bag to me.’

‘Yes –’ This time she caught herself before the ‘ma’am’ could slip out. ‘Yes, Miss Davison – I mean, Caroline.’

She took up the bag and brought it to the editor. The woman held it aloft for all to see. ‘This is a bag that was designed by the great Coco Chanel. Although it’s quite lovely, we decided not to feature it in Gloss, since we didn’t see it as appealing to our readership. As you all know, Gloss is aimed at the American teenager, and this bag is well beyond the means of our readers.’

‘How much is it worth?’ Pamela wanted to know, but the editor was distracted by the appearance of a new figure at the doorway.

‘Hi.’

All the interns turned to the young man, and Sherry wasn’t surprised to see some eyes light up. He was very good-looking, with blond hair, and he was as tanned as Vicky-from-California. A lazy grin revealed deep dimples. For Sherry, he brought to mind the dreamy surfer guys in all those beach movies – more California than New York.

‘The new girls, right?’ He addressed Caroline Davison, but his eyes rested on the younger females.

The editor’s lips tightened for a second. ‘The new interns. Everyone, this is Ricky Hartnell. He’s . . .’ she paused, as if she was trying to come up with some way to explain him. ‘He’s an office assistant.’

Editorial assistant,’ the boy corrected her. ‘At least, I think that’s my title.’

‘We’re very busy right now, Ricky,’ Caroline said briskly. ‘I’m sure you’ll have an opportunity to meet everyone individually later.’

‘Looking forward to it,’ he said with a wink at the girls. ‘See you around, ladies.’

‘Cute,’ Diane whispered in Sherry’s ear.

Sherry nodded, but mentally she added, ‘And he knows it.’ Mama was always warning her about making snap judgements, but in this particular case she felt reasonably sure she her assessment was accurate.

Miss Davison waved them out of the samples closet. ‘This finishes the tour. Since you only arrived yesterday, I’m not planning to keep you here for a full working day. But keep in mind that we’ll be working on a very special issue of Gloss, the annual readers’ issue. You will be representing two million subscribers who depend on Gloss for advice on everything from fashion and beauty to planning for the future. It’s a huge responsibility and I hope you’re ready for it.’

There was a general bobbing of heads. A balding man with glasses passed by, and Caroline called out to him.

‘George, could I have a minute?’

The man frowned. ‘I’m in the middle of something, Caroline.’

‘I’ll be quick. Girls, this is George Simpson, our features editor. George, these are the young women who will be working as summer apprentices.’

His disinterested eyes swept over them. ‘Who can type?’ He nodded at the show of hands. ‘Good. And I assume you’re all familiar with the alphabet, which means you can file.’

‘Mail!’

This announcement came from a tall, dark-haired boy with deep-set eyes. He wore an oversized grey jacket with ‘Hartnell Publications’ embroidered over a pocket, and he was gripping the handles of a cart filled with envelopes and boxes.

‘Leave mine on my desk,’ Mr Simpson told him.

The boy stared at him. ‘I’m sorry, sir, I don’t know your name. I’m new here.’

‘That’s no excuse,’ the man barked. ‘If you’re going to deliver the mail, you need to know to whom you’re delivering it.’

The boy flinched as if he’d been physically attacked. Caroline seemed to take pity on him. ‘This is George Simpson, the features editor,’ she told him. ‘And I’m Caroline Davison, managing editor. All the editors’ names are on their office doors, and everyone in the central room has a name plate on his or her desk. And you are . . . ?’

Sherry could see his Adam’s apple bob before he said, ‘Michael Dillon.’

‘How do you do, Michael. These young women are interns here at Gloss.’

The boy didn’t meet their eyes, but he muttered, ‘Pleased to meet you,’ before continuing to roll his cart down the corridor.

‘Well, now that we’re all great chums, I’ve got work to do,’ Mr Simpson said, and walked away.

Sherry didn’t miss the withering glance Caroline gave him before turning back to the interns. ‘And so do you all. Here’s your first assignment: I want a five­hundred-word review of the film you saw this morning by noon tomorrow. Keep in mind that one review will be selected to appear in the readers’ issue. You can stay here to work at your desk of course, or back at your residence hall if you prefer. You might want to spend the afternoon settling in, or exploring the city, and write your piece tonight. It’s up to you.’

The girls dispersed and headed to the desks they’d been assigned earlier in what was called the bullpen, the large open space filled with rows of desks, where the secretaries and junior staff worked. Linda walked alongside Sherry.

‘Diane and I are going to Times Square. Want to come with?’

It was one of the famous landmarks on Sherry’s must-see list, and she nodded. ‘Sure. Just let me get my stuff together.’

‘We’ll meet you outside, in front of the building,’ Linda said.

Sherry fumbled through the papers on her desk, and in the process she knocked over the pencil holder. As she bent down to retrieve the contents, the good-looking editorial assistant, or whatever his title was, appeared by her side.

‘Need some help?’ he asked.

‘It’s all right,’ she murmured. Of course, a Southern gentleman would have ignored what she said and bent down to pick up the items. Surfer guy did not. But as she rose, she murmured, ‘Thank you anyway.’

‘You’re welcome, Sherry Ann Forrester.’

She stiffened as she realized he was staring at her chest, until she remembered that her name tag was there.

‘First time in New York, Sherry Ann?’

‘Yes, this is my first visit,’ she told him. ‘And it’s just Sherry,’ she added. Which wasn’t quite true. All her life, she’d been called Sherry Ann. But it was so Southern, to have a double first name, that she’d decided to drop the Ann for the summer.

Unfortunately the name tag had been prepared before her arrival. Not to mention the fact that there wasn’t much she could do about her accent.

‘Where are you from?’ he asked.

‘Georgia. North of Atlanta.’

‘So you’re a Southern belle,’ he said with a grin.

Mentally she bemoaned the fact that a Gone with the Wind revival had taken place in movie theatres all across the country just the year before. Every girl who crossed the Mason–Dixon line was now subject to comparison with Scarlett O’Hara. Even the taxi driver who’d brought her from LaGuardia Airport the day before had reacted with a comment when he heard her speak. At the time, she’d thought it was cute. Maybe it was Ricky’s cocky smile that made his remark annoying.

‘No, just an ordinary girl from the South,’ she said lightly.

‘You don’t have a plantation? With cotton fields, and slaves, and a mammy to pick up after you?’ At a desk not far from hers, a dark-skinned secretary looked up sharply.

Sherry tried to keep her tone light. ‘This is 1963, Ricky, not 1863. We don’t live like that any more.’

‘You still talk like it,’ he pointed out. ‘And it’s cute. You’re cute.’

She couldn’t tell if he was flirting or just teasing, and she fought back the automatic instinct to thank him for the compliment.

‘Excuse me,’ she murmured, and stuffed the papers in her handbag.

The other interns had all taken off by then, but as she passed through the swinging doors into the hallway she spotted the blonde bombshell waiting by the bank of elevators. She knew how Pamela would be labelled back home. In a picture dictionary, she would be the illustration for a ‘skag’, the word of the moment for a girl with a less-than-sterling reputation. The bleached hair, the revealing top (which Sherry strongly suspected covered a pair of falsies), the way she jiggled when she walked, which indicated the absence of a girdle.

But she wasn’t back home, and she was going to have to get accustomed to being around the kinds of folks she’d never known before. Assertive career women like Caroline Davison, cocky boys like Ricky . . . new people, new experiences, that was what this summer was all about.

Turning, Pamela blocked the elevator door that was about to close with her arm.

‘Hey, hurry up, I’m holding this for you.’

Sherry hurried forward. ‘Thanks,’ she said, stepping inside.

Pamela hit the lobby button. ‘So how about that samples closet? Swift, huh?’

‘Very impressive,’ Sherry agreed.

‘I’ve got my eye on that purple gown with the rhinestones,’ Pamela declared.

‘But where would you wear something like that?’ Sherry wondered. ‘It’s not like we’ll be going to any senior proms while we’re here.’

‘Are you kidding? We’re in New York, the most glamorous city in the world! There are millions of places to wear a gown. El Morocco, the 21 Club, Sardi’s . . .’

Sherry looked at her with interest. ‘How do you know about these places?’

‘I’ve read about them, mostly in movie magazines. New York is full of nightclubs, cocktail lounges, fancy restaurants. I’ve made a list.’

‘You really think they’ll take us to places like that?’

Pamela grinned. ‘I doubt it, but I’ll get there on my own. Well, hopefully not completely on my own, if you know what I mean.’

‘I’ve never been to a nightclub in my life,’ Sherry confessed.

‘Neither have I,’ Pamela said. ‘The closest thing to a nightclub in my hometown is a strip joint and a couple of bars where old guys gamble in a back room. And that’s what I’ll be going back to when this summer is over. So I’m planning to take advantage of what the Big Apple has to offer while I’ve got the chance.’

‘You’ll need an escort,’ Sherry remarked. ‘Like you said, you can’t go to those kinds of places alone, can you?’

‘Of course not,’ Pamela agreed. ‘And anyway, I gotta find someone to foot the bill. Like a sugar daddy.’

Sherry tried not to look shocked. ‘You mean, an old rich man?’

‘Well, I’d prefer a young good-looking one,’ Pamela said cheerfully. ‘Did you notice that photographer at the dinner last night? He looked pretty fine to me.’

‘He’s got to be at least thirty,’ Sherry pointed out. ‘Wouldn’t you rather go out with someone your own age?’

Pamela considered this. ‘That Ricky wasn’t bad,’ she acknowledged.

‘What about that boy from the mailroom?’

Pamela made a face. ‘He looks like a hood.’

Sherry thought back. Maybe his hair was a little greasy. And he hadn’t smiled at all. She wasn’t sure why she’d even mentioned him.

‘Besides,’ Pamela continued, ‘boys who work in mailrooms don’t have any money. Anyway, I’m not looking for a boyfriend. I just want to have some fun.’

The elevator doors opened, and as they stepped out into the lobby Sherry was regarding her with curiosity. Who didn’t want a boyfriend? This comment intrigued her and she wanted to hear more. Maybe she should invite Pamela to join her and the others on their jaunt to Times Square. But recalling Linda’s comments back in the samples closet, she had a feeling the blonde wouldn’t exactly be welcome.

In any case, Pamela had her own plans for the afternoon. ‘Wanna go shopping?’ From her handbag she withdrew the discount-coupon booklet they’d each been given the night before. ‘If I’m going to hit the hotspots, I’ll need something to wear.’

‘Thanks, but I’ve got plans,’ Sherry said. They walked out of the building and on to Madison Avenue, baking under the hot July sun. ‘Maybe I’ll see you at dinner,’ she told Pamela. ‘Of course, I’m referring to the dining hall at the residence, not Sardi’s,’ she added with a grin.

Pamela laughed. ‘OK, dining hall tonight. But mark my words, we’ll make it to Sardi’s before the summer’s over.’ She strode off, and Sherry wasn’t surprised to note that her hips actually twitched. The girl positively exuded confidence.

She didn’t see Linda and Diane in front of the building, but then she spotted them, waving to her from across the street, in front of a drugstore. As she walked to the corner crosswalk, she barely felt her feet on the pavement. It was too hard to believe that she was really, truly walking on a street in New York City.

She’d seen images of New York of course, in photos and movies and on TV, and she’d thought she was prepared for it. But the impact was so much more than she had anticipated. How could she have known that looking up at skyscrapers would make her dizzy? How could she have imagined the cacophony of horns and the rumble of trucks, the drivers who stuck their heads out of the windows and yelled in frustration at the vehicle in front of them? From the sidewalks, the buzz of a million simultaneous conversations. Everyone seemed to be moving in accelerated motion, like they were all late for some terribly important appointment. Construction noises, drilling and hammering . . . all of it punctuated by intermittent sirens.

She joined the crowd at the corner. Even when the light turned green, she didn’t want to step into the street before looking both ways. Could she trust these angry New York drivers to actually stop? But she had no choice – she was swept across with the crowd.

As she headed towards Linda and Diane, she tried to remember what she knew about the girls. Not much, really. All eight girls, including herself, had introduced themselves at the welcome dinner the night before, but their respective hometowns and interests had become a bit of a blur in her mind.

It didn’t really matter. She knew instinctively that Linda and Diane were the kind of girls she would hang out with. They weren’t Southern, but in every other way they fit the mould of Sherry’s clique back home. Diane’s auburn hair was styled in a chin-length flip, just like her own, and she wore a light green shirtwaist dress that was identical to the light blue one in Sherry’s closet. And resting on the round collar of Linda’s crisp white blouse was a gold circle pin very similar to the one in Sherry’s jewellery box. She’d bet anything they’d both been cheerleaders at their high schools, or homecoming queens, or members of their local department store’s Teen Board – popular, all-American girls, just like she was. Typical Gloss girls.

They were both looking a little impatient, and Linda had another reason to appear unhappy.

‘I had to buy some aspirin – this noise is giving me a headache,’ she said. ‘Now I need something to wash them down with.’

‘There’s a diner over there,’ Diane said, pointing up the street. They started in that direction.

‘Sorry I’m late,’ Sherry apologized. ‘That boy Ricky wouldn’t stop talking.’

Their expressions changed. ‘Well, aren’t you the lucky one!’ Linda exclaimed. ‘He’s only the most eligible guy here.’

‘I guess he’s cute,’ Sherry conceded. ‘Seems kind of conceited though.’

‘He’s got a right to be,’ Diane said. ‘Didn’t you catch his last name? Ricky Hartnell. As in Hartnell Publications. The name over the door to the building. He’s the boss’s son.’

‘Oh.’ She tried to look suitably impressed. ‘Well, he’s not my type. Too full of himself.’

‘Don’t be so quick to brush him off,’ Linda advised.

‘He’d be a real catch.’

‘Except I’m not fishing,’ Sherry told her. She tugged on the chain around her neck and pulled out the ring that had been hidden under her blouse.

Linda’s eyebrows went up. ‘Going steady, huh?’ She immediately topped that, fingering a thin gold chain around her neck and lifting the pendant from which dangled two Greek letters.

‘You’re lavaliered,’ remarked Sherry, impressed.

‘He’s a Sigma Chi at the University of Illinois,’ Linda told her. ‘I’ll be starting there in September.’

They entered the diner, which wasn’t too busy, and took seats at the counter.

‘Do you have Tab?’ Linda asked the waitress.

‘Yeah. Three Tabs?’

Personally, Sherry would have preferred a real Coke and not this new sugar-free version, but she could just imagine the disapproving looks from the other girls. Any opportunity to avoid calories was to be taken advantage of – another rule.

‘You’re lucky to be already dating a college boy,’ Diane said to Linda. ‘You guys must be pretty serious.’

‘He’ll give me his frat pin next year,’ Linda informed them. ‘And we’ll get engaged when I’m a senior. Then, when I graduate, we’ll move to Chicago, where Bill will be in law school. I’ll teach elementary school for a couple of years. Then we’ll want to start a family, so we’ll move to the suburbs. Probably Lake Forest.’

Diane made no effort to hide her envy. ‘You’ve got your whole life planned.’

Linda nodded happily as their drinks arrived.

‘University of Illinois,’ Sherry repeated. ‘That’s a huge school, isn’t it? What do you want to do there?’

Linda lowered her voice, as if she was about to reveal some amazing secret. ‘I want to become the sweetheart of Sigma Chi.’

Sherry had been thinking more along the lines of what Linda would major in, but she nodded politely. ‘That would be pretty neat.’

‘No kidding,’ Diane exclaimed. ‘There’s a Sigma Chi where I’m going, Ohio State. My sister’s already there, and she told me that every year, when they choose their new sweetheart, the whole fraternity sings to her outside her dorm.’

Linda nodded. ‘Or outside the sorority house –’ her forehead puckered – ‘which is something I’m really worried about.’

‘Getting into a sorority?’ Sherry asked.

Linda shook her head. ‘Oh, I’ll get into one. The big question is, which one will I choose? Bill, that’s my boyfriend, he says the sweetheart is usually a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma. But I’m a Tri-Delt legacy. And my mother would just about kill me if I don’t pledge Tri-Delt.’

Sherry understood. A friend back home, Tommie Lynn, had told her about legacies. If your mother had been a member of a certain sorority, you were pretty much guaranteed an invitation to join that one. Tommie Lynn had been very relieved to know that the Chi Omega chapter at the University of Georgia was one of the best sororities, since her mother had been a Chi O at another school.

Diane bit her lower lip. ‘My mother didn’t go to a university.’

‘But you won’t have any problem getting into a sorority,’ Linda assured her. ‘Didn’t you tell me you were captain of your cheerleading squad? They’ll all want you. What about you, Sherry? Do you know what you want to pledge?’

‘There aren’t any Greek organizations where I’m going,’ Sherry told her. ‘It’s a small women’s college in Atlanta.’

Something close to horror crossed her companions’ faces.

‘It’s a family tradition,’ Sherry explained. ‘My grandmother went there, and my mother.’

Their expressions didn’t change.

‘But my boyfriend’s going to Georgia Tech,’ Sherry added. ‘I’m sure he’ll join a fraternity there.’

Their faces cleared. ‘Oh, well, that’s OK then,’ Linda said. ‘You’ll have a social life. Is there a Sigma Chi chapter at Georgia Tech?’

‘I don’t know,’ Sherry admitted. She could have been having this exact same conversation with friends back home. ‘Y’all ready to go to Times Square?’

Diane giggled. ‘Y’all’ – that’s so cute!’

Wishing fervently that other regions had accents as distinctive as the South, Sherry just smiled and fished in her bag for change. The girls paid and left the diner.

‘There’s a taxi stand across the street,’ Linda pointed out.

‘Oh, let’s just take the subway,’ Sherry urged. It was another item on her must-see list, and besides, she was on a budget. She checked her map. ‘There’s an entrance on the next block and Times Square is just two stops from here.’

‘What do you think of the other girls?’ Diane asked as they walked.

Recalling her efforts to not make snap judgements, Sherry demurred. ‘Kind of too soon to tell, isn’t it?’

But Linda already had formed opinions. ‘Some of them don’t look like Gloss girls to me. That platinum blonde, for example. She seems kind of trashy.’

‘And the girl from Boston, she looks like a beatnik,’ Diane added. ‘The artsy type, you know? Probably writes poetry.’

‘Which one’s your roommate?’ Linda asked Sherry.

‘Donna. Tall and thin, long brown hair . . .’

Linda frowned. ‘I don’t remember her.’

‘She’s kind of quiet,’ Sherry admitted. Actually, Donna was more than quiet. In the twenty-four hours since they’d met, she’d barely been able to get a word out of her.

They descended the steps to the subway, purchased tokens and passed through the turnstiles. Then it was down more steps to the tracks.

Immediately Linda wrinkled her nose. ‘It smells down here,’ she murmured.

She was right, but Sherry was too distracted by the New Yorkers waiting on the platform to take much notice. She’d never seen so many different-looking people in one place – young and old, all shapes and sizes and colors. People who looked prosperous standing right alongside people who looked like beggars. There were people like this back home – you just never saw them in the same place. It was a lot to take in.

There was a distant but thunderous noise, and seconds later the train pulled into the station. The doors opened, and the crowd on the platform surged forward, propelling the girls into the car.

There were no empty seats, so they all clutched hanging straps as the train jolted forward. And it was too noisy to talk. But the trip was so fast it didn’t matter – within a few minutes they arrived at the 42nd Street station. Once again, it wasn’t necessary to make any effort to leave the train – they were pushed out by people behind them, and then up some stairs, across a platform, up more stairs and finally emerged on to a street.

And what a street it was. Even in broad daylight, it was completely lit up, with neon signs and marquees and enormous billboards advertising everything from soft drinks to cigarettes. If Madison Avenue had been energetic, the corner of Broadway and 42nd Street was positively manic. Instinctively, the three girls linked arms as they proceeded through Times Square.

There were a lot of movie theatres, all featuring films that Sherry couldn’t imagine appearing on a screen back home, with names like Circus of Sex, Wild Pussycats and Tantalizing Teens. They passed storefronts and businesses that made no attempt to disguise what lay beyond their doors: peep shows, topless bars, sex shops. At tables on the sidewalks, shady-looking men urged passers-by to gamble their money on card games. And in practically every doorway stood a scantily clad and heavily made-up woman. Sherry tried not to stare, but it was impossible. These women made Barbie Doll back at Gloss look like Little Miss Goody-Two Shoes.

‘This is gross,’ Diane whispered, and Sherry could understand her reaction . It was all nasty and seedy and disgusting. And yet, it was like passing a car accident on a road – you couldn’t help but look.

A man with a pockmarked face and a creepy smile fell into step alongside them. ‘Hey, pretty ladies, where you heading?’

‘None of your business!’ Linda snapped.

He wasn’t put off. ‘New in town, huh?’ As he linked his arm through Diane’s, she let out a shriek that would have summoned the entire population of Sherry’s hometown to her side. On this street, no one seemed to have heard her, but at least it sent the man away.

‘I want to get out of here,’ Diane wailed. ‘Now!’

Personally Sherry thought she was overreacting, but she put an arm around the sobbing girl. ‘C’mon, let’s head back to the subway and we’ll go to the residence.’

‘I have a better idea,’ Linda declared. ‘We’ll go to the Plaza Hotel and have tea. My parents always do that when they’re in New York.’ She went to the kerb and flagged down a yellow cab.

Sherry walked Diane to the taxi, but she herself didn’t get in with them.

‘Aren’t you coming?’ Linda asked.

‘Um, no, I think I’ll go back to the room and work on the assignment,’ she said. ‘I’ll see you at dinner.’

She watched as the taxi sped away. The Plaza Hotel was another item on her must-see list, and she wouldn’t have minded spending a little money on a cup of tea there. Only a few years ago, she’d read the stories about Eloise, a little girl who lived at the Plaza, to her kid sister, and she’d been just as enthralled as little Beth.

So why hadn’t she felt like going with the others?


Excerpted from Gloss by Marilyn Kaye. Copyright © 2013 by Marilyn Kaye.
First published 2013 by Macmillan Children’s Books, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited. Pan Macmillan, 20 New Wharf Road, London N1 9RR, Basingstoke and Oxford. Associated companies throughout the world: http://www.panmacmillan.com
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Pan Macmillan Australia solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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