Pearl Stark stood looking at herself in the bathroom mirror. Her once piercing blue eyes were now watery and bloodshot, her lustrous golden hair hung in lank curtains and her now ageing, hung over, complexion had lost the sparkling glow of youth, in fact she was beginning to look a bit jowly. Gravity, drink and misery were taking their toll. She spat the mouthwash she’d been swishing around her teeth into her reflection in the mirror and grimaced. Today was her 40th birthday. She despaired about it. She needed little reminder that her modeling career was as much as over. The younger girls had begun nipping at her heels before she was even in her 30s. This business chewed you up and spat you out so young. Thank god she had something to show for it. Stunners. Her family’s empire. A top model agency, With branches in London, New york, Paris, and Milan. Had got her and her siblings rich beyond their wildest dreams. They were in the top 20 of Forbes rich list for Christ’s sake. So, she had made it as a successful business woman. But the thrill of the shoot, the runway, the glamour, the sheer beauty of it all, and youth. Her soul yearned for it all back.
Quietly she wandered back to the rich opulence of her bedroom, her size 41 feet sinking into the thick pile of the white carpet. She poured a glass of champagne and collapsed into the fluffy comfort of her silver fur counterpane, crying softly. Not only was she mourning the passage of time, she was also mourning the loss of her marriage. Yesterday a private detective she had hired, handed her pictures of her husband John Redbridge, in an intimate embrace with her bitterest rival, Camille Foster- Charles. She shouldn’t have been surprised. She had already known her marriage was as good as over. He’d made that quite clear several years ago. But seeing him with that slut had pushed her over the edge, and she had hit the bottle hard. The image of them kissing seemed burnt on her retina. She took a swig of champagne and promptly spat it back out, it didn’t mix well with the taste of mouthwash. The phone rang and she reluctantly picked it up.
‘ Good morning, Doll face.’ It was her brother Adam. She grinned and put down her glass.
‘ I hope you’re up and about…ill be there in 15 minutes. Coops has everything ready.’ He made a big kiss sound and hung up. She hadn’t even had a chance to speak. She wandered into her dressing room in a confused daze. Mrs Cooper the Housekeeper, or Coops as Adam insisted on calling her, came in carrying an espresso and a disapproving scowl on her homely face. Handing Pearl the cup, she bustled past into the bathroom and turned on the shower.
‘Get in. your Brother will be here any minute. He’s taking you away for your birthday treat. I’m not having you going out in public where them paparatzo or whatever you call em, can catch you looking like you were dragged through a hedge backwards.’ Grabbing the empty cup from Pearl. She shoved her in the shower. Pearl stifled a giggle. Mrs Cooper bossed her about terribly, but she loved it, she needed it.
‘ Out.’ Cried the old woman holding up a towel and averting her eyes.
The woman was practically their mother. She’d been with the family since Pearl was a baby, and had helped bringing up her siblings when their mother and father had disappeared in mysterious circumstances whilst on a cruise in the early 90s.
Suddenly she heard the front door open, Adam stood in the hallway and shouted up the stairs.
‘ you ready yet princess?’
‘Coming!’ she turned to Mrs Cooper
‘Run down and keep him busy, I’ll be ready in 2 minutes’ clicking her tongue and giving a disapproving scowl at being bossed about, Mrs cooper hurried off. She had a little gleam in her eye, she adored Adam just as much as Pearl did, and couldn’t wait to have a fuss over him. She’d been devastated when he moved out with his twin Angel. They’d bought adjoining houses in Primrose hill.so Mrs Cooper relished any chance she got to fuss over him.
‘Coops,darling!’ Pearl heard Adam cry from down in the hall, as she threw on some clothes.
‘ Don’t call me that, its rude’. Giggled Mrs cooper, obviously loving it really.
‘Come in the kitchen and let me feed you, you look half starved…’ she heard them trail off as they moved through the house. She reached out to her jewelry box and the smile died on her face. There was the first necklace John had ever given her, on their first real date. She reminisced how they met.
They had met when she was about 19, which had been around 1993-4. John Redbridge was extremely wealthy. He was the only heir to a massive estate worth millions. He’d inherited all the family businesses, stocks, shares and money before Pearl had ever met him.
But not having a business head, and little interest in running the empire, he had let investors, lawyers and accountants take care of everything. He had decided to live the life of playboy and lived his chosen role to the full.
He’d requested to meet her and a few other famous girls at the Langham Hotel, in Oxford circus. A casting for one of his clothing brands. They needed a household name. A face everyone knew.
It had been unusual for girls of their caliber to do castings anymore. But there was so much money involved, everyone has a price. They all waited in a service corridor so as to not draw attention, or autograph hunters. It was in the days before mobile phones were really being used much. so they all sat glaring at one another in uncomfortable silence. Or greeting each other with air kisses and lets-do-lunch, fake smiles that didn’t meet their eyes.
A waiter came to get Pearl and escorted her to a grand dining room with tall cylinder shaped private booths all decorated with flowers and creeping vines. Inside the cosy booth sat John Redbridge, He was at least a head shorter than her, she could tell even though he was sitting down, he was a stocky, bear of a man, but not fat, it was all lean muscle. He wasn’t particularly handsome, but he dressed well to hide it. He was busy writing as she sat down, he didn’t even look up, he paused and thoughtfully put the pen to his lips he then nodded while making a sound of agreement with himself and wrote some more.
‘Tosser…’ she thought and started to leave. He obviously thought he was important enough to ignore a supermodel. He threw down his pen and looked at her with squinty eyes and a slight frown, like he was trying to be Robert De Niro or something.
‘Hello Miss Stark, I’ve been looking forward to meeting you’. Then he smiled and called the waiter over, whispered in his ear and then dismissed him.
His smile faded as he caught her expression and saw she was turning to leave, sensing he’d made a mistake by trying to play Mr Important, he quickly tried to rectify the situation.
‘ lets order lunch…you have the job Miss Stark, I dismissed the other girls when you arrived.’
‘Oh’ she said dryly, but she was pleased. More at the thought of the Bitch brigade waiting out in the hallway getting the boot. The thought made her laugh aloud, and then they enjoyed a quiet, intimate lunch and she found herself feeling very drawn to him.
She looked at her feminine, diamond encrusted Rolex. she had a plane to catch in a few hours. She was flying to Bora Bora to do a swimwear shoot.
‘I have to leave Mr Redbridge’
She held out her hand to shake his and he took it to kiss it instead.
‘ When is the Job? ‘ she asked him impatiently.
‘There is no job…but I’ve booked you for next week. I’ll be paying you your full day rate. But we can do whatever you like…’
she stared openmouthed at his gall, then burst out laughing and blew him a kiss as she walked away.
They got married 3 weeks later.
Pearl jumped as Adam shouted up the stairs.
‘ get a move on sweet cheeks!’ she smiled and ran down the stairs, it was time to enjoy her birthday with her favorite guy. Her darling kid brother.
Around about the same time that she met John, Pearl’s parents had disappeared in mysterious circumstances, while on a cruise. She being old enough. Had been granted legal custody of her brother and sisters. Not only was she a famous model and wealthy in her own right but the family been rich. So money wasn’t a problem. And Mrs Cooper was there to help with the kids if she needed to go away to shoot.
Pearl had been devastated though. Her father had been her idol. Her mother had been a cold unaffectionate woman and she hadn’t missed her from that day to this. But her father was a great man.
After much deliberation she and Mrs cooper decided together that they couldn’t cope with the twins relationship. It was getting out of hand. It was Angel more than Adam, she was so damn possessive. And went into violent rages if he looked at another girl of spent time with his other sisters. Which wasn’t on, Adam had told her he felt a responsibility as the man of the family to be close to all his siblings, and Pearl had her suspicions that it was more to it than just the closeness of twins, and Mrs Cooper knew something but she wouldn’t say a word, just insisted that Angel be sent away. Pearl didn’t have time for the dramatics. She didn’t need anything getting in the way of her career or her marriage. So, Angel was sent to boarding school. She came home on weekends so that she could be with Adam. But she was tucked safely out of the way.
In the last couple of years John seemed to be losing interest in their marriage, She had always known that she was a trophy wife, but she had believed he loved her, she wasn’t so sure anymore, they had been trying for years to have a baby, but to no avail. Now, John wouldn’t even touch her, which tore her heart in two. He spent his evenings in “business “ meetings and came home stinking of whiskey and cheap perfume. By which time if she even tried to kiss him hello, he pushed her away saying he was tired, and leaving her with the icy sting of rejection and no way of producing the Redbridge heir.