December 21st, 1990
Night flight from JFK – LHR
Somewhere over the Atlantic!
As well as being the shortest day, this has also been one of the most interesting!
Met up with Emilio, Ruby and Sara first thing but skipped breakfast so we could get a head start on shopping. The streets of New York are always jammed but today went beyond anything I’ve ever experienced, so, after a few hours we agreed to go our separate ways. I wanted to get Ben some skincare products, which I usually buy in Bloomingdales but I was closer to Macy’s so I made my way in that direction.
Not far from the main doors, I heard a male voice call out, “Madison,” and I smiled, thinking of the cover name I used in Antigua earlier this year with Millie and Dolly. The voice called again but in a city with Madison Avenue and Madison Square Gardens, the name probably isn’t that uncommon, is what I was thinking.
Just as I was about to walk into Macy’s, I heard it again, only this time it came from behind, accompanied by a hand on my shoulder. I spun around, my face quickly scanning that of the short guy in front of me, smiling widely as he motioned for us to step aside, to avoid being trampled by the throng of shoppers.
“Hey Madison, you remember me?” he asked in a thick New York accent.
“Of course,” I fibbed.
“I figured it had to be you, you know, with the hair and all.” The way he said hair sounded more like hay ur.
“How are you?” I asked, still clueless as to his identity.
“Doing good,” he nodded, enthusiastically. “I’m looking for something special for my wife, Shelby, you remember my Shelby?”
At the mention of the name, the penny dropped. Shelby, the girl we met on the Antigua trip, the one who gave Scotty a run for his money in the decibel department.
“Yes, how is she?” Still loud, I imagine!
“Doin awesome,” he nodded, pacing from one foot to the other. “You at lunch?” He asked, quickly tapping the face of his bejeweled watch.
Think fast, think fast. He thinks my name is Madison and I work for Vogue magazine, a few blocks from here!
“Ehm, yes, I am, actually. Late lunch. Obviously!” Think faster and use less words!
“Hey, do you got any time to swing up to the ah part ment to say hi to Shelby? We’re less than a block away. My poor honey’s on bed rest, we got a baby due next month.”
“Oh, congratulations, that’s lovely news,” I fake gushed. “I’m afraid I don’t have much time, I have to get back to the office. Busy season and all that.”
For some strange reason, my accent was starting to sound like I subscribe to, “Horse and Hound.”
“Aw, man, that’s too bad, it’s been a rough pregnancy, you know? Hey, you sure you don’t got a minute? I know she’d love to see ya. It’d mean a lot.”
I don’t know if it’s because it’s Christmas or the fact I’ve already given some thought to my New Year Resolutions, which include, “Being A Better Person,” (puke) but whatever I was feeling in that moment, prompted me to say, “I’m sure I can spare a few minutes to visit Shelby.”
“Awesome, awesome,” he gushed. “Follow me.”
On the way, I thought about “getting lost in the crowd,” but no sooner did it cross my mind when he stopped outside an imposing looking building, complete with doorman.
“How ya doin, Cal?” asked the man whose name I couldn’t remember.
“Hanging in there, Mr. Saperstein. Afternoon, miss,” the doorman nodded, holding the door open as I followed Mr. Saperstein inside, to the plush lobby.
In the lift, I fake smiled in response to Mr. Saperstein’s (what the hell was his name?) incessant rambling and allowed my mind to wander to the possibility that he might in fact be a mad axe murderer, luring me to my death. However, the fact he had a doorman who knew him seemed to alleviate those fears (right, because it’s been proven that murderers don’t live in a building with a doorman! What is wrong with me? Jet lag. It’s all related to jet lag. And cabin pressure. The lack of oxygen is clearly killing my brain cells!) Needless to say, with my head full of those random thoughts, I had no idea what Mr. Saperstein was prattling on about.
Mr. Saperstein used his key (a doorman and a key, perhaps my time wasn’t up after all!) to open the door to the apartment, and I had enough brain cells left (up yours, hypoxia!) to know to stand back while he walked into what appeared to be, a very nice apartment.
“Honey? Honey? Where you at, baby cakes?”
I stifled a laugh and watched as Mr. Saperstein went in the direction of what I presumed to be the bedroom, while I remained by the door, with it still ajar, just in case!
“Honey, you’re never gonna believe who’s here,” he shouted, just as Shelby came shuffling out of the bedroom, clutching a plate, piled with food, at which point, I stepped into the living room, allowing the door to close behind me.
“Whatcha doin outta bed, honey?”
“I got hung ga we,” Shelby whined, before turning and spotting me.
“Oh. My. Gawd,” she squealed, waddling towards me. “Madison! Madison!” She reached in for a hug, as her husband swiftly grabbed the plate from her wavering hand. Instead of congratulating Shelby on her pregnancy, or starting off with some sort of pleasantry, I spouted, “I don’t have much time. I just wanted to come and say hello.”
Shelby fired questions and statements and there was no way I could begin to even attempt to answer any of them.
“Howie, did you tell hur?”
Finally, his name!
“A little in the ela vayta.”
Shit! What did he tell me? I should have been paying attention instead of imagining my gruesome death.
“Madison,” she said, shaking her head. “You have no i dee a. William is nuts about you! He had Howie go to your building, you know, the Vogue offices, but they wouldn’t give out any infa machion. It’s the same all over the city now, security this, security that.”
That’s probably because they don’t have anyone by the name of Madison Frazer working there!
“So, Howie called William down in the eye land, and told him he couldn’t find you. William was sooooo disappointed, wasn’t he honey?” Howie nodded in agreement and gazed lovingly at Shelby as she continued. “So, he asked Howie to go back and try again, then he said fuggetaboutit, I’ll find her! That’s how crazy he is about you! This is so great, wow, you look awesome, like you just stepped out of a magazine, you know, my sister used to get Vogue when we were growing up on Long Island, now she’s a buy a for Bergdorf, so crazy how life turns out, she would love to talk to you, we gotta come up with a plan. I’ll be right back, don’t move, Howie honey, keep an eye on hur! Don’t move!”
I took a huge gulp of air, in lieu of the one Shelby failed to, and watched the back of her as she toddled into the kitchen.
I made small talk with Howie about the weather and the holiday crowds and when Shelby reappeared she was on the phone, the long cord stretching halfway into the living room, just like in the movies!
“I know sweetie, I know,” she cooed, into the receiver, beckoning for me to come closer, the cord stretched to its limit. I looked at Howie who motioned for me to move closer to the phone.
“Ok sweetie, talk to you soon, here she is. Buh bye.”
Shelby held out the phone.
“Who is it?” I mouthed, fearing I already knew the answer.
She dismissed me with her swollen fingers.
Tentatively, I took the receiver. “Hello?”
“I can’t believe it’s you. I’ve been looking for you since you left the island.”
I imagine the look on my face was one of shock because that’s exactly how I was feeling. I glanced at Shelby who was smiling gleefully, rubbing her meaty hands over her ample belly.
“Oh, hello William,” I said, managing to sound much calmer than I felt. “How are you?”
William started banging on about calling the Vogue office, and sending Howie there and not being able to find anything out. In response, I bumbled something about being busy at work and having to get back to the office.
“Don’t hang up! Give me your number. And your address. We need to stay in touch.”
Shit! Think fast!
“Actually, I just happen to be moving back to England over Christmas.” My enunciation would’ve made the Queen proud. “I’ll be happy to provide you with my new telephone number and address in England.”
You know, the place where I have “Horse & Hound,” delivered! What was going on with my accent?
“Sure, sure,” he gushed. “I can’t believe I’m talking to you!”
You can’t believe it? My head screamed.
Shelby was now in such close proximity that her giant baby belly was pressing into my coat. She was swaying from side to side, dangerously close to overdosing on glee and knocking herself into labour. Under her dutiful watch, I gave William my contact info, wished him a Happy Christmas then promptly hung up, leaving Shelby free to express her delight, for which she chose to shriek; “Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow!”
I knew I was running out of time (and patience,) and had to get out of there, so I made my excuses and left as quickly as I could. Waiting for the lift, I had so many thoughts whizzing through my head. I should have told William the truth. I should have told him my real name, and that I don’t actually live in New York, or work at Vogue magazine. But that seemed a lot to share during a surprise phone call!
I knew I’d already missed call time, and was cutting it fine for pick-up so in an attempt to move quickly through the crowds I fixed a stern expression on my face in the same way the New Yorkers do but failed to carry it off as I found myself automatically apologizing to anyone who bumped into me!
Most of my crew were already in the lobby and I felt a few heads follow me as I legged it past them. When the lift doors opened on the twenty-eighth floor, I ran to my room at the end of the corridor, then realized I’d gone in the wrong direction.
By the time I got to my room, I was out of breath but still managed to change into uniform in record time, as well as slapping some make-up on while I peed!
I chucked all the shopping bags into my suitcase, gathered up the rest of my belongings and made a mad dash to the lift, before it dawned on me I’d forgotten my suitcase.
I sprinted back to my room and dragged my suitcase to the lift, which seemed to take forever to show up. In the lift’s smoke glassed mirror, I brushed my hair and popped my earrings in, then, with my heart beating wildly, I quickly made my way outside, to find the Cabin Service Director pacing back and forth at the foot of the steps of the crew bus.
In response to his questioning look, I smiled widely and stepped boldly past him, onto the crew bus, where I plopped down in the seat next to Emilio.
“You’re wearing two odd earrings,” he whispered, as the door closed behind the CSD, now making his way in our direction. “And you’re in trouble.”
“You have no idea,” I responded, before I burst out laughing.