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Cathy Kelly is the author of six other novels, all of which were #1 bestsellers in Ireland, as well as top ten bestsellers in England. Someone Like You was the Parker RNA Romantic Novel of the Year. Look for her story in Irish Girls About Town, also available from Downtown Press. Cathy lives in County Wicklow, Ireland, with her husband and their twin sons.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Be kind to other women. It really works -- most of the time. And even on those days when it doesn't, it'll make you feel better inside.
That night, Ingrid sat at the beautifully laid dinner table in a grand old house with her husband, David, and eleven other elegantly dressed couples, and wished with all her heart that she weren't there. The scent of the freesias in the crystal bowl in the center of the table fought valiantly with the women's perfumes, which were predominantly musky with the odd note of sharp florals. Ingrid loved scent, but she hated the heavy, cloying perfumes so many women wore at night, as if they were using pheromones to attract cavemen rather than attending a civilized dinner party with their husbands.
She reached across the snowy white tablecloth and pulled the bowl closer, leaning forward to smell the pure, clean flowers. Instantly, she was transported to her terrace on a late spring day, where she would sit reveling in the seclusion as she read the morning papers. Pity she wasn't there now. Stop, she told herself. The evening wasn't going to grow magically shorter by wishing it was over.
The problem was that these people were David's friends. Odd how a couple could be married for thirty years and still have such disparate friends. They shared some, people they'd known all their married life, but their careers had brought them a collection of acquaintances from two completely different worlds.
Tonight was a night for David's people, in particular their host, the owner of a large transport company useful to Kenny's. Three other businessmen whom David knew were also present: wealthy men with glamorous wives who had beautiful hair and nails and wore diamonds of every possible cut.
Looking around the table, Ingrid decided that the dinner party was entirely made up of successful men and their wives. There were no businesswomen; Ingrid could spot them from fifty paces, for no matter how successful they were, they were never quite as polished as the wives of alpha men. Years of interviewing the great and the good on Politics Tonight had taught her that it was rare for an alpha man to form a lasting relationship with a woman who had as much power as he did. People were probably amazed that she and David had stuck together; most men would have been uncomfortable sharing the limelight with a woman who made her living grilling politicians on live TV. But then, David wasn't most men. He was, Ingrid thought, smiling across the table at him, special.
He caught her eye and smiled back, and she thought how well he looked in his gray suit and pale pink shirt. She knew he was tired because of the lines around his eyes, but nobody else would pick up on that. They'd see the usual handsome, charming David Kenny, the man who'd inherited the family firm and taken it to a whole new level. In the same way, nobody looking at Ingrid would see a woman with a mild headache who didn't want to be here. They'd see what she wanted them to see: a woman who'd pulled out all the stops with hair and makeup, yet remained modest in the diamond department. Ingrid felt that knuckle-duster rings were like push-up bras: you either liked them or you didn't.
The only interesting thing about nights out schmoozing David's business acquaintances was that Ingrid ceased to be Ingrid Fitzgerald, the television personality who'd kept her maiden name from her days as a radio producer; she was Ingrid Kenny, David's wife. And sometimes, just sometimes, that made her deliciously invisible. Like now.
The man seated on her left turned to talk to her.
"You're Mrs. Kenny, aren't you?" he said. He was sixtysomething, balding, with a weathered complexion that spoke of many hours spent outdoors, probably on the sea, Ingrid decided. His outfit, a blue blazer with gold buttons, had a hint of Commodore of the Yacht Club about it.
"Yes," said Ingrid gently, sensing that he had no idea who she was professionally. "I'm Ingrid, David's wife."
"Marvelous business," the commodore said, grabbing his glass of red wine. "Kenny's -- what a store. I don't suppose you have time to be involved yourself, do you? I know what you ladies are like; so many other things to do, charities, committees...." He smiled at her benignly. "My wife, Elizabeth -- that's her over there in the red -- she's on four committees. I don't know where she finds the time."
Elizabeth was a steely-eyed brunette who was expertly made up and wore an exotic beaded creation. She was watching Ingrid and her husband with interest. Ingrid reckoned that Elizabeth recognized her from television and was just as sure that Elizabeth knew the poor old commodore wouldn't.
"Well, I am involved in some charities," Ingrid said to her neighbor. She was a patron of an AIDS charity, served on the board of a domestic abuse organization, and regularly hosted charity balls. "But I don't have that much time, because I work too."
"Oh, really," said her neighbor airily, as if the notion of a woman working were highly eccentric and would never catch on. "And what is it you do?"
It was moments like these that Ingrid stored up to tell her friend Marcella whenever Marcella claimed that everyone and their lawyer knew who Ingrid was.
"You've such a recognizable face," Marcella insisted.
"It doesn't work that way," Ingrid replied. "Famous is for film stars and singers, not people like me. People recognize me, they just don't know where from. They think they must have seen me in the supermarket or something."
The downside of her being on television was going into Marks and Spencer and nipping up to the underwear department to find several people watching her with fascination as she searched among the briefs, trying to find a five-pack of knickers that suited her.
Anyway, here was this sweet man who clearly had no idea who she was, and it was quite nice, although difficult to explain what she did without making herself sound bigheaded about it. Another woman in her position might have fixed him with a grim glare and told him she was one of the highest-paid broadcasters in the country and could make politicians whimper for their mummies. But Ingrid preferred a low-key approach.
"I work in television," she said simply.
"Oh, really! Interesting. My daughter worked in television for a while, researching stuff. It was a terrible job, awful pay, and, goodness, there was no hope of really climbing the ladder. Only a few seem to make it," he went on.
"Yes," echoed Ingrid, "only a few do seem to make it."
Ingrid thought of her years climbing the television ladder. It had been challenging at times, but she hadn't had to stiletto anyone in the groin to make it to the top -- a fact that many people interviewing her these days for newspaper profiles found incredible.
"It must be so much tougher for a woman," they said, eager to hear about glass ceilings, male-dominated power structures, and male broadcasters bitching about her as they got subtly patted with MAC Face and Body in makeup.
"The media -- this part of it, anyway -- is one of the few areas where women can do well easily," Ingrid would explain. But nobody appeared to believe that her own calm self-confidence and native intelligence had made it work.
"What about you," she said politely to the commodore, "what do you do?"
It was all the encouragement the commodore needed. He was soon explaining the difference between a yacht and a boat, and Ingrid let her attention wander. Across the table, her husband seemed to be enjoying himself talking to a lovely woman who'd been introduced to her earlier as Laura.
She liked watching David. He was charming to everyone, not in a false way but in a way that said he was interested in other people. His father had been the same, always ready to talk to everyone in the store, from the cleaners to the general manager.
Okay? David mouthed at her across the table.
Ingrid nodded imperceptibly. She was fine.
"Sorry you got stuck with Erskine," he said three hours later in the back of the taxi on their way home. He put his hand in hers and held it tightly as they both sat back after what had turned out to be an incredibly heavy meal. Double cream with everything. Ingrid's insides yearned for Pepto-Bismol.
"Oh, don't worry," Ingrid said. "He was quite nice really, but I'm now an expert on boats, and if I ever need to interview anyone on the subject, Erskine is the man I will ask."
David laughed. He had a great laugh, rich and deep, the sort that made everyone else want to join in. Out of the corner of her eye, Ingrid could see the taxi driver grin as well. They were undoubtedly the sort of customers the driver liked: polite, sedate, middle-aged people being picked up from one beautiful suburban house and whisked off to another, with no chance of anyone throwing up in the back of the cab or not having the money to pay him.
"Erskine probably didn't have a clue who you were, did he?" David asked perceptively.
"Not the foggiest," Ingrid said. "I may have left him with the impression that I made the tea in the television studios."
"Oh, you shouldn't have done that!" David laughed. "That's cruel. I bet his wife knew, all right. She's probably telling him the truth right now."
"No, it's not cruel," Ingrid said. "He was terribly sweet and everything, but you know, he does live on this planet, he should be interested in politics."
"I'm quite sure he is interested in politics, darling," David replied mildly, "but not everyone watches television."
It was an idea that Ingrid had heard many times before, but one that she could never quite grasp. She was of the opinion that people should know what was going on in the world, and television news and debate was an inherent part of that.
"I'd say old Erskine sits at home reading copies of Yachting Man and books about naval battles from three hundred years ago," said David. "Happy in his own world. And why not?"
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