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Authors: Richard Madeley

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BOOK: The Way You Look Tonight
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The Lincoln suddenly dipped into a deep pothole. There was a sharp thump and groaning of suspension, and Stella gave a faint yelp of surprise.

‘Hey, all right in the back there?’

‘Yes, fine thanks – sorry, I was just startled out of a daydream. Where are we?’

Dorothy waved expansively at the rolling farmland and woods on either side of the road.

‘God’s own land – the sweetest countryside in the whole of America. I was born on a farm here so I should know.’

‘You’re right, it’s lovely,’ agreed Stella. ‘I’ve been thinking how pretty and prosperous-looking it all is since we got out of Boston. Sort of like a
patchwork quilt, lots of different-sized fields and meadows and beautiful old trees everywhere. It reminds me of that film,
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
. I
hadn’t expected America to look so . . . well, quaint and old-fashioned. What kind of farm did you grow up on, Dorothy?’

‘You can take your pick around here – we’ve got all sorts in Massachusetts. Horse ranches, cattle farms, fruit orchards . . . but I was brought up on one of those.’ She
pointed to a green meadow where what appeared to be a red-painted barn on wheels was slowly scything down vast swathes of long grass.

‘My dad made hay; made hay while the sun shone, you could say, on glorious days just like this . . . I used to sit on the back of his combine harvester like that one over there and read my
books. He’d look round at me and say: “Little girl, don’t you get enough of those at school?” and I’d smile back at him. I knew he knew I’d never be a
farmer’s wife, not that he cared either way. He just wanted me to be happy. So God knows how I ended up with this long drink of charged water here.’ She poked her husband affectionately
in the ribs.

‘Hey, don’t dig the driver! Anyway, she asked where we are, not where you come from.’

Jeb spoke over his shoulder to Stella. ‘We’re about three-quarters of the way there – it’s only a hundred miles or so from Boston to Northampton, and Smith. This is
Interstate 90, the Massachusetts Turnpike. See that bridge up ahead? That takes us over the Connecticut River. It used to be called the Great River – flows all the way down from Quebec up
north and if you jumped on a raft here, you’d eventually be spat out into Long Island Sound. One way to get to see New York, huh?’ He slowed down as they approached a toll station,
fumbling inside an ashtray.

‘Damn! Where’s my change?’

Dorothy looked slightly hunted. ‘Er . . . I took it for cigarettes at the airport, Jeb. I left my purse at home again.’

‘Great. You
always
do this.’ He turned as they pulled up at the barrier and looked round sheepishly at Stella.

‘Sorry to ask for a cash loan, so soon after making your acquaintance, but I don’t suppose you have any quarters on you, do you, honey?’

Stella nodded, enjoying his discomfiture. For some reason she felt an irresistible urge to tease him.

‘Yes, actually, I do. My mother found some in a drawer yesterday and gave them to me just before I left.’ She pursed her lips, making an elaborate show of considering the matter.
‘But you’ll have to sing for them first.’

‘What the – you’re
kidding
. What exactly do I have to sing?’

‘“Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime”, please. Any verse will do.’

Jeb stared at her a moment and then turned gloomily to his wife. ‘Can you imagine what she’ll be like when she teams up with Sylvia? My life won’t be worth a damn. Can’t
we just drop her off at the YWCA?’

The driver behind them honked his horn and Stella jingled the coins in one hand.

‘Do you want these quarters or don’t you?’

Jeb cleared his throat.

5

He had to drive north all the way up Route 1, as far as Coral Gables, to get the one he wanted.

It was the 900 series. They’d only been in the stores for a year or so. None of the photographic outlets in the Keys had them yet and he didn’t want any of the outdated models
the salesmen there had done their best to foist on him.

Like the knives he chose, only the best would do for his peaches.

He would have gone the day before, but Thursdays were his college nights and there wouldn’t be time between finishing work and his class to get to Coral Gables and back. He could have
skipped that week’s lecture but they were studying
Paradise Lost
this term and he fucking loved Milton and his take on Lucifer and Adam and Eve. Fucking loved it. Others in his class
were moaning that it was too obscure and boring but he didn’t know what the hell they were talking about. He’d read the whole thing in under a week and was now reading it for the second
time. He’d already started writing his 3, 000 word review of it and planned to ask his tutor if he could go over by maybe 500 words or so. There was just so much to say. The thing was a
goddamned masterpiece.

The Polaroid came with a free pack of film but he bought two more to be on the safe side. As soon as he got back to the parking lot he took the camera out of its cardboard box and inserted
the double roll of film – one for recording the images, the other for instantly starting to develop them. He’d never held a Polaroid before. It was much heavier than a regular camera.
He still couldn’t quite believe that it would simultaneously take and develop pictures.

He wasn’t sure what to photograph for the test shots but in the end he snapped off some frames of his ’61 Dodge Dart. God, he loved that car, with its concave aluminium grill and
fabulous elongated fins at the back above the huge rear fender. No wonder Miami-Dade police had chosen the new Dodges for their fleet of highway patrol cars. The sedans looked pretty cool in their
official black-and-white county livery but he preferred the dark-red paint job on his limited-issue Dart Phoenix, with the long tapering gold and cream flashes down the sides that he had carefully
sprayed on himself. They were meant to suggest the Florida sky at sunset.

A few minutes later he was inspecting his photographs with a kind of wonder: he’d never been dumb enough to believe in miracles, not like his mother with her holy water and rosary and
Hail Marys. None of that crap had stopped his father from running out on her when she’d been pregnant with the only kid she’d ever have. Her prayers hadn’t brought the bastard
back, either.

But the near-instant images he was holding in his hands seemed to him to be possessed by a kind of magic. He knew it was down to basic, classroom chemistry but all the same he felt an almost
primitive superstition pricking his blood as he gazed at pictures he had conjured up moments earlier out of thin air. And when he suddenly remembered what the next subject in his viewfinder would
be, that very night, his hands trembled slightly and there was a metallic dryness in his mouth. The prospect of being able to review his achievements, immediately, any time he liked, made him
briefly dizzy with excitement.

But there was another reason for buying the camera. The papers had
AGAIN
failed to mention his signature on the second girl, just like there’d been no description of the
first. The cops HAD to be holding out on the press; the news guys wouldn’t be able to resist a juicy titbit like that. The headline would write itself, for Chrissakes. The words practically
danced in front of him now:

‘EYE-SOCKET SLAYINGS.’

Screw the cops, tonight he’d take two pictures – one for him, and one for the funnies. He’d send the photo to the
Keys Courier
. They’d be most likely to run
it – they were in deadly competition with the more cautious
Miami Herald
. The
Courier
wouldn’t be able to resist such a shocking exclusive, and they’d
wire-syndicate it across the country for a small fortune once they’d broken the story for themselves first.

In forty-eight hours from now he’d be a fucking star from coast to coast.

He tossed the camera and photos onto the passenger seat and got behind the wheel. As he fired the Dodge up, he began to laugh softly. He’d just thought of another headline, perfect for
the
Courier
:

‘LOCAL BOY MAKES GOOD.’

6

Dear mother,

Isn’t Bancroft Road gorgeous? What a house. I love the hardwood floors with rugs strewn everywhere, and that big sea-chest taking pride of place in what they call ‘the great
room’, with those tall windows letting all the light in, and that huge open fireplace sunk into the centre of the floor. (I know it’s corny, but so much of what I see here reminds me of
American films, and the living room with its split-level floors and sunken fireplace reminds me of the ski lodge in ‘White Christmas’. You know, where Bing Crosby kisses Rosemary
Clooney in front of the fire and sings ‘Counting Your Blessings’!)

Did you know that this house is known as a Colonial Revival Home? I had to look it up in the library here (imagine having a house big enough for your own private library) and apparently no
sooner did the New Englanders get their independence than they began harking back to the days they were a British colony. This kind of white-painted wood-framed house with its screened porch and
shuttered storm windows is a throwback to those days. The streets are full of them.

Stella tossed her pen aside. She could finish her letter home later, when she got back from the barbecue. She climbed off her bed and went into her bathroom. Time to inspect the damage from
yesterday.

Stella looked balefully at her reflection in the bathroom mirror. She was furious with herself. She’d spent
far
too long on the porch the previous afternoon, gossiping with Sylvia
and writing letters home, and had scarcely noticed that the Massachusetts sun had swung clear of the balcony above her to shine fully on her unprotected face. By the time she woke up this morning,
her cheeks and forehead were radiant with heat and sore to the touch.

‘I look like a boiled lobster,’ she muttered to herself. ‘I can’t go to the barbecue like this.

Sylvia, who had come into the adjoining bedroom to borrow a belt for her new Levi’s, poked her head around the bathroom door.

‘Good
God
, Stella,’ she exploded in laughter. ‘You look like you’ve observed an H-bomb test at close range! What
happened
?

‘You should bloody know,’ Stella snapped. ‘You were on the porch yesterday too. Why didn’t you warn me? Why don’t
you
look like this? Look at you!
You’re brown as a berry. Oh God . . .’

‘That’s because I’m a Massachusetts girl,’ Stella replied, choking back her laughter. ‘I start getting acclimatised from April when the sun comes back.’

‘Bully for you. What on earth am I going to do? I can’t meet the

Kennedys looking like this. I can’t meet
anyone
like this.’

‘Don’t worry – I’ve just the thing.’ Sylvia vanished back down the hall towards her bedroom.

Stella liked Sylvia. Physically, they were similar – both on the tall side, with curly shoulder-length hair cut to a fringe. But Stella’s blue eyes – her father’s eyes
– played to Sylvia’s brown, and although the American girl was pretty with a cheerleader’s smile that revealed (unnaturally) perfect teeth, as Stella moved into her early twenties
she was increasingly compared to the Hollywood actress of the day, Elizabeth Taylor. They shared the same delicate but determined chin, almond-shaped eyes, and slim, tapering hands and feet. And
while Stella might not have quite possessed Taylor’s impressive décolletage, she felt she didn’t exactly have to apologise for herself in that department.

In fact, when she had arrived at London Airport’s first-class lounge the week before, the freelance press photographers who habitually hung around the concourse hoping to spot someone
famous had begun busily taking her picture before they realised their mistake and sheepishly lowered their cameras.

‘Sorry, love, we thought you was Liz Taylor for a mo there,’ one of them called to her.

‘Thanks,’ she said wryly, as she went into the lounge. ‘She’s nearly ten years older than me.’

‘Take it as a compliment, darlin’.’

Sylvia was back with a tube of what looked like green toothpaste.

‘It’s concealer,’ Sylvia explained. ‘This’ll do the trick.’

‘But it’s green!’ Stella protested. ‘I can’t put this stuff on. I’ll look like – I don’t know, the wicked witch in
The Wizard of Oz
. . .
or a Martian.’

‘Trust me,’ Sylvia said, confidently dabbing on the cream with her fingertips. ‘It’ll take the redness down and when you put your make-up on top you’ll look fine.
Actually, it’ll appear as if you have a nice suntan. Our little secret.’

Twenty minutes later, Stella could see Sylvia had been right. All signs of redness had gone, even from her nose, which shortly before had resembled the glowing tail-light on Jeb’s
Lincoln.

She went to her bedroom door in her dressing gown and poked her head into the hall. ‘What are you wearing to the party, Sylvia?’ she called.

‘Jeans and a jumper and sneakers,’ came the muffled reply from the next bedroom. ‘Gotta keep it low-key. If Jackie’s there, you can bet she’ll be in jeans or
slacks. You don’t want to outshine the First Lady. How about you?’

‘I can’t decide.’ Stella went to her wardrobe and looked unhappily at the clothes she’d brought from England. The summer dresses and skirts and tops she’d worn the
year before looked staid and dated to her now. She
had
experimented with some of the new designs that had come out in the spring of ’62, but none of them looked right for a beach
barbecue. Simple A-line skirts (inspired by Mrs Kennedy’s own effortless and much-lauded style) and the chic Harris tweeds with matching satchels that she’d bought from the achingly
fashionable Urban Outfitters in London didn’t seem remotely synonymous with sea and sand to her.

She went back into the hall. ‘Sylvia?’

‘What?’

‘Help!’

And so it was that an hour later, the Rockfairs and their English guest set off for the coast in the Continental. They looked ‘pretty damned spiffy’, as Jeb put it.
Dorothy was in pink slacks and a white fitted cardigan; Jeb wore a sailing cap at a rakish angle above an electric-blue nylon windcheater.

BOOK: The Way You Look Tonight
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