‘And then did you go to Cambridge?’ asked Stanislas, looking up at Daisy. ‘I spent a summer there once. It is quite a beautiful place.’
‘Oh, no!’ Daisy shook her head, laughing.
‘So you went to Oxford? That is also good, I think.’
‘No! Nothing like that! I went to university in Bangor. I wanted to do media studies, though I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, but I thought it sounded cool. But actually I got bored with it, so one day I was in Harvey Nichols – a really great department store in London – and I just got a job there, which was excellent fun for a while. And then there was this girl I knew who was going for a job in fashion PR and then she was like, “Oh, I’m suddenly going to Thailand to travel,” so she went to Thailand and I went to the interview instead. Voilà.’
Everyone looked astonished at this, except round-faced fifteen-year-old Amélie, who looked dazzled.
‘You English!’ Agathe said, looking at Daisy with a brilliant smile. ‘You are so eccentric!’
There was a short silence.
‘I suppose,’ Clothaire said from behind his copy of Le Monde Diplomatique, ‘this proves that the British really are an empirical people. Nothing has changed since the eighteenth century.’

‘But Clothaire is very romantic, isn’t he?’
Octave raised his eyebrows. ‘Clothaire, romantic? Not really. Completely tyrannique, in fact.’
Daisy was beginning to see Isabelle’s relationship with Clothaire in a different light. ‘So you think that he doesn’t appreciate Isabelle?’
‘Well, he appreciates some things. He likes to have a pretty girlfriend. She dresses with elegance and she is a good cook. And she is very intelligent, so when they get married and have dinners, she will be a good hostess.’
Daisy was shocked. ‘That sounds dreadful! Why is she with him?’
‘Good question. Clothaire is quite an interesting guy, but he is so pompous. I think Isabelle is too good for him. But women are strange sometimes.’ Octave smiled at Daisy. ‘You never know what they are thinking.’

Paris Fashion Week was in full swing and she was meeting Anouk to go to a couple of shows. Afterwards they were having tea at Ladurée, where, if they were in luck, they might catch a glimpse of fashion royalty – Mario Testino, perhaps, or Anna Wintour – sitting incongruously in the midst of soignées Parisiennes and their poodles. It was quite a place for fashion moments even out of show season. Daisy had once seen an old lady dressed entirely in shocking pink, hat and gloves included, order a plate of tiny magenta-coloured raspberry and cherry macaroons and feed them discreetly to her basset – who sat quietly beneath the table wearing a small pink coat.
Daisy did not believe in dressing down for the shows: it had to be designer battledress, and preferably by someone only the cognoscenti would be able to identify. She settled on a black high-necked, slim-hipped and belted coat dress by Savage from two seasons ago, worn with long black boots. It was a sample that had never actually gone into production, a unique piece embroidered with intricate braids of stiff black horsehair. Oh yes, it looked good. It did sort of say ‘kiss the whip, slave’ but then again that look always went down well in the fashion world. Daisy cocked her head to one side: perhaps she looked a touch too strict? She needed a frivolous touch – her flashing heart-shaped brooch, of course!

Savage, Chrissie had explained, wanted to steer clear of ‘the tent’, the marquee erected outside the Natural History Museum in Kensington, where London Fashion Week set up temporary home twice a year. That was too soulless and corporate for her, apparently. What she wanted instead was to show in a space that ‘felt like home’. Savage must be somewhat spéciale, Isabelle thought while surveying the enormous low-lit warehouse littered with mysterious remnants of defunct machinery and smelling vaguely of dust and chemicals.
She turned to Jules. ‘It is a bit sinister, this place.’
‘Never let it be said of Savage that she doesn’t like things edgy.’
‘It seems a little bizarre to invite people here for this. Isn’t Whitechapel where there was … you know … Jack the Ripper?’
‘Oh yes, absolutely. You can practically feel his presence at your elbow, can’t you? It really gives you gooseflesh.’ Jules looked around appreciatively. ‘This is more of a Silence of the Lambs sort of setting, though.’

‘Actually, I long to know about the origins of the band. How did you guys meet? Tell all.’
‘Whitby,’ Karloff said enigmatically.
‘I don’t understand,’ Isabelle said in confusion.
Jules turned towards her. ‘Whitby in Yorkshire is where Dracula’s boat landed in England.’
Isabelle stared at her blankly.
‘In the book, darling, the novel by Bram Stoker,’ Chrissie said between sips of tea.
Jules and Karloff nodded vigorously.
‘So Whitby is a place of pilgrimage,’ Chrissie pursued, warming to his theme. ‘Like a gothic Ibiza. Everyone wears black. Everyone is pale, dark and interesting. The sky is leaden. There is a graveyard with higgledy-piggledy tombstones. It’s freezing cold. A great time is had by all.

So far, her Sparkle blogs had flowed out in a frenzy of excitement. This one was much harder going. She stared listlessly out of the window of Isabelle’s study and wrapped her fluffy pink dressing gown more closely around her. For the first time since moving to Paris she felt very chilly. Perhaps the notes she’d made at the shows would provide some inspiration. She turned the pages of her pad and typed in whatever seemed vaguely relevant:
Patent everything – shiny shiny shiny.
Nude tights in/bare legs out.
Soft pale grey is new black?
The new black, really? Whatever. It was hard to care at the moment. Daisy paused and looked out of the window. Outside the sky was just that newly fashionable shade of grey. It looked like it was going to rain in a minute. She turned another page and typed in:
Vintage returns with contemporary, slouchy edge.
Airport chic – French pleats and turquoise mascara.
Seven-inch heels on pain of social death – five at a push.
Key look of the season: think Sophia Loren meets Hello Kitty.
Dullsville, all of it. What else? Oh yes:
Best party: launch of Ça pue, non? Revolutionary new perfume that smells like petrol. Brilliant party food – experimental canapés, some delicious, others disgusting, laid on giant Perpex table like snakes and ladders board.

‘Do not take it too personally. There have been so many others. The thing about French men is that they are very proud of being misogynists. They are always talking about la misogynie this, la misogynie that. They find it hilarious.’

fragrant always.’
‘Good for you,’ Tom Quince said, nodding. He looked at Clothaire. ‘Not a florist, by the way, a gardener.’
Clothaire snorted.
Tom Quince ate a mouthful of soup, then said, ‘Though, as a matter of fact, I did consider becoming a florist. But what I enjoy most is making gardens.’
‘It’s very powerful stuff you’re harnessing, very healing,’ his neighbour Belladonna said, looking at him through her eyelashes. ‘You must have a really deep connection with telluric forces.’
‘Like me, Bella is a pagan,’ said Jules, his other neighbour. ‘Unlike me, she likes nothing better than dancing naked in the moonlight. I prefer to wear a toga. It’s more dignified.’
‘I like to commune fully with the earth mother,’ said Belladonna, curling a lock of her black hair around her forefinger. ‘I’m a white witch, you see.’
Clothaire banged on the table and frightened Raven, who bounded down to the floor with an indignant miaow.
‘No, but you are joking with this! You went to a good university. You are an intelligent guy, yes or no? You should do something more interesting.’
Tom Quince calmly shifted his gaze from Belladonna to Clothaire. ‘No doubt you’re right.’
‘Have you quite finished?’ asked Jules, who had come to stand behind Clothaire. ‘I thought so. I’ll take this if you don’t mind.’ She whisked away his half-empty bowl and placed it on top of a perilously high pile of crockery that she then carried across to the sink.

The bus started and, right on cue, tears began to roll down her cheeks. Daisy found these days that almost any movement – reaching up, sitting down, running, breathing in, breathing out – triggered the tiresome crying. Public transport was the worst, obviously, what with all the stops and starts. She had become that dreadful stock character of urban life – Tragic Crying Girl. It didn’t matter that people gave her strange looks. She didn’t care because she couldn’t help it. Perhaps one day the tiresome crying would stop, she thought, looking out of the window at the depressing parade of garish fast-food restaurants and cheap clothes shops on the Boulevard Saint-Michel.