Page 17

"Victor, you went to school with her."

"I didn't go to school with her, baby," I murmur, waving over at Ross Bleckner and his new boyfriend, Mrs. Ross Bleckner, a guy who used to work at a club in Amagansett called Salamanders and was recently profiled in Bikini.

"Forgive me if I'm mistaken, but you went to Camden with Lauren Hynde." She lights another cigarette, finally sips the champagne.

"Of course. I did," I say, trying to calm her. "Oh. Yeah."

"Did you go to college, Victor?"

"Literally or figuratively?"

"Is there a difference with you?" she asks. "How can you be so dense?"

"I don't know, baby. It's some kind of gene displacement."

"I can't listen to this. You complain about Baxter Priestly's name and yet you know people named Huggy and Pidgeon and Na Na."

"Hey," I finally snap, "and you slept with Charlie Sheen. We all have our little faults."

"I should've just had dinner with Baxter," she mutters.

"Baby, come on, a little champagne, a little sorbet. I'm rolling a joint so we can calm down. Now, who is this Baxter?"

"You met him at a Knicks game."

"Oh my god that's right-the new male waif, underfed, wild-haired, major rehab victim." I immediately shut up, glance nervously over at Chloe, then segue beautifully into: "The whole grunge aesthetic has ruined the look of the American male, baby. It makes you long for the '80s."

"Only you would say that, Victor."

"Anyway, I'm always watching you flirt with John-John at Knicks games."

"Like you wouldn't dump me for Daryl Hannah."

"Baby, I'd dump you for John-John if I really wanted the publicity." Pause, mid-lick, looking up. "That's not, um, a possibility... is it?"

She just stares at me.

I grab her. "Come here, baby." I kiss her again, my cheek now damp because Chloe's hair is always wet and slicked back with coconut oil. "Baby? Why isn't your hair ever dry?"

Video cameras from Fashion TV sweep the room and I have to get Cliff to tell Eric to make sure they come nowhere near Chloe. M People turns into mid-period Elvis Costello which turns into new Better Than Ezra. I order a bowl of raspberry sorbet and try to cheer Chloe up by turning it into a Prince song: "She ate a raspberry sorbet... The kind you find at the Bowery Bar..."

Chloe just stares glumly at her plate.

"Honey, that's a plate of cilantro. What's the story?"

"I've been up since five and I want to cry."

"Hey, how was the big lunch at Fashion Cafe?"

"I had to sit there and watch James Truman eat a giant truffle and it really really bothered me."

"Because... you wanted a truffle too?"

"No, Victor. Oh god, you don't get anything."

"Jesus, baby, spare me. What do you want me to do? Hang around Florence for a year studying Renaissance pottery? You get your legs waxed at Elizabeth Arden ten times a month."

"You sit around plotting seating arrangements."

"Baby baby baby." I light up the joint, whining. "Come on, my DJ's missing, the club's opening tomorrow, I have a photo shoot, a f**king show and lunch with my father tomorrow." Pause. "Oh shit-band practice."

"How is your father?" she asks disinterestedly.

"A contrivance," I mutter. "A plot device."

Peggy Siegal walks by in taffeta and I duck under the table with my head in Chloe's lap, looking up into her face, grinning, while taking a deep toke. "Peggy wanted to handle the publicity," I explain, sitting up.

Chloe just stares at me.

"So-o-o anyway," I continue. "James Truman eating a giant truffle? The lunch? `Entertainment Tonight,' yes-go on."

"It was so hip I ate," I hear her say.

"What did you eat?" I murmur indifferently, waving over at Frederique, who pouts her lips, eyes squinty, like she was cooing to a baby or a very large puppy.

"I ached, ached, Victor. Oh god, you never listen to me."

"Joking, baby. I'm joking. I really see what you're saying."

She stares at me, waiting.

"Um, your hip ached and-have I got it?"

She just stares at me.

"Okay, okay, reality just zapped me..." I take another toke, glance nervously at her. "So-o-o the video shoot tomorrow, um, what is it exactly?" Pause. "Are you, like, naked in it or anything?" Pause, another toke, then I c**k my head to exhale smoke so it won't hit her in the face. "Er... what's the story?"

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