Victoria turns up at five thirty, looking her usual immaculate self – all blonde hair, blue eyes and overdone.
‘Sorry I’m late. The traffic’s a nightmare and there’s nowhere to park.’ She gazes around. ‘They’re all reserved for guests. What can I do, I’m so excited!’ she sings at me, while stroking the walls of the penthouse.
‘I’m all done. I just need you to do a walk through to make sure there’s nothing that I’ve missed.’ I lead her into the main space.
‘Oh my God, Ava, it looks amazing!’
‘It’s great, isn’t it? I’ve never had such a colossal budget. It was fun spending so much of someone else’s money.’ We giggle together. ‘Have you seen the kitchen?’ I ask.
‘I’ve not seen it complete. I bet it’s incredible.’
‘It is, go and take a look. I’m going to get myself ready in the spa. I’ve done everything in the other apartments so concentrate up here. This is where the action will be. Make sure all the cushions are plumped and in place. I want the peppers on the chopping boards shiny. Use Pledge! The mini Dyson is here. Hoover up any stray bits on the bedroom carpets,’ I hand her the fully charged, hand held hoover. ‘Just use your initiative. If there’s anything you’re not sure of, make a note. Okay?’
She grabs the hoover from me. ‘I love these things.’ she revs the Dyson, posing like a cowboy in a standoff.
‘How old are you?’ I ask on an eye roll.
She screws her face up, grins and sets off to follow through on my instructions.
An hour later, after utilising all of Lusso’s fancy spa facilities, I’m ready. My dress is creaseless and my hair is behaving. I take a little wander around. This will be my last time here, and it will soon be crowded with business people and high society, so I make the most of my last opportunity to savour the sheer magnificence of the place. It’s mind-blowing. I still can’t believe this is my work. I smile to myself as I stand in the colossal open space on the first floor. Bi-folding doors lead to an L shaped terrace, with limestone paving, a decked area, sun loungers and a huge Jacuzzi. There’s a study, dining room, a huge archway leading into a ridiculously large kitchen, and a back-lit onyx staircase that rises to the four en-suite bedrooms and a massive master suite. The spa, fitness centre and swimming pool, on the ground floor of the building, are exclusive to the residents of Lusso, but the penthouse boasts its own gym. It’s stunning. Whoever’s brought this place definitely likes the finer things in life and for a cool ten million, they’ve got it.
I make my way back to the kitchen and find Victoria, still armed with the Dyson.
‘All done,’ she declares as she hoovers up a stray crumb on the marble worktop.
‘Well, let’s drink.’ I smirk and pick up two glasses of champagne, handing one to Victoria.
‘Here’s to you, Ava. Stylish in body and in mind,’ She giggles, raising her glass in a toast. We both swig and sigh. ‘Wow! This is good.’ She looks at the bottle.
‘Ca’Del Bosco, Cuvée Annamaria Clementi, 1993. It’s Italian, of course.’ I raise my brow and Victoria giggles again.
I hear chatter coming from the entrance hall, so I wander out of the kitchen, finding Tom gawping like a goldfish and Patrick smiling proudly.
‘Ava, this is some serious special, darling!’ Tom runs at me, throwing his arms around my body. He pulls back, looking me up and down. ‘Love the dress. Very tight.’
I wish I could say the same for Tom, who takes colour clash to extreme levels. I squint at his bright blue shirt and red tie combo.
‘Put the girl down, Tom. You’ll crease her,’ Patrick grumbles, gently shoving him aside and leaning down to peck me on the cheek. ‘I’m very proud of you, flower. You’ve done a marvelous job, and between me and you –’ He leans into my ear and whispers. ‘The developer has hinted they want you on board for the next project in Holland Park.’ He winks at me, his wrinkled face wrinkling further. ‘Now, where’s that champagne?’
‘This way,’ I lead them into the huge kitchen, hearing more cooing from Tom. The place really is that special.
‘Cheers!’ I chant, after handing them all a glass of champagne.
‘Cheers!’ They all raise their glasses.
I spend a few hours being introduced to high society and explaining my inspiration behind the design. Journalists from architecture and interior magazines swan around taking photographs and generally poking about. Much to my displeasure, they hustle me onto velvet chaise lounge for a shot. Patrick drags me from pillar to post, proclaiming his pride and insisting, to anyone that will listen, that I’ve single handedly put Rococo Union on the designers map. I blush profusely, repeatedly playing down his declarations.
I’m thankful when Kate shows up. I usher her into the kitchen, thrusting a glass of champagne in her hand and take another for myself.
‘Bit posh, eh?’ she muses, gazing around the plush kitchen. ‘It makes my place look like a cluttered mess.’
I laugh at the referral to her cute, homely town house that looks like Cath Kidston has vomited, sneezed and coughed all over it. ‘You mean impressive, I’m sure.’
‘Yes, that too. I couldn’t live here though.’ she says with no shame at all. I’m not offended. While I’m proud of the finished result, the sheer vastness of the place intimidates me.
‘Me either.’ I concur.
‘I saw Matt earlier.’ She downs her champagne, immediately scooping up another from a tray as a waiter passes.