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Saturday

SHOPPING

Lottie stared at herself in the mirror of the changing room and didn't like what she saw.  All the clothes she had tried on so far were hanging off her already small frame.  She glanced at the size 10 labels and realised she had gone down to a size 8, if not smaller.  She pinched the skin on her cheeks to give her face some colour; even with her olive skin she looked pale and there were dark circles under her eyes.  She was about to remove the black dress she was trying on when the curtain was whipped open and Bette stood there in a tight blue Lycra dress with her hand on her hip, chewing gum.
"So?" she asked, smacking her lips loudly.  Lottie shrugged.
"Not you, me?  What do you think?" Bette struck a pose again.
"Hmmm, not too sure Bette, think you can do better," Lottie replied honestly.  There was a pause,
"Yeah, fair enough I suppose.  Let's look at you then?  Are you alright?"
"I dunno," Lottie shrugged again.  "Everything looks awful on me!"
"Come on, let's have a proper look.  Turn around," Bette barked.
"These dresses are too big for you, Lots, you need to go down a size.  Come on, let's get changed and go to another shop.  There's nothing in here anyway."  She turned around and went back to her changing room.  Lottie got changed into her jeans and handed the dresses back to the sales assistant who was gossiping with a colleague and barely looked at Lottie as she walked past.  Jenny and Fliss were sitting in leather chairs next to the changing rooms and flicking through fashion magazines commenting on various outfits worn by celebrities.
"Any luck?" Fliss looked up through a curtain of long, wavy hair.
"Nope, "Bette said pushing her way past the gossiping sales assistants.
"Let's go somewhere else, there's not much in here."
The shopping mall was very bright and bustling with people.  Lottie felt overwhelmed with the glaring lights and colours, the latest Rihanna track blaring through surround speakers. 
"Are you OK, Lots?" Fliss came up behind Lottie and took the crook of her arm, looking concerned.
"Yeah, of course! Why?"
"You just look a bit tired and withdrawn today.  I'm worried about you.  When did you last eat something?"
Lottie had to think.  She'd had one of Eden's smoothies instead of breakfast, and for dinner last night and lunch and breakfast before that come to think of it.  Oh, and the Pringles, but only a few of them and they hardly counted as a meal.  She looked at Fliss's face, her pale eyebrows drawn together in a frown.  She looked so worried.
"Actually, you know what, I am starving.  Shall we all get some lunch, guys?"
Jenny and Bette had stopped to look in a shop window, but they both turned around at the word lunch.
"I should be trying to lose weight before next week, but hell yes, I'm famished!" Jenny said.
A few minutes later and they were sitting around a table in an Italian restaurant ordering cokes.  Their handbags at their feet.  
"So, what's the plan of action, girls?" Bette looked at her watch, "It's 2pm and we have a few hours before we have to get back to school.  I personally have not found anything suitable for the ball and neither has Lottie.  Shall we narrow it down to just a few select shops?  What do you need to get?" she nodded towards Fliss and Jenny.
"Just some shoes," Fliss said.  
"And I wouldn't mind going to Mac to get some false eyelashes," Jenny added, dunking a hunk of ciabatta into some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
"Ooh, good idea," Bette said.
They talked about fashion and make up until the food arrived.  Lottie had a heaping bowl of steaming spaghetti and meatballs placed in front of her and she noticed Fliss looked approving when she agreed to have parmesan dusted on top of it.  Jenny and Bette had huge pizzas dripping with mozzarella and Fliss a bowl of penne arrabiata.  They dug into their food with relish and the hunger that comes with hours of shopping and trying on clothes.  Lottie felt better than she had in weeks and, after lunch, Bette and her split up from the others who were purely accessory shopping and planned to meet at Mac in an hour and a half.  They walked through the more expensive section of the mall to get to the mid-range priced shops when Lottie felt Bette clutch her arm.
"Look, the Blique."
"Who?  Where?" Lottie asked, looking around.
"All of them.  Going into Miu Miu," Bette replied.
"I didn't know they were coming here today.  I thought they were going to Harvey Nichols and Harrods," Lottie said quietly, her heart sinking.  She was enjoying an afternoon out with her friends and didn't want it tainted by bumping into Eden et al.  They walked very quickly past Miu Miu, but couldn't resist turning around.  Through the window they could see Eden trying on a pair of glittery heeled shoes.  The rest of the Blique surrounding her and no doubt cooing their appreciation.
"Another pair of shoes?" Lottie said thinking of the rows and rows of hardly worn high heels in the wardrobe back in their dorm.  When they had got far enough they relaxed and walked more slowly, taking care to look in the shop windows to see if they were worth going into.
"Don't worry, they won't come down this far.  It's not designer enough for them," Bette said.  Lottie noticed a small shop with a sparsely decorated window; just a few mannequins wearing dresses, shoes and jewellery, but the name, 'Belle Vintage' caught her eye and she said to Bette she would like to go in.  Inside the shop it was a treasure trove of vintage clothes and accessories taking up every surface of the tiny space.  Lottie flicked through a rack of dresses all beautifully labelled with the year they were designed, the size and the prices which seemed very reasonable indeed. Bette was looking at another rail of dresses, caught Lottie's eye and squealed as she picked up dress after dress that would be perfect for her.  Lottie found a blush pink strapless dress with a sweetheart neckline.  It was very fitted and then flared out at the waist and stopped just above the knee.  It seemed smaller than something she would usually wear, but thinking back to earlier and all the baggy dresses and her jutting shoulder blades and slender arms, she thought it would be worth trying on.  There didn't even seem a need to look for anything else.  Bette was giving numerous dresses to the sales assistant who was taking them to the dressing room.  She looked at Lottie and smiled, "Would you like to try this one on?"
"Yes please," Lottie smiled shyly and filled with excitement and hope, followed her to the cubicle.  As she removed her clothes and slid the cool dress over her skin, she knew before she had even zipped it up that it was going to be perfect.  And it was.  The much needed lunch had given a glow to her cheeks and the colour of the dress flattered her skin and gave it warmth.  The sweetheart neckline was just right with her small bust, and if anything gave her some cleavage.  She knew it would be further enhanced by a pretty necklace.  Maybe pearls or something sparkly.  The dress flared out at the waist due to the taffeta and showed off her long legs.  Some silver shoes would be perfect, she thought.
"Lottie?" Bette shouted from outside so she drew the thick velvet curtain aside.
"OMG," Bette said, "that dress is perfect for you!  How much is it?"
"Only thirty pounds, can you believe it?" Lottie said grinning from ear to ear.  "How lucky were we with this place, everything is amazing!  Are you going to try your things on?" she nodded towards the changing room opposite where the sales assistant was trying to find space for all the dresses.
"Yes of course!  I just wanted to see yours first.  Right, I better make a start," she said and slid into the cubicle as the assistant was coming out.  She noticed Lottie standing there,
"You look really beautiful.  That dress looks like it was made for you!" she said.
"Would you like me to help you with anything else?" she asked.
"Actually, I do need some shoes, I was thinking silver?  And maybe a necklace to go with as well?"
"I have just the thing!" the sales assistant said excitedly and went back into the shop.
Exactly an hour later Lottie and Bette exited Belle Vintage in a glow of happiness.  The assistant had found a perfect pair of metallic high heeled dancing shoes for Lottie as well as a stunning double row crystal necklace which glittered just above the neckline of her dress and picked up the pink.  Bette had decided on a block colour mini dress from the 1960s with some large neon yellow earrings and the sales assistant suggested she wear her hair in a beehive to show them off and some false eyelashes and thick eyeliner to enhance the whole 60s theme.  They giggled and chattered as they went to meet the others outside Mac.  Lottie felt happier than she had in a long time.  Now she had her dress she positively brimmed with excitement and was looking forward to picking out some make up to go with it.  She realised in the last hour or so she hadn't thought about Teddy or the Blique once.





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