The Spotlights swirl and then land on the back of the catwalk in one solid beam. I hold my breath. This is it.
The first model stands at the end of the runway. She’s wearing a Diesel swimsuit and strappy high heels. She gives me a big smile and begins to strut down the catwalk, just like we practiced. Someone asks me a question through my headset, and I answer quietly. I look around at the seated crowd of glittering A-listers. They’re nodding their heads in approval, and the fashion journalists are taking frantic notes. Flashes are popping. I glance at my mother at the back of the crowd. She looks like she’s watching Schindler’s List
. I take a deep breath. It’s going just fine. It’s going to be the best fashion show San Francisco has ever seen.
And it will all be because of me and my hard work.
I try to read the crowd’s reaction to the first model. I begged and pleaded with Mom to let me use the fashion show as a benefit for the San Francisco YWCA. She agreed, reluctantly, saying she hoped that this would help us get extra press. All of the clothes worn today by the models will be auctioned off to benefit the girls club. I’m going to give something back to the city and
prove myself to my parents.
I am the only child of Roland and Joan Traywick—the über–fashion couple who made Prada a household name in the Bay Area. They are the clothiers behind the most high-end department store in the city. Traywick’s of San Francisco. The haute couture temple of my mockery. Tomboy. Awkward. Wallflower. Late bloomer. Ugly duckling. Old maid. That’s me. Lily Opal Frances Traywick. Hear me roar! (Actually hear my grandmothers roar, since each insisted I be named after her, hence my crazy middle names.) I still can’t believe my parents trusted me with organizing the annual Traywick’s spring fashion show. If all goes well, this could be my chance out of my pastel prison, the Silver Spoon, the Traywick’s children’s wear department. Management position here I come.
I didn’t always want to work in the children’s department. In fact, the plan was to avoid fashion at all costs. Having grown up at my parent’s store, I was desperate to strike out on my own. However, I was forced to abandon my immediate postcollege plan, which was writing a bestselling novel, when I realized that the only plots I could think of were old episodes of Saved by the Bell.
Next I applied at the Family Crisis Intervention Center so I could make my mark in this world, help my fellow man, ask not what this country can do for me but . . . is that my salary?! Sadly, things didn’t work out at the Intervention Center.
That’s when my parents offered me a job at the store. At first I scoffed at their generosity, but as my bills started to pile up, I came around to the idea. It was no secret I was expected to take over the store someday. I guess that’s why they felt justified in inflicting on me their ridiculous philosophy, “hard work is good for you,” which directly translated means, no handouts, not even for their only child. Plus, Traywick’s was home, in a sense. I grew up hiding in the coatracks and wreaking havoc on the gracefully ascending escalators. It felt safe, and I knew I’d get something else soon enough. Now it just feels like my tombstone will read It was supposed to be temporary
. I guess the road to
hell, or Traywick’s, is paved with good intentions. In the four years I’ve been rotting in kiddieland I’ve been brainstorming ways to get out. So when Dad asked if I would like to have a go at organizing Traywick’s annual publicity stunt, I mean fashion show, I jumped at the chance. He hinted that if it went well I could leave the Silver Spoon behind. It has to go well.
I watch the runway breathlessly as the next model comes out. Shelly is missing one of her front teeth due to a field hockey incident. I’ve tried to remind her not to smile, but as I look up, there she is at the end of the runway in a Kate Spade sundress, beaming her gappy grin. I feel a pinching, icy death-grip on my arm.
“What is the meaning of this?” Mom hisses at me. As the fashion editor from the San Francisco Chronicle
passes by, Mom looks up quickly and throws her a big, calm, patent Joan Traywick smile.
I gulp. “What?”
“Where did you get these models?”
I steel myself against her venom. “It cut our costs in half and—”
“This is unacceptable. Unacceptable. I said it could benefit
the YWCA. Not that you could use their ragamuffins as runway models.”
“Mom, shhhhh. Calm down.”
I look up at the runway and thank God as I see Chloe coming down. She could be a model, even though she’s not. The point of using the girls from the YWCA was not only to get them involved, but also to show the fashion world women of all shapes and sizes instead of those preening giraffes Mom usually hires who make young girls hate their
butts and freckles. My mother stands with me in the back of the crowd with her lips rolled in like a perfect seam. She won’t look at me.
“It’s fine, Mom. At the end of the show, I will thank the models and announce that they are from the girls club, and everyone will be moved and impressed.”
She turns to face me. I can sense that she still needs more coaxing.
“You just need to believe in people. If you just elevate culture to be more aware of those less fortunate, then—”
I hear the crowd gasping. A woman near the runway springs to her feet and runs quickly to the back. Several others are trying to hide behind their programs or duck under their folding chairs.
Oh no. Ginger. I should have known.
Ginger is the YWCA spitfire, who they warned me was a bit immature. Ginger is standing on the end of the catwalk in a cute little camo-print skirt and white silk top. There is just one problem. She is launching cream pies from the stage and is yelling something about saving the earthworms.
As chaos erupts, with powdered and primped ladies mowing down photographers, my mother finally speaks.
“Maria Shriver has whipped cream in her hair, and the style editor at Vogue
is crying over her vintage Chanel. Tell me, Lily, is this what elevating culture looks like? Because I already feel less fortunate.”
I roll over and look at the clock. Eleven thirteen. I roll over again. I just can’t go down there. I’m too embarrassed. I’ll just play dead. They’ll come up here to my bedroom and find me dead and feel just terrible about not appreciating me all along. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll just die on them. And since I don’t have a boyfriend, maybe the man of my dreams will show up at my funeral—never had a thing for punctuality, did he?—and wail over my beautiful porcelain skin and ruby red lips. He’ll beat his chest and ask, Why God, why? I hear a gentle knock at the door and ready myself to play dead.
“Lil?” It’s my grandmother Opal, who lives with us. The only sane person in this house.
I don’t answer her.
She comes in and clomps over the San Francisco Chronicle
spilled all over my floor. She’s seen the article. I’ve seen it. My parents have seen it. And now I must die.
Gran sits down on the edge of my bed. “Hey, sweetie, why don’t you come on down to breakfast now, hmmm?”
I guess she’s not buying that I’m asleep or dead. I groan. “I can’t go down there. I can’t ever go outside again. I have to stay here in my pajamas for the rest of my life.”
“So you saw the article then?” Gran asks.
After Ginger unloaded her pies on the audience, I felt we made quite a graceful comeback. I coaxed the crowd back into their seats, assuring no more special effects, and the rest of the girls were perfect. At the end of the show, I gave a speech about how the benefit worked and whom it benefited. And then I called out the models and introduced
them to the crowd. Everyone clapped politely and went home. Sure it wasn’t perfect, but really, it was fine. Not a fiasco at all. But unfortunately, the Chronicle
fashion editor did not agree. Today in the Weekend Style section the lead article was “Fashion Victim.” It recounted the Traywick’s fashion show as “an evening of garish fashion, fat models, and activism.” I was crushed. Deflated. I mean, sure, I didn’t mean for the style editor of Vogue
to get smacked with what I later found out was a vegan lemon meringue, and it really didn’t make any sense that Ginger threw the pies at women wearing fur to promote her Save the Earthworm club. But the article also claimed that the benefit angle was just “another pathetic attempt by the fashion world to seem humanitarian when in fact all the Traywick’s Corporation clearly wanted was some good press and a little free publicity.” Why were they being so cynical? The girls from the Y loved being in the fashion show, and we raised thousands of dollars. So much for my big promotion out of the kids’ department. This was the biggest scandal at Traywick’s since the sixties when a group of women did a sit-in in the lingerie department and set off the fire alarm by burning their bras. But the absolute worst thing that the fashion editor said had nothing to do with the stupid fashion show. It was a personal shot. Below
the belt. The biggest problem, however, was not with the show itself but its coordinator, Lily Traywick, who has been working for her parents since she graduated from college. It seems the fashion gene skipped the young Miss Traywick altogether. Not only did she organize the ill-fated fashion show, but she herself came dressed like a WNBA star. One can only wonder whether the notoriously persnickety Joan Traywick is asleep at the wheel where her own daughter is concerned. Or perhaps young Lily is so hopeless that Joan has tossed up her hands in disbelief and cried, I give up!
Above this is a photograph of me, mouth open, looking stunned and helpless. I guess I’m staring blankly across the room again because I come to to the sound of Gran talking.
“I just don’t care what that nasty viper woman said about you, it’s simply not true. Now buck up, Lil. You’re tougher than this,” she says.
I smile weakly at her.
“And you’re my Lil’ Opal.”
I laugh. She just loves that I’m named after her. “Love you, Gran.”
She smiles, and then the doorbell rings. “I’ll get it,” she says and goes downstairs.
I lie back on my bed and try to fall back asleep when I hear Gran yelling from downstairs. “Lil?”
“What?” I yell back. I’m not going down there. In fact, I’m never leaving this room. I’ll just tell people my pajamas are sewn to the sheets.
Gran doesn’t answer. I guess she doesn’t need me anymore. Good. I hear a knock at my door and sigh. “Yeah?” I call to the closed door.
It opens. “Hey, you.” It’s Steph. I have two best friends in this world, Reagan Axness and Stephanie Harold. They’re as different as can be and are definite proof of my multiple personality disorder. I met Steph on the leadership team of Campus Crusade at Stanford. She divides her time between medical school, the San Francisco Symphony, and volunteer work, and looks like she stepped off the pages of a J. Crew catalog. Men look at her and dream of raising lots of flaxenhaired babies and tending fields of wheat. Meanwhile, Reagan is half Norwegian and half Chinese and is coolness defined. She has more fashion sense in her little toe than I do in my entire body, and her prowess in the dating game would be envied by Elizabeth Taylor. For a girl named by conservative parents after their beloved Republican governor (later to be the “Don’t Worry Be Happy” Republican president) she turned out pretty wild. All that she and the late president share is a deep and rarely paralleled love of the eighties.
“Mm,” I say.
“How are you doing? I haven’t seen you in a couple of days,” says Steph.
“Fine. I’m fine. Busy, I guess.”
She comes over and sits on my bed. I try to pull up the sheets to cover my pajamas and then try to mat my hair down with my hand.
“Busy? Busy growing bed sores? You’re not worried about that silly article, are you?”
I shrug. “What article?”
She points with her finger at my floor where the article has been since I ran downstairs to see the press we must have generated at the fashion show. Now the article is all crumpled and tear-stained. “I’m so
sorry, Lily. It was a stupid article. It really was. My mom agrees with me completely, and she always reads the fashion pages. Everyone says so. It was a personal shot. And it wasn’t fair, nor is it true. Any of it.”
I smile, weakly. “Right. So I’m not a fashion victim. And my mother isn’t persnickety. Hmph.”
I hear Steph laugh. “Okay, the persnickety part about your mom is true. But the other parts weren’t. You’re not a fashion victim. I’ve always liked you just the way you are.”
I look at myself in the mirror. “That doesn’t change that I’ve still never had a date.”
“You’ve had a date. I’m tired of talking about this with you. We’ve already been through it. Tell me your dates.”
“Yes. For my personal sanity, I need to hear you list them so that I
know that you
know that you have in fact had a date. Now go.”
I sigh. “Okay fine. But you and I both know they don’t count.”
“Once for a middle school dance my mom ‘surprised’ me and arranged for me to take my cousin Christopher as my date. Everyone laughed. We spent the whole night avoiding each other.”
“I’ve seen a picture. He’s hot. Continue.”
“Another time in high school, Reagan and I went to the movies with two guys. My date chose to sit next to Reagan’s boyfriend instead of next to me.”
“You probably were so shy that you didn’t talk to him so he gave up.”
I roll my eyes. “Finally, the worst of them all, in college you
arranged for me to be auctioned off for a date at a Crusade fundraiser.”
She’s laughing. She loves that story. “And . . .” she prompts. “We had a really great time until his mom called and said he had to come home.”
“Yeah. Tyler needed to cut the old apron strings, but I think he really liked you.”
“Sure he did, only he was crazy. He said he liked me, but that his mother felt that he was too young to be in a relationship. Which is why I don’t count it or any of the dates. They’re bogus. Rubbish.”
“You know, the only person who believes you are undatable is you.”
“And the editor of the Style section.”
“Lily. I know it’s hard, especially after an article like that, but try to stay focused on what really matters. God calls us to be beautiful on the inside. The outsides don’t matter. Plus, your outsides are
beautiful. You just don’t adorn them with the latest fashions or care about brand names. That’s all.”
We’re both silent for a while.
“I don’t think wallowing is a good idea,” she says.
“I’m not wallowing.”
“Gran answered the door. She told me you’re wallowing.”
“Okay, I’m wallowing. A bit. And my goodness. Is my grandmother opening the door down there and say, ‘Hello, how are you, my granddaughter is upstairs but she’s going to the state hospital later’?”
Steph laughs. “You seriously need to do something to take your mind off this. You got knocked down. Think of something that will help you come back up swinging. Maybe write a response article back to her. That might feel good.”
“They’d never print it.”
“You vengeful English-major types.” She shakes her head in astonishment.
“Maybe you’re right. But, Lily, I can’t help but feel you need to start venting your feelings a little more. I’m worried about you.”
“I’ll be fine. It was just some dumb article.”
“I’m not worried about the article. I’m worried about you. The zip has gone out of you lately,” she says.
“Mm,” I say. “Maybe a little.”
Excerpted from Consider Lily by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt. Copyright © 2006 by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.