Talk to me, Harry Winston
Chelle wants revenge. She plots to ruin her ex’s career and reputation by stealing jewelry during his promotional Harry Winston ad campaign party.
“Do not answer that text.” My bff and roommate, Tasha, pushed the popcorn bowl towards me.
I tucked my phone between the cushions of the couch, grabbed a handful of carbohydrate drenched in butter and salt and stuffed it into my mouth. Butter and carbs made everything better. Usually.
It didn’t erase the image of his hand on her breast while his tongue invaded her mouth.
“I’m not girlfriend material.” The words slurred due to the tequila shots that started my pity-party because the man I’d assumed I’d been dating exclusively was, in fact, dating everything. “He said he doesn’t date.” My voice carried the confusion, betrayal, and anger that even tequila couldn’t quiet.
“He took you to movies, dinners, stayed the night, cuddled. That’s dating.” Tasha nudged my knee with hers. “He’s an asshole.” She grabbed a handful of popcorn. “Let’s plot your revenge.”
Maybe if I hadn’t spent the day photographing Harry Winston’s latest collection while my ex –whatever-he-was – watched… His seductive tone and mood impervious to my wrung-out heart that bled internally, weakening me. I photographed gorgeous gems on beautiful arms and ears and necks. Necks he’d nibbled. If The Thomas Crown Affair wasn’t on television, and my heart wasn’t damaged, maybe I wouldn’t have said, “We should steal the jewels and set him up.”
Tasha turned down the sound on the television and faced me. “Go on.”
“His ‘Envy’ campaign starts with a party with models wearing the collection and encouraging the guests to try on the jewelry.” My phone buzzed between the cushions.
Tasha read the text and then turned off my phone. “I can’t believe he thinks you’d still show up for a booty call.”
I could. “How did I miss the signs of his douche-baggery?”
Tasha patted my knee. “He hid it well.”
“You never liked him.”
She wrinkled her nose. “Chelle, is now a good time to tell you he suggested a three-way?”
The tequila heated my gut, boiled, bubbled and burst. It rose, and so did I, running for the bathroom.
Tasha stood behind me and rubbed my back. “I guess not.”
I flushed, rinsed my mouth and caught Tasha’s eye in the mirror. “I want revenge.”
Our plan was simple. Tasha, a jeweler by trade, would make copies of two pieces. I would attend the party, try on the pieces and switch it out for Tasha’s. When the fakes were found, Jerry’s ad campaign idea would get him fired. We’d return the items after Jerry lost his job, and hopefully his career, and maybe his penis. There was a lot of tequila involved in the plotting.
Except, I didn’t get an invitation.
Undeterred, I called the printer the ad agency used and asked them to send me a PDF of the invitation because I needed to match the font to a magazine ad mock-up. It was total bullshit, but they sent the PDF to my email.
Tasha and I made plan B, without the aid of tequila. It required a disguise, improving my sleight-of-hand skills, luck that the caterer wouldn’t notice the extra wait staff, and hockey tickets.
It was a shame she’d never get credit for the exquisite pieces she’d made. The bracelets with cubic zirconia gems set in platinum could have sold for hundreds. Revenge was expensive.
The night of the party, we had tickets to the hockey game we recorded at home. I took the subway to Harry Winston’s. Tasha went to Madison Square Garden, got our tickets scanned, and left, giving us an alibi, if needed.
I walked through the St. Regis hotel, next to Harry Winston’s, in my black slacks, black sneakers, and starched white shirt. I held my bow tie in one fist, and the two fake bracelets weighed down my right front pocket. I didn’t carry my phone or my wallet. I’d stuffed a twenty-dollar bill in my shoe in case I needed a taxi. I was on my own, and in disguise, with my brown hair covered by a short, black, page-boy wig. Brown contacts scratched against my lids and corneas, and I tried not to blink like an unearthed gopher.
I made my way through service corridors, past the incinerator, towards Harry Winston’s. There were guards already posted at the back entrance. They watched the catering staff – the all-male catering staff dressed in black pants and a red double-breasted chef’s jacket – fill trays with appetizers.
All male and red jackets? I stuffed my useless bow tie in my pocket and slid back around the corner. The acrid scent of a cigarette lingered, and I followed the trail to the fire escape door.
A man held the door open with his foot, his arm extended outside. Most of the smoke wafted back, but he didn’t seem to notice. And he didn’t notice me.
I leapt forward, grabbed the back of his jacket and shook. “You’re fired.” I channeled Mrs. Glover, my third grade teacher who scared everyone.
He paled. “It’s just one cigarette.”
“Hand in your jacket, now.” I held out my hand, fingers wiggling.
He removed his jacket. I pushed him outside and slammed the fire door in his face. He didn’t even protest. I hoped he’d get his job back tomorrow.
The double-breasted jacket was made for a breast-less person, but I restrained the girls and button it closed.
I retraced my steps, head down, and picked up an appetizer tray. I sailed through the door, brazen and exhilarated. The guard didn’t notice my jacket didn’t fit, I smelled like smoke, or I was a woman. I wondered if Jerry was getting a kick-back from this stellar security team.
Harry Winston’s salon hung my framed photographs along one wall. I stopped to admire the pictures, and a woman examined my tray.
“Will there be quiches?” She peered down at me from stiletto heels and hair that defied gravity.
“Yes, ma’am.” I used an accent. I was going for Russian, but I sounded like an angry French housewife.
Her eyebrows rose, nose tilted higher and she swished away. I decided to forget the accent. My tray of bacon-wrapped prawns was heavy, and full. The bacon fat turned milky-white and I still hadn’t spotted any models wearing one of Tasha’s knock-offs.
Jerry was there, loud and proud, dropping the word ‘envy’ frequently like he got paid for every utterance of the word. Like envy wasn’t one of the seven deadly sins. He wore a black suit with a serpentine green silk tie, looking very much like Satan’s little helper.
I spotted the cluster bracelet Tasha had copied on a long, slender forearm that looked too weak to bear the eighty carats. I sidled closer, offering cooled shellfish and congealed fat to guests. I reached into my pocket, felt around for the fake, palmed it and switched the tray to my right hand, hiding the bracelet underneath. I circled around the modeled bracelet, waiting.
The model offered the jewelry to a guest.
I nudged her with a small hip check.
The model stepped back into the arms of an enchanted guest.
He spilled his champagne down her cleavage.
I offered my napkin, and sincere apology.
She reached for the napkin and handed me the bracelet.
I moved the tray to my left hand, and held the fake bracelet out for all to see. In a moment, she gave me back the napkin and took Tasha’s bracelet, and I moved on.
The catering chef glared at me from across the salon. His expression said, “come here so I may disembowel you.”
My pulse jumped in my veins and I moved, my feet walking while my brain processed the now-what? I could leave or switch out the last bracelet. In the next room, light refracted off the bracelet with pear-shaped rubies complementing the diamonds. I offered my pink blobs to a woman in a red dress and her companion, dressed in black.
“Would you care for…” The prawns looked disgusting.
She frowned at my fish.
“Your dress is lovely. I think that bracelet would look perfect on you.” I smiled and moved the offending tray.
“I’ve been staring at it all night.” She wrinkled her nose. “What if she says no?”
I winked. “Impossible.” My giddiness seemed infectious.
Her companion nudged her. “Let’s go, Ellie. I may never be able to afford it, but you can wear it for a moment.”
I trailed after them, offering congealed pig fat wrapped around frigid filter-feeders to guests. I checked the chef’s location, the front door, and the bracelet. My heart beat excitedly, this-is-fun, don’t-get-caught, grab-and-run.
Chef entered the room and sidled closer, casual, as if herding his prey.
I palmed the fake bracelet in my pocket and switched the tray to my right hand.
The couple reached the model.
She unclasped the bracelet.
I moved to bump her, but Chef gripped my shoulder.
I yelped, jumped back and into the model.
She dropped the bracelet.
I pushed my tray into the chef’s chest and bent down, scooping up the bracelet. “I’m so sorry. Here.” I handed Tasha’s bracelet to the woman and pocketed the real one. I turned to face Chef and rolled my shoulders. I would have been more impressive in heels.
“I quit.” I stomped my foot, and a prawn squeaked under the non-slip sole of my sneakers. “I’ve told you a dozen times I’m Jewish and you always make me carry the non-Kosher tray.” I poked my finger on his shellfish encrusted jacket. “Your insensitivity is appalling.”
He opened his mouth, his eyes wide with fear, or maybe confusion.
I took advantage, turned and marched out of the room acting very put upon by a horrible boss.
The crowd parted.
A horrified-looking security guard opened the front door for me.
“Did you bring a coat, Miss?” His sincere politeness was touching.
“No. He never gives us a place to store them.” I blinked rapidly. The outside cold air dried my eyes and the contacts were killing me. In between blinks, I noticed Jerry studying me. I edged out the door.
“Shall I get you a taxi?” The guard searched the street for a yellow savior.
“No, thank you.” I smiled, the smile of a poor, unemployed waif, euphoric with diamonds and rubies in her pocket.
At the subway, I left my catering jacket and bow tie on a bench and threw the wig and contacts away in the bathroom.
At home, Tasha and I ate Chinese food and watched the hockey game while wearing bracelets that cost more than our apartment building.
“Do you want to be there when they fire Jerry?” Tasha asked.
“No. I just want him fired. Humiliated.” Our ceiling had millions of rainbows dancing across them from the bracelets, my stomach was full of happy carbs, and I felt bliss. “They really are pretty.”
“We can’t keep them.” Tasha held up her wrist, the bracelet catching the light, and watched the prisms slide from the ceiling down the wall and dance on the kitchen table. “I picked up a pre-paid flat rate express box from the post office. Tomorrow, I’ll clean these, and we’ll mail them back to Harry.”
I waved my arm. “I’ll miss them.”
“It’s for the best.”
A few days later, we ate breakfast and watched the news. The top story was Jerry Churchfeld, formerly of Atkins Ad Agency under investigation for the loss of two priceless bracelets at an event where he’d hired the security team and caterer.
He’d been fired.
Harry Winston’s press secretary said the bracelets were recovered, but they were doing their own investigation into Mr. Churchfeld.
He’d been humiliated.
Tasha smirked behind her coffee cup. “That was fun. We should do that again.”
“I heard Sotheby’s own COO will attend the Met’s La Bohéme.” Tasha pulled her robe away from her neck revealing a Y-shaped diamond necklace. “And she’ll be wearing H. Stern’s Venus necklace.”
I raised my coffee cup. “You wear the contacts this time.”