The young chap at the dealership had said it could go a hundred and fifty miles per hour, but at eighty-nine Rose found that she and the Porsche got on more favourably around the forty mark. Any faster and she’d have to change gears, which was a struggle because the clutch was such rubbish. She didn’t mind though, it was pitch black now and she felt safer at a slower pace.
As she passed the lit-up petrol station at the Oxfordshire/Gloucestershire border, she allowed herself another glance over her shoulder, smiling at the sight of her parcels. The backseat read like the opening pages of Tatler. ‘Saint Laurent’, ‘Dior’, ‘Gucci’, ‘Dolce & Gabbana’; no longer abstract names, but her own stiff shopping bags, containing the most charming garments, all wrapped in coloured tissue paper. And there, on the narrow floor in front, her favourites, the orange shopping bags from Hermes, one of which contained the alligator Birkin Tote. Delivered this morning from Paris. Just for Rose.
And there was more to come. Soon she would take delivery of an antique Persian silk rug, which had once belonged to an undisclosed European royal family. Her shoulders lifted to around her ears, as she remembered placing the order on the day her children had surprised her with the ‘amazing news’ that she had been offered a place at ‘Happy Days’, the Cotswold’s retirement home where she was to spend the rest of her life, albeit not the rest of her money. That would be gone long before Rose’s time was up. The delightful chap at the Bulgari store in Bond Street would see to that. Once the emerald bracelet arrived from the workshop in Switzerland, Rose reckoned she’d be able to afford three months in the home. Just as well, Pippa and Jeremy, themselves approaching retirement, had been more than happy to sign a document guaranteeing settlement of her bills indefinitely should she somehow find herself without means in the future.
‘Most unlikely’, Pippa had said when they sorted out the paperwork at the solicitors’ air-conditioned office in Hill Street, ‘mum never spends on herself’. Then there had been the usual mumblings about how she ought to join the bridge club or the gym followed by suggestions she treat herself to Sunday lunch at the pub – ‘remember, you can’t take it with you.’
Rose looked at her diamond encrusted Patek Phillipe Grand Complications, which had been delivered to her suite at the Connaught the same morning; she was still getting used to its unusually small hands, but it did look like the time had gone a quarter past one. No wonder her eyelids were heavy, her legs stiff and swollen from hours in the car with this most silly clutch. She longed for a nice, soft bed, but the late hour meant she would have to wait until tomorrow to take herself to the home; the welcome pack clearly stated that check-in closed at midnight.
Rose touched the brakes a little too hard, turned the Porsche around and set off towards Oxfordshire and the Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.