J O J O
2:35 P.M. Monday afternoon
Manoj stuck his head around the door. "Jojo, Keith Stein is here."
"Who's Keith Stein?"
"Photographer from Book News. To accompany the piece on you."
"Oh, right. Two minutes," Jojo said. She swung her feet off the desk and tossed aside the crossword that was making her crazy. From her hair she slid out the ballpoint that had been holding it in a makeshift updo. Them auburn waves tumbled to her shoulders.
"Why, Miss Harvey, you're beautiful," Manoj said. "Except your mascara's gone flaky."
He passed her her handbag. "Put your best face forward."
Jojo needed no encouragement. Everyone in publishing read the questionnaire in Book News; it was the first thing they went to.
She snapped open her compact and reapplied her trademark vamp-red lipstick. She wished it wasn't her trademark; she'd love to wear pale pink lip gloss and great neutral taupes. But the one time she'd come to work in Crushed Sorbet, people looked at her oddly. Mark Avery told her she was looking "a little peaky" and Richie Gant had accused her of having a hangover.
Same with the hair; it just didn't suit her any other way. Too long and she looked like an unkempt ceramicist, and too short, well . . . In her early twenties, shortly after she'd arrived in London, she'd got what she'd thought was a gamine crop and the next time she went into a pub, the barman looked at her suspiciously and demanded, "What age are you, sonny?"
That had been it for the short-hair experiment --- and the fresh-faced look.
"More mascara," Manoj suggested.
"You're so gay," Jojo said, indulgently.
"And you're so politically incorrect. I mean it about the mascara. Two words: Richie Gant. Let's sicken him."
Jojo found she was applying her mascara with renewed vigor.
After a speedy color-by-numbers circuit through the rest of her face-blush, concealer, glow --- Jojo pulled the brush through her hair a final time and was good to go.
"Very sexy, boss. Very noir."
"Send him in."
Laden with equipment, Keith came into the office, stopped, and laughed out loud. "You look like Jessica Rabbit!" he said in admiration. "Or that redhead from the fifties movies. What's her name?" He stamped his foot a few times. "Katharine Hepburn? No."
"Wasn't he a bloke?"
Jojo gave in. "Rita Hayworth."
"Yes! Anyone ever say that to you before?"
"No."She smiled."No one." He was so bright-eyed it was hard to be mean.
Keith unloaded his camera equipment, surveyed the tiny book-lined room, considered Jojo, then looked around again. "Let's do something a bit different," he suggested. "Instead of the usual shot of the desk and you sitting behind it like Winston Churchill, let's sex it up a bit."
Jojo stared stonily at Manoj. "What have you been saying to him? For the last time, read my lips. I am not taking my top off."
Keith lit up. "Would you be prepared to do that? It would be very discreet. Two carefully placed thumbs and --- "
A look from Jojo silenced him abruptly, and when he spoke again, he was a little less buoyant. "This is a great desk you have here, Jojo. What about lying on it, on your side, giving a big wink?"
"I'm a literary agent. Have a little respect!" And she was too tall; she'd spill over the ends.
"I've an idea," Manoj said. "How about we copy that famous shot of Christine Keeler. You know it?"
"Where she's sitting backward on a kitchen chair?" Keith said. "Classic pose. Nice one."
"She was naked."
"You don't have to be."
"Okay." Jojo guessed it was better than sprawling full-length on her desk, resting her elbow on empty air. Let's get this done; she had tons of work and she'd already wasted half an hour on the crossword. Manoj went racing off and returned with a kitchen chair, which Jojo straddled, feeling like a dumbass.
"Fantastic." Keith knelt before her to start snapping. "Big smile, now." But before he pressed the shutter, he lowered the camera from his face and got to his feet again. "You don't look very comfortable," he said. "It's your suit. Could you take off your jacket. Only your jacket," he added quickly.
Jojo didn't want to, not at work. Her pin-striped suit held her like a safety harness, and without it she felt way too busty. Released from the confines of the jacket her body's behavior made her think of a spilled mug of coffee --- so much comes out it was impossible to believe that once upon a time, it had all fitted in.
But her boobs would be hidden by the chairback so she slipped the jacket off and restraddled the chair, pulling its back to her chest.
"One other thing," Keith said. "Could you roll up the sleeves of your shirt. And open just one more button at the neck. Just one, that's all I'm asking for. And, you know, shake your hair about, loosen up a little."
"Think sultry," Manoj urged.
"Think unemployment line, you."
"Let's get going," Keith interrupted." Jojo, eyes to me." SNAP! "They were saying back in the office that you used to be a cop in New York before you got into this game. Is that right?" SNAP!
"What is with you guys?" They all loved that she'd been a cop. Even Mark Avery admitted to sexy imaginings of Jojo kicking down doors, snapping on the cuffs, and murmuring, "I'm taking you in."
"Like, don't you have any women police of your own?"
"It's not the same here, they have .at shoes and greasy hair. So you really were one?"
"For a couple of years."
Not cool. It was a shitty job and she blamed TV for making it look glamorous.
"Ever kick any doors down?"
"Ever go undercover?"
"Oh, always. I had to seduce Mafia bosses. Sleep with them and get all their secrets."
"No." She laughed.
"Hold that look. Ever get shot at?"
"Tilt the head slightly. Ever shoot someone?"
"Big smile now. Ever kill someone?"
SNAP! SNAP! SNAP!
Later Monday afternoon
Keith left, and Jojo fastened herself back into her jacket and was about to start work when Manoj buzzed her." Eamonn Farrell on the line."
"Apparently Larson Koza got a blinding review in today's Independent and why didn't he? Shall I jerk him off and get rid of him?"
"You love saying that. I should never have taught it to you. No, put him through."
With a click, Eamonn's rage streamed down the phone line and into the room. "Jojo, I've had it with this Koza fucker."
He let it all out as Jojo "Uh-uh"d sympathetically and scanned her emails. One from Mark;sh e'd save it until she was off the phone.
". . . plagiarism . . . I was the first . . ." Eamonn was saying. ". . . owes everything to me . . . thinks it's all about image . . . good-looking prick . . ." Jojo held her receiver away from her head for a second, just to see if it was foaming. On he went. "And d'you know what they called him? 'A Young Turk.' I'm the Young fucking Turk around here."
Poor guy, Jojo thought. She'd been here before with other authors. After their first flush of joy at being published, the craven gratitude dissipated to make room for jealousy. Suddenly they noticed they weren't the only new writers in the world --- there were others! Who got good reviews and high advances!
It was hard to take on board, especially for someone like Eamonn who had enjoyed a lot of early success. He'd been described as a "Young Turk," a wunderkind. Now it was cuckoo-in-the-nest Larson Koza who was getting the plaudits.
Eamonn drew his rant to a close.
"So what are you going to do about it? Let's not...
Excerpted from THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY © Copyright 2004 by Marian Keyes. Reprinted with permission by Avon Trade, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.