'What you all done up like a dog's dinner, for, Jem?' Jeremy asked his sister, from the doorway.
Jemima perched on the side of her bed, leaning forward into the biscuit-tin lid which served as a mirror, and applying metallic pink eyeliner along the edge of one set of her sparse, short, mousy lashes. She was wearing a long gauzy floral gown, from which she had not yet removed the '75% off' tag, which was attached to one spaghetti strap and dangled next to the 'Laura Ashley Sale' tag onto her meaty upper arm.
'Goin' out, Jem,' she mumbled, then swore as the lid-mirror slipped off its makeshift stand - a scrunched up pillow - and her eyeliner traced an angry pink metallic path to her temple. She rubbed it away with the hem of her new posh frock, which was predominantly pink, so it didn't really matter. 'Out for a meal, as it happens.' After righting the lid, she picked up a mascara wand and set to work on her eyelashes, contrasting the eyeliner with metallic scarlet. The finished effect was to make her look as if she'd just returned from the cinema where she'd watched the most tearjerkingly sad film ever made, or as if she had a bad bout of hay fever, or a virulent case of bilateral conjunctivitis. Or perhaps, all three. Thankfully, when she replaced her glasses, the effect was diluted.
'Oh? Where to? Can I come with you? I'm starved.'
'Oh, go on, Jem. Patricia won't mind me tagging along, will she?'
'Who says I'm goin' with her?' she said.
'Who you goin' with, then?' Jeremy asked, narrowing his eyes.
'Who says I'm goin' wiv anyone?'
'Well, what you all dolled up for, then?'
'I am going as a the personal, private, exclusive, special guest of Mon-sewer Orreebluh to the hopening of his new London restaurant!' She could not have sounded more proud if she had announced she was to marry Prince Charles.
'Mon-sewer who?' Jeremy sat on the wooden picnic-chair next to Jemima's bed, and picked up her discarded eyeliner. She snatched it away from him.
'Orreebluh. It's French. I mean to say, because he's French. Don't you watch the telly? He's the next great super-chef. Got about ten Michelin stars.'
Jeremy didn't know a lot about the world of haute-cuisine, but he was pretty sure ten Michelin stars was at least seven more than it was possible to have, but he kept his mouth shut. He knew contradicting his sister was not the way to sweet-talk her into letting him come along.
'Oh. That's great, sis. Well, you'll still need a dining companion, won't you? It'll look a bit sad if you turn up on your own, like Billy-no-mates. How come you got invited anyway?'
'I won it.' she said. 'In a prize draw. When we took them cigarettes to Downing Street. Prime Minister Paddy gave us all a thing to fill in and my name was the one drawn out. My name. Not Patricia's. Not yours. It's MY prize, and I'm going on my own.' She said this in a tone which made it clear the subject was closed.
'Well, can't I come along as your minder or summat? Make it look like you're important and stuff? Anyway, surely they wouldn't expect you to go along on your own. Lets have a look at the invite.'
Jemima stared at him, and then opened a drawer in her bedside cabinet. She rummaged among her underwear and pulled out a gold-edged white card, which she handed to her brother.
'There!' he shouted, pointing to the bottom of the card. 'Miss Jemima Bond,' He jabbed at the card. 'and Guest, it says!'
Jemima sighed. 'Oh, all right then.' Jeremy grinned. 'I'll give Patricia a call.' Jeremy stopped grinning, and stood up.
'Joking!' Jemima said, punching him on the leg. 'Course you can come. Patricia'll only show me up anyway. Wear something posh though.'
Jeremy went and changed into the suit he'd worn for their Uncle Andy's wedding two years ago. It had been a too-large hand-me-down then but now it was a perfect fit, so Jemima said he'd 'do'.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Jean-Baptiste Marie Horrible, a former refuse collector, had one day rescued a discarded set of cookbooks by a world famous chef from a poubelle, and had begun experimenting with recipes. He left the dustcarts and worked his way round bistros and brasseries and restaurants all over France, rising from washer-upper to head chef, and had opened his first restaurant in Paris last year. Several others followed, and he had made his mark in Britain with a television series in which he recruited chefs from the ranks of the uneducated unemployed in whom he spotted a flair for cookery. The show, 'From Hopeless to Horrible' had been a huge success, and the reservation book of his new London restaurant already had an 18 month waiting-list.
He was a strange sight, with his long greasy-looking hair tied back in a ponytail; his thick sideburns, prominent forehead and prognathous lower jaw. The greasy look was deliberate, achieved with the use of the finest extra-extra-virgin olive oil liberally applied to freshly washed hair. He dressed in ripped t-shirts and leather waistcoats, with faded jeans, and most people said he still looked like a dustman. But they forgave him his lack of sartorial elegance because he cooked like an angel.
Jeremy and Jemima had never tasted anything as heavenly as Jean-Baptiste's menu. At the end of the evening, Jean-Baptiste emerged from the kitchen to a roar of praise and a standing ovation, which luckily drowned out Jeremy's 'Ugly git, ain't he?'
As they left, Jemima spotted Victoria Jones, a girl in her year, sitting with a well known womanising Whig MP. She nudged Jeremy, who raised his eyebrows and called out, 'Hi Vicky!' Victoria fixed her eyes on the remains of her dessert and blushed to her bleached blonde roots.
'Well, that's a turn up, Jem,' Jeremy said to Jemima in the taxi. ' I always thought she batted for the other team.'
'What, the Tories?' Jemima asked.
Jeremy just laughed.