MADE IN ESSEX, page 1
Made in Essex
For my mum: my beautiful best friend, agony aunt, shopping partner and confidante all rolled into one. I’d be lost without you.
For my lovely, kind and generous dad: you always taught me to work hard from an early age even when I protested about my Saturday job (that’s life in the big city/ that’s the way the cookie crumbles!). You’ve influenced me to become the woman I am today and I’ll always be grateful for your love and support.
Table of Contents
About the Author
Also by Laura Ziepe
About the Publisher
‘Open your eyes after three. Ready?’
Jade squeezed her eyes shut and nodded, excitedly. ‘One, two … three.’
Her hand flew to her mouth and she gasped loudly as Kelly coolly strolled into the room, wearing the very first bikini in their new collection. It was amazing seeing something that they’d actually designed themselves as a finished product, and it looked far better than she’d ever imagined.
‘How hot is this bikini, babe?’ Kelly beamed from ear to ear. ‘Just picture how good it would look with a dark tan and blue vajazzle as well.’
‘Oh my God! You look unreal,’ Jade said admiringly, eyes bulging. It was a bright petrol blue colour and had a glittery effect which sparkled in the light; it would look even better in the sunshine. The girls had decided to replace the simple tie strings on the bottoms with a row of three gold chains and then inserted some pretty gold dangling charms in between the two cups on the top. It was simply done and looked incredible on Kelly’s killer figure. ‘It looks easily as good as the expensive ones you buy from America, Kel. It’s beauts!’
‘I know! I love it!’ Kelly said as she glanced at her reflection in the mirror. ‘What are we calling this one?’
Jade thought for a moment. ‘I like the name “Essex Showgirl”,’ she decided. ‘What other colours can we get for this design?’
‘Caitlin said she also has gold and hot pink, hun.’
Jade jotted it down in her notebook happily. Those colours would also look great. She had a feeling that the ‘Essex Showgirl’ bikini was going to be very popular indeed.
She was thrilled to be starting her own swimwear business, Vajazzle My Bikini, with her best friend, and couldn’t wait until everything was up and running. They’d been on holiday to Marbella the year before and when Jade had realised she was the only one with ordinary, plain swimwear on her first day she’d almost been in tears. After finding a boutique that stocked similar glitzy and glamorous bikinis to everyone else’s, she’d been horrified at the expensive prices and had decided they should make their own instead. It had been fun visiting the Spanish market for jewels and beads to customise their swimwear, and when they were constantly stopped by girls wanting to know where they’d purchased their costumes from, Jade had realised they were on to something. Kelly was still working as a freelance beautician and Jade had been temping in mundane office jobs to save money for their website. They’d finally saved enough now, and while their friend Lisa’s cousin, Tony, was designing and creating their website at a reduced price, they were making the swimwear and planning their collections. They’d found a lovely lady online that ran a swimwear company in America, who sold them bikinis in bulk at discount prices so they could customise them. So far, everything was working out perfectly.
Jade inspected the bikini and looked closely at how well Kelly had made it; she was impressed. Kelly was fantastic at sewing, whereas she was better at sketching the designs on paper, so they could share the workload. They were going to split the administration and had decided that Jade was going to take all the calls and deal with customer queries.
Kelly looked round the room blankly. ‘When can we arrange the office properly?’ she enquired.
Luckily Jade had an office in her home that was big enough for the two of them. It belonged to Jade’s dad, but he never used it for more than one day a month. She paused. ‘What do you mean? All we need is another chair. We’ll just go out and buy one.’
Kelly arched a perfectly neat eyebrow. ‘Mmm … I was thinking we could change it a bit as well, you know, make it our own?’
‘By doing what?’ Jade asked in bewilderment, looking around at the perfectly practical and tidy oak wood office.
‘I’ve brought some bits with me in my car, hun. I hope you don’t mind, but I’m not really feeling it in here. I read online the other day that you need to feel comfortable where you’re working to be able to work your best. The work place is an important environment, babe. You go and get yourself a snack or something and come back in about thirty minutes. Just let me have a little move around with the furniture,’ Kelly told her wisely.
Jade gave a little nod and surrendered. ‘Okay, whatever you think. Just don’t touch any of my dad’s work in the bottom drawer, or he’ll kill me.’
‘Cross my heart,’ Kelly smiled, getting changed back into her clothes and making her way downstairs to her car.
Thirty minutes later, Jade heard Kelly calling her so she made her way upstairs, wondering what on earth was wrong with the office in the first place. As she entered the room she was greeted by fluffy pink pens in sparkly pen holders, pink and white flowers in a silver mirrored vase, decorated photo frames with their holiday snaps, hot pink feathered cushions, and a white furry rug in place of the plain brown one.
‘Ta-dah!’ Kelly sang as she twirled round on the spot, pleased with her work. ‘What do you think?’
‘I think it looks like Barbie and Sindy have decorated the room!’ Jade snorted with laughter. ‘What is my dad going to think?’
Kelly giggled. ‘Oh come on, old Jimbo will love it,’ she said with an amused smile.
‘I can’t imagine my dad appreciating you calling him Jimbo,’ Jade joked.
Kelly swivelled round on the spot, looking at her work. ‘Do you not like it?’ She pouted.
‘I’m sure I’ll get used to it,’ Jade replied, knowing Kelly could never work in an office without a bit of sparkle. If it inspired them to create the best swimwear then the sparkle would stay. It did make the office a bit more girly and personal too, she thought, and was unable to contain her grin when she spotted a photo of her and her boyfriend, Sam in one of the frames.
‘That’s such a gorgeous photo of you two,’ Kelly said, when she saw Jade looking at the photo. ‘I just a hundred per cent had to put that one up.’
‘Thanks,’ Jade said, flattered, as she picked up the frame. The photo had been taken at Kelly’s boyfriend’s birthday last year in Nu Bar. They both still had a slight tan from Marbella, where they’d met, and it made their teeth look amazingly white. They looked so happy, and luckily they still were.
‘You two make such a sweet couple,’ Kelly grinned. ‘I’m so glad that Sam’s become good friends with Billy too. I love going out just us four.’
Jade nodded. She had to agree it was great that they all got on together so well. If only Lisa had a boyfriend too though, she thought, r
Kelly interrupted her thoughts. ‘So what are the categories going to be on the website?’
Jade opened her red notebook. ‘We decided on the places where all the best pool parties are, didn’t we? So we have the “Essex” section, which is going to be our most over the top, blinged-up swimwear, the “No Carbs before Marbs” section, the “What Happens in Vegas” section, the “Romantic Getaway” section, which will be a bit more toned down for when you go away with your boyfriend or husband, and the “Ibiza Zoo Project” section, which will be all animal print.’
‘Love it,’ Kelly beamed, running her fingers through her thick blonde hair, ‘it’s going to be so much fun naming all the bikinis. I just love this job already!’
Jade felt the same. ‘Me too. We need to meet with Tony tomorrow at six o’clock to go over the web designs, so make sure you’re free. I’ll meet you straight from work.’
Kelly nodded and there was a long pause. ‘I so need a diary.’
‘You need one of these,’ Jade said waving her red notebook in front of her, ‘diary and notebook in one.’
Kelly poked her tongue out cheekily, ‘Alright, Miss Organised!’ She took a package out of her bag ebulliently. ‘I forgot to show you some of the sequins and beads that got delivered to my house this morning. They’re gorge.’
‘Wow, they’re great,’ Jade agreed, as she watched Kelly pull out various colours of sparkling sequins and pretty beads from the package. She couldn’t believe how good they looked when they were so cheap to buy. It filled her even more with excitement, and ideas for new bikini designs were flying around in her head.
‘I know,’ Kelly sighed, ‘although I’m going to have to call the company up we bought them from and complain about something.’
‘Well, look here at the receipt,’ Kelly pulled out a piece of paper received in the package, ‘it says flat shipping rate, £3.99.’
Jade squinted as she read it. ‘So?’ she asked, bemused.
Kelly looked at her with a surprised expression, as though Jade had missed something. ‘I don’t live in a flat, so why should I have to pay that? The package was delivered to my house!’
Jade laughed. She was going to have to get used to hearing these silly comments all the time working alongside Kelly every day. ‘Kelly, flat shipping rate doesn’t mean they’ve charged you because they think you live in a flat. That just means standard shipping rate, you dope!’
‘Oh,’ Kelly said sheepishly, packing the sequins away again, ‘well they shouldn’t call it that then, it’s confusing. Anyway, I must dash as I have a client coming at seven for a spray.’
‘Why? What’s the time?’ Jade asked in a panicky voice.
‘Quarter to seven,’ Kelly replied, glancing at her watch.
‘Oh shit!’ Jade said slapping her hand on her forehead, ‘Sam is going to kill me! I was meant to meet him at six-thirty for dinner!’
Kelly pulled a face. ‘Oh dear. You did the same thing last week, didn’t you? Just call him, babe, don’t worry.’
Kelly kissed her goodbye and left.
Jade sighed, biting her bottom lip. The problem was she couldn’t just call him and let him know that once again, his girlfriend had simply been too busy working and forgotten she was meeting him. What could she say? She looked at her appearance in the mirror and quickly added some MAC lip gloss and kohl eyeliner. She quickly brushed her long highlighted hair and tied it back in a ponytail. Jade threw on the first pair of skinny jeans she found, texted Sam she was on her way and ran out of the front door.
‘Come on,’ Jade said to herself moments later as she was sitting in traffic, feeling stressed. Why were all the cars in front of her going so bloody slow tonight? She could hear her phone ringing in her bag and the fact that she knew it would be Sam, wondering where she was, made her even more anxious. She needed to make something up. She had been extremely preoccupied with the website recently and forgetting about Sam was becoming a regular occurrence, much to his frustration.
Ten minutes later she was almost running through the doors of The Bluebell restaurant in Chigwell. She saw Sam’s unimpressed expression as soon as she walked in. As Jade made her way over to the table she asked herself, yet again, how she’d managed to get with someone so drop-dead gorgeous. He was looking smart in a tight white shirt and light pink tie, which emphasised his natural olive-coloured skin and penetrating green eyes. His fair hair was brushed over to the side and Jade felt the urge to run her fingers through it.
‘Hi, babe,’ she said, and kissed him hard on the lips, hoping to ease his annoyance at her being over forty minutes late.
‘Where have you been? Why are you so late?’ Sam asked petulantly.
‘I’m so sorry,’ Jade said as she sat down, ‘it’s just we had some issues with the new website and I had to sort them out with Tony.’
Sam nodded and the look on his face told her he’d heard it all before. ‘You could have called earlier to tell me, you know, so I didn’t come here and have to sit alone for over half an hour. You did the same thing last week too.’ He looked offended as he sipped his glass of water.
‘I’m sorry,’ Jade said, gazing into his eyes to show she truly meant it, ‘please don’t be annoyed with me. Let’s have a nice evening, yeah?’ She grabbed his hand and held it across the table.
Jade noticed his expression soften and felt relieved.
‘So, how’s it all going anyway with the website?’ he asked a few moments later, genuinely interested. She knew he found it attractive that she was taking a risk and running her own company with Kelly. He was proud of her.
‘It’s all coming together now,’ Jade grinned. ‘Kelly put on the first bikini in our collection today and it looked amazing. We know exactly what we want on the website, which is nearly done, and then we just need to make the rest of the swimwear, have a photo shoot so it all looks professional and then the website can go live. I can show you some of the categories we’re putting the various bikinis in,’ she said, getting her notebook out of her bag and passing it across the table to Sam.
‘That’s great,’ Sam said browsing through the pages. He laughed, ‘You take this red notebook everywhere.’
‘It’s in case I think of new ideas,’ Jade told him, smiling warmly. ‘I write everything down.’
He looked at her lovingly. ‘You look nice tonight by the way.’
‘You’re joking? I’ve got hardly any make-up on and got ready in about two minutes! I’m as pale as a ghost!’
‘I like you looking natural, you know that,’ he said.
Jade smiled. Sam always said the right thing and made her feel good about herself. Thank goodness he was nothing like her awful ex-boyfriend, Tom, who not only used to constantly make jokes about her being from Essex, but also cheated on her. She was so happy with Sam; he meant everything to her.
‘Anyway, there are some good films on at the moment at the cinema. Fancy it tomorrow night?’
‘Yeah, that’ll be great,’ Jade said, her eyes bright. Then she remembered, and her face fell. ‘Oh no, I can’t tomorrow night, sorry. We have a
She could tell Sam was trying to hide his disappointment. He lowered his voice and fiddled with his phone. ‘No worries.’
‘What about Saturday night though? We may be meeting Tony again in the afternoon but I can meet you in the evening?’ Jade suggested cheerily.
Sam nodded. ‘If I didn’t know better, I’d be worried about you and Tony.’
Jade’s jaw nearly hit the table.
‘Only joking,’ Sam added when he saw her shocked expression, ‘Saturday night sounds good to me.’
Jade hoped he was only joking. She couldn’t handle him starting to get jealous, especially about Tony. She thought of Tony and his dark hair and hazel eyes. She supposed he was quite good looking, in a rough round the edges kind of way, but she didn’t look at him like that. Tony was far too old for her too, Jade thought, she guessed he was in his mid-thirties. He was just Lisa’s cousin: their web developer. She didn’t want anyone else and wouldn’t dream of ever even looking at another man when she was with Sam. Why would she, when he was pretty much perfect?
‘Sam, I’m sorry I’ve been so busy lately. I promise you, it’s just work, nothing else.’
‘I know,’ he reassured her, ‘it’s fine.’
‘That’s definitely the one,’ Lisa said with tears in her eyes, as she was handed the tiny ball of fluff.
‘So you’re going to take her then?’ the woman asked, getting a little emotional herself.
‘How could I resist buying her with this gorgeous little face? She’s adorable,’ Lisa answered, stroking the puppy behind the ears, much to the dog’s delight.