The Apartment - Danielle Steel

Chapter 1

Claire Kelly hurried up the stairs, as best she could, carrying two bags of groceries, to the fourth-floor apartment she had lived in for nine years, in Hell’s Kitchen, in New York. She was wearing a short black cotton dress and sexy high-heeled sandals with ribbons that laced up to her knees. They were samples she had bought at a trade show in Italy the year before. It was a hot September day, the Tuesday after Labor Day, and it was her turn to buy the groceries for the three women she shared the apartment with. And whatever the weather, it was a hike up to the loft on the fourth floor. She had been living there since her second year at Parsons School of Design when she was nineteen, and it was home to four of them now.

Claire was a shoe designer for Arthur Adams, a line of ultraconservative classic shoes. They were well made but unexciting and stymied all her creative sense. Walter Adams, whose father had founded the company, staunchly believed that high-fashion shoes were a passing trend, and he discarded all her more innovative designs. As a result, Claire’s workdays were a source of constant frustration. The business was hanging on but not growing, and Claire felt she could do so much more with it, if he’d let her. Walter resisted her every step of the way on every subject. She was sure that business, and their profits, would have improved if he listened to her, but Walter was seventy-two years old, believed in what they were doing, and did not believe in high-style shoes, no matter how fervently she begged him to try.

Claire had no choice but to do what he wanted her to, if she wanted to keep her job. Her dream was to design the kind of sexy, fashionable shoes she liked to wear, but there was no chance of that at Arthur Adams, Inc. Walter hated change, much to Claire’s chagrin. And as long as she stayed there, she knew she would be designing sensible, classic shoes forever. Even their flats were too conservative for her. Walter let her add a touch of whimsy to their summer sandals sometimes for their clients who went to the Hamptons, Newport, Rhode Island, or Palm Beach. His mantra was that their customer was wealthy, conservative, and older and knew what to expect from the brand. And nothing Claire could say would change that. He didn’t want to appeal to younger customers. He preferred to rely on their old ones. There was no arguing with Walter about it. And year after year, there were no surprises in the merchandise they shipped. She was frustrated, but at least she had a job, and had been there for four years. Before that, she had worked for an inexpensive line whose shoes were fun but cheaply made. And the business had folded after two years. Arthur Adams was all about quality and traditional design. And as long as she followed directions, the brand and her job were secure.

At twenty-eight, Claire would have loved to add at least a few exciting designs to the line, and try something new. Walter wouldn’t hear of it, and scolded her sternly when she tried to push, which she still did. She had never given up trying to add some real style to what she did. He had hired her because she was a good, solid, well-trained designer who knew how to create shoes that were comfortable to wear and easy to produce. They had them made in Italy at the same factory Walter’s