Indy and Simon arrive at Gard du Nord at 5pm French time Indy had made sure to turn her watch an hour forward the moment they'd come out of the tunnel. They bustled out of the terminal into the station reception, which was teaming with people. We must have hit the start of rush hour, Indy thought, keeping close to Simon, who was looking harassed. His French was exceedingly basic, and, according to Lindsey (who found this funny), he spoke it in such a strong Irish accent that it didn't sound like any known language. Luckily, a cab had been booked to take them from the taxi rank straight to the hotel where the tour group were residing. Indy watched streets and shops scroll by as the driver took them across to Ninth District. It didn't feel as unfamiliar as she'd feared she'd been to Paris two years ago with school, and not much seemed to have changed. The busy roads and business people hurrying along talking on their phones weren't so very different to London.
Before long they were at the hotel and Simon and the driver were hefting Indy's cases through the people thronging the front doors they'd clearly got wind that Reg's group were staying here. Simon had a word with a man who seemed to be in charge of dissipating the crowd Indy guessed he was with the tour, too. She'd thought Simon was pretty strong looking but this giant was broader and taller than anyone she'd ever seen. He caught her eye and gave her a smile, but Indy was too shy to respond.
Inside the lobby and safely away from their curious glances, Indy looked around for Lindsey, but he was nowhere to be seen. Busy, she thought, feeling a prickling of resentment. Maybe Howard was right and she was just being slotted into his timetable. There were probably so many amazing people here that he'd lost track of what time she was arriving her brother was rubbish with time management. Well, if she was going to spend a lot of time by herself or hanging with Simon, she hoped her room was nice. Judging by the lobby, this wasn't an inexpensive hotel. Everything was grand in a casual way, with heavy brown panelling and stylish burgundy couches and several imposing looking hotel security guards standing sentinel.
And that was all Indy had a chance to take in, because the lift doors opened and Lindsey appeared, adorned in shirt and tie and what seemed to be a half-made feather cape. He flung out his arms and bounded over, the soles of his shoes skidding on the well-polished marble floor. If it wasn't for Simon grabbing him at just the right moment Lindsey probably would have bowled Indy over. As it was, he stopped in front of her and scooped her up in a massive hug that left Indy with absolutely no doubt that he was delighted to see her. Indy let out a whimper and flung her arms round him, pressing her face into his shoulder and taking in the warmth of his body and the familiar smell of his aftershave. Any seed of resentment she might be feeling was forgotten. All that mattered was he was her brother and he was here and she loved him and there was nowhere else she'd rather be than with him, wherever that was.
Lindsey laughed as he put her back down on her feet, straightening his glasses, which had gone lopsided. Indy noticed that the receptionist was looking a little soppy and event the stony faced security guards were hiding smiles.
"I think we're embarrassing the Frenchies by this very unEnglish display of emotion, Indykins," Lindsey said. His signing was as fluid and graceful as the way he moved. "How was your journey? I apologise that I was not able to come myself but I got rather tangled up and I knew you'd be happy to see Simon. And hello you!" He kneeled down to stroke Gus, who was leaping up and pawing at him. To the dog he spoke, but Indy could lipread him perfectly well. "I missed you just as much as Indykins! Have you been a good doggy, hmm? I bet you looked after little sister much better than that idle bodyguard of mine did."
"People are looking," Simon pointed out. Lindsey gave the hotel staff an airy wave, and the receptionist and security guards immediately pretended they hadn't seen.
Indy filled Lindsey in on the journey as they took the lift up four floors to her suite, right next door to his ("I wouldn't let anyone else have it," Lindsey explained). It turned out to be chique and modern, with a big white sheeted double bed, flat screen TV and all the amenities you would expect of a top hotel. It even had a special pad for Gus to sleep (though Indy and Lindsey knew quite well that Gus would climb on the bed and sleep next to Indy, as he did at home). Simon disappeared muttering importantly about "checking in with Rix", leaving the de Villiers siblings alone. Lindsey sat down on the sofa and Indy snuggled next to him, feeling safe and warm and looked after. Lindsey tilted round so they could sign to each other.
"I missed you, baby. You know how glad I am that you're here, don't you?"
Indy nodded. "I love you."
Lindsey leaned forwards and kissed her on the forehead. "I love you more! We're going to have fun, me and you. We can grab a few hours to explore la belle Paris if we're not needed tomorrow, and then at the weekend, we fly to the United States of America!" Indy nodded; she knew about the schedule from Lindsey's emails. "And there are so many yummy outfits being prepared that I just know you'll love. Though," He winked. "I am still going to make sure you do your school homework, just so you're aware. I intend to be entirely strict and inflexible on that else your head mistress will tick me off like a naughty schoolboy like she did last time."
An hour slipped by as they chatted, Indy bringing Lindsey up to speed on the last few days of school, and Lindsey giving her a low down on who was who on tour. There was of course Reg Lahey, who Indy already knew about, but a whole host of other people were working together to make everything a success. Lindsey was one of the four financiers, who all sounded very important and a little scary. There was also a security team who Simon had been hanging out with, cooks, body paint artists, hairdressers, personal assistants crowd entertainers and of course dancers, musicians and supporting bands. And, of course, there was Matt Vitae's costume department.
"Do you really think Mr Vitae is interested in Indypendence?" Indy asked, her worries returning. Lindsey looked shocked, as though the thought that a wealthy entrepreneur wouldn't think his little sister's clothing line was amazing as he did hadn't occurred to him.
"Of course! You're a professional, baby, whether you see yourself that way or not. He has seen your designs on the World Wide Web and at a number of fashion shows. He is impressed!"
Maybe he's just being polite, Indy thought. Of course she was proud and excited by Indypendence, and there were so many things she wanted to introduce and source and develop, but she couldn't help being very aware that without her brother's money and influence, Indypendence could never have been. That made it lesser, somehow, or at least that was how she felt. She was self-aware enough to know that people judged her because of it. Several months ago at London Fashion Week, she had lipread a minor designer whispering about her.
"Of course Indypendence isn't a real line," the designer had sneered. "It's just a pet project Lord Irwyn has set up so his kid sister can play at being grown up. The things India de Villiers designs are hardly inspired and frankly childish."
The person the designer had been talking to was someone Indy knew a lot about Theo Courtney-Clare, the editor of Posh People Gossip Magazine. Lindsey disliked him intensely and from the things Theo printed about the de Villiers family, it was very clear that the feeling was mutual.
Theo smiled and accepted a canapé from a passing waiter. "Oh, Lindsey de Villiers is quite the indulgent guardian. He never says no to darling little sister. In a misguided way that's rather sweet, don't you think?"
"I just wish we didn't have to treat her seriously," the designer grumbled. "It's a joke, a thirteen year old having her own line! Sure, there's young talent out there, but most up and coming designers do it the hard way they don't have it handed to them on a plate. You know what really rankles?"
"I couldn't imagine. Do tell."
"Lord Irwyn's done this because he feels guilty because she's deaf. It's obvious. Like spoiling her rotten's going to ever make that up to her!"
"So cynical," Theo smiled, and it was at this point that Indy looked away. Cheeks burning, she had retreated into the toilets and locked herself in a cubicle. The worst thing was that what the designer said was true Lindsey's money had set her up! Indy screwed up her eyes, trying hard not to cry. She could deal with someone not liking her clothes that was fine, people had opinions but bringing her disability into it really stung. Was she someone others laughed at behind her back and pitied? Did they think she was just playing about? Did they look down on her because she "had it easy", when other young designers had to work so hard to even get a foot in the door? Did Indy deserve Lindsey's help and influence and should she even have accepted it? And was Lindsey lying when he constantly reassured her she was normal, despite her impairment? There were too many questions and Indy didn't have answers.
Remembering that conversation now, Indy took a deep breath to steady herself. I'll try not to get upset about it, she thought. If Mr Vitae and everyone else here think I'm a joke too they'll probably not say so. They can laugh at me once I'm gone, like everyone else.