One Fifth Avenue

By: Candace Bushnell

Prologue

It was only a part in a TV series, and only a one-bedroom apartment in New York. But parts of any kind, much less decent ones, were hard to come by, and even in Los Angeles, everyone knew the value of a pied-à-terre in Manhattan. And the script arrived on the same day as the final divorce papers.

If real life were a script, a movie executive would have stricken this fact as “too coincidental.” But Schiffer Diamond loved coincidences and signs. Loved the childlike magic of believing all things happened for a reason. She was an actress and had lived on magic nearly all her life. And so she took the part, which required moving back to New York City for six months, where she would stay in the one-bedroom apartment she owned on Fifth Avenue. Her initial plan was to stay in New York for the dura-tion of the shoot and then return to L.A. and her house in Los Feliz.

Two days after she took the part, she went to the Ivy and ran into her most recent ex-husband, lunching with a young woman. He was seated at a table in the center of the room, reveling in his new status as the president of a network, and given the deference the staff showed the young woman, Schiffer understood the young woman to be his new 2

Candace Bushnell

girlfriend. She was rumored to be a concert pianist from a renowned family, but had the glossy appearance of an expensive prostitute. The relationship was a cliché, but twenty-five years in Hollywood had taught Schiffer that men never minded clichés, especially when the cliché concerned the penis. Shortly thereafter, when she handed her ticket to the valet and stood outside the restaurant in her sunglasses, she decided to sell the house in Los Feliz, make a clean break of it, and move back to One Fifth.

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“Schiffer Diamond has taken a part in a TV series,” Enid Merle said to her nephew, Philip Oakland.

“She must be desperate,” Philip said, half-jokingly.

Enid and Philip occupied two of the second best apartments in One Fifth, located on the thirteenth floor with adjoining terraces, separated by a charming white picket fence. It was across this fence that Enid now spoke to her nephew. “It may be a very good part,” Enid countered, consulting the piece of paper she held in her hand. “She’s going to play a mother superior who leaves the church to become the editor in chief of a magazine for teenagers.”

“Now, there’s a believable concept,” Philip said, with the sarcasm he reserved for most matters Hollywood.

“About as believable as a giant reptile that terrorizes New York. I wish you’d quit screenplays and go back to writing serious novels,” Enid said.

“Can’t,” Philip said with a smile. “I’m desperate.”

“It may be based on a true story,” Enid continued. “There was a woman—Sandra Miles—who was a mother superior and became an editor in chief. Back in the seventies. I had her to dinner once or twice. A thoroughly miserable woman, but that may have been due to her husband’s cheating. Being a virgin for so long, it’s possible she never got the sex part right. In any case,” Enid added, “the series shoots in New York.”

“Uh-huh,” Philip said.

“I suppose we’ll be seeing her around the building again,” Enid said.

“Who?” Philip said, trying to appear uninterested. “Sandra Miles?”



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3

“Schiffer Diamond,” Enid said. “Sandra Miles left New York years ago.

She may even be dead.”

“Unless she stays in a hotel,” Philip said, referring to Schiffer Diamond.

“Why on earth would she do that?” Enid said.

When his aunt had gone back in, Philip remained on his terrace, staring out at Washington Square Park, of which he had a superior view. It was July, and the park was lush with greenery, the dry August heat yet to come. But Philip wasn’t thinking about foliage. He was miles away, standing on a dock on Catalina Island twenty-five years before.

“So you’re the schoolboy genius,” Schiffer Diamond said, coming up behind him.

“Huh?” he said, turning around.

“They tell me you’re the writer of this lousy movie.”

He bristled. “If you think it’s so lousy—”

“Yes, schoolboy?” she asked.

“Then why are you in it?”

“All movies are lousy by definition. They’re not art. But everyone needs money. Even geniuses.”

“I’m not doing it for the money,” he said.

“Why are you doing it?”

“To meet girls like you?” he asked.

She laughed. She was wearing white jeans and a navy blue T-shirt. She was braless and barefoot and tanned. “Good answer, schoolboy,” she said, starting to walk away.

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