She asked if they could first meet outside of the Ritz, where she was currently staying for an indefinite period, before going into The Wolseley. She hated the idea of walking into a place of that caliber on her own, even though it didn’t matter so long as you looked rich, which she did. Darrin’s response to Elizabeth was, “Why not the corner of Arlington Street and Piccadilly?” Which was just a more plebeian way of saying, “In front of the Ritz.” A mere stone’s throw from The Wolseley—but proximity to her hotel was not why she had chosen it. No, the purpose of selecting this particular “café-restaurant,” as she always did on a first date in London, was to see how the john (as she liked to call them) would react to the posh surroundings. Because, sure, you could date fellow celebrities, but that didn’t mean they were “pedigreed” enough to be with. That’s the thing about capitalism: anyone can make it to the top. She almost smeared the eyeliner she was applying whilst getting ready to go out as she laughed about trying to say such a thing, even internally. She knew it wasn’t true… except in that rare case of non-nepo babies who managed to become successful actors or finagle other assorted “performer” roles in the entertainment industry.
Darrin Farino was just one such exception to the rule of what it took to be successful. Having pulled himself up by his bootstraps as a middle-class white boy who grew up in, where else, White Plains. He later went to Dartmouth and majored in Drama. For, you see, even though he wasn’t a nepo baby, his parents were in real estate—working in the field at a time when it was very lucrative. Ergo, no student loans for Darrin to worry about, and no rent either. Not when he wanted to move to New York after graduating and pursue the degradation of auditioning endlessly for parts on Broadway. Fortunately, when Mother and Father are bankrolling your starving artist lifestyle, eventually, you’ll have served enough time doing “grunt work” to make it after all. And that’s just what Darrin did, taking on the lead role in a major Broadway play at the end of the 90s before breaking into television with a minor role on Law & Order (where every actor seems to get their foot in the door). From that point forward, it was as though the dam to fame and prosperity had broken open, and Darrin was landing gigs right and left in movies made by some of the most sought-after directors in Hollywood.
At a certain moment, however, Darrin grew bored with his Hollywood acceptance and decided it was time to make a grand return to the theater. Which is why he found himself living in London after so many years spent in Beverly Hills. And why he had matched up with Elizabeth on an exclusive dating app for celebrities and various high-level “tastemakers” alike. So here they were, at the extremely expensive (to those outside of their income tax bracket) and prestigious place Elizabeth had suggested—all as a means to suss out whether or not Darrin had truly shaken his upper middle-class roots to transcend into the sort of ilk she could see herself dating long-term. Maybe even marrying. Elizabeth, after all, had come from a long line of entertainers and was no novice when it came to enjoying the trappings of wealth. Nothing about her was “nouveau riche.” She wanted to note the same quality in Darrin by determining if a restaurant like this would deceive him. Make him bat an eyelash, as it did to all the visible interlopers within it. That he had crudely suggested meeting “on the corner,” therefore, did not bode well. And Elizabeth would not concede, instead informing him that she would be waiting at their table when he arrived.
Another bad sign: he was late. Twenty-one minutes late, to be precise. She had a good mind to leave this instant were it not for how much she was enjoying her order of champagne afternoon tea. Replete with accompaniments that included finger sandwiches, mini cakes and scones with homemade jam and clotted cream. Who really needed a man when one could turn to the gustatorial for real comfort? And that was when Elizabeth caught herself in a “fat girl moment.” Taken back to the days when she still went by Lizzy and had trouble keeping her hands off the banoffee.
Just as she slapped down a scone in disgust with herself at having eaten so many, that’s when Darrin decided to show up. Catching her with all manner of crumbs on her chest and a noticeable spot of jam in the corner of her mouth. Darrin smiled and said, “I see you’re already enjoying yourself without me.”
Hastily wiping her mouth before she opened it, Elizabeth replied, “Figured I might as well since it seemed like you had forgotten about our little appointment.”
He sat down smoothly after hanging his suit jacket over the chair (a very gauche maneuver, Elizabeth noted) and returned, “‘Appointment?’ I thought this was a date.”
Enjoying the ease with which he opened the floodgates for banter, she riposted, “I think I’ll be the judge of that.”
He grinned and said, “Guess I haven’t made a very good impression so far then, have I?”
She poured herself some more champagne and shrugged, “I’ve encountered worse.”
“I’m sure that’s no lie.”
His overzealous agreement made her arch her brow. “And just what is that supposed to mean?”
Darrin picked up the same scone Elizabeth had jettisoned back onto the tray and assured, “Oh nothing bad, Lizzy. Just that women in general have to deal with all kinds of prickheads, don’t they?”
“First of all, no one calls me Lizzy, and I’m not going to let you be the one to break the rule. Second of all, your delusions of faux wokeness under the scam pretense of being a ‘self-hating man’ are not going to work on me.”
Darrin snatched the champagne bottle to pour some for himself as he chuckled. “Wow Lizzy, all the rumors are true. Nothing gets past you.”
Elizabeth could start to feel herself get hot under the proverbial collar (even if she was wearing a black tube top with diamond embellishments and an extremely cold diamond pendant necklace). Although she wanted to hate Darrin, despise him for his cheeky attitude and blatant chauvinism pretending to mask itself as “being evolved,” she was hopelessly attracted to him. And he seemed to be only too aware of his upper hand. He probably knew he could say whatever he wanted to her right now and the outcome would still be the same: they were going to end up in her hotel room. Which is exactly what they did. In spite of Darrin having no pedigree, no class—not even any historical knowledge of The Wolseley, an institution that had started out as a car showroom, with the architecture designed by William Curtis Green in the early 1920s. Elegant appearance or not, it didn’t take long for Wolseley Motors Limited to go bankrupt (and then, ironically, the space it occupied was taken over by Barclays Bank). For the vehicles in the showroom were not selling nearly enough to keep the enterprise afloat.
That didn’t really affect Frederick Wolseley’s bottom line though. Just as Darrin would not affect Elizabeth’s bottom line (only her bottom)… no matter how many times they shagged (which was to be many). And that was: she could never actually be with someone like him. Not out in the real world, for full-on public display. Yet, the more they were seen together at The Wolseley, barely staying for a few drinks before scuttling back to The Ritz to bone, the more it became apparent—over the course of six months—that it was a relationship.
The always tawdry British press declared as much against Elizabeth’s will, so she reasoned: might as well just keep staying with the bastard. He wasn’t the worst in bed and it was nice to have a direct connection to the West End. And, of course, someone to drink champagne afternoon tea with—even if only a few sips before the aphrodisiac effects set in. The way Elizabeth now saw it, maybe Darrin was like The Wolseley itself: after a while, you forgot that it ever could have been something as lowbrow as a Chinese restaurant… dressed up in the high-class disguise of a very opulent building.