It’s mid-morning, and the queue outside Karori Mall is longer and livelier than usual.
“What’s going on?” asks Bridget, joining the line.
“Haven’t you heard?” someone answers, excitedly. “Meghan Markle’s opened a shop. And she’s giving away designer stuff for free!”
“Like what?” Bridget wants to know. Scanning for clues, she watches delighted shoppers emerging from the mall, carrying gift-wrapped parcels.
Nobody can believe their luck. The Duchess of Sussex has taken over Rosina’s café! A pretty string of bunting hangs in the window, announcing MEGHAN’S POP-UP WELLNESS SHOP. Beneath it is the hand-lettered sign: Another Selfless Act of Kindness from the Duke & Duchess of Sussex.
Instead of the usual stacks of ham sandwiches and slices, the café’s cabinets are chockers with top-selling must-haves from Gwyneth Paltrow’s luxury brand, Goop.
When Bridget makes it inside, she is astounded by the selection. Charcoal toothbrushes! LED light masks! Saffron and 24-carat-gold exfoliating powder! Little jars of leeches! It’s like poking in Gwyneth’s bathroom drawers in her L.A. mansion. Everything that a beautiful, famous, neurotic, evidence-averse, self-promoting millionaire could ever need, is all right here at Rosina’s!
Bridget can take anything she likes from the baskets placed around the shop – a meditation pillow, or a T-shirt with the slogan Science Is Nice, But Have You Tried Woo-Woo?
But the most popular items are right by the door. One basket is packed with Goop’s notorious jade eggs. LADIES, a sign implores, TAKE ONE FOR THE GOOD OF YOUR YONI.
Another offers Gwyneth’s world-famous ‘This Smells Like My Vagina’ candles. Usually marked at $100 each, Meghan is giving them freely to the women of Karori, proposing they LIGHT ONE FOR THE MAN IN YOUR LIFE.
Ripples of excitement radiate outwards from the mall. There are walkers all over Karori, their dogs straining at the lead, gazing astonished at inspirational messages that have appeared all over the suburb.
YOU ARE LOVED is sprayed across the glass windows of the library.
YOU ARE STRONG is painted on the toilet block down at Karori Park.
DANCE LIKE NOBODY’S WATCHING is splashed all over the bowling club.
DRIVE LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE IS ON MEDS is plastered across the intersection at Chaytor Street and Karori Road.
A One News car is already parked up beside the library, where a camera operator is filming. “This feel-good graffiti has all the hallmarks of Meghan, Duchess of Sussex,” a reporter is saying into the lens, “who is well known for her vast and unimaginable self-belief.”
The reporter smiles and holds a jade egg up to the camera. “Could this be the secret to surviving lockdown? Now that Meghan has been giving these away for free, only the ladies of Karori can tell us.” A power-walking middle-aged woman strides past, her cheeks rosy, giggling to herself.
Back at Homewood, Meghan is delighted. She’s back doing what she does best: helping grateful people in Instagrammy ways. Harry is feeling good too. He’s in the shed, rinsing all the paint brushes with solvent. He inhales deeply, and sees little stars bursting all over the place.
Camilla is less than thrilled. She’s spent years being serially upstaged by royal weddings, births, christenings, Meghan’s outfits, and special editions of newspapers whenever Kate Middleton cuts her fringe! Karori was her opportunity to win the hearts of New Zealanders, not the Sussexes’. She stomps off to find Charles.
He’s watching the 1pm press conference, and motions for her to be quiet. “New Zealand appears to be close to elimination,” he says. “Perfectly extraordinary for an unassuming little country like this to be leading the way, when only a generation ago the Rolling Stones called Invercargill ‘the arsehole of the world’.”
“If Invercargill is the arsehole, I suppose Karori is the tummy button,” remarks Camilla. “But really, who pays attention to Keith Richards? He’s looks like he’s spent the last 40 years boiling in a bag of Jack Daniels.”
The future king and his wife gaze at the television. The Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield is rattling through the statistics.
“What a kind face he has,” says Camilla. “Intelligent eyes. Good teeth. Excellent fetlocks.”
“Ssh, it’s time for reporters’ questions,” Charles says, crossly.
“Dr Bloomfield,” someone is asking, “Do you have any comment on widespread reports that the suburb of Karori has begun giving off a startling sort of smell?” There is a murmur of interest among the press gallery. The reporter coughs apologetically and adds, “Apparently, it’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s vagina.”
Camilla switches off the TV in irritation. “Charles,” she snaps. “We can’t allow the Sussexes to dominate the news agenda in this country. It’s time to act. You have to do something to become the King of People’s Hearts.”
“The Duchess of York has been filming herself reading to children,” remarks Charles. “Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy, and so on.”
“Who is actually watching?” asks Camilla.
“According to British intelligence, only the FBI,” remarks Charles. “They’re waiting for Andrew to walk into shot, so they can serve him extradition papers.
“I could read something similar to local people, to raise their spirits,” Charles goes on, waving a leather-bound book. “I’ve chosen The Plague by Albert Camus.”
“No. no,” snaps Camilla, rudely. “You need to be seen doing good works.” She taps her chin. “Hmmm, Hairy Maclary. I think dogs might be the way to win over the locals. I’ve never seen so many spoodles, pugs and cavoodles, and that’s just on Messines Road.
“I’ve got it!” Camilla claps her hands. “Canine obedience demonstrations, down at Karori Park. It’s perfect. It performs a vital local service while showing the public you’re capable of decisive leadership.”
“By ordering a dog across a see-saw?” asks Charles, doubtfully.
“I’ll organise it,” says Camilla. “We’ll need some weave poles, a tunnel, hurdles and a whistle. Stop being so limp about everything, Charles! Search for the mongrel inside yourself.”
She bustles from the room. “Stay!” Charles calls, but she disregards his command.
In the next riveting instalment: Bad news for Wills and Kate, and Philip shouts at everyone