blurb

the make-up girl first chapter

Here's the first chapter of The Make-Up Girl - hope you enjoy it!

‘Beauty is truth’
- John Keats

1.

I’m running late.

Literally.

I’m running and I’m late. This is the interview I have waited three years for – three years – and I should have been there five minutes ago. I mean, how did that happen?

I certainly left the flat on time. Well, the first time I left the flat it was on time.

Then I realised I had laddered my tights. So I went back.

Then I realised I looked like a vampire. So I slapped on some tan.

Then I realised I should change my tampon. Just in case.

Then I realised I had missed my bus.

Then I realised I had to get some money out for a taxi.

Then I realised the hole-in-the-wall was unable to complete my request, suggesting I should contact my card issuer.

Then I realised that I had gone over my overdraft limit to buy these shoes.

Then I realised that I had to get there on foot.

Then I realised the shoes which broke the bank seem equally capable of breaking my feet. Especially as I am currently engaged in a breathless attempt to break the land-speed record in order not to blow my chances completely.

There it is.

As I clip-clop down the pavement at hyper speed, I can see it.

The headquarters of Coleridge Communications, the biggest PR agency outside of London. There it is, six storeys of gleaming hope.

I decide to slow down to a fast walk. In fact, it’s less of a decision and more of a physical necessity. I’m hyperventilating, my heart is about to burst out of my shirt, and my squished feet are now two sizes smaller than when I started running.

I come to a complete stop just beyond view of the foyer, and clutch onto some black railings.

Okay, deep breaths.

Calm thoughts. I close my eyes and I’m on a beach, waves gently rolling, palm trees gently swaying . . .

‘Spare some change, love?’ I open my eyes and see a very skinny and ill-looking boy – no older than sixteen – holding out a polystyrene cup half-full of brown coins.

‘Um, yes,’ I say, as I fumble in my handbag for whatever loose coins happen to be lying about. I haven’t really got time, but I need all the karma-points I can get. And he does look pretty desperate. ‘Here.’

‘Nice one,’ he says, in appreciation of the miniscule amount I have just clunked in his cup.

I glance at the boy as he slouches off, in his faded clothes, and I try to gain some perspective. This is only a job interview, I tell myself. It’s not life or death.

With that thought, I fill my chest with air and climb the stone steps towards the revolving door. On the other side of the glass I can see the foyer – within which there is a very tall and intimidating desk with an immaculate looking woman perched behind it, talking importantly on the phone.

A sea of people are leaving the building – for lunch, I assume – and I wait timidly before attempting to jump into the flight path of the revolving doors.

This is it, I tell myself.

This is my one chance to make everything all right.

[FANCY READING ON? - OH GO ON THEN, HERE'S ANOTHER CHAPTER - DON'T SAY I'M NOT GENEROUS]

2.

Once inside the foyer, I start to heat up. And I mean, really heat up. After a two mile run in high heels and a suit, that’s just what I need. A pre-interview sauna. The immaculate looking woman behind the desk must be a complete psycho. Either that, or she’s not a human being at all and needs this kind of temperature to heat up her blood.

I arrive in front of her desk and wait for her to finish her phone call and acknowledge my presence. In the meantime, I check out her make-up. Mist foundation, sprayed on for even coverage. Perfect shading on the cheekbones. No bags or grey under the eyes. And then I start to worry. I must look a right mess. I mean, make-up is normally what I’m good at. But this morning I was all over the place. And I bet I overdid it on the tan. And the two mile run won’t have helped.

The immaculate woman finishes her phone call and looks up. She gives me a brief, but forensic assessment. I could just be paranoid, but she seems to be looking slightly amused at my appearance. Oh no. What’s the matter? Have I got bird poo on my shoulder or something?

‘Um, I’ve got an interview.’

‘Sorry?’ she asks, as amusement turns to confusion.

‘I’ve got an interview,’ I say again, only this time trying not to let my nerves make me incoherent.

‘Which company?’

What does she mean which company? Don’t they own the whole building? ‘Er, Coleridge Communications. It’s with Sam Johnson.’

‘You mean John Sampson?’

Shit. What an idiot.

‘Yes, sorry. It’s Faith Wishart.’ Well, at least I got that bit right.

Immaculate woman picks up the phone and presses one number. Two seconds later she says: ‘John, Faith Wishart.’

My God, I think. This is how important John Sampson is. He doesn’t even have time for proper sentences.

‘He’ll be two minutes,’ the immaculate woman says, before raising her perfectly plucked eyebrows and smiling smugly to herself.

Okay, now I’m really paranoid.

I sit down next to a head-high pot plant which, on closer inspection, turns out to be a fake. There are some magazines on the table in front of me. I resist the latest issue of Gloss and pick up a copy of PR Week, pretending to look interested.

Shit, my hands are shaking. And my palms are damp with sweat.

Come on Faith. Concentrate.

I try and remember everything I wrote on the application form. All the true bits, the nearly-true bits and the completely false bits. But I can’t even think straight.

Why am I a good team player?

Did I say I had a 2.1 or a First?

What relevant experience did I have again?

It’s no good. The steady drum of my heart has now accelerated into a mad bongo rhythm. My legs are numb and my tongue is sticking to the roof of my mouth.

The lift pings and slides open to reveal John Sampson.

‘Faith?’ he asks in a voice so deep his vocal chords must be located in his testicles. He holds out an enormous hand. ‘John Sampson.’

Oh blinking bollocks, he’s gorgeous.

And look at that suit. It must be Gucci or something. Purple shirt, no tie, open at the neck, dark curly hair, confident smile, and one of those faces that actually suit being old. And when I say old I don’t mean Hugh Hefner old I just mean George Clooney old.

Okay, so the purple shirt does nothing for him. I mean, this is a man clearly in touch with his inner-prune. But other than that he’s just like the men you read about in all those novels.

Tall, check.

Dark, check.

Handsome, double check.

If this was the nineteenth century I’d be swooning right now. I’d be swooning for England and he’d pick me up and ride me away on his black steed (whatever a black steed is) and he’d take me to his castle and ravish me and write me a love sonnet and we’d go off and poison ourselves or drown in a lake or start a revolution or something . . .

Shit, I’m delirious.

I really shouldn’t have missed breakfast this morning.

Anyway, it’s not the nineteenth century, and I’ve got a job to get.

I somehow manage to stand.

‘Pleased to meet you,’ I tremble.

He is looking at me straight on, and then I remember: eye contact. If you want to make the right impression, you have to fix the interviewer’s gaze.

‘After you,’ he says, nodding towards the open lift door.

I hesitate.

There is a strange-looking woman standing in the lift, staring right at me. The woman is bright orange and looks absolutely petrified.

Oh shit.

It’s a mirror.

Petrified orange woman is me.

Bollocks, how much of the flaming stuff did I slap on? The bottle had promised a deep, natural, radiant tan. Radioactive, more like. Mind you, what kind of tan is going to look natural in April? In bloody Leeds?

And what’s more, it’s started to streak, near my ear. All because mum says I look anaemic.

No wonder immaculate receptionist lady was smirking. I walk into the lift, and try and remember what exactly I put on the form. And then I get a feeling. A preminitiony feeling. As if something is about to go horribly wrong
.

***

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