Closing the book, I push it aside and pull in a deep breath, letting the heaviness of this man’s words sink into me with their languid, bitter sweetness.
“Who are you?” I stand in the doorway of my dressing room Wednesday morning, half-regretting my decision to agree to co-host Smack Talk for the rest of the week.
A woman with wavy lavender hair fastens a belt around her waist and gives me a bright smile. “I’m Topaz. I’ll be doing your makeup today.”
She lifts a brow. “Aidy filled in for me yesterday. She won’t be back.”
Topaz points to the chair that centers the room. “Let’s get started. Stacia’ll be in here soon, and you’re live in thirty.”
All last night I thought about texting Aidy, asking her how she knew what the crazy woman with the journal was wearing and expecting her full confession. I wanted to know how she knew who I was, if she followed me to the pizza pub, and if she knew I was co-hosting Smack Talk and somehow arranged to cover for her friend.
“She won’t be back?” I ask as she fastens a smock around me, wanting absolute clarification. I have her number, and I suppose I could text her and ask her to meet me, but I was assuming I’d see her in person today, and I didn’t want to make things any more awkward than necessary.
Topaz presses her lips together and shakes her head. “Nope. Did you need to get a hold of her for something?”
“I have her number.”
She blends foundation into my skin and then sweeps a bushy brush across my forehead, her mouth spreading wide. “You do, do you?”
“It’s not like that.”
“You sure?” Her voice trails upward.
Next, she dusts powder across and under my nose, and I fight every urge to sneeze.
“Positive,” I say, wrinkling my nose.
“Whatever you say.” Topaz turns, her back toward me, and digs around in her makeup case.
“Sorry I’m late.” Stacia rushes through the door, depositing a bag near my feet. Crouching down, she unzips it and pulls out a brush and a handful of products. “Michael decided he needed a haircut today before filming, so . . . whatever Michael wants, Michael gets.”
Topaz chuffs. “He’s the reason we’re here, so we can’t really complain.”
Stacia doesn’t smile. “Had I known he wanted a haircut, I’d have come twenty minutes early today. The man’s got my number. You think it’s too much to ask him to actually use it for something other than . . .”
She stops, her gaze flicking from Topaz to me and back.
“I’m sorry,” Stacia says, cheeks glowing red. “This is inappropriate.”
I look away. “Don’t mind me.”
“You done here?” Stacia says to Topaz as she points at me.
Topaz looks me over, her chin pointing forward. “Yeah. I’m done.”
It takes all of five minutes for Stacia to finesse my hair into shape, and by the time she’s finished, Blake is waiting, clipboard in hand, to take me to the set.
I pull my phone out of my pocket to silence it as we walk, and for a moment, I think about sending Aidy a text filled with questions.
“You ready?” Michelle greets me on the other side of the swinging doors, and then she hooks her arm into mine. “Silence that, will you?”
I press the buzzer to apartment 3C in an old post-war building on the Upper East Side Wednesday evening. I’m fifteen minutes early, but if I’m lucky, my client won’t mind.
“Hello?” A voice comes through the speaker.
“Hi, I’m Aidy with Glam2Go. Here for your appointment,” I say, leaning in.
“I’ll buzz you.”
The speaker goes dead and the door buzzes. Heading in, I climb three flights of stairs. The hallways are narrow and painted in a depressing shade of gray, but the carpet looks fresh. Rounding the corner, I spot her door on the left. Pausing a moment, I rap lightly.
The door swings open almost immediately, and a barefaced woman in her mid-forties stands before me, dressed in a cherry blossom-covered robe. She pats at her face and smooths her dark blonde hair behind her ear.
“You’re early,” she says, a bit of a chuckle in her tone.
“No, no, you’re fine. Come on in. I’ve got a spot at the table for us.” She holds the door open and motions toward the kitchen table. “It’s right by the window. I thought you might want natural light.”
“I’m Helena,” she says. Her hand slides down the lapel of her robe, and the more I study her face, the more it seems to make her nervous.
In my mind, I’m mentally choosing colors and deciphering how best to accentuate her beautiful green eyes and high cheekbones.
“Can you do anything about this?” She laughs nervously and points to her nose. It’s large with a bump down the middle and definitely not something easily hidden. It anchors her entire face, though she’s still a very attractive woman.
I smile and nod. As a woman, I know first-hand how we all have our hangups. Some of us tend to fixate on things we wish we could fix, things that make us feel less-than. Some of us forever obsess over things men in our lives have deemed as flaws.
“Helena, can I just say that I think you’re absolutely stunning.” I mean it. One hundred percent. I hope, twenty years from now, to look half as beautiful as she does.