Her expression softens and her brows lift. Helena’s shoulders relax ever so slightly and she sinks down in her kitchen chair. When her eyes lock into mine, her cheeks turn a light shade of pink.
“You’re so sweet,” she says. “But I still want you to focus on this monstrosity.”
She points at her nose once more, and I move her hand away.
“I’m going to focus on those beautiful emerald eyes of yours,” I say with a smile. “And those to-die-for cheekbones. And your skin. It’s flawless. I don’t see a single wrinkle anywhere.”
Helena smiles, her eyes glassing over. “Nobody’s ever said those things to me.”
I frown, hoisting my makeup case on her table and grabbing colors. “I find that extremely hard to believe.”
“My ex,” she says, “Harold, he always used to tell me I should get a nose job. But I’m terrified of surgery. I don’t like going under. And I’m afraid I’m going to be one of those women, you know, those plastic-looking ones you see in L.A.? They think they look great but really they look like freaks.”
“You made the right choice, Helena. For sure.”
“He was always pointing it out,” she says, “saying it needed its own zip code.”
I make a disgusting noise in the back of my throat. “That’s terrible. Did you put him in his place? Please tell me you did.”
“Sure did,” she says, sitting up tall. “I divorced his sorry ass.”
I hold my palm up, suggesting a high-five, and she meets it with a hard smack.
“But now, here I am.” She sighs, staring straight ahead into her kitchen. Her apartment is modest, and I’m guessing it’s a one-bedroom. There’s not a lot of color or any photos or personalized decorations that suggest this is more than a furnished, temporary rental. “Trying to get back out there again.”
“Have you been dating much?” I color-match her skin tone to one of my sheer foundations and squirt a blob on the back of my hand. She doesn’t need much, just a few places to even out her complexion.
“Oh, honey, no,” she says. “I hear it’s rough out there. Not for the faint of heart.”
“You heard correct.” I roll my eyes. “I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from dating this last year. Focusing on my business instead.”
“Good for you.” I feel her watching me, studying, and her lips quiver like she wants to say something but isn’t sure if she should. “Can I just say something?”
“Of course.” I grab a pot of cream blush in a shade of dusty rose and snap it open.
“I never had a daughter,” she says. “Or any kids for that matter. So I feel compelled to pass along a few words of wisdom, if I may.”
“By all means.” I pat the blush on top of the apples of her cheeks, leaving room for some highlight and contour above and below.
“Don’t stay married to your job too long,” she says. “One of these days you’re going to wake up and you might be lonely, and you’ve squandered the best years of your life away for the one thing that can never love you back.”
I nod, focusing on the curve of her cheekbone as she talks.
“I mean, Harold has his faults, but I wasn’t perfect either,” she says. “We loved each other like hell. The first twenty years were fire and ice and magic, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. In the end, we just weren’t meant to last. We got mean, you know? That’s when you know it’s time to hang it up and go home.”
I’m not sure what to say. I’ve had clients who like to vent, and they like to project, or they see part of themselves in me and that makes them open up to a complete stranger more than they normally would.
“Anyway, I look at you and I see this light in your eyes that you only have for so long,” she says. “You’re young and beautiful and smart and nice. I’d hate for you to spend the next twenty years married to work when you could be fighting and screwing some hot piece of ass. Believe me, when the work loses its flavor, and some day it will, you’re going to wish you had some hot and spicy memories to keep you warm at night. Everyone needs someone who makes their blood boil and their panties melt.”
“God,” she sighs. “Believe it or not, Harold used to be something wonderful to look at. And then he got bald. And fat. And mean. But at least I have the memories, right?”
“So who’s your hot date tonight?” I switch gears, consulting my eyeshadow palette. They’re mostly taupes and browns, but they’ll make for a killer smoky eye and bring out those emerald greens of hers.
She smiles with her eyes and tries to tame her excitement. “His name is Brad, and he’s an accountant. A CPA actually.”
“Very nice. How’d you meet?”
“We haven’t actually met yet,” she says. “We’ve been texting through this dating app. It’s weird to me, but it seems to be the way everyone meets these days. Anyway, we’re meeting for dinner at this Italian place in Little Italy. Starting with dinner and going from there.”
“Do you have anyone to call you partway through? You know, if the date is going bad, you can say you have an emergency and have to bail?”
She looks at me like I’m speaking a foreign language. “Do people actually do that?”
My jaw falls. “Um, yes. I do it for my friends all the time.”