“Errm. . finance,” I say vaguely. “A piece on finance.”
To be honest, I’m feeling so relaxed, I can hardly remember what I’m doing here.
“Oh, yeah,” says Chloe, efficiently smoothing foundation over my face. “They were talking earlier about some financial thing.” She reaches for a palette of eyeshadows, blends a couple of colors together, then picks up a brush. “So, are you a financial expert, then?”
“Well,” I say, a little awkwardly. “You know.”
“Wow,” says Chloe, starting to apply eyeshadow to my eyelids. “I don’t understand the first thing about money.”
“Me neither!” chimes in a dark-haired girl from across the room. “My accountant’s given up trying to explain it all to me. As soon he says the word ‘tax-year,’ my mind glazes over.”
I’m about to reply sympathetically “Me too!” and launch into a nice girly chat — but then I stop myself. The memory of Janice and Martin is a bit too raw for me to be flippant.
“You probably know quite a lot more about your finances than you realize,” I say instead. “If you really don’t know. . then you should take advice from someone who does.”
“You mean a financial expert like you?” says the girl.
I smile back, trying to look confident — but all this talk of my being a “financial expert” is unnerving me. I feel as though any minute now, someone’s going to walk in, ask me an impossible question about South African bond yields, and then denounce me as a fraud. Thank goodness I know exactly what I’m going to say on air.
“Sorry, Rebecca,” says Chloe, “I’m going to have to interrupt. Now, I was thinking a raspberry red for the lips. Is that OK by you?”
What with all this chatting, I haven’t really been paying attention to what she’s been doing to my face. But as I look at my reflection properly, I can’t quite believe it. My eyes are huge; I’ve suddenly got amazing cheekbones. . honestly, I look like a different person. Why on earth don’t I wear makeup like this every day?
“Wow!” I breathe.
“It’s easier because you’re so calm,” observes Chloe, reaching into a black vanity case. “We get some people in here, really trembling with nerves. Even celebrities. We can hardly do their makeup.”
“Really?” I say, and lean forward, ready to hear some insider gossip. But Zelda’s voice interrupts us.
“Sorry about that, Rebecca!” she exclaims. “Right, how are we doing? Makeup looks good. What about hair?”
“It’s nicely cut,” says Chloe, picking up a few strands of my hair and dropping them back down again, just like Nicky Clarke on a makeover. “I’ll just give it a blow-dry for sheen.”
“Fine,” says Zelda. “And then we’ll get her along to wardrobe.” She glances at something on her clipboard, then sits down on a swivel chair next to me. “OK, so, Rebecca, we need to talk about your item.”
“Excellent,” I say, matching her businesslike tone. “Well, I’ve prepared it all just as you wanted. Really simple and straightforward.”
“Yup,” says Zelda. “Well, that’s the thing. We had a talk at the meeting yesterday, and you’ll be glad to hear, we don’t need it too basic, after all.” She smiles. “You’ll be able to get as technical as you like!”
“Oh, right,” I say, taken aback. “Well. . good! That’s great! Although I might still keep it fairly low—”
“We want to avoid talking down to the audience. I mean, they’re not morons!” Zelda lowers her voice slightly. “Plus we had some new audience research in yesterday, and apparently 80 percent of our viewers feel patronized by some or all of the show’s content. Basically, we need to redress that balance. So we’ve had a complete change of plan for your item!” She beams at me. “What we thought is, instead of a simple interview, we’d have more of a high-powered debate.”
“A high-powered debate?” I echo, trying not to sound as alarmed as I feel.
“Absolutely!” says Zelda. “What we want is a really heated discussion! Opinions flying, voices raised. That kind of thing.”
“So is that OK?” says Zelda, frowning at me. “You look a bit—”
“I’m fine!” I force myself to smile brightly. “Just. . looking forward to it! A nice high-powered debate. Great!” I clear my throat. “And. . and who will I be debating with?”