It is entirely covered with photos of Jack Irish. Some I have blown up.
Oh yeah! That’s the other reason why I hate Lana Bloom. On my thirteenth birthday with the whole of my newly thirteen-year-old heart I fell deeply and irrevocably in love with Jack. And deeply in love with him I remain to this day.
Unfortunately, he is under the mistaken impression that he is besotted with her.
I wake up early the next morning. There is no fogginess to clear away. Immediately it hits me. Today I am not going to work but am having lunch with Lana and Billie, and afterwards, we are going for Lana’s fourth and most probably final fitting for her wedding gown. Billie and I will also be trying on our bridesmaid’s dresses for the first time. I leap out of bed. There is so much to do. I strap on my sports bra, pull on a pair of black leggings and tie my hair into a ponytail high on my head.
Quick glance at the bedside clock. Nearly 7.00 a.m.
I spread a yoga mat on the carpet and a towel on top. Sitting on it I begin with some warm-up moves—slow, deep stretches. Then I lie down and do double my usual quota of stomach exercises, making sure that with every sit-up I punish my muscles mercilessly. I bound upwards energetically, take a sip of water from a plastic water bottle, and, alert to my rapidly increasing heartbeat, skip five hundred times on the spot. I come to a stop and, panting hard, wait thirty seconds. Then I continue skipping as fast as I can for another thirty seconds. I do the start and stop thing seven times.
By now I am drenched in sweat, my muscles are screaming and I am exhausted. I stick my headphones on and with music blaring into my ears I give over to twenty minutes of non-stop aerobics. I take off the headphones and slow down with thirty minutes of Callanetics. I do a hundred repetitions of each of the deliberately micro-small sets of movement. Every tiny contraction causes me burning pain, but it does not deter me until the entire routine is complete. I stand up and wipe the sweat dripping off me with an old towel.
I feel alive, strong and… prepared.
Taking a bucket full of cleaning solutions I leave my room—locking my bedroom door even though everyone is still asleep—and go into the bathroom. For about fifteen minutes as I do every day, I bleach and clean the sink, toilet bowl, shower cubicle, the tiles on the walls and the floor until they sparkle. Flushed and hot I step into the shower and turn on the tap. The shock of the ice-cold water hitting my head and shoulders makes me gasp. Just before my teeth start to chatter I twist the hot water tap and allow the water to become warm. The pleasure is indescribable.
Soaped and shampooed I step out and dry myself with a clean towel. Wrapping the damp one around my body and another around my head I make my way back to my room. It is almost eight thirty by now. No one else is awake and the flat is still and quiet. If I put my ear to any of the other bedroom doors I will hear slow, heavy snores.
I sit in front of the mirror and gently massage my toweled head. Scrubbing hard damages the hair shaft. When I pull away the towel my hair is a wavy blue-black mess in the mirror. I part my hair and peer at the roots to see if my true color, a soft brown that turns the color of golden syrup and wheat in summer, is showing, but it is not. For many years I chemically straightened my hair, but a few months ago my hair began falling out, so now I am down to hot plates every time I wash my hair.
I plug the hair straightener into the socket, the light comes on, and I set about applying a ten-pence-sized squirt of protective cream on the palm of my hand and working it into my hair. With the blow dryer set on medium heat I begin to dry my hair. I work carefully because it is only last night that I glued on my acrylic nails and I don’t want them ruined. They are long and pink and look good against my black hair. I adore them but can’t have them all the time; I work as a florist.
When my hair is dry I gather thin lots between my fingers and pass them through the heated plates. Twenty minutes later my hair is a shiny black curtain falling six inches below my shoulders. I apply some wax to the ends and turn my head from side to side the way they do in shampoo adverts. The curtain swings just like it does in the ads.
Pushing my eyelids open one at a time, I slip in my colored contact lenses. I blink quickly a few times. They settle in. I look at myself in the mirror. My dishwater color irises are now blue.
Blue eyes and black hair—just like Lana.
I lean forward and unscrew the cap of the foundation bottle. I apply a fine layer with a damp sponge, carefully working towards my ears and blending into my hairline. That done, I pat compact powder onto the base. I pick up a magnifying mirror and check that the job is flawless. It is.
Time for color. First the eyes. Resting my right elbow on the dressing table top to steady it, I slowly pull the eyeliner brush around my eyes minimizing the slight upwards slant. I do the same to the other eye. Already my eyes look as big and as straight as Lana’s.
Time to open them up: four layers of mascara. Using a combination of eye pencil and mascara and light feathery strokes, I color my eyebrows to match my hair. I tinge the apples of my cheeks with pink. Now for the hard part. I use a lip pencil and expertly draw my lips thicker than they are. The line is faultlessly even. I paint inside it. I wish I could afford those collagen injections that celebrities are always having done. But I can’t so this will have to do.
I lean back slightly and look at myself and feel happy with the heavily painted mask the world will see. I dress in a white lace top, a cropped pink and white candy striped jacket and a darker pink mini skirt.
I fasten a sparkly, three-row necklace of glass beads set in zinc and linked together like chainmail around my neck. If I had seen it in a store’s display case I would never have bought it, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t think it looks all that, but the Duchess of Cambridge wore one at the royal screening of Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom and all the papers and magazines called it a drool-worthy, stunning style statement. So I rushed to Zara and queued up to buy it. Just in time to snatch the second last one. It had only cost £19.99. What’s good for a Duchess…
Sourly, I wonder what Lana will wear now that she has all that money. She’ll probably come dripping in diamonds. I step into a pair of white court shoes with soft pink polka dots. They are difficult to manage. They are not tight, simply badly designed. But they were cheap and look like a pair I have seen Paris Hilton wearing. Slowly and deliberately, so as not to stumble, I walk towards the mirror. I look at my reflection and a flutter of nervous self-doubt begins in my belly.
I quell it—you’re not fat anymore.