“Hello Emily, Mrs Warren is waiting for you in room 2,” said a serious looking man in a dark grey suit.
“Thanks Mr Drake, I’ll get straight to work.” The young woman smiled and headed for a pair of oak panelled doors with a polished brass number 2 above them on the frame. She opened one door quietly and put her head into the room beyond. “Hello Mrs Warren, I’m Emily and I am here to give you your makeover,” she announced to it’s occupant.
Mrs Warren made no response. Emily walked in and closed the door behind her, setting a large animal print hold-all on the table next to Mrs Warren. She unzipped it, and took out a red velvet cantilever make-up case and set it down beside the holdall.
The only other object on the table was a silver photo frame. She picked it up, and studied the picture within. An attractive, smiling woman – obviously a younger Mrs Warren – was standing on a bridge leaning back on the railings, a coy smile playing on her lips. In the background was a huge passenger steam boat. “Nice picture Mrs W. Love those classic cheekbones. Quite the looker aren’t we?” She set the photo down where she could see it and began taking brushes, powder and make-up pencils out of the case.
“Quiet one huh? No problem, I am used to that. I did J-Lo once, and she never spoke to me the whole time either – an hour and twenty minutes! I don’t take offence. But I do like to chat while I work, so if you don’t like that just let me know and I’ll shut up. OK?”
She studied the picture for a moment before selecting a foundation. She took a large brush and loaded it. “keep your eyes closed now,” she added, then set to work. Working steadily with light rapid movements she applied a base colour. Beginning with the forehead, she swept evenly around the eyes to the cheeks, then to the nose, and back out to the ears.
“I used to work in Hollywood, you know.” she smiled broadly pausing and looking upwards as she recollected. “That was until I met Ethan. He used to get so jealous, he didn’t like me moving in those circles. It got to be more trouble than it was worth so I packed it all in, and here I am.” She shook her head wistfully then refocused on her client.
“That’s a nasty bruise you got there Mrs W,” she murmured, chewing on her bottom lip. She gently folded the elderly lady’s hair behind her right ear for better access. “Don’t worry, by the time I’ve finished with you no-one will ever know it was there.” She swirled the brush around in the foundation and began covering a large purple contusion that stretched from the hairline between the cheekbone and the right ear to the underside of Mrs Warren’s jawbone. As if by magic, the bruise began to fade beneath the feather light kiss of Emily’s brush.
A trumpeted fanfare briefly sounded, muffled by the faux leopard-skin bag on the table. “I’m so sorry Mrs W, I should have turned that off.” said Emily, pausing to stare at her bag, as if expecting it to move. “My man says he needs to talk to me,” she confided smiling, “I have a hunch that tonight is going to be a big night.” Mrs Warren remained impassive as Emily slowly put down the brush and reached for the bag.
She glanced at Mrs Warren, then took out a black Motorolla Razr i from an end pocket of the bag and read the newly arrived text message. She covered her mouth with her free hand as she read, the shock written in her furrowed brow and wide eyes. Her nose reddened as she scrolled down, and her eyes brimmed as she absorbed the information in her hand.
She put the phone down on the table and stared for a few moments at the anguished figure that hung, suspended by his bloody palms and ankles on the wall above her. The sadness in his eyes mirrored her own, and she felt a fleeting pang of shame at how long it had been since her last confession.
She closed her eyes and breathed deeply for a few moments, then opened them. With a monumental effort she forced them to dry, swallowed down the boiling, swelling emotions that threatened to rise up and overwhelm her, and dressed her face in a smile.
Picking up the brush once more, she returned to her work and in a short time, the bruising was completely hidden. Another glance at the photo, then Emily selected a thick, coloured pencil and drew two broad lines under the cheekbones. She put down the pencil and using the middle finger of her right hand, began to rub and blend the lines until the cheekbones had been perfectly highlighted.
She stepped back and scrutinized the elderly woman. “Not bad, not bad at all. You are starting to look like your old self.” She rummaged in the main compartment of the case and picked out a lip liner. Expertly, she recreated the Cupid’s Bow from the photograph, and enlarged the lower lip area to create a more youthful appearance. She matched as closely as she could the colour in the photograph and painted the lips accordingly.
Every few moments, she glanced at the phone, but no new message appeared. “You know Mrs W, you just can’t rely on a man.” she said through pursed lips. “You give up everything and everyone, travel halfway around the country, and then you find yourself alone.” She gazed at the old lady, marveling at how few lines crossed her face. There was nothing in her visage to speak of a life of cares and hardship, no woes or suffering had carved their pain in that beautiful porcelain skin. How could she understand?
Something else troubled Emily. There was something not quite perfect, Mrs Warren looked different. It was the eyes. The eyes and the brow. She squinted at the picture straining to make out the shape of the brow and the colour of the eye-shadow. Mrs Warren had neglected her brow of late, and the definition had become somewhat lost.
With a pair of fine tweezers she teased and shaped until she had recreated as best she could the eyebrows from the photograph, touching up with a pencil to improve the definition. “Outstanding Mrs W.” she smiled, pleased with her work. “That is much better. It is so important to maintain your brow. It draws attention to the eyes, so don’t forget it.”
She paused for a moment, gazing at the elderly lady. “What do I do Mrs W? I’m still young right? I Got my whole life in front of me… no disrespect.” she added apologetically.
She shook her head and picked up the photo frame once more, holding it close to her face to see the colour of the eye-shadow. “You are in luck Mrs W, I think I have your match right here.” With an expert touch she applied a primer between the lash-lines and the brow, followed by a neutral base layer to Mrs Warren’s eyelids. Next she applied a darker highlight to the crease before finishing with a lighter blue-green hue to the eyelids to bring out the colour of the eye. Taking an eye-liner from the case she swept a perfect line above and below each lash-line extending a little beyond each eye. “I wish all my clients kept as still as you Mrs W.” she murmured, with the liner top still in her mouth.
Once she had applied Mascara, Emily turned her attention to the old lady’s hair. She teased and sprayed with brush, volumiser and shiner, until Mrs Warren’s hair had acquired the appearance of having much greater body and a youthful lustre.
She stepped back to admire her work. “Damn I’m good,” she stated, pleased with what she saw. The Oak panelled door opened and the impeccable Mr Drake appeared to stand at her side with his arms folded.
“Outstanding work Emily, outstanding. All done?”
“All done Mr Drake.” said Emily as she began to pack away her things.
“Good, Mrs Warren’s family are in reception waiting to see the body. Because of your fine work they have been spared a good deal of suffering. I have another one coming in tomorrow, a road traffic accident. Quite messy I understand. Are you interested?”
She smiled at him for a moment considering. “You know Mr Drake, I think I’ll have to say no thank you. It’s time I spent a bit more of my life amongst the living – no disrespect.”
He smiled at her and nodded. “Take care of yourself Emily.”
“You too Mr Drake,” replied Emily, and turning to Mrs Warren she added, “Goodbye Mrs W and thanks for the chat. I feel much better now.” She picked up the animal print hold-all and put the strap over her shoulder. She took a deep breath and without looking back she strode out of the undertakers, and into the afternoon sun.