A week or two ago I had the pleasure of taking part in Westville Girls’ High School “Tech Week”. I was allocated two time slots, my purpose being to speak to the girls about my journey, and the use of technology in The Legacy Trilogy (the Gifting procedures, etc). Which was all fair and well, and something I was looking forward to.
Seeing as I would be making a trip “out of town” (Westville is a good 20kms from Hillcrest ) I figured I might as well make a day of it and stop by the Pavilion to get my daughter a birthday present (I’m incredibly thoughtful like that). I spent an hour painstakingly applying my make-up so that I wouldn’t be intimidated by the fresh-faced beauty of the teenage posse I was about to face, packed my passport and some food for the road, and off I went.
All was going well, and I was (very-nearly-almost) bang on schedule. Anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I don’t believe in spoiling my children, so I only had about seventeen shopping bags and an electric scooter under my arms as I weaved frantically through the crowds in a mad dash to get to the talk on time. (As one does when one is in a hurry, I may also have stopped to grab a Cinnabon)
At that point my cell phone rang. Of course, I had to answer it, proceeding to almost knock myself out with a bag of “Top Model” books as I did so, and then began an exciting conversation that I honestly cannot remember. At all. Because here’s where the whole experience becomes somewhat of a blur….
Firstly, I want to make it very clear that I am impossible to con. I don’t fall for tricks, plots, scams, ploys, sales pitches, telemarketers, pyramid schemes, dulcet tones, hypnotism, mentalists, one-legged men, children pretending to be orphans, dogs with no collars, or Christmas carollers. I’m a cynic, plain and simple. You cannot take me on – you are going to lose. I will eat you alive and spit out the pieces. I’m cold as ice, snappy, scathing and insanely perceptive.
Which is why I can honest to God say I HAVE NO IDEA how I ended up in that chair….
One minute I was nattering away, striding through the mall with single-minded purpose, and the next, someone steps in front of me, holding out a piece of paper. So intent was I on my conversation that I did the unthinkable. I HESITATED. I’ve heard that your life can change in the blink of an eye, but I never really believed it ’til now. Turns out it’s true. A split second was all it took.
I found myself seated on a high stool in a miniscule shop, my packets unceremoniously dumped on the floor beside me while as Asian man bewailed the fact that my skin looked tired, dull and in desperate need of some “pop” – all spoken in what I assume he thought was a convincing French accent, while the waft of curry breezing in from the back room made my eyes water.
“What foun-day-shion do you use?” he demanded next, to which I proudly and unflinchingly announced: “Kanebo.” I swear his immaculately tweezed brows disappeared into his hairline and he gave a sort of cough-sneeze-fart that indicated he did not approve.
Before I could even open my mouth to protest, said “Frenchman” produced a wet wipe out of thin air, and any cries of “stop!” were smothered as he pressed it against my mouth like some “Christian Grey” wannabe and simpered, “Trust me,” in a low voice (he may have dropped the French accent at this stage, but quickly resumed it when he announced me “zee most beautiful woman”). I was so stunned, I shut my mouth. Three brisk wipes later, my mornings efforts had been eradicated, and I sat with a naked, blotchy face. Plus, I was late.
“Now, you see, zee problem wiz ozzer products is zat zey cannot match perfectly to your skin tone, no?” the Frenchman tutted, without giving me the chance to disagree, “But here, I can mix up a variety of colour to ensure zat zee end result is identical to your own colouring. Zee key is zat zere is no visible transition from cheek to neck…” At this, his finger trailed seductively from jaw to collar bone. I glanced discreetly at my watch.
“Now!” he clapped his hands together in obvious delight. “I work my magic!”
With a sprinkling of powder, a swish of a brush, and a great to-do, he started to work afore-mentioned magic, and I believed, for an instant, that I might just be in the hands of a master artist. Sweeping motions, followed by “Look zis way, non, non…zat way” and I obeyed every instruction, too terrified to do anything else.
“I’m really late,” I murmured eventually, my voice breaking as I dared interrupt the master.
“It is not worry, I am done!” he announced, dropping everything and lowering his head as if this small action had sapped everything from his creative spirit. The Frenchman was spent. I almost felt like we had performed some bizarre tribal marital ritual. There was a dramatic pause, and I held my breath. And then….
“Voila!” he spun my chair around so fast I almost lost my balance. As I rotated at warp speed I caught sight of my handbag and all my parcels on the floor and reality reasserted itself. This is SA, after all… what if I had been scammed and this was all an elaborate ruse, set up to rob me of my purchases!?
And then, I caught sight of my reflection in the mirror, and everything else faded away. I gazed upon my visage, unable to speak for approximately 3.7 seconds. The Frenchman watched on, awaiting the praise that would no doubt spill from my lips when I finally caught my breath.
“I’m orange!” I roared, getting to my feet in a rage. “I have a talk in ten minutes and I’m freaking* orange!”
“Orange?” he replied dumbfounded, gazing at me as if he couldn’t see it. As if I didn’t look like a pumpkin has taken a dump on my head. “Non, non… zis is not orange…”
“Give me my stuff!” I roared, loud enough to catch the attention of a dazed-looking woman who was entering the store with another salesman. Blinking, she seemed to realise where she was, and she backed up faster than Fat Amy at an aerobics contest.
“Run!” I mouthed at her, scooping up my parcels and shooting the surrounding salespeople a dangerous look. Everyone took a step back, raising their arms and showing me their empty hands. My Frenchman, however, was not letting me go without a fight.
“Do you want me to pack up zee products for you?” he asked gaily, to which I seriously considered throwing the scooter at his head…………
Needless to say, there was no time for damage control. I owned that tangerine face. On the bright side, my teeth looked whiter, and my eyes a little more blue than green. At least that’s what I told myself.
* I totally didn’t say freaking. I said something much, much worse…
First published on Melissa’s blog.