Hatty loved kissing her new boyfriend, David, but the way that he stared into her eyes afterwards could be a little unnerving, especially when he stopped to put his glasses on.
“Hmm. I think we could do a little something here next time,” he said, taking her chin gently in his hands and tilting her head a little towards the light.
“Where?” she gargled, feeling suddenly rather exposed.
“Just here, by the inside of your left eyebrow. It’s puckering a little.”
“My eyebrow is?”
He smiled tolerantly.
“No, darling. Not your eyebrow. Your glabella.”
“Wow, what’s that when it’s at home?” she laughed.
“It’s no laughing matter,” he said, leaning in and kissing her gently between her eyebrows. “It’s here.”
With only minutes until her guests arrived for dinner, this wasn’t the time for Hatty to broach the subject of David’s unfortunate way with words. After all, she had already made him swear on his beloved Jack Russell Chino’s life that he would keep his career a secret from her best, lifelong friends. “But I’m terrible with money!” he had protested, as she had briefed him on his high-flying fund manager alter-ego. “Can’t I be an astronaut instead?”
But Hatty knew, first-hand, that the first rule of blurring the truth was feasibility. A “natural beauty”, envied by friends and enemies alike for her seemingly ageless complexion, Hatty had spent the best part of the past decade investing an awful lot of time and money in creating and maintaining the illusion. It was a deceit that had crept up on her exponentially, starting at the hairdresser’s where, rather than do anything outré and attention-seeking, she had regularly dyed her hair a shinier version of its natural colour. This then had a knock-on effect on her clothes: a classic “natural” uniform of jeans, white shirts and taupe cashmere jumpers that had become gradually, but almost imperceptibly, more expensive over time.
But it was the dentistry that had really tipped her over the edge. It had all started with a root canal. A highly uncomfortable hour of her life spent staring at a strategically placed poster advertisement for Botox. Who knew you could get it done in the dentist’s chair for the same price as a weekend flight to Brussels?
And that’s when Hatty had stepped through the looking glass.
Botox had become fillers (twice the price but double the effect), which had become the occasional skin peel. Nothing much. No big deal.
The compliments had started coming in thick and fast. Didn’t she look amazing for her age? What was her secret? And that’s when the lies had really kicked in. Dairy-free diet, factor 85 suncream, four litres of water a day, brown rice, spelt, quinoa pasta, hot yoga, cold compresses, skin oil, bone broth… The problem was that, in the current faddy climate, it was just so doable. She could buy “feed your skin” cookbooks online for less than a pack of cigarettes. And, if littering such things around the house wasn’t enough to throw people off the scent – which, by the way, it was – all she had to do to seal the deal was wear gym gear at least four days a week.
It was only recently that things had started to get a little more serious. “Business” trips had started to spiral slightly out of control with the discovery of the relatively pain-free joys of liposuction. And then there had been the “yoga holiday” to South Africa, from which she had returned in a slightly less supportive bra than the one she had left in, with the added bonus of her surgeon’s direct line in her contacts…
And now he was here and it was crunch time. How long, she wondered as she added the finishing touches to the beetroot and coconut curry she was serving for dinner with cauliflower rice, could she keep the truth about her new boyfriend from her closest girlfriends?
“And what is it that you do, David?” she heard Alice ask from her position by the fire, as David topped up her champagne.
“I’m a… well, I’m a…”
In that instant, it was clear to Hatty that she had to move fast. Scooping up Chino under one arm, she headed into the sitting room, still with the knife in her hand. As David looked up at her helplessly, she smiled her most “natural” smile.
“He’s a fund manager, aren’t you, darling?” she purred, looking lovingly from him to Chino as she tilted the blade of her knife just enough for it to flash silver in the candlelight.