She wondered afterwards whether there had been any inkling to alert her, any foreboding that this day was to put in motion events that would change her life. She thought probably not. However much she cast her mind back, all she could see was her relaxed and smiling self reflected in the mirror, feel the pleasure of contemplating the new, glamorous Stacey Newman. Of course, it took time. She knew she was not a natural beauty, she was no Scarlett Johansson or Beyonce. Time and effort, that’s what it had taken. The original Stacey had been overweight, she’d had skin that told the world ‘I never ate my greens’. Her dress sense verged on the frumpy. But she’d worked on that, with Dan’s help, of course. Dear Dan, how much she owed him for this metamorphosis into Stacey Newman, chief research assistant for Let’s Just Talk. The show was vastly popular, it drew millions of viewers and had even the likes of the Kardashian clan begging to come on.
That morning then: an indecisive one as far as the weather was concerned, an early splatter of rain, a peekaboo of sun but then cloud over the river view beyond the window. Not that Stacey noticed. She was, as usual, focussed on self and the image she would shortly present to the world, and to her many followers, of course. First: the concealer and the primer. There were a few imperfections to be dealt with: embryonic crow’s feet, some faint horizontal lines on her forehead. Once she passed thirty she’d be going for dermal fillers and more, but for now she could deal with these herself. A base serum and moisturiser came next. She paused, gave a little grunt of satisfaction, and then on to foundation, blusher, false eyelashes, a slash of scarlet lipstick… oh yes, the alchemy hadn’t failed her, the daily re-creation, the glamorous woman was emerging.
With reluctance Stacey forced her gaze away from the mirror and glanced at her watch. There was still time for coffee, the only vice she had left from a health regime that excluded cigarettes, more than a little alcohol, bread and cakes, and chips… oh how she missed that comfort food of her childhood when Mum gave her a five pound note with the words ‘treat yourself,’ before she left for work. The two of them had been very close once upon a time, living in that poky house near the railway. She wondered briefly how her mother was doing, these days. She’d not been near her for over a month and the longer she left it the more difficult it became to be reminded of the life she had left behind.
Time now to choose her outfit. She pushed open the sliding doors of her wardrobe to reveal its contents, diligently hanging in their tidy rows. Dan had taught her that. There was to be no more throwing her clothes off onto the floor as she’d often done after another long day on that rag of a newspaper. Gone were the days of jeans and fleeces, of random colours that sometimes clashed, these were outfits that needed to be cared for, their colour palette expensive shades of sand, cocoa and black.
Surely it was worth it all? The discipline, the artifice she must employ to create this image presentable to the world of social media? If she had momentary nostalgia for the young journalist intent on truth and sincerity whatever the price, her sights set on eventual graduation to one of the more ethical dailies, she soon dispelled it. Life was a blast and her many followers envied it.
There was a good half hour remaining before she must leave, time for the most important part of her everyday routine: selfies. Her early efforts had been disappointing. She’d learned that if you got the angles or light wrong, you were likely to be less than Insta-worthy. Since she had followed the hints set out by her favourite beauty editor, her skills had grown until now she could click away with confidence. Carefully she went through the necessary steps. To make your eyes look larger you slightly raised your eyebrows. Then you thought of something that made you smile, Dan, for example, who often told her she was beautiful. ‘You must look happy,’ was the advice. .’Never let any negative emotions show.’ You extended your head away from your neck, which gave you the look of a sharper jawline. Blowing air through your lips just before you snapped made for a plumper pout. Oh yes, she had learned all the tricks.
Soon the comments began to arrive. ‘Wow Stacey you’re a stunner!’ ‘Hey gorgeous, I love you.’ ‘Stacey that’s a real cool picture!’ It was as if these fans had nothing else to do but check their phones for her latest offering. She basked in the now familiar glow of admiration. She, Stacey Newman, was loved, idolised, envied. She couldn’t get enough of it and if this was addiction it was one she had no intention of giving up.
It was with reluctance she finally grabbed her jacket and briefcase to take the lift to the garage below their apartment. Here her little scarlet beauty awaited her, oozing spirit and charm, ready to put a huge smile on her face as it had first done a month ago when Dan revealed his birthday present. Stacey, who had only ever driven a clapped out Ford, still found it hard to believe this flamboyant car belonged to her. She checked her destination once again, finding the postcode somehow familiar and revving the engine, shot out onto the road. She joined the traffic leaving this wealthy part of town.