“You'd be doing me a great favour,” Pat, my neighbour began. “You've got such a lovely complexion, Hetty.”
I was surprised. “Have I?”
“Oh yes. Perfect for a make- up model,” she said. “Bye for now!”
I headed up the garden path and brought the groceries in. On the way to the kitchen, I peered in the hall mirror.
A lovely complexion?
I didn't think so. I reckoned that Pat had probably asked everyone she knew and they'd said no to her favour. After all, who wanted to end up looking like Coco the clown?
I glanced at the clock.
It was time for the local radio station's 'Blast from the Past' 1980's hour. I flicked the radio on as I unpacked the groceries.
“Did you get the biscuits?” Tom, my hubby made a beeline for the bursting Bags for Life.
It was his day off. He'd planned to paint the spare room. This would become our home office.
'True' by Spandau Ballet came on air.
“Remember this?” I asked Tom.
He nodded. For a moment, we were lost in thought as we recalled our teenage years.
What had happened to that glorious feeling of promise and hope? We had the world at our fingertips...
Tom broke the mood. “Do you fancy scrambled eggs on toast for lunch?”
Still in reminisce mode, I thought about my best friend at school, Mandy Sinclair.
She was great fun – always getting into scrapes.
We'd sit giggling in detention, secretly drooling over teen magazines. They either featured her favourite, Shakin' Stevens or my favourite, Adam Ant.
Our friendship came to an abrupt end when she hooked up with purple jeaned- clad dreamboat Zak Wilson at the school leaving disco. She cruelly ditched me for him.
It hurt, because Mandy knew that I had a crush on Zak. Another boy asked me to dance, but I was so upset, I refused.
Later, I heard she'd moved away. I still regretted not saying goodbye.
I didn't know what to wear to the party. Pat had said 'smart but casual.' In the end, I chose a white blouse and a black skirt.
Pat had mentioned that the demonstrator would most likely use a bib, anyway.
I'd scraped my hair up into a ponytail, making it easier for the demonstrator to apply the gloop.
I was the first arrive. Pat, done up like a mature WAG, was busy with trays of sausage rolls, quiches and mini cheesecakes.
As the years passed, I'd stopped bothering with cosmetics, yet I recall that Mandy and I spent every Saturday afternoon in town, flitting between Woolworths and Boots. Our pocket money went on a variety of eye- liners, blushers and lipsticks.
Three middle- aged Glamour Pusses arrived. The trio flaunted top- notch posh frocks, heels and designer fragrances.
Pat slipped on a CD and I helped serve the nibbles and wine.
“Hiring a waitress. That's a classy touch,” Glamour Puss number 1 remarked.
I frowned. A waitress?
Of course - my white blouse and black skirt! I expect my bare face and ponytail only enhanced the impression.
“Oh I'm not a -” I cut in, just as the doorbell rang.
Pat flew to answer, while Glamour Puss number 2 turned to me. “Why didn't you answer the door?”
I was about to launch into an explanation when Pat returned with the demonstrator, Liberty. Was that really her name?
“That's a good idea, Pat,” Glamour Puss number 3 said “Asking the waitress to act as the model.”
I couldn't defend myself because Liberty had summoned me to silence.
Yet Pat hadn't corrected them.
Clearly, the waitress idea had impressed her stuck-up pals.
They were all sat around the kitchen table gawping at me as Liberty (A highly suitable contender for either TOWIE or Big Brother) expertly smoothed super- expensive foundation over my face.
Pat glanced at her watch. “I wonder where Mandy is?”
I pricked up my ears. Mandy?
The doorbell rang again. As soon as I heard her voice, I knew it was my old school mate. Oh, it'd be so good to see her!
I doubt if she'd recognise me under this strange, heavy mask.
Yet she did.
“It's Hetty Parker!” she exclaimed. Nee Parker, actually.
“Hi Mandy,” I grinned through a host of rainbow- like colours.
“You look like Coco the clown!” she giggled.
Liberty looked offended, but I wasn't. Mandy had always told it straight.
“How do you know Pat?” I asked.
“I'm married to her cousin. You only invited me to make up the numbers, didn't you, Pat? Pour me glass a wine please, Hetty.”
I was happy to oblige.
“They thought you were the waitress? That's typical of them!” Mandy said.
She hadn't changed at all. Her hair and clothes were different, of course (No show- off attire for her, thank goodness) yet she still held that wicked grin.
Having bought absolutely nothing, we escaped the party after half an hour.
“Liberty said -”
“Come on! That can't be her real name!” she scoffed.
I nodded. “I bet it's Linda.”
I'd washed the make up off in the ladies.
Despite Pat's promises, Liberty hadn't used a bib – consequently, streaks of orange, crimson, blue and green peppered my blouse and skirt.
I vowed never to take up an invite to a cosmetics party ever again.
“Remember Zak Wilson?” I mused. “Looking back, he wasn't really that attractive, was he? In fact, he had quite a big nose. What about those purple jeans he wore every day for months on end? I expect he slept in them!”
“He ditched me after a few months. I heard that he'd joined the army,” she said.
We suddenly fell into awkward silence.
“I'm sorry that I didn't make more of an effort.”
Mandy swirled her drink around in her glass. “We can't change the past Hetty, only the future. I'm sorry too. I was a fool to focus on Zak. I should have written to you when we moved.”
“As you said, we can't change the past. But it looks like we've been given the opportunity to start again.”
She smiled. “I wonder what happened to that freckle- faced, ginger- haired squirt who asked you to dance at the school leaving disco? He was dressed in an awful silver glittery waistcoat. What was he called?”
“Tom Fairfax,' I said “I know what happened to him. I married him.”
It had been a fabulous evening.
Meeting Mandy again was like a breath of fresh air. We're going to meet regularly.
I looked at Tom. Like me, he was wearing paint- splattered clothes.
“I thought I'd get on with decorating the spare room.”
I hugged him, thankful that there were no glittery silver waistcoats hanging up in his wardrobe any more.
At the school leaving disco, 'True' had been the very last track on the DJ's playlist.
When Zak and Mandy had slipped away, Tom had asked me a second time to dance.
This time, I said yes.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
By Sharon Boothroyd.