BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. My eyes were crusted together but shifted as the blaring alarm hits my ears. Last night’s mascara glued my lids together with a remarkably uncomfortable sensation. Jesus Christ… What kind of makeup artist am I? I found the strength to pry them apart and a pixelated screen assaulted my retinas. The analog clock on my phone’s home screen read: 8:15A.M. with a memo to get ready for work.
Normally, fortunately, and thankfully: I don’t work Mondays. A morning in a mall is drearily dull as is, but even more so during the week. It is usually just other employees or the elderly browsing rather than shopping. I’m covering for my coworker, Belinda today. It is weird since she usually is a bit of a keener: always on time and never missing a day. “Can’t face it 2moro. Can u cover for me?” She texted me some sketchy bogus excuse and being the absolute saint that I am, I graciously offered to take her shift. I get in her good books and get extra hours. Two birds with one stone and thicker paycheck.
Heaving my still groggy body up off of my mattress, I nearly stumble and lose my balance before shifting my footing. Extending my arms above my head, I stretch out my spine and crack my knuckles. I head to my vanity table and look at the beauty buffet before me. Today is an orange glossy lid with a dark lip kind of day. Spritzing my huge-pored face with priming spray wakes me up. The droplets of product are lightly floral scented and cool to the touch. A chalky green concealer spreads across my red nose, chin, and forehead to combat the reddish tinge my skin has bloomed. Orange concealer patted on my under-eyes hides the blue translucency of paper thin skin under tired eyes. A skin-toned concealer stick dotted on my blemishes preps this canvas for foundation. I’m going for full coverage; I pump three squirts of oozy gooey product onto the back of my hand. The oil is separated from the beige cream so I use the tip of my finger to blend it together. Dotting my cheeks, chin, and forehead with foundation vaguely my skin colour, I blend it in with my fingers. I’m a professional, I don’t buy into trends of needless products to blend some stuff into your face. Buffing contour with a fluffy brush sets apart the entire look. Cream sparkled hi-light awakens me. Glossed brows brushed into place look kept and clean. Pumpkin orange eyeshadow leaves the spongey brush to my eyelid and I hurriedly coat it with a clear lip gloss for a dazzling shine. A few coats of mascara create a dramatic stare and spider leg lashes. “Dark Cherry” lipstick was bold and begged for a second coat. Perfect. I look like a fall fae with eye’s the colour of orange leaves and my lips of fallen deep bronze maple leaves.
Brushing out my peroxide assaulted head with a comb and rubbing some coconut oil onto the ends, I was ready to get dressed. Black slacks and a black long-sleeved shirt are the standard uniform. The plain outfit only lets the face shine ever more so. My nametag reads STACY: makeup artist. I am quite literally a face for the products. A few bangles made their way on each of my wrists and I plucked a pair of silver dangling earrings through my lobes. Sliding my bare feet down the staircase, my family is sitting down for breakfast. "Good Morning, my Stace Case!" My mother chimed in, shrill and cheery as always. My two younger sisters flashed sleepy smiles my way. "Sleep well?" I reckoned not, reaching for a piece of toast. "We were reading that stack of Cosmo's you lent us," Vivian stated blandly, as Emelie nodded. "Stacy! Don't tell me you forgot about all the smut in those trashy magazines!" Mom's voice reached a higher octave of shrewdery. Rolling my eyes in my sisters' direction, I sighed and took a bite of bread. "There's nothing they don't already know." I know this statement to be completely true. There's nothing that would surprise me about these two precocious kiddos. "Yeah, mom. I'm fifteen; I'm an honorary adult!" Emelie smirked. "Honorary isn't good enough." Mom retorted back in a flash. I scarfed down the rest of my toast. "I've gotta cover for Belinda today," I stated, pouring myself some orange juice. "Oh-so-reliable goody-two-shoes Belinda?" Viv asked. "The one and only." I had ranted, raved and vented about how she was always showing me up countless times to my little siblings. "Make her regulars, your regulars," Emelie suggested. "Fill her brushes with glitter!" Hah, It'd kill me to ruin perfectly good brushes for a prank. "Put super glue in her foundation bottles!" Too criminal but nice try, Vivian. "Change the labels on all her lipsticks!" That’d be a major annoyance for both Belinda and I. "Wonderful ideas, but I'd like to keep this job!" A snarky laugh escaped my lips.
I didn't go through years of cosmetology school to lose this job at Sephora. Actually working with applying makeup so soon after graduating is nearly unheard of. Most of my graduating class is still working retail at drug stores to people who wouldn't know an eyebrow pencil from an eyeliner. I also didn't wake up at the crack of dawn to be late. I downed my orange juice like it was a shot of vodka.
"Have a good day at school, guys." I gave a quick peck to each of the soft, youthful cheeks of my baby sisters. They pretended to recoil but I know they'll rue the day they outgrow goodbye kisses.
"Hold down the fort, Mom." I turned with my purse around my shoulder and headed to the front door. A collective, "Bye!" echoed behind me.
I heaved the thick wood open and stepped out into the cool autumn air. The mall is about ten blocks away from my parent's house, where they rest their retired bodies all day. My platform booties aren't the most practical walking shoes but what am I meant to do? Show up in hiking boots? I don't think so. Treading through the fallen leaves on the sidewalk makes a satisfying crunch with each step, bringing me closer to punctuality. The whirring of cars passing me makes me ache with regret that I still haven't gotten my G1 driving permit. I bussed to cosmetology school and back every day using my tap-on presto with a student discount, so I wasn't busting the bank. Now that I'm graduated and a part of the workforce, it is full price. Walking is a lot faster than waiting for the mysteriously appearing and disappearing busses. The bus schedule reads as a hopeful fantasy, without much basis in real life.
The automatic doors of the Oakville Place Mall slide open to reveal the consumerist cathedral that lay inside. The air conditioning is blasting and top music hits play softly in the background. Looking around, I am greeted with dentured smiles of elderly women strolling along together, a familiar nod of the security guard, and fellow employees scurrying to get to their stations. I step onto the escalator to the second floor and head towards the makeup maze that is my workplace. My manager, Susan is sitting at the cashier looking older and more bored every time I see her. She gives me a half-hearted wave as I head to Belinda's workstation. It is peculiarly neat and tidy, even by Belinda's standards. Everything is perfectly aligned and even. I'm a bit tempted to move everything five degrees and rearrange everything into cutest to ugliest.
The schedule besides the mirror catches my attention before that idea can be brought to fruition. A "Madam Graham" has an appointment in five minutes. That's pretty unusual considering we do free makeovers all day every day, so an appointment is kinda redundant. That's typical of older people, adhering to dead social norms. I open the first drawer under the mirrored table and sort through the tools. Belinda is in her thirties and has quite a collection of products, not to mention expertise. It's always a bit nerve-wracking to have a new customer, especially if they're expecting someone else.
The store is completely empty, with aisles of slight colour variations of the same product. Later in the day, I have to stalk up and down the aisles to look out for shoplifters. Never understood why of all the things to steal, makeup is one of the most common. I mean, I understand it is impossible to grow your makeup collection without money but is it worth risking a criminal record? We have young girls being questioned by security every couple of days. Adamant protests of "I've never stolen in my life!" turns to "I'm so sorry! I'll never do it again! Please, don't call my parents!" pretty darn quick once the security footage shows some sticky fingers shoving lipsticks into pockets.
"H-hello," a stuttering voice brings me back out of my thoughts. "I'm here for Belinda..." An elderly woman with more wrinkles than face glances at my nametag and then at the name on the work station. She looks confused. Her hair is a dimmed mousey brown that is frizzing and flying around her scalp. Deep set eyes are stiff under layers of creased skin. Numerous age spots adorn her furrowed face. I can't imagine her in her youth. I can't imagine her without the puckered skin. "Belinda couldn't make it in today, but I'm here covering for her. Would you like to take a seat?" I ask cooly, gesturing to the cushioned chair.
"Oh dear. Oh dear..." Madam Graham moved with absolute precision to hoist her sinewed features down onto the seat, "Belinda always does my makeup for me. Always," The crinkled black eyes looked up at me, exasperated. I felt a pang of pity for her. I was thinking of how hard it is for me to have a new customer, but I didn't consider the terror of having a stranger skin deep.
"There's nothing Belinda can do that I can't!" I let out a hearty laugh and grin.
"Okay. If you say so," She says with a tone of uncertainty.
I turn her chair to face the mirror, "What kind of look are you wanting today?"
"Elegance." She retorts blankly.
"That just happens to be my specialty!" I cheer inwardly and outwardly. Thank God, she didn't say sexy. I pick up a primer and twist off the cap. A few dallops are applied sporadically on her skin, and as I move to rub it in... One of her age spots... Flickered? It looked like a... pulse had lifted it up off her skin and then dug back down. I blinked twice. Weird. I started to blend the primer into her wrinkles, and her age spot quivered with such force I could feel the vibration through her skin. The ripples from the movement almost uncreased her face. ....What the heck? My breath caught in my throat as an inanimate body part blatantly animated itself.
A concealer stick is my next tool. A feeling of dread came upon me as I am faced with so many age spots to cover. The biggest one is where I'll start first. Almost an inch in circumference and a tendency to twitch, I steadied my hand. A swipe of colour onto the spot immediately was followed with a popping sound, almost like bubble wrap. The spot burst open, with mustard yellow pus splattering onto the mirror behind me. Madam Graham shone a sweet old lady smile at me, as an oozing humanoid shape fell out of the now open wound on her face. A head the size of a dime and a skeletal body with limbs bent in the wrong directions lay on the pristine clean floor, now covered in slime. A spasm shook the tiny body until it's head was facing up at me. Two black beady eyes blinked.
SHANNON BUZZA is a writer and artist. Holding both American and Canadian passports, she considers the general area of North-America as home after moving countless times. A lover of both the abstract and analytical, always searching for answers in both other’s and her own written work. Photography, pastels, graphite, digital media, and the written word are just some forms of media she enjoys (so far).