Alex was lying face down on clingfilm, her face poking through a hole in the narrow bed while a woman poured warm mud over her back. Emma was on a bed next to her going through the same ritual.
‘She went totally mental. I’ve never seen histrionics like it,’ Emma was saying. ‘She ripped the paper up into tiny shreds and threw it everywhere then demanded one of her minions go and buy another copy so she could read it again. Her language was unbelievable. She was threatening to sue everyone in the UK from the prime minister to Paul McCartney. She called her lawyer, her therapist and her agent and screamed at them too. It was so crazy it was funny.’
‘So she’s gone back to the States then?’ mumbled Alex through the hole in the bed.
‘Yup. Says she hates the UK. I have to say the feeling’s mutual.’
‘Well, I’m just glad the book signing is cancelled and you can be here,’ said Alex.
‘Me too. Though I’m not sure about this mud routine. Excuse me, but what happens next?’ Emma asked the beautician.
‘Well, I’m going to ask you to turn over in a moment and then we pour the seaweed-infused mud onto your front. Then we wrap you up and leave you with a heated blanket for 30 minutes,’ the girl replied.
‘God, I feel like a marinated salmon being prepared for the barbeque,’ said Emma.
‘More like a piece of sushi. It’s the smell I can’t bear,’ said Alex.
‘Yeah, but we’ll be glowing from top to toe for tonight,’ said Emma as she turned over and the girl applied the fishy mud to her front.
Alex tried to relax and enjoy the treatment despite the smell.
Emma broke the silence again. ‘Yes, Olivia said she might as well go and book herself in for a facelift in LA now everyone thinks she’s had one.’
‘Why, hasn’t she had one then?’ asked Alex.
‘She says not. They had her bang to rights on all the other stuff but she claims she’s never had a facelift.’
So Albert had called that wrong, Alex thought.
‘Will she sue anyone do you think?’ Alex fished.
‘Nah. Don’t think so. Her PR people and her lawyer advised her against it. The article was pretty accurate in general. If they sue then it makes an even bigger deal about it. I think her PR people put loads of pressure on other mags so they wouldn’t repeat the story. It seems to have gone away already,’ said Emma.
Alex was now being wrapped up in the clingfilm like some sci-fi mummy. ‘This is so weird,’ she muttered.
‘All in the name of beauty, darling,’ said Emma as the beauticians placed heated blankets over them.
‘Now leave them to cook in a warm oven for thirty minutes until they’re no longer soft in the middle,’ said Emma as the two girls gently closed the door behind them.
Alex and Emma lay in silence for a while listening to the whale music. Alex felt herself drifting off to sleep. It was strangely relaxing.
‘I’m bored,’ said Emma, jolting Alex from her snooze.
‘You’re supposed to relax. I was almost asleep,’ said Alex, yawning.
‘You were snoring.’
There was silence again. ‘What do you reckon we do after this? I say we get showered and grab some cocktails.’
‘Mmm, sounds good,’ said Alex.
Suddenly a loud siren sounded. Alex twisted her head towards Emma. ‘What’s that?’
The door opened and a girl was shouting at them.
‘Quick! Grab some robes! It’s the fire alarm. We need to get outside at once!’ she shouted.
‘I can’t f*ing move,’ said Emma as she flapped about on the bed like a salmon trying to swim upstream.
Alex thrashed about in the clingfilm and managed to release one arm over the top of the layers. With her one hand she manoeuvred herself off the bed, her legs still bound together. The beautician was trying to unravel Emma, who was still wriggling about like a demented worm.
‘Miss, please stop moving so I can unwrap you. We need to go. There’s a fire. This is not a drill.’
‘Come on, Emma. Help her,’ said Alex as she inched her way to the door in miniscule steps.
The girl managed to get Emma’s clingfilm off and get her into a robe. She put another robe round Alex and helped them down the corridor.
‘Wait for me,’ Alex called as she tried to keep up with them, her legs still wrapped up like a mermaid with a bondage fetish. As she moved, the plastic came free round her ankles allowing her to shuffle, penguin style, out of the fire door they were being ushered to.
They came out blinking into the bright summer sunshine. They looked around, trying to work out where they were. They were surrounded by a dozen or so other women, including other members of the hen party, looking distinctly embarrassed to be standing on a back street in Covent Garden on a Saturday afternoon in a bathrobe.
Alex saw Lisa, whose face was puckered and green in an ever-tightening facemask.
‘God, my face feels so tight it’s going to implode,’ she said. ‘And what’s that awful smell?’
‘Me and Emma. We’re covered in seaweed,’ said Alex, flashing Lisa a glimpse of what was under the robe.
‘Omigod, you look like an oven-ready chicken that’s gone off,’ said Lisa.
‘Thanks. And you look like the Wicked Witch of the East,’ Alex replied.
They both started giggling. ‘Oh shit, Alex, don’t look now,’ said Lisa. She’d stopped giggling and was looking over Alex’s shoulder.
‘What is it?’ Alex asked, trying to twist her plastic wrapped body round to follow her gaze.
‘It’s Dan from work with some girl. Who the hell is she? Keep your head down. They’re heading this way.’
It was too late. Dan had already seen Lisa and was approaching. ‘Lisa, hi. Are you okay?’ he asked.
‘Oh Dan, hi, yeah, I’m good thanks,’ she replied as if it was perfectly normal to be standing in the street on a summer afternoon in a green facemask.
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