When the doorbell rings, Lil is standing in front of the hallway mirror. She has three lipsticks in her hand which she holds up against her flaming crimson dress.
“It’s open.” She looks over her shoulder as Thomas lets himself in.
“You ready? Traffic’s a mess.”
Lil selects the brightest lipstick and crayons a layer over her wide mouth. She blots it, adds another layer, and blots it again.
Thomas frowns. “Do you know what’s in that crap?”
“Let me guess.” Lil applies a topcoat of gloss. “Snakes and snails and puppy dogs’ tails?”
“To start with, the base of the colour probably comes from cochineal beetles. They are soft-bodied, flat insects whose bodies are boiled to extract the carmine dye that makes red lipstick red. Add to that some castor oil and…”
“Why are you being a downer on my big night?” Lil struts out the door, high heels clicking.
Thomas races after her. “Because I think this award your company is giving you is as toxic as the muck you put on your face.”
When they arrive, only five minutes late, the ballroom is jammed with people. Lil queues for an hour to receive a Certificate of Recognition. The CEO hands her a large brown envelope while looking tiredly at the long line of people behind her.
Lil trots down the stairs to Thomas who watches her open it with shaking hands. There is a department store gift certificate in the amount of $100 and a parchment-like piece of paper that says she has made a significant contribution towards the BigTel values.
“What the hell are BigTel values?” Thomas wants to ask but the glow in Lil’s eyes stops him. Even though she’s worked hundreds of unpaid hours for a cranky, sarcastic boss, she treasures this computer-generated chunk of paper. She finds the good in every situation.
She even manages to love a hardened pessimist like him. A small swell of optimism and gratitude sweeps over Thomas. Before he has a chance to think about it, he holds her in his arms. He’s kissing that scarlet mouth.
© Maggie Bolitho
Document from personal files