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Authors: Kathleen Baird-Murray

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BOOK: Face Value
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Did she need to worry about these changes? Or was this just a natural progression through life, the kind of thing everyone went through, everyone, that is, who was suddenly presented with a job in New York, a trip to L.A., and several free beauty treatments amounting to one huge makeover all in the course of one month? Which, thinking about it, was only her.
It would have been nice to have someone to share all this with. Perhaps Lise. It had been Lise and Kate for pretty much everything since meeting at the Bright Futures Center for Opportunities. Lise had looked the part for her one-year course in personal training from day one: like an extra from a pop promo, all baggy Adidas track bottoms hanging from the hips, bare midriff, overly bronzed body. She’d been her pal in the canteen, saving a place for her. She’d encouraged her when she’d failed her shorthand test for the third time in a row. Kate had helped her pass her driving test (four attempts). Beyond that they’d had little in common. Lise stopped attending Kate’s
Green Issues
lectures once she discovered the single men there reminded her too much of her old geography teacher and the women had enough underarm hair to knit with. Kate’s idea of fitness stretched to incorporating a few ’80s aerobics moves when dancing to “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson. But they laughed at and with each other, drank and danced together, and deep down . . . well, they knew they mattered more to each other than anyone else. It crossed Kate’s mind that she was sometimes a little too judgmental over Lise.
She felt ever so slightly on her own. It wasn’t necessarily a bad feeling, just a different feeling.
It probably wasn’t correct etiquette to sneak in an international phone call when you were waiting in an office that was not your own, but John Kingsley III was two hours late, so Kate figured it was entirely justifiable. Cynthia had lined up a potentially interesting interview with the thirty-four-year-old hotshot surgeon, who everyone was raving about. Everyone who needed boob jobs and nose jobs and lipo and other bits of body remodeling, that is. Kate had kept her part of the bargain, arriving at plastic surgery central at the required time. (She could tell she was in the right place by the three women exiting the elevator clutching balls of muslin and ice to their faces to quell the droplets of blood from rushed Botox injections. Although, the Jackie O impersonations in the reception area—from her much-loved scarves and shades period—were also something of a giveaway.)
JK3, as his friends referred to him, according to the press cuttings she’d read, would often delay a whole morning’s appointments if he was captivated by the beauty of the camellias in his garden. He was such a perfectionist that he liked to pick them at the first light of dawn (or so his personal assistant, Aurelie, told her), then lay them flat on specially cooled tissues, from where they would be lowered into a specially made icebox and transported ahead of him by courier to his office. Evidently the camellias were exceptionally captivating this morning. Kate’s mum used to do something similar with flowers when Kate was a kid, but without the couriers and the iceboxes. She’d pick roses fresh from the garden, wrap them in tissue soaked in water, then wrap them in a final layer of foil and make Kate give them to her teacher at the end of term. All the other kids would laugh at such a homemade gift. It was a testament to the wonders of modern therapy that JK3 had clearly exorcised his no-doubt similar childhood experiences and, in the true spirit of California, turned his negative into a positive.
Not that Kate wasn’t enjoying the waiting time in his office. He had an impressive catalog of before and after pictures she could flick through that weren’t half as gut-wrenching as the programs she’d witnessed on TV with her mum. The afters were good: subtle, yet definite improvements on noses, chins, faces that had given in to gravity, or bodies that had caved in under the pressures of a lifetime of supersizing and crash-dieting. The press-cutting file was weighty, full of interviews mostly dating from his recent TV program,
Radical Redux: The Surgeon Who Slims Celebs
. They called him the Body Maker. Aurelie had, with just the flick of a few buttons on a remote control, summoned a plasma TV screen to magically appear from behind a wall of fake leather-bound medical journals, so that Kate could watch a DVD of interviews: JK3 and Oprah; JK3 and Letterman. He had also written his own books, not exactly DIY plastic surgery, but how to get the best from your surgeon (
Chapter 3: Always Pay Your Bills on Time! This man is operating on your face, don’t make him angry!
was an especially memorable gem.) But two things—a large, leather-bound book on Michelangelo on his top shelf that didn’t seem to be a disguise for a plasma TV screen, and a signed photo of JK3 standing next to Pamela Anderson on prominent display—told Kate all she needed to know: JK3 was a jerk.
Kate had researched that studying to be an aesthetic plastic surgeon in the United States took eight years. From then on, if you were any good you’d train at a public hospital putting accident victims back together, then transfer into the more lucrative private practice, usually just as your wife (archetypal Beverly Hills blonde, with torpedo tits and her first face-lift at age twenty-nine) had her first Cesarean birth and called him JK4. You’d attend the odd conference, cultivate some liaisons with distinguished older surgeons, and wait until one of them retired so you could take over their practice. To build a reputation as Hollywood surgeon of choice, you’d start frequenting movie premieres, throw lavish parties, and develop a celebrity following (current kudos was to find a celebrity politician, thereby combining gravitas and popular fame in one fell swoop). Your practice would bloom, you’d stick pictures of yourself on the walls with . . . ooh, say, Pamela Anderson, and hey, presto, you’re the star surgeon of L.A. So why was he so insecure as to need a Michelangelo bible on the shelves? Was he trying to kid his clients into thinking that he was sculpting their faces in much the same way as the great Michelangelo?
Lise was in, obligingly, and able to confirm that Kate’s outfit, meticulously chosen for the occasion, was neither too understated nor too brash a direction. She annoyed Kate by having already heard of JK3, reminding her that she had indeed been living in some kind of parallel universe unaffected by lipsticks, perfumes, and plastic surgery, somewhere akin to Shrek’s swamp, the Grinch’s mountain hovel, or Gollum’s hole in
The Lord of the Rings
“JK3?! Oh, my God! He’s the one who was on that program:
Radical Redux: The Surgeon Who Slims Celebs
“I know that,” said Kate, brusquely. “Is that Steve with you? You’re incorrigible, you know that, don’t you? An old slapper with no scruples whatsoever.”
“Less of the old. Luckily for you I can’t really talk right now. I’m a little tied up.” She could hear Steve guffawing in the background, a word she’d always hated, but there really was no other way to describe the snorting-laughing noise he made. Although there was “chortle.” “I do have some news,” Lise continued, a little more seriously. “I’ve been trying to call you all week, didn’t that Clarissa girl tell you? What’s it like there? Have you met anyone yet?”
“No,” Kate said irritably. “And that’s not the point, you know that. The work’s been fantastic. Really interesting. I’m in Los Angeles now. It’s brilliant. Really hot, and there’s a beach. And the sun shines, everyone’s lovely, the sky’s really blue—”
Lise laughed. “You’d never think you were a journalist, you know. Here’s a word you can use: ad-jec-tives. By the way, what’s your boss like?”
“More Al Pacino than Meryl Streep,” said Kate. “Facial hair . . . it’s all a little nerve-wracking, to be honest.”
“How come? She has a beard?”
“No, more like a mustache. She’s okay, really. But this plastic surgery story I’m doing . . . I hate plastic surgery! And I have a feeling I know just what this guy’s going to be like.”
She looked upward to the top shelf where the Michelangelo book stared down at her.
“Listen, I have something to tell you,” Lise said. The bedclothes rustled as she got up. There was a pause as she walked somewhere else, then the flick of a kettle being switched on. “It’s . . . important.”
The door handle turned and Kate’s heart skipped a beat.
“Gotta go,” she said, just as JK3 himself entered the office. She put the phone down and jumped to her feet.
Kate’s interview experience was not as great as she would have hoped it to be by this stage of her journalistic career. However, with hindsight, she would have hoped her opening greeting to JK3 might have been a little more consequential than the one that came tumbling from her mouth completely unwarranted:
“Hello, I was just booking my taxi!”
He was taller and handsomer than he appeared in his pictures, with a shock of blond hair bouncing off his tanned forehead like the crest of a wave. He grasped her by the shoulders dramatically and locked his eyes to hers. They were aquatic blue, piercing, with little tiny flecks of hazel interspersed. For a split second, Kate thought he might kiss her, which would have been embarrassing, and she would have had no option but to go ahead with the kiss as she needed an interview, and wouldn’t have known how to extricate herself politely anyway. She hadn’t been kissed for a long time, nor had she, New York band notwithstanding, been attracted to anyone in a while. She had to admit that a kiss would be unlikely, given that this was an ostensibly professional encounter and their first meeting. Therefore, by looking into her eyes, JK3 was obviously merely trying to determine whether she was telling the truth about the taxi.
“Look, I’m sorry, I wasn’t really booking a taxi,” she fired off, nervously, rapidly. “How could I have been, when you think about it, I don’t even have a taxi number, and I wouldn’t have known what time to book it for. But you took so long to get here I thought I’d call my friend back home, I know that’s really rude, and if you like I’ll give you some money for the call!”
He looked confused momentarily, then smiled and dramatically bounced his hands off her shoulders, throwing his arms in the air and laughing.
“You have a good energy. I can feel it!” He walked around her to sit down at his desk, pushing to one side a pile of books tied with a pink silk ribbon with as much of a throwaway gesture as a man who stored camellias on frozen tissues could muster. Or who used pink silk ribbon to tie books.
Kate stood there awkwardly. He said she had good energy, so why did she feel so bad?
“Please, please, sit down, my manners, what was I thinking, it is I who should be apologizing for being so late, not you! Now, gorgeous girl—because you are gorgeous, you know that, don’t you, we are all gorgeous in this world, we just have to work a little on bringing it out sometimes, that’s all—now, gorgeous girl, I have a question for you, for your interview.” He adjusted his tie, a wide, shiny black silk tie, leaned back in his chair, then put his feet up on the desk. His shoes had leather hand-stitched soles that looked suspiciously unscratched. Maybe he flew everywhere. Or was carried by minions.
“Kate, you may put your tape recorder on now if you are using one.”
He pressed his fingertips together, as if in prayer, while Kate fumbled for her Dictaphone. It wasn’t very professional of her, she supposed, to have sat in his office for two hours and still not have got the tape ready.
“I’m sorry, but I have to test it. Would you mind holding it to your mouth?”
He shook his head, as if quietly enjoying her scatty performance, then opened a drawer in his desk and brought out a tripod, upon which he mounted Kate’s Dictaphone, checked the sound levels, and flicked a switch with a professional air, declaring the proceedings ready to proceed. He had done this before.
“It is Kate, isn’t it?”
“Yes, Kate Miller, from
magazine.” She shuffled uncomfortably in her seat. “New York.”
“Well, Kate, I have a question for you.”
Oh, God. Here we go. What magazines had she worked on before? She’d have to launch into a lengthy explanation of
Maidstone Bazaar
, complete with sketched map showing where Maidstone was, then watch as his attention waned or his eyes glazed over, as she tried to explain there was a whole big publishing world out there, beyond New York, beyond London, just waiting to be discovered.
“Do you know the difference between
“Er . . .”
He cracked his knuckles loudly.
“I will tell you, Kate.” He paused. For ages. For so long she wondered if he’d forgotten the answer. “Cheekbones.”
Kate sensed she was in for a speech. She raised her pencil to her pad, ready to scribble as backup in case the Dictaphone tape didn’t work.
“Some people, Kate, talk about the eyebrows as being the frame of the face, but my own personal obsession is the cheekbone, which I like to think represents the soul. It’s like those little fleshy bits of the chicken when you turn it upside down . . . delicious, not given enough credit for the flavor they add to the dish. I used to eat chicken before I converted to macrobiotic vegetarianism, you know.”
He said it wistfully, as if his dietary choice had not been without its sacrifices.
“Kate, the cheekbones are where you find the secrets of the face. If they’re hard, pointy, jutting out, they speak volumes about the character of the woman . . . is she dangerous, flighty, passionate?”
When he said the word “passionate” he gave her a funny look, as if searching for something in her eyes. She squinted uncomfortably, her discomfort making him half smile.
“Have you seen my cheekbone book? I like to fill them up, give an angle to a face, one that a woman will feel when she kisses another woman on the cheeks.”
“Sounds like it would hurt, wouldn’t it? Bashing your cheeks together. If they’re pointed, that is.”
“Hurt? No, Kate, no! It’s like goats head-butting, a gentle, friendly victory as the one lets the other know who’s boss. That’s cheekbones for you, it’s the survival of the most beautiful, and the most beautiful women in the world all have cheekbones. ”
BOOK: Face Value
4.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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