Material Girl
all, not one bit. I was looking for you! Looking at you. You really are quite gorgeous, but then you know that. Of course you know that, what beautiful woman isn’t aware of the effect she has on the people around her, but is it a curse as well, I wonder? Does it leave you slightly bewildered, Make-up, when somebody isn’t quite as impressed with you as you think they should be? So much so that it has you reaching for the lipstick and the diet books?’
    ‘I’m sorry, Tristan, I don’t think I remember the question …’
    He waves his hand, it isn’t important.
    ‘I thought you might want me to fill you in on the theatre, and Dolly herself, before the old monster descends.’
    He turns his hands into claws, makes his teeth into fangs, and pretends to walk down some stairs. He looks like he is attempting the Thriller dance. I don’t know how to react and he laughs again, hard and loud like a punch in the air.
    I think he must have found those uppers.
    ‘That would be helpful, Tristan, if you wouldn’t mind, if you have time. I really don’t know much about this theatre stuff at all, or Dolly, and I feel that I should …’
    Tristan moves into the little room and suddenly it feels crowded and claustrophobic, what with the lilies and the velvet and the cards, and Tristan as well, who seems to be everywhere all at once. He is half the size of Gavin, but twice the presence. I tuck myself away in the corner by my make-up box, but he wanders over and stands in front of the brushes laid out on the table, appraising them seriously.
    ‘Smoke and mirrors, smoke … and … mirrors …’ He selects a cheekbone brush of fine hair and, with closed eyes, sweeps it down the length of his nose.
    Opening his eyes slowly he turns to face me.
    ‘So, The Majestic Theatre.’ He gestures around him with a sweeping motion of his arms. ‘Well. I always say that if you’re going to fill a gap you should fill it completely. Let’s start at the beginning.’ He taps the end of my nose with the brush delicately, and then steps back to appraise his work.
    ‘The Majestic Theatre on Long Acre, Covent Garden, was commissioned in 1880. Queen Victoria instructed that somebody build a “beautiful building to fill an ugly space, and quick!”’ he says, doing a fair impression of the Queen’s low, moneyed voice, while simultaneously his eyebrows tango andhis chin tucks into his neck to signify an old lady’s multiple chins. ‘But it was twelve spiteful years in the making. The first of those years was spent attempting to evict the tramps and drunks and whores who lived on the intended site, a sprawling old hat factory, wrenched from the family Hobson – hat makers for three centuries – after William Hobson the ninth dabbled with opium to ease the pain from his arthritis and became joyfully addicted. Lucky bastard.’ Tristan smiles and circles the make-up brush on my cheek softly and slowly as if to aid concentration.
    ‘Of course, the family didn’t realise before it was too late that their profits and their business were going up in smoke – ha! So, ignored by the bank, which had more pressing concerns in India and America, Hobson’s hat factory became three floors of filth and sin. But the drunks and the tramps and the whores are the most resilient of us all, Make-up, clutching on to life, so far down that there are no rules, getting by because not getting by is the graveyard. Hobson’s hat factory was their home, and there’s no place like home. They kept coming back. And who can blame them?’
    Bored with the cheekbone brush, Tristan replaces it on the side and addresses the counter as he searches for a new and exciting tool.
    ‘Each night they were herded up and horded out with horns and whistles and truncheons and punches, to allow the necessary preparations for the following night’s demolition. But by midday they were grubbily sneaking past the hired security, or getting them drunk on cheap vodka, or laid, or high!

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