I start the morning with lemon in hot water, a probiotic yoghurt and some almonds. There’s no use a beauty therapist having dog-rough skin from bacon butties and too much coffee. Then it used to be the gym, but gym membership was one of the first things to go. After my Vogue subscription but before the shift to supermarket own-brands.
Now I push the couch back, put the coffee table up on its end and do a twenty-minute work-out with Davina McCall. Or in theory, I do. But the couch is heavy and the coffee table’s always laden. It’s been a while, if I’m honest. And I’ve started having a Pop-tart for breakfast too.
But my beauty regime is unchanged: I wash my face with plain water and a rough flannel, I spritz it with rose-water and I dab on a bit of SPF 15. All before my shower. In the shower, I exfoliate, I pumice, I brush with a bristle brush, I work my loofah toward the heart. Sometimes I think I’m trying to wipe myself out, one dermal layer at a time.
My hair gets washed once a week. That’s plenty so long as you don’t fiddle with it. Or work in a coalmine, I suppose. It’s all the touch-touch-touching with dirty fingers that makes hair greasy – nothing to do with your scalp oils, And it’s the same thing with spots and bad skin. People are always touching their faces. No wonder winter colds do the rounds. As a beauty therapist, I’ve trained myself not to touch my mouth, eyes, nose or ears with my fingers. And I haven’t been ill in ten years.
Once I’m dressed for the day – in white tunic and trousers, comfy clogs and no jewellery – it’s a bit of a blur. I’m lucky if I can grab an apple and slice of cheese at lunchtime. A single appointment is half an hour – lashes, brows, half-leg waxes – and then the full-waxes, mani-pedis and facials are all double appointments. My book’s full and I don’t like to let people down.
Except, look what just happened. I slipped right back into the past, to when Face Value was my pride and joy, when I had a book of regular clients and no time for lunch. Truth is, my whites are put away in vacuum bags and my products are oiled to keep them fresh, clingfilmed and packed in the dark. I thought it would only be for a month or so. I keep meaning to open them up and check them. They’re probably drying out, oxidizing. They’re probably useless by now.
So let’s try that again. I do look for jobs. I look at Indeed.co.uk online, and I even go to the Job Centre sometimes, even though it is hands-down the most depressing place on earth. Worse than a hospital ward. Worse than the visiting room in an undertaker’s. I imagine. And it’s nice to be home when Angelo gets in from school. He’s too cool to talk to me, of course, but if there’s a sandwich made, he’ll eat it. And they do say it’s not quality time that matters, don’t they? It’s just time.
It heals. That’s another thing they say. And they’re wrong. They’re idiots. Time doesn’t heal anything. It just passes and – sometimes – it tells.
You can read more about Ali in House. Tree. Person., a novel of suspense.
The body found in a muddy grave across the street is just the latest horror threatening to tear Ali McGovern’s life apart seam by seam. She knows Angelo, her brooding teenage son, is keeping secrets. She fears he’s in danger, too. But her new job at the psychiatric hospital, the job her husband pushed her into, is using up everything she’s got every day. She can try to ignore the sounds that surely can’t really be there. And she can try to trust the doctors, who can’t be as dark as they seem. But can Ali hold herself, her life, and her family together without getting blood on her hands?
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About the author
Catriona McPherson is the multi-award-wining and best-selling author of the Dandy Gilver mysteries, set in Scotland in the 1930s, and six modern suspense thrillers, for which she has been Edgar and Mary Higgins Clark shortlisted. House. Tree. Person. (UK: The Weight Of Angels) is her twentieth novel. Catriona lives in northern California. Reach out to Catriona at catrionamcpherson.com.
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