Chapter 1 - Week 1: Pie Week (Part 1)Disclaimer: I know nothing about makeup or TV and I obviously have nothing to do with a similar popular TV show. This is entirely a work of fiction.
Week One - Pie Week
'Oh Lordie,' one of the producers sighed in in her nasal Mancunian drawl. 'Why'd they have to start with Pie Week?'
Those were Rebecca's thoughts exactly as she sucked in her stomach and called the name of the first contestant--Alan, 32, teacher, happily married to other contestant George (builder, 37)--into her partition of the production tent. Her stomach grumbled. She slipped a hand over her navel and pressed in, telling it off. 'Not now,' she whispered. Not ever, she thought. Those days are over.
While the producer was worrying about the right lighting for something semi-glossy and golden brown, Rebecca was worrying about her waistline. It didn't help that the entire tent smelled of pastry - someone was testing the ovens with a morning sausage roll. Her boyfriend had left her during last year's Pie Week. He had come home from work to find her sat on the sofa - in her dressing gown, belt straining around her middle, an empty, sauce-smeared plate on the side table and someone crying over soggy shortcrust on the television - and had grabbed the dog and his rucksack and gone straight out again. At the time, it had been a disaster - a new, lonely existence in a dogless flat shared with twelve strangers. Now, eight months later, she counted herself lucky. She was three stone lighter, and instead of spending Pie Week on her bum at home, she had scored a coveted position on the other side of the camera, getting to smell the fat and flour in person but choosing to ignore it, instead carefully selecting bold lipstick colours for the contestants with the most characterful teeth.
Alan settled himself into her stool. He was shorter than her, with light bones that barely made an impression in the polyester. He tilted his delicate chin upward, like someone used to putting on makeup.
'George has been using self-tanner,' he said as she adjusted her lights a few inches down the pole. 'Anyway, make him less orange?'
Rebecca caught a sideways glance of George hovering outside the door, looking not unlike a large, juicy mandarin in coveralls. He was burly and tattooed, very unlike the bird-like Alan, and very unlike the sort of person Rebecca thought would raid the tanning shelf at Superdrug.
She smirked. 'I'll see what I can do.'
George was after, who shooed away her advances with a grumbled, 'If I'm orange, I'm orange.' Next was Odette, a Belgian girl who became irritable when Rebecca refused to erase her freckles, followed by Shana, whose skin soaked in the deep brown foundation until she looked like an oil painting, as flawless as something designed by the masters and far out of the league of an amateur baking competition.
Then it was teatime (black tea with one rice cake) and Rebecca ducked outside the tent door again, and called, 'Robert?'
The tall figure of a man Rebecca hadn't seen before shuffled on a flimsy plastic deck chair. He was the only one remaining, the other contestants, judges, and hosts taken care of by Rebecca's senior partner, Eduardo, in the next room
Robert cut a lonely, unsure figure as he climbed to his feet, stretching to his considerable height, flexing his equally considerable shoulders in a short-sleeved tee shirt as he stuffed his hands into the pockets of his jeans.
'Right then,' he said. His voice was deep and unapologetically Glaswegian. 'I suppose I have to, don't I?'
Rebecca began to say, 'I'll be quick,' but barely made it past the first syllable. Instead, she trailed off, staring at him a moment longer than was comfortable. She was used to this, watching people with searching eyes, looking for those little flaws that needed either covering or highlighting, gauging the slopes and thrusts of faces to see which parts would shine under camera lights. But Robert? Robert was...
She'd worked with stunning before. It was her job. Gorgeous men and women had passed beneath her brushes and come out looking even more unreal. But looking at Robert, with his spare, strong frame, sweep of lush, dark brown hair, wide, honest eyes that would pop under the blue filter, and the uncertain set of his generous mouth, Rebecca found herself at a sudden and embarrassing loss.
'Hi,' she attempted. It came out crackly, like boiled sweet wrappers.
Robert gave an uncertain bow of his head. 'Hi,' he said. Another beat. He gestured toward the open flap of the door. 'So should we-'
'Oh, yeah,' Rebecca said. 'Come in, please.'
He followed her into the room, standing, still awkward, while she made herself busy readjusting the lights, wondering why on earth she didn't remember him from her photo reports.
'I always wondered what it would be like,' he said. He scuffed the carpet. 'TV.'
'Well...' Rebecca searched lamely for something to say. 'Here you are.'
'Here I am,' he said, allowing himself a nervous little grin.
'Have a seat,' Rebecca said, waving him toward the chair. He sat at the same time she pressed the pedal, and he dropped almost to the floor.
'Sorry,' she said. 'You're so tall. Could you just part your knees a bit so I can get close enough to you? There, thanks.'
What was usually comfortable and everyday for Rebecca had suddenly become uncomfortable, and not just for her. Robert was nervous. An irregular corona of steam was spreading around his fingers as they clasped the metal armrests of the stool. She bent toward him and swept a brush through matte powder.
'I'm Rebecca, by the way,' she said. Her Brummie accent was coming out strong. She hoped it didn't make her sound like a thicko. 'I don't remember seeing you in my profiles?'
'Oh, yeah,' Robert said. He adjusted his stance a bit, parting his legs wider. 'One of the older ladies had got her dog into an important show or something. Schedule clash, apparently. So they brought me in instead.'
'You weren't front of the queue?' Rebecca said, fully aware she sounded strained and over-eager. She had been powdering his forehead for too long and it looked like he'd just face-planted in plain flour. She took a wet-wipe to it and tried again.
His face flushed red. 'Not an engaging enough screen presence, apparently.'
Rebecca laughed. 'Way to make you feel more comfortable before you go on camera.'
The red spread to his ears as he shrugged. 'They didn't intend on me being here. But here I am. And I do like to bake.'
Some of his tension left him at that last admission. His hands stilled on the armrests, and his shoulders sank back against the stool. His face relaxed and Rebecca could finally smooth out his creases. For his gorgeousness and olive undertones, he was quite weather-beaten, with sun marks scattered across his hairline.
'Tell me what you like to bake,' Rebecca said. It was intended as light conversation, but she was starting to sound oddly breathy. She moved onto the back of his neck, distracted by his jawline and wondering if contouring it would bring it to Superman levels of ridiculousness.
'Everything,' he said. His Adam's apple bobbed as he spoke. 'Biscuits, pies, cake, bread. But I'm especially good at pastry. You should taste my croissants. The best in...well, I'm one of the only people for ten miles where I live, so probably the best in ten miles in a very particular place in Scotland.'
She cast a glance toward the mirror and found that he was watching her face, a ghost of a smile on his lips. The more time he spent in her chair, the less he was like the Robert she had first seen on the bench outside, the 'not-engaging-enough-screen-presence' Robert, and saw the Robert that the nation would fall in love with as soon he appeared on their television screens.
'You like pastry, don't you?' he said. 'Working here?'
She jerked her gaze from the mirror.
'Diet,' she chirped, blushing. How could she keep him here longer without making him look like a living, breathing Photoshop? Then, without knowing why, she admitted, 'Boyfriend dumped me for getting fat.'
Robert gave a single mirthful laugh. 'Tosser!' he exclaimed. His vehemence startled her, but she immediately liked him for it. The word sounded delicious in his accent. 'You're well-rid of him then, at least.'
'Lost ten stone instantly, then another three,' she agreed.
(continued in chapter 2)
15 chapters, created 5 years , updated 2 months
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