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I Have Heard of Your Paintings Well Enough

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In another life, when Kate still wore her hair in a bob and was struggling to like being an actress, Irene studied English literature for three years. Kate remembers laughing when she found out about it, but with time she's come to understand it more.

 

God has given you one face, and you make yourselves another,” Irene quotes, smiling, as Kate hesitates for a moment over which shade of lipstick to give her. Kate has never liked Shakespeare much, and not out of some rebellious anti-establishment streak, but because she found his women, specifically, to be boring. (Irene, of course, is more drawn to the faults of men than Kate.)

 

Kate is really good at her job. Today, her job is to give Irene another face, so she trusts her instinct and chooses the colour confidently: cherry. She knows who's the three o'clock – old-school business man, Harrow clique, spanking fetish and mummy issues. Standard. He likes things obvious, loud; so cherry it is. Irene is good at playing down for the ones who don't know why they want what they want – for them, she pretends to be less insightful than she actually is.

 

“The dryer hasn't been fixed yet,” Kate says, as she takes Irene gently by the chin to apply the lipstick. “So the whip's still wet, but I've put out your paddle.”

 

Irene hums without moving her mouth. Kate paints her lips; two coats, with exaggerated curves over Irene's cupid bow to fill out her thin upper lip a little, and an extra careful touch-up to the corners using her thumb.

 

“There,” Kate says when she's done. “Wanton, and ignorant.”

 

Irene smiles faintly, not yet playing down. Still exactly who she is. She leans in and kisses Kate lightly, so lightly none of the lipstick comes off.

 

“Perfect.”