Holly wasn't at all surprised to see Lili Frond in the ladies' toilets, standing in front of the mirror and casually applying mascara. Barely exchanging glances with Lili, Holly headed for one of the cubicles. Once safely inside she rolled her eyes. Lili Frond was the only fairy in the LEP who could get away with spending half the working day putting make-up on. But then, the chauvinistic Council basically employed her as eye candy. And eye candy had to look its best. She was practically paid to spend half the working day putting make-up on.
It was alright for some, thought Holly.
When she unlocked the cubicle to wash her hands, she noticed that Lili had now moved onto some particularly vivid shade of lipgloss. Then, as Holly was drying her hands, it seemed Lili had finished with that too because she turned to Holly and asked her, "There wasn't anybody hanging about outside, was there?"
"No," said Holly curtly.
"Ah, good." Lili turned back to the mirror for a final inspection and began to rearrange her already immaculate hair. "It gets so tiring, being followed everywhere by loving admirers."
"It's your own fault for leading them on," Holly muttered under her breath, not really caring if Lili heard. Holly suspected that being offended was beyond Lili's mental capacity.
Obviously Lili had heard her though, as she shot her a sideways glance and snorted.
"Oh, come on," said Holly, louder this time. "You know you do. It was only yesterday that you made a move on Corporal Ash in the stationery cupboard..."
Lili stared at her for a second, then gave a short, not unkind laugh. "Captain, I thought you had more sense than to believe office rumours. I did nothing of the kind – but you know what men are like, they have to exaggerate about their conquests."
Holly raised one eyebrow, a little perturbed at being laughed at. "It can't all be exaggeration. Not everything I've heard. There has to be a grain of truth in it. Nobody gets a... reputation like yours without some sort of reason."
For a moment, Lili Frond said nothing. She wore an expression that suggested she was considering something very carefully, but then she appeared to come to a decision, because a smile spread across her delicately painted lips. "I can promise that any man who says he's had any kind of romantic encounter with me is lying through his teeth. I've not even shared a kiss with a single one of them." She turned away again and idly started playing with her fringe. "Why would I want to, when women are so much more appealing?"
It took Holly a moment to realise what she'd just said. "What? But... You can't mean..."
"Yes." Lili wrinkled her nose. "I have no interest in men."
Holly frowned and shook her head. "But I've seen you flirting with them. You do it every day. That's all an act? Why would you even want to do that?"
Lili ran a thumb along one eyebrow. "Why wouldn't I? It's to my advantage. They pay me excessive amounts of money to do nothing but sit around looking pretty, just so that they can pretend they're in with a chance. And if they're all stupid enough to fall for it, then they deserve it." Lili turned around and leant back against the counter top, elbows casually resting on the marble-effect surface. "Besides, I like to keep them on their toes. It amuses me."
Holly couldn't quite believe what she was hearing. Lili Frond, the blonde bimbo, actually the creation of an intelligent and calculating fairy? If someone else had told her this she would never have accepted it - Holly, like everyone, had been completely taken in by Lili's pretence. But here, in the presence of Lili, the real Lili, with all trace of ditziness replaced by a fierce intelligence, she knew it had to be true.
Biting her lip, Holly absentmindedly brushed her hair away from her face. "But why are you telling me all of this?"
Lili smiled in a way Holly couldn't quite decipher and took a few steps towards her. "Because..." She leaned forwards until her face was only a few inches from Holly's own. "I have a rather soft spot for you, Captain Short."
In the split second that followed, when Holly was frozen with shock, Lili Frond took one step closer and momentarily pressed her lips against Holly's cheek. Then she spun on her heel and made her exit from the toilets.
Holly didn't react for a few seconds. She could feel that her face was flushed and her heart was hammering in her chest. Slowly she turned her head to look at herself in the mirror. There was a sticky red mark on her cheek. She lifted one finger up and wiped it across.
She looked down at the goo on her fingertip, then up at the closed door. All of her muscles had become so tense that when she tried to take a breath, the air shuddered in her chest.