“Make sure you get it right this time, Mindy,” he tells me as he settles into my chair. “Use more waterproof stuff. Yesterday’s rain nearly washed it all off.” His angry tone has become familiar.
“Sorry, sir.” Quietly, I close the door to the salon’s only private room.
“I have a reputation to uphold, woman!” He pounds his fist on the arm of my chair.
“Yes, sir, I understand. I mean no disrespect, but you were in a hurry yesterday.”
He sighs. “I know. It’s my own fault. All of it is.”
I start sorting through various cosmetics at my station in front of him. His vacillations between anger and sadness have become common lately. I catch a glimpse in the mirror as he uncovers his face: long, tanned fingers pushing back the black hood, removing the large, black sunglasses. He has brown eyes, a warm caramel brown. His fingers hesitate to pull off the black mask concealing the lower half of his face. He sees me watching him. I quickly duck my head and collect the necessary makeup and brushes.
Another sigh. “You try my patience, Mindy. But you’re the best in the city.”
I start applying the makeup. His face is several shades lighter than the rest of his skin. It’s my job to make sure no one notices that.
“And you’re the only one who has seen this.” There’s disgust in the word as he gestures to his face. “As such, I can’t reveal it to anyone else. The press would have a field day.” He closes his mouth and eyes as I layer on foundation. It’s three shades darker than the skin of his face, but it matches his coloring elsewhere. “Do you know what I’d do to you if you let word get out?”
“Yes, sir.” I pick up a pot of concealer, mixed specifically for his face. “You’d send an assassin after me and they’d never find my body.”
He laughs, a nice sound. “You got that right.”
My brush hesitates and I can’t hide a smile. I know it’s just an exaggeration; I’d keep his secret even without the fake threat.
“What are you smiling for?”
And the nice moment is over.
“Sorry, sir.” I neutralize my expression and get back to work.
Minutes pass in silence as I add more and more layers of fake, hiding the real man. Normally, we do talk a little. I’ve gotten to know the person he hides underneath the layers of fake; the truth that the cameras, the press, and the fans don’t see. He hides a caring heart, a slightly timid, introverted personality under the harsh mask of celebrity. He’s only a year younger than I am, and we live such different lives.
“Admit it,” he says, breaking my thoughts as I add on the final touches. “You’ve seen it. You think I’m hideous, don’t you?”
“Well…” I take a step back and look at the work I’ve done. With practice, I’ve perfected this look for him. A look that matches the face he had before. I’d studied pictures of him before the accident, chosen all the right colors to match his skin tone. I filled in what he lost of his eyebrows, and helped the hairs grow back. Noticed the nuances to highlight his sharp nose and cheekbones.
He’d seen the accident. Called the fire department. Risked his life to save the children in the meantime. None of them should have survived. The children were safe. And this man in front of me… he made it out with second and third-degree burns, still healing from the worst of them. Except for one covering most of his face. There was no healing it. Only surgery could fix it, which he planned to do when his schedule allowed. Until then, it was my job to hide it.
Celebrities’ faces are their money-makers. Without the face that everyone has always known, he’d be out of work. He hates his face because of the burns. He hides it under masks and makeup so no one will know. No one will see that good deed either.
I don’t know why I do it. I take a makeup-removing sheet and swipe it down his nearly finished face.
“What are you doing?!” He jolts up and grabs my wrist, not tightly.
Rather than anger, I see fear in his eyes. Fear that someone will see the scars I’ve revealed.
“You shouldn’t be ashamed, sir. It was a brave thing you did. I think you’re trying too hard to hide beauty inside a beast.”