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Slap in the face of the war-weary

LOOK AT us. The ladies' loos before a parents' evening are a cloud of panic and hairspray - all elbows, apologies and eye-shadow. But perhaps it's not panic. Perhaps this is warpaint. Yeah. It's like Lord of the Flies when Jack paints his face. "The face of red and white and black swung through the air..."

I'd love to do that. Most parents would run away and I'd be home by nine o'clock. Well, I can't put my battle mask on until I've sorted out this stupid contact lens. It's trying to think for itself and it shouldn't.

"So come on, Melinda. Tell us about Jon. What's he like?"

Ah, Jennifer Boney. She does have her uses. Everyone's pretending not to listen, but several mascara wands came to a halt when she asked that. What a clammy thought. Is Melinda Sleam really seeing Mr Gorgeous?

"Now is not the time, Jennifer."

"All right, we'll find another time. Is he funny? Clever? Bossy?"

I bet the men's loos are boring compared to this. On my right there's Jennifer Boney in friendly mauve cotton. She looks like a fairy godmother but she fires questions like a New York cop. On my left there's Melinda Sleam, putting on lipstick that probably has a name like "Claret" but should be called "Your Child's Teacher is a Vampire". In the middle, here's me, watching my contact lens bellyflop on to a soapy tap.

"It's private."

"OK, but I'm not asking how it's going - just what he's like. Go on. You know how jealous we all are."

Ah, that's clever. Melinda likes to be envied. If Jennifer can't break her, no one can. Oh crap! I've left my glasses at home.

"He's lovely. And it's going very well."

Why is it going well? Why? And how can I greet parents with one eye? It's as if half my brain is dozing under a sheet of glass, and not in a good way. "All right, Melinda. You win. I won't ask again."

It's so weird when I try to look around. Vampire lips on that side, a fuzzy mauve shrug on this one. No use trying to put on warpaint now.

"I must go. You need a life outside work, Jennifer. It's better than gossip."

Chomp! Splat! Just when Boney had already backed off, Sleam spits venom and slithers away. "We-ell! The sex must be rubbish or she'd have talked."

Not necessarily true. Still, like Boney, I shall plant whole vineyards of sour grapes if it will stop me from screaming. Right now I'm more worried about shaking hands without my usual expert aim.

There is something quite restful about this swimmy lack of detail, though.

Maybe just seeing the world less clearly than usual is better than wearing a scary mask to keep it away. I mean, I'm glad Melinda didn't tell us much.

I'd rather not know.

More from Emily in a fortnight

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