Today's Reading

Taylor shrugs. "Some psych professor needs students for a survey." I wonder what sort of questions are on the survey. Maybe it's like a Myers-Briggs personality test.

I step back and study Taylor's face. She's classically pretty, with an enviable bone structure. She didn't need the full forty-five- minute treatment.

"Since you're going to be out late, I'll line your lips before I apply gloss," I say. "That way the color will last."

I pull out my favorite lip gloss with the BeautyBuzz logo on the tube and smooth it along Taylor's full lips. After I finish, Taylor gets up to go look in the bathroom mirror, trailed by Mandy. "Wow," I hear Taylor say. "She's really good. Let's take a selfie."

"I need my makeup first!"

I begin to put away the cosmetics I used for Taylor and consider what I will need for Mandy when I notice Taylor has left her phone on the chair.

My rocking Friday night will consist of walking my little mixed terrier, Leo, and washing the makeup out of my brushes—after I take the bus across town to my tiny studio on the Lower East Side. I'm so wiped out that I'll probably be in bed before Taylor and Mandy order their first cocktails at the club.

I look down at the phone again.

Then I glance at the bathroom door. It's partly closed.

I bet Taylor won't even bother to return the call to cancel her appointment.

"I need to buy the highlighter she used," Taylor is saying.

Five hundred dollars would help a lot with my rent this month.

I already know my schedule for tomorrow. My first job doesn't begin until noon.

"I'm going to have her do my eyes kind of dramatic," Mandy says. "I wonder if she has false lashes with her."

Hunter Hall from eight to ten A.M.—I remember that part. But what was the name of the doctor and his assistant?

It's not even like I make a decision to do it; one second I'm staring at the phone and the next, it's in my hand. Less than a minute has passed; it hasn't locked out yet. Still, I need to look down to navigate to the voice mail screen, but that means taking my eyes off the bathroom door.

I jab at the screen to play the most recent message, then press the phone tightly to my ear.

The bathroom door moves and Mandy starts to walk out. I spin around, feeling my heartbeat erupt. I won't be able to replace the phone without her seeing me.

Ben Quick.

I can pretend it fell off the chair, I think wildly. I'll tell Taylor I just picked it up.

"Wait, Mand!"

Dr. Shields's assistant . . . eight to ten A.M . . .

"Should I make her try a darker lip color?"

Come on, I think, willing the message to play faster.

Hunter Hall, Room 214.

"Maybe," Mandy says.

I'll meet you in the lob—

I hang up and drop the phone back onto the chair just as Taylor takes her first step into the room.

Did she leave it faceup or facedown? But before there's time to try and remember, Taylor is beside me.

She stares down at her phone and my stomach clenches. I've messed up. Now I recall that she left it with the screen facing down on the chair. I put it back the wrong way.

I swallow hard, trying to think of an excuse.

"Hey," she says.

I drag my eyes up to meet hers.

"Love it. But can you try a darker lip gloss?"

She flops back onto the chair and I slowly exhale.

I redo her lips twice—first making them berry, then reverting to the original shade, all the while steadying my right elbow with my left palm so my shaking fingers don't ruin the lines—and by the time I'm finished, my pulse has returned to normal.

When I leave the apartment with a distracted "Thank you" from the girls instead of a tip, my decision is confirmed.

I set the alarm on my phone for 7:15 a.m.
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