Lauren thought she was the only one, but she wasn't, not even in her own street. Saskia four doors down had blonder hair, whiter teeth, a deeper tan. And at school they were everywhere. At Chesterford Ladies' School the bling spangled so much it was visible from space.
Lauren prepared for school each day thus. Ipod alarm set for 7am, 15 minutes of tai chi stretches to move her blood, hot shower using Fairtrade toiletries with exfoliating brisk towelling to stimulate skin softening, application of coordinating lotions for glistening skin and dressing in an Egyptian cotton robe to allow skin to breathe and dry fully. Toast, golden with a scrape of real butter, eaten at the breakfast bar, her mother reading business pages and her father reading current affairs. Lauren then squeezed juice and returned to her room, orange drink in hand, by 7.45am.
Across the town, others followed a similar beauty regime as Lauren. She cleansed, toned and moisturized until her face was as squeaky clean as a plate from the dishwasher. Base coat, concealer, top coat and powders followed, each a paint chart shade darker than its predecessor. Eye shadow, liner, highlighter and a caterpillar of falsies finished the look. Next, hair was teased and stretched and burnt into place, the longest part of the process.
Lauren and her friends thought strict school uniform rules were for bending until they were permanently kinked. Hemlines rose, buttons pinged and necklines plunged, especially on the journey to and from school. Lauren's mother insisted on dropping her at the school gate, but she usually sweet talked her father into dropping her at a street where a friend lived. Or at least that's what she told him, before she watched him drive off to work and then hitched, pinged and plunged.
And Lauren thought that even if she wasn't the only one, she was certainly the most special one. He proved it to her day after day.
“Daddy, I forgot my lunch money.”
“Five pounds OK?”
Taking the note, she smiled as she kissed his cheek. “Love you Daddy.”
“Anything for my special girl. Love you too, Princess.”