She’d heard him perfectly well but looked up and said, “I’m sorry?”
He shifted in his seat. “I was just saying, I thought I knew you. You look familiar. I’m sure I’ve met you or seen you somewhere before…”
She half-smiled, dipping her head down a fraction. “We have? You know, I can’t place you, sorry. It’s possible but I don’t think so.”
He suddenly turned towards her, making the seat crack and groan. She was thrown forward slightly and held out her coffee cup so she didn’t spill anything.
“No, I feel sure. It’ll come to me. Maybe not locally or anything. But on TV. Or in a film, more likely, yeah? You’re even better looking in real life though. In fact,” he bounced forward on his seat, “you’re stunning.”
He was staring at her.
She didn’t say anything but instead waited for him to speak. She wasn’t going to make this easy for him. She wanted him to work for every word.
He looked less certain now though.
“Am I wrong? Oh. O. I get it. You’re not her. But… you look like her. Oh god, I’m so sorry. I bet you get this all the time. Must be a real bugger. Sorry, sorry. I mean, it must be annoying. A nuisance. That’s why you didn’t say anything. I mean, if you were her, you’d say so, wouldn’t you? Stands to reason, don’t it? Why wouldn’t you? Unless you didn’t want a fuss. Yeah.”
She opened her mouth to say something then but just smiled at him.
“Reckon you could get a job as her double though. If you’re not her. Or be on TV off your own bat, if you wanted? You’re gorgeous. And it’s better than the old 9-5, in’t it? The old fame lark.”
“Thank you,” she said.
“Does it happen a lot then?” he leaned forward, almost touching her, his face shiny with sweat and hope.
She shook her head, slightly, enough to shift her bangs and have hair fall over her left eye.
“I’m never the first!”
She shrunk back into the seat and concentrated on her book.
“Sorry,” he mumbled. “Bit over-excited there. Too loud. Still, not every day you meet a famous…, well, someone who you thinks a… I’m making a right tit of myself, aren’t I?”
She tried not to smile by focusing even harder on the page in front of her.
“I’ll shut up. I’ll just sit back and look out of the window. Keep my big mouth zipped. I must be annoying the hell out of you. I get it, I do. Bet you can’t wait for the train to get in and then you’ll be able to get out of here. Instead of which, you’re stuck with this moron, me,” he beat his chest with both hands, “Me! Wittering on about how he thinks he knows you when of course I don’t, not really. In fact, how could I? I don’t know anyone famous. No-one from my school even went on to become famous, you know, so I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I am the world’s unluckiest bugger in that respect. And here you are, sitting next to me, thinking, ‘What a prize idiot. How the heck did I get to luck out today, when out of all the people to sit next to on this train, most of them no doubt perfectly normal, like, the type who don’t talk to you non-stop, I get this clown. Who doesn’t seem to know how to stop blimming talking away about nothing. That’s what you’re thinking right now, isn’t it? Tell me I’m wrong.”
He slumped back down into his seat. She almost felt sorry for him then. Once, before, she might even have fancied him.
“No,” she said. “Really, it’s fine.” There was a half-smile on her lips before she returned to her book.
“Prize idiot,” he said, looking at his hands and shifting about a bit. “I should never have said anything. I should have just sat here quiet, like, and minded my own business. Muppet.”
He pushed his big hands up over his face and through his hair, linking them together and resting them in the crook of his neck. Then he closed his eyes.
She could tell him, she thought. About the months of personal trainers. Trainers, plural, because it had taken her a while to find one, the right one, who wasn’t all about getting her fit and toned but who’d help her sculpt her body exactly as she wanted it, without judging her or thinking her a freak. The carefully-timed sunbed sessions to ensure she always looked like she was just back from her latest beach holiday, instead of yet another session at Bake ’n’ Go. She could mention the hours of make-up trial and error, watching videos on YouTube with a palette of colours, creams, powders, and gels around the extra-large portable tilting mirror until she’d nailed the look and could replicate it almost as naturally as her own previous beauty routine. She could tell him about the debt. The store cards and credit cards and loans from Mum and Dad, all of which helped her get the clothes she’d needed to complete her look. And she could tell him about the pain. The pain of a nose job and cheek implants.
She could tell him but it would spoil the effect. After all, he didn’t want to know how much work had gone into her looking this way. He probably thought she looked like this when she woke up in the morning. Even if, judging by last week’s edition of Heat magazine, not even the original model looked this good first thing.
She wouldn’t say anything. She’d just sit there quietly, smiling to herself, pretending to read until the train pulled in, and that way he need never know. She couldn’t spoil the illusion now.