Simon seemed to get a kick out of make up shopping, holding palette upon palette of shimmering powder proudly in his hands. He listened intently as I debated the merits of one mascara over another, and held the soft skin of my wrist, pearlescent under the fluorescents, to his nose to take in the scent of my preferred perfume. Around the store, several different versions of us skittered from stand to stand. Men well past their prime nursing the overflowing shopping baskets of bored looking women half their age. “Are you sure you don’t need anything else?” Simon asked, his arm straining under the weight of the shopping basket, “what about that Dior mascara? Or that buzzy thing for your face?”. I looked around slowly, wondering how many times a day the staff must roll their eyes at men like Simon and women like me, and for a moment I was lost somewhere between myself and the Urban Decay Counter. I confirmed that I had all I needed and Simon raced off like an excited schoolboy to the checkout, leaving me alone and wondering whether all of this was really happening. Most of my boyfriends hadn’t spent much more than the price of a Diet Coke on me, in fact I was usually the one left holding the cheque at restaurants, buying the next round, or shouting the movie tickets. Having someone who had known me for less than an hour insisting on purchasing me a years worth of makeup was a lot to process. I watched the sales assistants politely ignore the groaning age gap of men in their fifties and sixties accompanied by women young enough to be their granddaughters, smiling brightly as they rang up a weeks wage in makeup sales.
Simon returned laden with small black and white striped bags, asking for no more than a kiss on the cheek as a thank you. Next on the agenda was Myer. I smiled as I saw a bottle of that very same Moschino perfume that John had bought for me, and though it had only been a few weeks since my failed attempt at financial domination, it felt like a lifetime.
We stopped in front of an imposing display of Alexander MacQueen handbags, though the one I had really been lusting after (black calfskin with gold skull shaped padlock, a cool $1400) was nowhere in sight. We picked up and put down dozens of different options, feeling the leather and discussing the pros and cons of each of them. A saleswoman hovered hopefully as I stroked the buttery softness of a black Saint Laurent purse (a steal at $2000), she eyed Simon and smelled blood. I looked at him as I cradled the French beauty in my arms, and the look in his eyes told me that it was mine, all I had to do was ask. I gave it a final snuggle before putting it back, much to the disappointment of the saleswoman and my date. I knew my limits exceeded my initial expectations, but for a fleeting moment the naked hunger in Simon’s eyes made me all too aware that he had expectations of his own. In that moment, I hated him.
Famished after a few hours of warming Simon’s seemingly limitless credit card, we retired to a cafe for cake and conversation. I chose a slice of salted caramel cheesecake that tasted somewhere closer to cardboard and had the texture of wallpaper glue, and washed down it with a Diet Coke. He ordered an evil looking custard pastry with a coffee, and stared deeply at me from across the table. I noted the white indentation on his finger where a wedding ring had most likely sat until a few hours ago. Under the harsh light, Simon suddenly looked every one of his fifty something years, and in keeping with the grand English tradition of dentist avoidance his teeth resembled a neglected picket fence. He spoke at length about work, about his son’s wife (who he despised), about his co-worker (who he despised) and about his new bank (who, you guessed it, he despised). The trick here would be cajoling him away from his tendency to the pessimistic, and I challenged myself to see whether I could do it. As it turns out, it wasn’t too hard. A little flattery here, some silliness there, and a spot of good storytelling brightened him right up, and he reached across the table to stroke my hand intermittently. We sat talking until close, and once the seats around us had been placed atop of the tables I took my leave. Simon looked a little disappointed, but the as the city began to close its doors around us there were few options, and I wasn’t sure I could keep the act going through dinner.
“Thank you so much for your company this afternoon” I drawled, lifting some of the numerous bags that adorned by wrist “and thank you for my presents”. Simon’s cheeks flushed with happiness and he insisted on walking me to a cab, pressing a crisp $50 bill into my hand as I reached for the door. As the cab sped off my phoned pinged twice, once with a message from Simon asking me to meet him for dinner later in the week, and again with the notification that another $800 had been deposited into my account.