Fiona leaned forward into the bathroom mirror and bared her teeth to check for bits of food and lipstick stains. Under the harsh bathroom lights, she looked like a dog growling at its own reflection. The mascara pencil beauty spot she had applied to the crease of her cheek was slightly too big. She stepped back again, primped the blonde wig, tugged at her dress, and then straightened for a final assessment.
Not too bad, she thought, resolving again to lose those 9 or 10 kilograms she had slowly gained since turning 40. She stuck her chin forward and slapped the pouch of skin below it with the back of her fingers. The pouch wobbled and then sagged back into position. Shit Fiona, more like 14 or 15 kilo’s, she thought, and then turned quickly away from the mirror as though it had offended her.
On her way out of the bathroom, her bladder reminded her of the three ciders she’d had while getting ready. The neoprene corset she was wearing to help trim her waist, increased her discomfort. She stopped at the toilet, wriggled the narrow dress up, and plumped down onto the seat. Her flagging energy levels made her regret the third cider.
She leaned forward, put her elbows on her knees, then rested her chin on the palms of her hands and waited for the flow to start. The bathroom scale whimpered on the floor in the corner like a puppy afraid of being stood on. Sighing, she looked straight ahead into the eyes of Annie Lennox, and spoke a warning in the empty bathroom; “Well this had fucking better be worth it, Annie.”
For the best part of a decade, along with weight loss, the other item at the top of Fiona’s ever-growing to-do list, had been to buy some decent double-sided tape.
The framed Annie Lennox picture had slipped off the tiled wall years ago. The thin glass covering the picture had cracked in the fall, but Fiona was reluctant to throw it away – she had history with it.
It now sat atop a small wooden bathroom cabinet containing cleaning products, and spare rolls of loo paper. The cabinet was positioned directly opposite, and within reaching distance of the toilet, for those back-wrenching occasions when the roll holder on the wall alongside the cistern behind her needed replenishing.
The picture had been cut from the vinyl LP cover of the Eurythmics album ‘Revenge’.
Fiona had carefully cut out the image of Annie staring wide-eyed and passive, directly out at whoever held the album cover. This was during her short blond hair phase, where she stands bare-shouldered in contrast to the wild-haired Dave Stewart alongside her, wearing a high white collar under a black jacket. After scissoring out the exact Annie shape, she had glued it to a white cardboard background, and then mounted it in a cheap wooden frame. The now-useless Dave Stewart half of the cover, had been tossed in the bin.
The homemade Annie Lennox portrait was one of a group of four.
Along with the Eurythmics album, Fiona and her former husband Adrian had also sacrificed the covers of Bjork’s album, ‘Debut’, Grace Jones’ ‘Nightclubbing’, and Sade’s, ‘Stronger Than Pride’.
These were four of their favourite 80’s female singers, and at the time, converting album covers to portraits was a cheap alternative to buying new art or block-mounted pictures to hang on the bare walls of their first apartment. Along with the second-hand and donated pieces of furniture they owned at the time, the pictures were their most prized possessions.
The album cover project was one of the few happy memories Fiona had retained from the marriage. After their divorce, she had told herself that her and Adrian just weren’t well suited, and that his lack of ambition would’ve always been a thorn in her side. She also convinced herself that his possessiveness had driven her away, and that this had justified her affair. She quickly learned the difference between courting and marriage, and she decided she preferred the former over the latter. She resolved then, to never again become anyone’s ball and chain.
“Why?”, was all Adrian could manage when she told him it was over.
“Don’t ask me why.” She replied.
“Is there someone else?” he asked. Fiona had to close her eyes as she shook her head.
“Are you sure?” he asked, unconvinced.
She feigned offense and said, “Adrian… would I lie to you?”
After less than a year, she had binned Adrian like the discarded Dave Stewart half of the Revenge album cover.
Down the years, the four album cover portraits endured a gradual decline in status.
Initially, they’d enjoyed pride of place on the walls of the first apartment’s living room. Visitors would admire them and compliment Adrian and Fiona on their keen ears and eyes for music and album art.
Grace Jones stared, regal and imposing down upon her loyal subjects, like a monarch on a balcony. Sade, cool and indifferent, avoided eye contact, and Bjork looked like a naughty child who’d been caught playing with the instruments while the orchestra had popped out for lunch.
Fiona’s favourite was Annie Lennox. Her blue eyes stared, intense and mysterious, like a poker pro holding a straight flush.
The pictures looked down on dinner parties, game nights, deep conversations, and impromptu dance sessions.
They elicited opinions and sparked debates about music, past and present. They were four silent, low maintenance daughters that didn’t need a college fund or an orthodontist.
Their time on the lofty perches of the living room walls was short. After the divorce, Fiona took all four portraits when she moved to her new apartment. By this time, she had accumulated some disposable cash, and the four ladies were replaced with block-mounted art more appropriate for a socially ambitious, upwardly mobile young woman. She enjoyed the material advantages to having an affair with the boss, as well as the career leverage it provided. She moved quickly through middle management onto the higher rungs of the corporate ladder.
The four pictures were relegated from the living room to the walls of a small hallway… but worse was yet to come.
Their humiliating demotion continued when after a few years in the hallway, on receiving a birthday gift of a set of dodgy cat pictures painted by a friend (which Fiona felt obliged to hang somewhere), they were evicted once more.
Now stripped of all dignity, they were relocated to the lowest ghetto, and dreaded graveyard for wall art…the en-suite bathroom.
Year after year, the portraits were confined to this dull, smelly corner of the house and forced to endure endless performances of Fiona’s grooming and bodily functions. As she steadily increased in size, they witnessed the birth of her stretchmarks and cellulite. They watched in horrified silence as her chins multiplied and her tits sagged. With no chance of reprieve, Grace, Sade, Bjork and Annie were condemned to this dreary existence, like a group of convicts on death row.
The final insult though, was reserved for Annie Lennox when the tape holding her to the tiled wall failed, and she slid down to the floor between the bathroom cabinet and a wooden magazine rack, cracking her glass cover. Annie was picked up and re-positioned against the wall on the bathroom cabinet, directly opposite the thunderbox. Well within the blast radius, she now had a front-row seat to every grim excretion.
Eyeball to eyeball, it was a never-ending shit show.
For five excruciating years, Annie Lennox stared out from a broken frame at the only scenery available to her; a stark white porcelain crapper, either vacant or engaged.
This afternoon though, things looked different.
Fiona sat on the Facebook chair wearing a teased-out blonde wig above a heavily made-up face. Her lilac-coloured eye shadow matched her over-tight, shoulder strap dress. Her thick black eyeliner accentuated the black bra spilling out from under the straps and the low top. Her pale, fleshy shoulders and chest muffined out around the edges of her garments. Bulging from the compression effect of the neoprene corset, her cleavage was a vast, deep valley of skin.
The look she was trying hard to imitate was the Monroe-esque, tipsy starlet character Annie Lennox portrays in her video for the song, ‘I Need A Man’.
As the video begins, Annie slurs, “Hey! Is this my turn? You want me to sing now? Okay.” She then struts around in front of the camera singing into a microphone like a raucous drunk at a karaoke party. Her high slit, low cut lilac sequin dress, cling-foils her slender frame, and completes the sexy temptress persona.
Squeezing her own ample body into this style of dress, had been a bigger ordeal than Fiona had imagined. Wriggling like a contortionist, she had managed to encase herself, although even after tailored alterations, the zipper on the back of the dress was hanging on for dear life.
In her mind’s eye, Fiona had seen herself as a fuller version of the blonde Annie in the video – curvier and more voluptuous. The result wasn’t exactly as she’d pictured. The neoprene corset hadn’t slimmed and tucked as much as she’d hoped. In reality, it had transformed her trunk from a ball of mozzarella, into a block of cheddar. At this age, her mind’s eye could no longer be trusted. Now, the price of the long black leather coat from the ‘Thorn In My Side’ video, didn’t seem so expensive.
The reason for the impersonation was a concert and HIV/AIDS charity event, hosted by the legend herself, Annie Lennox.
When she heard that her employers had purchased a handful of tickets for the event, Fiona had pulled out all the stops. Through a combination of stealthy cajoling and relentless brown-nosing, she had managed to get her hands on one of the tickets.
Normally, she would have bought her own – now financially flush, she didn’t need to hustle as hard as she once had – but these weren’t just ordinary tickets.
Because the event was a benefit for Lennox’s own HIV/AIDS charity, Annie had agreed to host a limited and exclusive, post-concert meet-and-greet cocktail party for VIP’s and corporates willing to stump up twenty grand per ticket. Like visiting royalty, she was expected to shake hands, smile and exchange a few polite greetings with a handful of local dignitaries and politicians.
For Fiona, it seemed as though the planets were aligning. The directors from head office had bought five tickets. Not only would she get to enter the orbit of one of her music idols, but she would also be rubbing shoulders with four of her work superiors – the people who awarded bonuses and promotions.
Unfortunately, the marketing director had recognized the potential for advertising mileage and had insisted that all company attendees dress up in Eurythmics/Lennox garb. It was a huge photo opportunity for the next issue of the company magazine, and a way to write off the cost of the tickets as a marketing expense. Although this wasn’t ideal, Fiona hoped it would be worth the effort – and she had certainly made an effort.
She had spent two grand on the dress (tailoring included), another two grand on the wig, new shoes, black slut bra, G-string, and black nylons. The corset torture device had cost 400 bucks and the X5 BMW one-day rental parked in the driveway, had cost another grand.
This was almost certainly a once-off opportunity and she was determined to put her best foot forward. She was acutely aware of the importance of making a good impression.
After warning the framed picture in front of her, “Well this had fucking better be worth it, Annie.”, Fiona stood up and straightened, slipped into her new white shoes, and headed for the door.
As she passed the side table in the hall she picked up the finishing touch accessory; a silver microphone with 2 metres of black cable snaking out behind it.
The four male directors had suggested an early dinner and drinks at a Chinese restaurant before the show.
As she drove into the parking lot, the money she had spent on the X5 paid off when she passed the four of them standing behind a black Porsche SUV. The vehicle gleamed like a killer whale lying in wait.
The owner of the SUV had a sense of humour – a bumper sticker on the bottom of his back hatch door said, ‘Fuck The Poor’. Whoever had gouged the paint off the door around the sticker, didn’t appreciate the joke.
Fiona tapped the hooter and waved enthusiastically before pulling into a parking space.
She was relieved to see that the directors had also made an effort. Two of them wore the elaborate purple and orange feather boa headdress, as well as the lavish jewelry and make-up from Annie’s, ‘Why’ video. Sparkling blouses were stretched tight across their ample bellies. They looked like they were on their way to a gay pride parade.
The other two had presumably spent a chunk of money on unruly Dave Stewart wigs and goatee beards. The hairpieces looked like they had been professionally made and fitted. Their accessories included leather jackets, dark sunglasses, guitars and studded straps.
As she slid, straight-legged out of the X5, the four of them approached her. “I need a man!”, one of them sang on seeing her getup. Fiona theatrically lifted the microphone to her mouth and sang it back.
They spent 10 minutes behind the X5 gushing mutual compliments, describing their struggles during the dressing process and laughing.
Her previous encounters with the directors had been brief and strictly business, but as they eventually made their way into the restaurant, they were all loose and jovial.
The festive atmosphere continued at the table. Conversation flowed easily and for the most part, they all avoided shop talk. The group turned many heads and received compliments from other patrons, some of whom had also dressed up for the occasion.
Although Chinese wouldn’t have been Fiona’s first choice (the sauce heavy, fried food disagreed with her), she was relaxed and at ease in the company of the executives.
They swapped stories about what The Eurythmics music meant to them, and Fiona shared her own story about the home-made framed Annie Lennox album cover portrait – although she didn’t mention the part about its current location.
By the time they ordered sake and bow ties, Fiona had consumed a plate of Beef Chow Mein, six Pork Spring Rolls and four bottles of Tsingtao beer.
She had overindulged and now her neoprene corset felt like a tourniquet. After the bow ties, they collected their accessories, checked and adjusted each other’s costumes, and then noisily made their way to the cars.
Fiona clambered into the X5 and followed the Porsche to the venue. The Chinese food and the beer started working its magic as she let out a string of impressive tuba farts onto the BMW’s leather seat. Each blast seemed to ease the pressure of the dress and corset. She held a bottle of fragrance in one hand and spritzed after every rip. Tipsy and impressed by the luxury vehicle, she also promised herself that she’d soon be driving an X5 of her own.
At the venue, the level of excitement increased as they walked from the carpark to the hall.
They joined streams of fans, singing and whooping as they entered the arena. Many also wore costumes from the various Eurythmics videos. Fiona noticed another two attempts at the, ‘I Need A Man’ ensemble – one was a half-hearted effort by a woman with a full sleeve arm tattoo (which looked all wrong), the other was a bloke with wide, hairy shoulders and a five o’clock shadow. Neither of them had thought to carry a microphone and cable – the ultimate accessory for discerning fans.
To escape the crowd, they bypassed the t-shirt stalls and the over-priced beer vendors, and went directly to their seats.
Considering the price the company had paid for the tickets, the box seats were slightly disappointing. Although they were separated from the main audience and spared the ordeal of shuffling past hundreds of legs in their awkward costumes, the piano was positioned so that for the most part, they were looking over Annie’s shoulder at the piano keys.
Annie Lennox didn’t disappoint though.
Her distinctive voice was as strong and emotive as it had been on her earlier recordings, and she performed every song with the respect and passion it deserved. Fiona was mesmerized by the music. Between songs, Annie’s AIDS charity efforts were dynamic and sincere. She was obviously determined to use her celebrity to shine a spotlight on this issue.
The 90-minute show seemed to pass in a flash. After she had left the stage, the group stayed in their seats and raved about the show, as the rowdy audience below them slowly filed out.
On leaving the box, one of the directors flashed their VIP tickets at an usher leaning against a carpeted wall. The usher snapped to attention and raised his arm to direct them down a hallway ending at a heavy wooden door labelled, ‘Conference 02’.
As they entered, the steady drone of conversation dipped briefly as around 50 people turned expectantly to the door. Fiona noticed a mixture of disappointed faces as well as several amused smiles, as members of the crowd appreciated their costumes.
The large square conference room had been temporarily re-purposed for the evenings gathering. Tables lined one side wall under a blank white presentation screen. Framed motivational pictures with images of landscapes above the words ‘Courage’ and ‘Patience’, hung on either side of the screen.
A wide selection of wine and champagne bottles were placed on the tables, alongside snack trays and empty flute glasses. The wall opposite the entrance door was a row of glass sliding doors opening on to a small garden. Ushers, now doubling as waiters, stood at the doors with trays under their arms, ready to take drink orders.
As she scanned the room, Fiona noticed that none of the ‘VIP’ people had dressed as Annie or Dave, but most of the men wore formal suits, and most of the ladies looked offbeat and elegant.
The crowd had broken into several smaller groups, holding drinks and having lively conversations. She thought some of the faces looked vaguely familiar but she couldn’t put names to any of them.
The two Dave Stewart directors were beckoned by one of the huddles. They smiled and waved and then walked off to join the group of VIP’s, calling out names and greetings as they left.
Fiona and the two remaining directors made their way through the crowd, toward the wine tables. As the two men stopped to pour drinks, Fiona continued to the end of the table and stood with her back to the doors opening onto the gardens. Briefly on her own, she again checked the room, hoping to spot any well-heeled, available men.
Suddenly from next to her she heard a Scottish accent say, “The microphone was a nice touch.”
Fiona turned to see Annie Lennox standing directly in front of her.
She was much smaller than Fiona had imagined, but her smile was as wide and gorgeous as it had been in all her videos. Instead of entering through the front side, Annie had walked in from the garden via the open sliding doors, unannounced and without fanfare. A burly man with a thick beard stood behind her, unsmiling and vigilant. Annie wore a white tracksuit and running shoes. Her short hair was combed back and slightly damp. There was no make-up on her face.
At this point, the rest of the people in the room were unaware she’d entered.
Star-struck and immobilized, Fiona held up her accessory microphone like a small child offering an ice-cream cone.
“I…I…you…”, was the best she could manage to the live version of the face she knew so well.
Still beaming her smile, Annie gestured upwards and said, “As I recall, the wig was a bit annoying.”
Still unable to form any words, Fiona smiled and nodded idiotically. The blonde wig brushed the sides of her face and eyes, confirming Annie’s recollection.
Suspecting that she wasn’t going to get a coherent response, Annie pointed past Fiona to the wine table behind her and said politely, “I was just going to get myself a drink?”
This partially broke the spell.
“Oh, of course…so sorry…so sorry” Fiona said as she pivoted to give Annie room to pass.
Annie smiled widely again, and before leaving she stuck out her hand, and looking directly at Fiona, said, “Well you enjoy the rest of your evening, dear.”
Reflexively, Fiona took her hand and bending to a near curtsey, returned the smile.
It was then, as she gazed into Annie Lennox’s clear blue eyes that it happened.
At first, she thought the rumbling was just the floating residue of the gas generated by the nasty Chinese food, but when the rumbling turned into familiar spasms, a deeper intuition told her that there was another mechanism at work here.
As she locked eyes with Annie, Fiona felt her system launch its initiation sequence, and realized that a strong Pavlovian response had just been triggered.
Panicked, she tried to stop the process with a full body clench, but it was too late – the sluices were trundling open. In her attempt to clench, she squeezed down hard on Annie’s hand like an insecure bodybuilder. The smile fell from Annie’s face and her eyes widened as she felt the crushing handshake.
Now Fiona was watching things happen in slow motion.
Years of staring at Annie’s face while defecating had conditioned her body.
Over time, the portrait had programmed an involuntary stimulus-response effect on Fiona’s physiology. As she stared into the real eyes of Annie Lennox, an automatic, diabolical process was set in motion.
Like a cork leaving a champagne bottle, the first load exploded out of her, along with a volley of loud farts. Groups standing around now turned towards the sound with raised eyebrows.
The thin G-string she was wearing under her dress offered no barrier against the torrent, as Fiona shat on the tiled floor.
Liquified by the Chinese food and the alcohol, the stream of warm, brown excrement splattered off the tiles and splashed onto Annie Lennox’s white shoes and tracksuit pants.
Fiona’s face was a mask of disbelief and horror as she looked down and screamed, “NOOOOOO!”
Now the small groups of people around her stepped backwards as the vile stench reached them.
The shoulders of the man standing next to Fiona hitched twice, before his cheeks bulged, and he vomited a yellow chutney gush at Fiona’s feet.
By now the whole room had turned toward the disturbance. Gasps, screams and ‘Oh my Gods!’ emanated from the circle around Fiona and rippled throughout the room.
An elderly woman standing next to Annie Lennox fainted. Staggering forward, she grabbed Fiona’s dress strap and slut bra, before crashing down into the lumpy puddle at her feet.
Fiona stood bent over with her legs slightly apart. One of her flabby tits had popped out when the fainting lady had pulled her dress askew. Scared of slipping in the chunky, pungent pool at her feet, she also knew that any movement might produce another cascade of shit.
The crowd’s shrieking subsided and the room fell silent.
Still clamped in place by Fiona’s vice-like grip, Annie Lennox looked at the steaming pile on the floor, before lifting her angry gaze to Fiona.
Then, in a strong Scottish accent, not used for decades, she shouted, “Aw, fir fucksake!”
The large, bearded security guard stepped forward and yanked Fiona’s hand away.
He then bent, wrapped his arm around Annie’s waist and carried her back out through the open doors, like a father carrying an angry toddler.
Annie Lennox stared silently back at the bewildered crowd as she disappeared out of sight.