Greetings from a slightly milder UK!
It’s the sneak peek…..
The Dower House…
Welcome to Sophia’s Beauty Box.
Emily and Sophia, both wearing white aprons over their leggings and hoodies, stared critically at their handiwork.
The room smelled of nail varnish, cleansing wipes and candy.
Two-year-old Eve, sucking on a jelly bean, sat happily on a huge bean bag cushion with Jimmy Chew on her lap.
She wore navy colored tights beneath a smocked dress of pale soft denim edged with a denim frill. Tied in her glossy curls the color of jet were a wide and varied selection of skinny ribbons.
Around her shoulder she wore a hand towel.
A white cotton towel.
A white cotton towel covered with creams and lotions and potions.
“The thing is,” Sophia said. Her black eyeliner had been applied by a wonky hand, as had the fuchsia lipstick on her little mouth. She had lipstick on her teeth, too. Her blonde hair was caught up in a high tail with a hair tie and a variety of ribbons, which fell over her shoulder. “Babies are not supposed to wear makeup. But she’s too pale for what we need.”
Emily tipped her cropped red head.
Her cheeks had been ‘sculpted’ with dark brown bronzer down either side of her little nose, jaw line and cheekbones. She blinked lashes that had congealed into black mascara clumps, and considered the child. “I think just a teeny tiny amount of blush on her cheeks will look fine. Trouble is, we’ve used too much. She looks like a little clown.”
Sophia made a face, thought about it. “But any makeup is not natural in a baby, is it?”
“She’s not exactly a baby,” Emily said.
“True,” Sophia said. “But we can’t photograph her with makeup on her baby skin, it would look really dumb. What we need is something more natural, something that would give her a natural tint, like a little hint of the sun for example.”
Emily craned her neck to look out the window and the three foot deep snowdrift that the beast from the East had dumped on the whole of the United Kingdom this week.
“Well, were not going to get any sun today.”
Sophia nodded, thought for a while.
Then her eyes went big
“I know! What about the new fake tan stuff that auntie Rosie gave to mamma? She said it’s brilliant stuff. It’s called Luxury Tan and you put on with a little mitten thing so that your hands don’t go brown.”
Emily thought about it.
Her blue eyes went wide.
“That might be an idea,” she said, then her brows dipped. “But is it suitable for babies?”
“Lemme go check.”
Sophia raced out of the room and five minutes later came back with a box a silver box.
She squinted at the tiny writing on the back of the box and read, “Two to Three week tan— medium. This looks good. There’s nothing on here that says it can’t be used for Eve, and its for sensitive skin. She’ll have a sensitive skin because she’s a baby.”
While Sophia popped another candy into Eve’s little mouth, Emily opened the box, took out a dark brown plastic bottle, unscrewed the lid and took a sniff.
She put a tiny drop the color of dark chocolate on the back of her hand and rubbed, then checked her fingers.
Sophia handed her a Simple cleansing wipe—for sensitive skin—from the pale green pack.
The cleansing wipe didn’t take all of the tan off.
“How are you going to apply it?” Emily asked, not looking too sure about this bright idea.
Sophia plucked two skin wipes from the pack and tipped up her sister’s chin and gently removed the blush and makeup.
“First of all, we’ll cleanse her skin. Makeup doesn’t look right on her. Okay, Evie?” she said, and rubbed her nose against her sister’s little button nose.
Evie, happy as a clam since she was busy grooming a dozing Jimmy Chew’s fur with a with a soft brush, just smiled.
She lifted her chin and let her sister do her worst.
Half an hour later in the main family bathroom of The Dower House…
Sophia and Emily, now dressed in their underwear, used soap-laden sponges to desperately scrub their arms, legs and faces. Their skin had turned a dark brown color. Actually, to be truthful, dark brown streaks of color—and it wouldn’t come off.
Emily, her blue eyes more than a little frantic, caught Sophia’s panicked gaze in the vast wall mirror above the double white ceramic sinks set in a glittering granite the color of sand.
“What are we going to do?” she hissed at Sophia as she rinsed her hands for what felt like the hundredth time.
They stood on soft cotton bath towels, white, and now streaked with brown.
Everything was one hot mess.
Meanwhile, Sophia rummaged in the cupboards built beneath the sinks and came up with a blue bottle of bleach.
“This stuff should sort it,” she said.
However, no matter how hard they tried, neither of them could open the bottle top.
Emily, who by this time, reckoned they were in Big, Big Trouble, read as much as she could of the label.
“This stuff is dangerous. Look, it says so right here.”
A sudden knock at the door had both nearly jump out of their skin.
“What are you two doing?” Nine year old Tonio Ferranti asked?
“Maybe Tonio can open the bottle?” Emily suggested.
Sophia didn’t look as if she liked the idea, but when her brother knocked the door again, and tried the handle, she unlocked the door.
He wore dark blue jeans, a pale grey UCLA hoodie and thick thermal socks.
In the middle of a growth spurt, he was long and lean, with movie star tousled dark hair, olive skin and dreamy dark eyes. Dark eyes that now went wide.
He was, in the words of Emily’s mummy, Grace, a fine looking young man.
Emily, her little heart going pitty-pat, thought Tonio looked like a Rock Star.
His black brows rose as he took in the mess, and the state of the girls.
“Dio mio. Now what have you done?”
Emily held up the bottle of fake tan.
“We used this on Eve, and it looked really cool, so we thought we’d use it too. Except—”
“It stinks in here.”
Sophia handed him the bottle of bleach.
“This will take it off. Can you open it?”
Tonio looked at her as if she’d lost her mind.
“No! This stuff is dangerous, that’s what the red cross means on the label. AND it says Keep Out Of The Reach of Children.” He glared at Sophia and yelled at the top of his voice, “That means YOU!”
The noise had attracted the attention of Sophia’s twin, Luca.
He popped his dark head through the door.
Dressed in navy sweatpants and his favorite Spiderman sweatshirt, faded from too many washes, he took in the scene and headed down the hall. All that could be heard were his bare feet thundering down the stairs.
Sophia made a face of sheer disgust.
“He’ll tittle tattle to mama.”
Tonio clutched the bottle of bleach to his chest.
“You know you’re gonna get into big trouble.” When Emily sniffed, he didn’t show her any mercy either. “Your mummy’s arrived. I wouldn’t want to be you two.”
At the sound of Bronte coming up the stairs and calling for Sophia and Emily, both girls simply clutched each other.
Their eyes wide, they stared at the door.
Bronte, wearing black leggings, thick socks and a huge woollen sweater over a white thermal, entered the family bathroom and stopped dead.
She took in the scene.
Both girls were streaked in fake tan from head to toe.
Her brand new towels were ruined.
And for a long moment, she was simply—speechless.
But when Eve toddled into the bathroom, her little face dark brown except for her eyes and mouth, and raised her hands to be lifted, Bronte couldn’t help the gasp of utter shock.
Then she spotted Tonio holding the bottle of bleach and her face paled.
“Tell me,” she whispered to him, “They were not going to use that?”
Bronte turned to the now weeping girls.
Nico Ferranti, dressed for Arctic conditions in heavy boots and a Canadian parka, strolled through the door of The Dower House. The weather bomb had caused chaos for three long days. Guests couldn’t leave and guests couldn’t arrive. For the first time since he’d turned Ludlow Hall into a five star hotel and spa, he’d used all of their back-up generators when trees had brought down power lines. It had been one disaster after another. Thankfully, his staff had gone above and beyond. But Christ, the cold had frozen his bones right down to the marrow. Then he lifted his chin and sniffed the air like a starving wolf. He smelled his favorite red sauce, garlic and basil, and meatballs. Yay! He toed out of his boots, hung up his parka, and opened the door into the family-dining-kitchen room
His whole family sat at the long dining table.
It looked as if everyone had been bathed, dressed in pj’s and were ready for bed.
Seemed Bronte had got ahead of herself tonight.
Maybe he’d get lucky and they’d have an early night themselves?
Then it struck him that everyone was quiet.
His eyes found Bronte’s and when her chin jerked to the high chair and his snoozing baby girl and her brown streaked little face, his brows flew into his hairline.
Bronte simply turned her head to stare holes through Sophia.
A Sophia who had her chin on her chest.
Luca, eyeing his twin with deep dislike, said, “Sophia and Emily used fake tan on Eve and all over themselves and made a big mess in the bathroom.”
Sophia said nothing.
But her green eyes lifted to shoot a lethal warning to her brother.
Nico shook his head, went to wash his hands at the sink, then he helped himself to a warm pasta plate and helped himself.
It wasn’t until he sat at the table and had a taste of heaven, that he spoke.
“Were you bored, cara mia?” he asked Sophia.
Emerald eyes flicked to her mama and then to him.
She shook her head.
“We opened Sophia’s Beauty Salon.”
When Luca snorted, Nico gave his daughter credit for not rising to the bait.
“Eat your food, Luca,” he said.
Luca dug in.
“Maybe you’d like to explain to her the dangers of bleach?”
“I couldn’t open it,” Sophia whispered, her face flushed beneath brown streaks.
“That’s not the point, is it?” her mama snapped. “And if you’ve finished playing with your food, you can go upstairs, brush your teeth and go to bed.”
By the time Sophia, her feet dragging as she clutched her Raggedy Ann doll, walked out the door, Bronte looked as if she’d reached the end of her tether.
The boys, looking as if butter wouldn’t melt, scoffed their pasta and meatballs with a gusto that made Nico’s lips twitch.
They loved nothing more than to see Sophia sitting in the hot seat.
He shifted to top up his wife’s white wine and poured a Chianti into his glass.
Replete, he settled back and kicked out long legs.
“Perhaps,” he began, “we need to keep certain items under lock and key?”
“I’ve got the locksmith coming tomorrow to put a lock on the bathroom cupboards. Don’t know why I didn’t think of it in the first place. I’ll be glad when this weather eases and things get back to normal.”
“The weather is supposed to improve next week,” Tonio said, and beamed at Bronte.
Her mouth curved.
“Sophia and Emily are gonna look dumb if they can’t wash off that stuff before we back to school,” Luca said.
“Then let that be a lesson to them,” Bronte said, her eyes sparking.
“Ah, just another day in the life of the Ferranti family.”
The freezing weather from Siberia is actually an unusual occurrence for us at this time of year. It’s been an experience, that’s for sure. Can’t wait for Spring!