Madga admired the bottles that stood, shimmering, on the centre display table. She kept a keen eye out, as she walked slowly across the well-polished tiles, the tapping of her tall heels echoing in the open plan shop. She was looking for one in particular. The green lid of the minus 30 formula.
She made her way towards the back, her eyes quickly skimming the shelves. Red lid. Minus 10. Purple lid. Minus 20. Blue lid. Minus 60. Pink lid. Minus 70. Each level was dedicated to a separate aged formula and although, every shelf was covered, there was not a glimpse of green winking back at her.
Madga turned to the shop assistant. Who was in desperate need of another dose of Formula Y. Madga could see the wrinkles on her face that once were, fighting their way to the surface of her skin. She frowned. She hated seeing someone look so disheveled. So old. So ugly.
She tilted her head slightly, so she didn’t have to look her directly in the eye, but as she did, she caught a flash of her own reflection in the mirrored wall. Her crows feet were coming back. Like horrible little veins indenting her beautiful skin. There were developing on her neck too, her chin sagging downwards like the open mouth of spilt prune. She touched it and pulled her fingers backwards, so the skin stretched again. Why she hadn’t worn a scarf, she’d never know.
She’d never left it so late to replace her formula. She always kept a spare bottle, but she’d been so busy lately, she hadn’t the time and her usual online store had run out of all, but the minus 5. And that wouldn’t do at all. Minus 5 might get rid of the grey hairs and some of the wrinkles, but so could hair dye and Botox. She didn’t even know why they still made it. For the poor people she supposed.
She hadn’t even weaned herself of the formula and stopping suddenly was dangerous. It could lead to permanent physical damage and sometimes even death. Madga blew gently out through her nostrils. That would not happen.
“Can I help Ma’am?” The shop assistant asked her with a smile. Her teeth were a dull white. Madga regretted looking at them. She’d be sick at this rate. It was bad enough when she saw ‘naturals’ in town, but she didn’t expect it here. Not in the village.
She didn’t smile back at the shop assistant. Who could smile at that face.
“Yes,” she responded. “I’m looking for minus 30? Your store seems to be in a bit of a disarray at the moment.” Madga cast an obvious glance back at the shelves, a thin brown eyebrow raised in disapproval.
“I do apologise Ma’am,” the shop assistant replied.
She probably couldn’t afford to buy any more formula. Madga thought, as she found herself staring at her sallow skin again. After all, she was working here. How she even afforded it in the first place? They couldn’t pay them that much. Perhaps she got a staff discount? Madga shuddered at the thought of being served by someone who wasn’t on Formula Y. Surely taking it was a company policy. Whoever would want to be served by a natural, she’d never know.
“Unfortunately, we’re currently out of stock of minus 30 formula. May I recommend the 20 formula. I find it is particularly -”
“This is ridiculous!” Madga interrupted her angrily. “Are you trying to kill me? You can’t just switch formulas! Where is your manager?”
“Oh – I-I’m v-very s-sorry,” the shop assistant stuttered. “I’m new.”
Madga shook her head at the girl. How they could employ someone so naive was beyond her.
“I’ll just go get him,” the shop assistant added nervously.
“Don’t bother,” Madga replied. “I’m sure he’s just as dense as you.” She let out a long, deep breath. She’d need to speak slowly if she wanted any answers from this idiot. “Tell me, when will you have it in?” She asked, breaking the syllables up as she said it.
“I expect we’ll be getting a new batch next week.”
“Next week?” Madga repeated. “You expect me to wait till next week?”
“I’m very sorry -”
Madga looked the girl up and down. What an idiotic creature. “This is a disaster!” Madga told her.
A young gentlemen walked out from the back door, behind the counter. He smiled pleasantly at Madga, as he crossed over to her.
“May I be of any help?” He asked Madga, whilst eyeing the shop assistant carefully. He kept his smile, but the sparkle left his eyes as he saw her face. It was like someone had pinned each corner of his mouth, so he always looked friendly.
“This lady, is-is looking for the minus 30 formula,” the shop assistant explained. Her lips were quivering now and she was swallowing a lot.
The gentleman turned to Madga. “I am very sorry, but we are currently out of stock of -”
“I know and as I told her, do you really expect me to wait? I don’t usually shop here and I find it rather disturbing than there is nothing you can do.”
“I’m am very sorry, but Triple S has been having some issues with the formula.”
“Issues? What ever do you mean, issues?”
“There has been a rapid decrease in the number of Donees recently,” he explained calmly.
Madga rubbed a finger across her eyelid. She could feel a headache coming on and her joints were aching from standing for so long. It was the one downfall of Triple S. Not even a youth formula could fix those problems. It only made her appear young, but really she was like a lizard shedding her skin and the final, bottom layer, was where she really lay. Wrinkled and disgusting. And if she didn’t get her hands on her minus 30 formula soon, the layers would continue to shred until there was nothing left.