Sarah wasn’t even sure. ‘Eight I think, if you count my sleeve as one piece.’
‘Eight what?’ Tom asked.
‘Tattoos,’ Sarah said, knowing what was coming next.
‘We’re out of milk,’ Tom’s mother said.
‘Ok, we’ll finish there.’
‘Ask her a few more questions,’ Mandy said.
‘But we’re out of chocolate milk,’ Tom answered.
‘Just ask her anyway.’
‘Would you like your whole body to be covered in tattoos?’
‘I don’t know, maybe. Not yet.’
‘I don’t really like tattoos,’ Mandy said.
‘Well, they’re not for everyone,’ Sarah answered.
‘No,’ Mandy said, then she left the room.
Tom paused the film and stepped away from the camera. He gave Sarah two towels. ‘Have a shower and we’ll start the next one.’
He picked up the camera and his mother picked up the buckets. Sarah was alone and she spared no time stepping into the shower.
There was a break as Tom’s mother and Mandy got to work on cleaning the bathroom. Sarah spent this time drying her hair and applying fresh make-up. She wished she’d brought another bikini but she only owned two, and the other one didn’t fit her as well. She attempted to dry the one she’d been wearing with the hair dryer. There was nothing worse than putting on a wet bikini when you already felt cold.
When she came back out of the room she used to get ready there was once again no one on the landing and the bathroom door was shut. She knocked, but there was no answer, so she pushed it open. There was no one there, only the camera, already set up for the next video. She decided to go downstairs.
The three of them were sitting around the heavy wooden table drinking cups of tea. The dog was lying by the stove, looked up, then lay his head back down. Sarah could murder a hot drink, but as she approached the table they stood up.
‘You’re ready then?’ Tom said.
Sarah nodded. She wondered what time it was. She was starving, not having enough time to have breakfast before she left. But she was doubtful they’d allow a break for lunch, so she decided not to ask.
Next were solids. Tom’s mother carried them up on a tray, with Tom leading the way, then Mandy, then Sarah. They left their tea half drunk on the table.
Sarah once again was positioned on the chair in front of the toilet and once again she felt uncomfortable, the only one sitting down.
‘Have you been doing this long?’ she asked to fill the silence as Tom messed around with the camera.
‘About a year,’ Tom said.
Sarah nodded. ‘Is your website doing well?’ she asked, meaning had they made much money. She was still building her own fetish site, paid for with money she managed to save here and there. It was a slow process despite her ex-boyfriend giving her a cut-price rate to make it. It was hard now, living by herself after falling out with her best friend, with council tax, electricity and everything else to pay for. She’d hoped giving up drinking last year would have slashed her outgoings, but somehow she still ended up with no money at the end of the month.
‘We’ve made four grand so far,’ Mandy said, not missing a beat.
‘That’s really good,’ Sarah said, impressed and jealous. Saying that, she knew the models cost a fair bit, even if they came at a discounted rate, like Sarah had advertised herself this week. Then again, Mandy did a lot of the videos herself. Not that Sarah could imagine it. She’d have to watch a couple when she got home, even if it cost her a few quid to download them. She was too curious. Mandy seemed like the completely wrong person for this kind of thing, she had no charm, no charisma.
‘Are you ready?’ Tom asked.
‘What do I have to do?’
‘Say the alphabet, and think of a food for each letter. If one of them turns up on our list of ingredients you’ll get sploshed.’
‘Ok,’ Sarah said. Although her instinct was telling her not to say words which were on Tom’s mother’s tray, she knew she’d have to say at least a few of them, otherwise there would be no point to the video. So she began, ‘A is for apple.’
‘B is for beans.’
Splosh. The beans hit Sarah on the shoulder, which wasn’t as bad as her face.
‘C is for cheese.’
‘D is for…’ She couldn’t think of anything. ‘D is for…’ Still, a blank.
‘Come on,’ Tom said.
‘Sorry,’ Sarah answered. ‘D is for demerara sugar.’
‘What?’ Tom said.
‘Sorry it’s the only thing I could think of.’
‘Go on,’ he said.
‘E is for eggs.’
Crack, came an egg.
‘Oww,’ Sarah said. It had smashed on her chest, and the yolk was running down into her bellybutton. It felt disgusting.
‘Carry on,’ Tom said with no sympathy.
‘F is for fig,’ Sarah said, confident there were no figs on the tray. She was right.
‘G is for gravy.’
Splosh. The gravy was lukewarm, which was a welcome change from the cold beans. They managed to get her face this time though, and she wiped her eyes with the bank of her hand. The smell of all the liquids intermingling was making her feel a little sick and very hungry. It was a strange sensation.
‘H is for halva.’
‘What?’ Tom said.
‘It’s a middle-eastern sweet,’ Sarah said, thinking of the first time she ate it with her mother on holiday in Morocco when she was twelve. That was the last holiday they’d been on together.
‘I’ve never heard of it,’ Tom said.
‘Neither have I,’ said Mandy.
‘I have,’ said Tom’s mother, ‘but I’ve never had it.’
Was this all going to get edited out, Sarah wondered. All this backchat. It didn’t seem very professional to Sarah. ‘Shall I carry on?’ she asked.
‘Yeah,’ Tom said.
‘I is for ice-cream,’ Sarah said, already knowing what was coming. Two scoops hit her face, followed by another which hit her breast, and another on her kneecap. She hoped she wouldn’t get bruised, she was hoping to make a video for her own site in a few days with a guy she’d been seeing on and off for a couple of months. She’d even printed out a model release form incase it went sour between them. She doubted the romance would last, he was just a fuck buddy really.
‘J is for juice.’
‘Juice isn’t a food,’ Mandy quipped.
‘Well neither is gravy really,’ Sarah answered.
‘But you have it with food,’ Mandy answered, evidently not happy at being questioned.
‘Ok, I’ll think of something else,’ Sarah said. ‘J is for Jaffa Cake.’
Mandy scowled at Tom’s mother. Evidently there were no Jaffa Cakes on the tray. Sarah tried suppressing a smile.
‘K is for cream,’ Sarah said, then realising her mistake, said, ‘I mean Krispy Kreme.’
‘You can’t keep saying brand names,’ Mandy said.
‘Why not?’ Tom answered.
‘Well, they’re not names of foods, are they?’ Mandy said.
‘She’s still saying food though.’
Sarah was surprised he was defending her, but also that they were having this argument while the camera was rolling.