The outer door opens, bellowing wafts in, then it swings to. Shh-clunk. A pair of platforms appears before my door; it rattles, then they retreat. Someone else shh-clunks in.
"Ohh," says a little voice. "Allo."
"Allo," replies another, equally high, equally slow on the syllable. "I haven't seen you since London Fashion Week."
Models. You don't even need to see them to know it. It's all in the voice: reedy, low-energy, sparing with the pronunciation lest they move their faces and get wrinkles. In the world of the mannequin you don't say "model": too much lip movement. No, you say "mudd-aww", the first syllable high- pitched, the second dying away. As in "Um ur muddaw. What do you do?"
The platforms return to the front of my door, accompanied by a pair of white patent clogs. "How are you? Much work?"
"Yes. I've been really busy. I did a shoot for a teen magazine last week."
"Oh. They don't pay very well, do they?"
"Not really. But it's good exposure. Patsy Kensit started in teen magazines. You?"
"I've had a catalogue, and I did a stand in Birmingham. A computer company."
"I don't remember."
A crackle of nylon, and the loo next to me flushes. A third set of clunks walks into the main pool. Squeaks of recognition. "Allo!" "Oh, hi. How are you?" "This is Kim. She's with my agency."
Model Two identifies herself as something like Marika or Tamika or Tamara. I can't lurk inside any more: it will become obvious. When I emerge, only two of them are left, staring into the mirror.
One has short hair dyed baby-white, the other seaweed-straight, dark brown stuff down to her shoulders. They are repainting unblemished brick- brown lips. Both are wearing shift dresses with bootlace straps. Their shoulders protrude as if they've been trussed for Christmas. You could fit two of them into one of me. I, of course, am glamorous in a black jersey dress that hasn't been the same since I forgot to change out of it for one of those 2am paint-stripping jobs.
Model One is talking as she makes up, top lip absolutely still, the bottom one doing the enunciation. "- far too fat," she is saying. "She must weigh almost nine stone."
"Eeuugh," says Tamika-Tamara. "Gross."
"I know. She must eat like a pig."
Tamika-Tamara licks her finger, runs it upwards over her eyebrows to produce that Kate Moss look of blank startlement.
"The agency are really worried. Kelly was saying they're thinking about dropping her."
I realise that I haven't exhaled for a full minute, so great is the effort of sucking in my cheekbones. They clomp towards the party. "She's going to be in real trouble," says Model One. "Well," says Tamika-Tamara, "She'll only have herself to blame." A gust of alcohol-fuelled yelling, and the door bangs to. With blissful relief, I release my strangulated breath.