The scene: A small and busy branch of Space NK, 1pm on February 13th, 2014. The store is thronging with lunch-break shoppers. Women perch on stools, faces poised to be painted by the sales assistants, who dab and daub with care among the bright counters.
On the threshold stands a small woman in a duffle coat. She's wavering on the point of going in. In her line of sight - the Valentine's display, with its special edition By Terry Baume de Rose gift set, and its LE Diptyque candle in rose-petal pink. She steps forward.
Inside her handbag, two small cards quail and cower. Credit and debit cling to one another, dreading the next half hour. Because while she may not look like much - no-name spectacle frames, home-cut hair, coat two winters old - this woman has a cosmetic spending capability that could meet and match that of the most extravagant London socialite.
She is a beauty blogger.
She steps forward again, intent on a swatch. In her mind, the justifications have begun to churn, just as they always do.
"It's only what I would spend on a boyfriend's Valentine's present."
"I've been good this month so far."
"It's limited edition, and I deserve it."
"Didn't I say I was going to stop buying things on sale and just get the exact things I wanted?"
She is on the brink, meditatively rubbing a swatch of beautiful, iridescent highlighting serum into her left hand, holding the crisp, expensive card box of the Diptyque candle in the crook of one arm. The purchase is so close, she can almost feel the bag swinging from her hand.
Then it happens - a chance eavesdrop - the sales assistant close by is telling a customer that right now, you can get a complimentary goody bag when you spend £75 in store.
The die is cast. The woman beckons a sales assistant with a brisk, authoritative raised hand, reminiscent of a CEO summoning a tea-boy. Indecision is gone. She's all intention now, deep in a flow state, poised for the kill. She requests the serum, shade 2, and places the candle on the counter.
"It's the last one" says the sales assistant with a smile as he pulls the serum from the drawer. As if this fate even needed sealing.
A brief twist of nausea as he rings up the damage. "That's £101, please." But she doesn't falter.
Her hands hover over the cowering cards, tormenting them, gloating over their imminent agony. Debit. Wrenched from the leather safety of her wallet, it's pushed into the Iron Maiden of the card reader, and the fatal blow is dealt as her fingers enter the deadly 4-stroke PIN.
No blood sprays. No scream is audible. On the surface, this is an everyday purchase by a smiling shopper.
But deep inside a bank account somewhere, this Valentine's Day is marked by death, destruction and dissolution. Balances tumble, decimated, awakening the loathed spectre of the overdraft, striking terror into the heart of the savings account. Horror reigns, order becomes chaos, and budgets burn and crumble into ash. All in the name of that dangerous obsession: makeup.
Today's blogging soundtrack is: Everything but the Girl - Mirrorball