Finally Read online



  “How would you know, you were three months old!” “Everyone wouldn’t do it if it hurt so much, right?” “I guess that’s true.”

  The piercing lady tells the boy to sit down on the stool while she grabs a cotton ball. He looks a little pale to me, with a line of sweat on his upper lip. She dips the cotton into a container marked ANTISEPTIC, and then wipes the first ear. He squirms a little and I feel like I’m invading his privacy by watching, so I turn away and admire a row of pretty earrings that I’ll actually be able to wear soon.

  Then the screaming begins. “Ow! It hurts!” I whirl around. The boy is clutching at his ear. “The blood,” he yells, “the blood!”

  The lady stands next to him, helpless. I see what looks like a gun in her hand. “But I didn’t even do it yet,” she protests. “I just drew the dot so I’d know where to pierce.”

  But the boy is not falling for that old trick and I don’t blame him. I stash the gold balls on the nearest shelf and grab Annabelle. “We’re going.”

  She stumbles along behind me, trying to argue me back into the store. “That kid was just a wimp. You’ll be fine!”

  “I’ll do it with my mom,” I promise when I get her out of the store. “If you let it drop, I’ll go with you to the hair accessories place.”

  “Really?” Annabelle says. “Okay!”

  But when we get there it just looks so boring, all those barrettes and bows and bands and extensions. I stare longingly at the bookstore next door. She sighs. “Go. I’ll meet you there.”

  “Thanks!” I run out and straight through the bookstore into the children’s section. I love coming here and picking out a book. I always feel like whatever I find is exactly what I need to find at that moment. A woman who looks a few years older than my mom is browsing in the children’s section, too. We exchange small smiles as I kneel down a few feet away. She has two books on her lap, trying to decide between them. I can’t help looking.

  “I really loved that one,” I say to her, pointing to the closest one. The other I don’t recognize.

  “Really?” she says. “Then you should read this one. It’s the sequel.”

  My eyes widen. “No way!” I practically grab it out of her hand. “I didn’t know there was a sequel! Thank you!”

  She smiles as I clutch the book to my chest. Just then the store manager comes by and the woman gets up to follow him. I bring my book up to the front to pay for it, and hear them talking.

  “I’m sorry,” he says, “but I can’t hire you without previous bookstore experience.”

  The woman frowns, and I can see now how tired she looks.

  Looking down at the book in my hand, and then back up, I say loudly, “Hey, thanks again for all your help. I never would have found this without you.”

  The woman turns around, surprised. I keep gushing. “I mean, you knew just what I wanted and where to find it and I was about to give up and leave.” Turning to the manager I say, “You should give this lady a raise.”

  “I don’t actually work here,” she says, flustered.

  The manager clears his throat and slides an application form across the counter to her. “Why don’t you just fill this out and we’ll see what we can do.” He turns around to grab a pen and she smiles at me gratefully.

  By the time I’m done paying, Annabelle still hasn’t surfaced from the hair store. I text her from the bookstore and remind her we only have an hour left before her mom is coming to pick us up. Within two minutes she appears in front of me, a hot-pink stripe down the left side of her head.

  “Whoa! Are you trying to be like my dad?”

  “Yes, I’ve always idolized your dad and want to be more like him.”

  “Okay, I know it’s weird that my dad has a blue stripe in his hair, but he gets paid for wearing his.”

  “I will, too,” she says triumphantly. “When I get picked to be in the movie!” She points to my bag. “You didn’t spend all your money on a book did you? You’ll need it for the makeup.”

  “It’s just a paperback,” I tell her. “It probably cost less than the stripe.”

  She grins. “Probably. C’mon, I found out where the makeup store is. I hope it’s not too crowded.”

  It’s actually totally empty when we arrive. Two women are straightening some jars behind the counter. “Makeovers?” the younger one says hopefully.

  “For her,” Annabelle says, pointing at me. The women spring into action. They rush me onto a tall stool and turn my face left and right. Makes me wish I washed my face this morning.

  “I’m Debbie,” the younger one says, “and this is Sue.”

  “I’m Rory.”

  “That’s a pretty name,” Debbie says.

  I throw a look at Annabelle as if to say, See? I don’t always get the boy comment.

  “I have a nephew named Rory,” Sue says.

  Annabelle stifles a laugh. I just sigh.

  “So what are you looking for today, Rory?” Debbie asks.

  Before I can answer, Annabelle says, “She’s allowed to wear makeup now, and we have a big audition to go to tomorrow. And a party soon. So she needs to look good.”

  “You’ve come to the right place. Young skin like yours doesn’t need all those harsh chemicals and preservatives like other makeup lines have. Everything here comes from plants and natural extracts.” She pauses, waiting for my response.

  “Sounds good,” I say eagerly.

  “Great,” Debbie says. “Let’s get started.”

  The makeover begins with a frenzy of activity. Debbie whisks off my glasses and hands them to me. I pass them to Annabelle. Bottles and jars and pencils are uncapped, powders are opened, and lipsticks are twisted. Sponges and wedges are laid out along with brushes of all sizes. “This will even out the blotchiness,” Sue says, applying something silky all over my face.

  “And this will brighten up your sallow complexion,” Debbie says, sponging on something from a pink bottle. I don’t know what sallow means, but it doesn’t sound like a compliment.

  Sue paints something from a brown jar down the sides of my nose. “This will make your nose look smaller,” she explains. Is my nose big? Do I have some huge honking nose and don’t know it?

  She tells me to look up as she strokes eyeliner in the outer corners of my eyes. It’s hard not to flinch when someone comes toward your eye with something resembling a stick. “This will make your eyes look not so close together,” she says. Then switching to a different pencil for my lips, she adds, “and your lips not so thin.”

  Why didn’t anyone tell me I was so hideous? Thank God I’m getting the help I need now.

  “And we’re done!” Debbie declares after applying one more dab of gloss to my lower lip. “Want to see?”

  I nod eagerly. She spins me around to face the mirror. I gasp. “Is that me?” I stand up to look closer. I’d see better with my glasses on, but don’t want to cover up all the hard work they did on my eyes.

  “Wow!” Annabelle says. “You look amazing!”

  I do! I look amazing! Somehow they got rid of my baby fat. I have cheekbones! I stare into the mirror, trying to burn this image of myself into my brain.

  “You look older,” Annabelle says, nodding appreciatively.

  I reach for my money. “How much is it?”

  The women smile, and begin totaling up the bill. Annabelle pulls me aside.

  “You don’t need to buy everything,” she whispers. “Some things you can get at the drugstore for much cheaper.”

  “But not all-natural like these,” I point out.

  “Still. Think of the bunny.”

  I can’t help but admire myself in the mirror again. “Think of Jake Harrison!” I reply.

  “Bunny!”

  “Jake!”

  “BUNNY!”

  Debbie clears her throat and hands me a slip of paper. I look down at it. The total cost is more than all my babysitting money, plus birthday and Christmas! And there is that little matter of the bunny. I sigh. €