Category Archives: S-Project

Scherazade Project-October

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This month’s assignment for the Scheherazade Project:

 

So for October, let’s write (hopefully) fictional stories about you killing somebody else.  It could be accidental.  It could be deliberate.  It could be a complete stranger.  Or it could be someone that you’re intimately familiar with. 

 

I don’t mind admitting that this particular assignment was very difficult for me.  I have known people who’ve died violently and I’m just not able to put myself in that specific frame of mind for anything too extreme.  On the other hand, I think it’s a really good writing exercise to take something I’m so uncomfortable with and try to make something out of it.  I saw something similar on the news last night and I thought it could easily have been have me.  I hope this works.

 

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His body lay crumpled and twisted, a good ten feet from the car.  He was covered with oozing bloody scrapes and his arm was bent the wrong way.  I resisted the sudden impulse to move him to a more comfortable position.  It didn’t make a difference now anyway.  His unseeing eyes were wide open, the glare from the headlights washing his irises of color.

I walked slowly back to my car, unplugged my cell phone from the charger and dialed.  It seemed an age before a passionless voice answered, “9-1-1, what’s your emergency?”

“There was an accident,” I said, a pleading tone to my voice.  Already I was trying to make her understand.  I didn’t mean to do it.

“Yes, ma’am,” she said smoothly.  “What happened?  I need more information in order to assist you, ma’am.”

“I was driving and it was dark and he’s wearing all black.”

“Did you hit someone?” she persisted.

“I did.”  I exhaled deeply and closed my eyes and remembered.

I’m so tired I can’t believe I have to work tomorrow did I just miss my exit damn I’ll take Crestview instead and backtrack I should have left an hour ago I’m so tired it’s dark the streetlights are out need to be careful need to— What the hell was that? No, no, no, no, no this can’t be happening. 

And I look into my rearview mirror and see the heap of something lying on the ground.  I shift into reverse, switching lanes and drive till I can see him in my headlights.  A him.  A person.  I hit a person and I killed him. 

She asked me more questions, where was I, and kept me on the line till the ambulance and the police showed up.  Everyone was very kind.  The EMT wanted to treat me for shock, but I think the worst of it is yet to come.  No one blames me.  It was a dark road.  He was wearing all black.  And the streetlights were out.  Just an accident.

But I killed a man.

Scheherezade Project-Afraid of Being Brave

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I’ve been a big fan of the Scheherezade Project for a long time. I think it was an inspired notion of Trista’s to establish a forum where people of all ages, pursuits, ideologies, etc can put their own unique spin on a common theme. Most of the time, we surround ourselves with the same people/ideas/convictions/emotions. It was brave of Trista to put something together that would challenge that.

But now her baby has started to languish a little bit. I’m just as guilty as anyone – I’ll read the monthly theme and make a mental note to write something up. But then…?
Nothing.

So I’m going to do something about it. I’m going to hound each and everyone of you until you contribute. I’m going to beg, plead, pester and even blackmail. You’d be surprised how much I can degrade and humiliate myself to get what I want.

And I’m going to ask a lot from you.

If you’re going to contribute, I need it to be personal. I need it to come from a place you don’t show to even the people closest to you.

If that’s too much for you to post, you can email it to me and I’ll post it anonymously (no speculation as far as whose is whose shall be permitted).

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Afraid of Being Brave

 

I have a lot of brave friends.  They scale mountains (figuratively), leap tall buildings (metaphorically speaking), and make the word a better place just by being (no, really, they do).  When I hold myself up in comparison, I fall short.  And it’s not because I don’t know how to dream or something.  Believe me, I spent a lot of my childhood wrapped in daydreams imagining what my life could be if I only had the courage.  There’s the rub.  Just call me Mitty.  As in Walter.  I dream big, but I fall short. 

 

When I was ten years old, roller skating was all the rage.  All the kids looked so cool, so vibrant, gliding around and around and around, hair flowing behind them in a spinning frenzy, faces wreathed in smiles of gleeful, pure joy.  It looked so fun and it would have been so easy to be a part of that.  All I had to do was skate.  But I was dreadfully afraid of falling down.  Not only would I be laughed at, but it would hurt and I could never decide which would be worse.  One day I tried.  I rented a pair of skates and tentatively made my way to the rink.  It seemed so vast from the outside looking in, but standing there holding tightly to the rails, it seemed the traffic was fast, much too fast, for me to just merge.  And I felt so wobbly and insecure, so I held on to the rail and felt the rush of wind as skaters passed me by.  I never once let go of the rail.  And I never really skated.

 

When I was fourteen years old I met a boy and I loved him so much.  I thought nobody ever in the whole world had ever loved or been loved quite like that.  But still I held something back.  What if I fell and what if I got hurt?  What if people laughed at me?  The boy never did, though.  He looked at me seriously, earnestly, and asked why I wouldn’t give him all of me.  “I am,” I told him.  “Everything I have is yours.”  And he didn’t really believe me, but he tried to.  He smiled warmly at me and touched my face and he told me how much, too much, he loved me.

 

When I was nineteen the boy married me, but he was so sad.  And I thought maybe it was me-maybe I’d done something wrong, or maybe the all of me wasn’t good enough, so I held back.  The boy held back too.  Something in his once open, earnest expression closed.  He didn’t smile as often anymore and once, when I asked him why he was so sad, he replied with a question, “Why won’t you give me all of you?”  And I said, “I am.  Everything I have is yours,” but he didn’t really believe me.

 

When I was twenty-five, the boy left.  He wanted someone who needed him, he said.  He thought I didn’t need him, but I did and I cried and cried and cried for days.  And then later on I realized I was doing okay without him and I cried even more because I didn’t need him.

 

I thought I wanted to find love, the real thing, love and I made myself pretty and time passed and things changed and when I was 30 I met a boy and all my guts and insides said, “no, no, no” and I thought “I must be brave and give and not hold back.”  So I did all that and then I fell and got hurt and the boy laughed at me.

 

I promised never again.  I armored myself and told myself I didn’t need to fall in love and I didn’t need romantic love to complete me.  Love is a fairy-tale, ephemeral in nature.  It doesn’t last.  It doesn’t stay.  It just reminds us we are fools and I didn’t need reminding, thanks.  So I say I don’t want to fall in love.  My theatre fulfills me, my friends and family bring me joy, and life is good without it.  I don’t need it.  But inside, I’m holding on the rail, watching eagerly, feeling the wind rush by my face, as the brave ones skate by, nothing so much as living joy.  And I tell myself, “hold on, be careful.”  And I am afraid to be brave.

 

S-Project

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My latest for the S-Project. This month’s assignment was Harry Potter mania. I’m not huge on fan-fiction in general (though I did recently enter a contest at The Leaky Cauldron) so I decided to use this story instead, which merely visits the world instead of fully inhabiting it. And if you liked this, check out Seduced by the Muse’s story based on the same general idea, namely, what if the toy wand actually worked? Comments are welcome.

Garth Hoburn liked to walk to school even though he had a bus pass. It wasn’t out of any desire to be physically fit. It was more of a desire to live. If he got on the bus, Bill Andrew and his meat-headed buddies would be there waiting to beat the snot out of him again. Garth shook his head. Stupid Bill Andrew with his crappy two first names.

In elementary school Bill and Garth had been friends, united by their mutual love of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Harry Potter. By the time junior high had rolled around Bill had stretched lengthwise and widthwise, and developed a fascination for girls and football, not necessarily in that order. Garth was a late bloomer. He’d eventually decided girls were okay, but he never had come round to football. Bill had found a group of friends with like-minded interests, and Garth, when he wasn’t defending himself from Bill’s fists, found himself rather on the edge of things.

He didn’t mind this so much. Garth thought of himself as a loner—a deep thinker. He preferred reading to sports and he spent the remainder of his spare time writing stories.

He always enjoyed his walks to and from school and today was no exception. He would stand up a little straighter and imagine the most wonderful things. He’d won the Pulitzer Prize for his debut novel…“Really?” he imagined himself saying to the New York Times critic. “I’m the youngest Pulitzer Prize winner ever? Well, that’s nice, I suppose. Though I don’t focus on awards, you know. I’m just interested in telling stories. Everything else is gravy.” Or perhaps he was at a Hollywood premiere of a movie he’d written. “Oh, Angelina, thank you for complimenting my writing—but you were amazing in the film. Just the Cassandra I’d imagined…nobody better really. Oh, you’d like to have dinner? What about Brad?”

Today, he was something even better. He was a wizard. Last night when he’d gone home, he’d found his mother sitting on the sofa holding a long skinny box wrapped up with a bow of vivid green.

“What’s that?” he’d asked his mother.

“A surprise for you,” she said, her smile creasing the lines of her face.

“But, we don’t have any money for surprises,” he reminded her. They didn’t either. That was one of the many things Bill Andrew made fun of him for, along with his unfashionable clothes and bottle-lens glasses.

A shadow crossed her face momentarily, but as she looked down at the package she brightened up again. “We do for this,” she said firmly, handing him the box.

He hesitated a moment and then tore the bow off, opened the lid, and pulled out a wand, richly carved, and polished to such a perfect sheen that Garth thought he could see his face in the wood. He’d wanted a wand ever since he’d read the first Harry Potter book, but he’d never expected to actually get one.

“Mom, this is amazing, but we can’t afford this!”

“We can,” she insisted. “I got a bonus at work and you know you’ve always wanted one.”

“I’m too old for toys,” he said haltingly, suddenly imagining Bill’s derisive expression at seeing him holding a wand.

“It’s not a toy,” his mother replied. “It’s a collector’s item. I bet it will be worth something some day. And anyway,” she continued, “you’ll always be my baby no matter how old you are.”

Garth rolled his eyes at this, but she was so clearly pleased with her gift that he put all thoughts of Bill away and hugged his mother. “Thanks, Mom,” he said.

She placed the wand on his desk in its stand, and the next morning, some irresistible urge made him throw it in his backpack along with his homework.

Now, walking to school, he had the same irresistible urge to pull the wand out. It would make the game of imagining he was a wizard a bit more life-like, he thought. He sat down on the curb, opened his backpack and pulled out the wand. It was made of oak and the certificate that accompanied the wand indicated a core of dragon heartstring. Gripping the wand, he had a curious sensation that some of the dragon’s strength was coursing into him. He stood up and quite easily slung his heavy backpack over his shoulder.

Holding the wand at his side, he walked to school, losing himself in his daydreams. He was Garth still, but this Garth was a wizard—not a British wizard, an American one. Bill Andrew, he reflected in satisfaction, was nothing but a dirty squib, and all of Bill Andrew’s meathead jock buddies were even stupider versions of Crabbe and Goyle. He had just pulled off a stunning bit of defensive magic, when reality veered its head. Garth hadn’t paid attention to what he was doing and the end result was that he found himself standing of the front lawn of his school holding a wand and wearing a slightly glazed expression that made him look mentally deficient. And to cap it off, Bill Andrew and his cadre were holding court at the front steps.

“Dude!” yelled Bill loudly, so that everyone in the immediate vicinity could overhear. “Is that a wand? Are you Harry Potter today?” Bill’s friends laughed appreciatively as Bill leaned casually against the railing. “Gonna do a spell, freak? Gonna turn me into a toad?”

Garth reddened and tried to sneak the wand into his pocket.

“Don’t hide your wand, dude,” said Bill nastily. “Bet the girls’ll be real impressed with that little bitty wand.” Bill laughed at his own joke and then leaned menacingly toward Garth as the pack closed in around him. “You know what I’m about to do?” He stared down at Garth, who did not reply. “I’m about to stuff your skinny ass into a locker, and then I think I’m gonna leave you there. But if your magic wand can help you, go ahead,” said Bill, smirking, “show us a spell.”

Garth barely had time for thought before Bill and his buddies picked him up and carried him, struggling and still clutching the wand, toward the nearest open locker.

“Move,” snarled Bill to a kid even scrawnier than Garth. The boy, apparently grateful that Bill wasn’t stuffing him into a locker, moved aside and took off quickly down the hallway, leaving his locker door wide open.

Bill shoved Garth into the locker, forcibly tucked his head down, and slammed the door shut. Garth heard Bill spin the dial of the lock twice and then bang on the door.

“I’ll let you out after school,” whispered Bill through the slats. “If you’re still alive. Better hope you’re dead, boy.” He pounded the door again and took off for his first period class, laughing the whole way. The bell rang and Garth could hear students rushing to get to their classes and then silence. He was alone.

A surge of hatred filled his being. He wished he was a wizard. Harry Potter might be too noble, but he wouldn’t mind using an unforgivable on Bill Andrew.

“Stupid useless wand,” said Garth bitterly. “I wish you worked.”

On a whim, he shifted as much as possible in the cramped locker, touched the lock with the tip of the wand, and said, “Alohamora.”

To his astonishment the lock clicked and the door opened of its own accord. Garth came tumbling out of the locker along with a pile of books and papers and a pair of dirty sweat socks. A glass paperweight that had been perched on the top shelf fell down and shattered on the tile floor. He sat for a moment, a bemused expression on his face. Then he pointed the wand at the shards of glass, and said, “Reparo.” The glass shards flew back into place and mended themselves together.

Garth laughed out loud in delight. It worked. His wand really worked.

“Bill Andrew,” said Garth as he rose to his feet, “I wonder where you are right now. Gotta say, I feel a little unforgiving.”

S-Project

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This is my latest for the S-Project. Please note that ordinarily I avoid any type of poetry writing with a 10 foot pole. I enjoy reading it, but I’m not very good at writing it. So please bear that in mind if this happens to make you roll your eyes and think to yourself, “that Izzybella’s a sweetie, but she ain’t no poet!”

The assignment this month was to write something based on a photograph, a newspaper/magazine story, or an observation made while people-watching. I occasionally go to church with my stepmother, and without fail, there is a lovely old woman who sits in the pew in front of ours. My stepmother is Presbyterian and they’re a very ceremonial type of religion-lots of standing up and sitting down throughout the service. No one would think less of this woman if she stayed seated–she is clearly frail, so stooped over she can barely walk, and anymore her cane seems even to lack the support it once did. But she still stands up. This is for her.

Even when she sits, she is bent over
back stooped with the weight of
eighty-four years worth of living.
Her cane leans against the pew
in front of her.
Her gnarled hands shake
with the effort of holding the hymnal.
The opening chords play
and the congregation rises to its feet.
She stands, too, slowly,
back still stooped, one hand holding
the back of the pew in front of her for support;
the other still tightly clutching her hymnal.
Her hand shakes so badly she cannot read,
so instead she hums.
Though she is stooped and frail;
her faith supports her.
She is not proud.
She stands because she loves Him.

Pink Crosses-Scherehazade Project Submission

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This is for the S-Project. The picture below was our assignment. As always, comments and critique welcome.

The girl seated herself on the ground cross-legged in front of the pink cross bearing Evangelina’s name. It was hot and sticky and she reflected, not for the first time, that it was probably a waste of time coming here; that Evangelina couldn’t possibly hear her from such a great distance. She liked to imagine that Evangelina was so loved and blessed and adored in heaven that she barely had time to direct her attention to the dusty spot where her body had been found, now marked by lines and rows of pink crosses.

The girl touched the wood, lightly tracing the ripples of cracked and peeling paint with her finger. “Mama,” she whispered. “I have good news.” The wind came from nowhere and blew her dark hair away from her face. It was so much like a caress that the girl had the sudden feeling that her mother was there, that she already knew the good news. Perhaps Evangalina wasn’t too far away after all.

The girl smiled. “You know, then. I’m leaving here. I got accepted to college in Colorado, in the US. On scholarship, mama! I don’t have to pay for anything-I just have to work hard.” The wind blew her hair again, and the girl laughed in delight. “You are happy for me, aren’t you, mama?”

She stayed there till the sun began to set, its pink and orange hues contrasting strangely with the pink crosses before her. At last, she stood up and brushed the dirt off of her pants. “I will miss you, mama, but you aren’t really here anyway are you? I want you know that I will come back home someday. But first I’m going to learn everything I can. When I come back I will be a woman, not a girl, and I will know how to begin to change things here. I promise you, I will always remember.”

The wind blew gently around the memorial site, swirling dust particles and leaves into circles, and girl smiled. “I love you, too, Mama.”

S-Project_Little Red in the Hood

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My latest submission to the S-Project. Comments and critique welcome.

Little Red in the Hood

I remember it like it was yesterday even though it was far, far away and a long time ago. Red’s mom used to always send Red on her errands. It would be “Red, go down to the corner store and get me a diet coke” or “Red, pick up the dry cleaning, would you, and make sure that crook, Peterson, didn’t over-charge us again.” That day we were hanging in the back yard shooting the breeze, when her mom opened the back door to holler, “Red, take the leftover lasagna to your gramma’s house and be quick about it because I have a few things I need you to do back home.”

Red didn’t want to go. For starters her gramma was kind of strange. She wore bowling shirts and hung out with a bunch of crazy old ladies—dirty old ladies who liked to talk about sex and stuff. When you’re 13 there is nothing more disgusting than little old sex-obsessed ladies, unless one of them also happens to be your gramma. But besides that Red’s gramma would sometimes go out with this weird guy named Ed. Ed had a ginormous head with a great big wolfish smile. He sort of creeped Red out, even though Red’s mom said he was harmless.

“You be nice to Ed,” she was wont to say. “He’s good to your gramma and he’s a good friend.”

Red looked at her mom and set her jaw stubbornly. She actually looked kind of like her mom when she did that, but I wasn’t going to be the one to say so. “Aw, ma, I don’t wanna go. You go,” cried Red plaintively.

“Don’t take that tone with me, young lady,” replied Red’s mom. “Besides, I can’t go. My soap is on. Dirk is about to pop the question to Adrianna, and I don’t want to miss it.”

Red sighed and gave me a look that plainly expressed her exasperation. “Let’s go,” she said.

“Wait a minute,” her mom yelled. “Don’t forget your coat, it looks like rain.”

Red scowled. She hated that stupid coat with its stupid babyish red hood. “It’s not going to rain, Ma,” she said. “Besides Elizabeth’s ma isn’t making her wear a coat. Why do I have to?”

“Elizabeth’s ma will regret not making her wear a coat when she catches a cold and then dies. You don’t want to die like Elizabeth, do you?” she replied snappishly. And then to me, she said, “You aren’t really going to die, dear. I’m just making a point. Would you like to borrow one of Red’s old coats?”

“No thank you, ma’am,” I replied. Red’s mom looked for a moment as if she was going to force me into a coat, but she merely shrugged her shoulders and handed Red the red monstrosity with the baby hood. Red threw the coat on over her shoulders and raised the hood. “Happy now, ma?” she asked, her voice dripping with disdain.

“Yes, I am,” said Red’s mother, choosing to be oblivious to Red’s waspish reply. “Look sharp. I’ll see you soon.”

Red grumbled the entire walk over to her gramma’s. Now I gotta be honest. Red didn’t have too much to complain about really. I mean, yeah, Red’s mom gave her a lot of chores, but she got a lot of free time still. Plus three squares a day. I’m not saying my mom starved me, because she didn’t at all. What I’m saying is that my mom wasn’t a very good cook. She tried and all, and sometimes, she’d come up with something that was pretty tasty. But usually? Ever had an egg omelet with tofu? Well, if you haven’t, then don’t. That’s all I’m saying. Red’s mom was practically gourmet, and except for her obsession with the soaps and her tendency to dress Red a bit younger than Red would have liked, she was tops as a mom. So the closer we got to Red’s gramma, the more annoyed I got.

Your mom doesn’t censor what you read,” said Red out of nowhere.

“Yeah, well you don’t read all that much, anyway,” I pointed out.

“So what,” said Red. “It’s the principle of the matter.”

“Okay, fine, you’re censored. But you get gourmet meals all the time. You are so lucky.”

Red scowled at me. “Is that all you ever think about? Food?”

“Have you ever had a tofu omelet?” I asked her, melodramatically.

“Enough about the tofu omelet. I’m sick of hearing about the stupid tofu omelet,” said Red grumpily.

We walked the rest of the way in silence. When we got to Red’s gramma’s house, it was shut up tight.

“Did she go somewhere?” I asked Red. “I thought she was expecting us.”

“I don’t know,” answered Red. “But there’s a key under the concrete statue of the three little pigs, there by the daisy patch. Grab it for me, okay?”

I handed Red the key and she opened the door. “Gramma?” called Red.

No answer.

“C’mon,” said Red, “let’s just leave the lasagna in the fridge and go back home.” Red’s gramma had a nice kitchen. Lots of yellow gingham and a tin full of yummy-smelling cookies.

“Are those snickerdoodles?” I asked Red.

“Geez, eat one and shut up,” said Red handing me a cookie. “Let’s go.”

But just then we heard a peculiar sound coming from the bedroom.

“What is that sound?” Red asked.

I paused for a moment and listened again. “Sounds like someone snoring. Think your gramma is asleep or something?”

“That’s snoring?” asked Red incredulously. “Sounds like a freight train.”

“That’s what my step-dad sounds like when he snores. Seriously, it’s that loud. She’s probably just asleep. We should go.”

“But it’s the middle of the day,” said Red. “Maybe we should check on her.”

“Okay,” I replied. “You go. I’ll wait here.”

“No,” said Red. “You come with me. Please? Pretty-please?”

“Fine,” I said. We made our way down the hallway and to Red’s gramma’s room. Red tentatively opened the door. Red’s gramma was lying in bed completely obscured by all the blankets.

“Gramma? You okay?” asked Red.

“Mm-hm” came a muffled reply.

Red stepped closer to the bed. “You sure? Can I get you anything?”

“Nm-hm” came a muffled reply.

Red hesitated. “Are you sure, gramma? ‘Cause you have to be hot all smothered in that blanket. Let me fluff your pillows for you.”

Red’s gramma snickered funny and then replied in a high-pitched voice, “It’s okay, dear. You go home now.”

But Red had already crossed to the bed and grabbed the pillow at the top of the heap, only to expose Ed and his big wolfish grin. Red shrieked and backed away, still holding the pillow.

“Oh, for crying out loud,” said Gramma, emerging from the blankets. “It’s just Ed. You go home now. Hi, Elizabeth, didn’t know you were there. Go home, the both of you. And don’t tell your ma, okay? She wouldn’t understand.”

We turned on our heels and left as fast as we could. We were halfway home when Red started laughing so hard she had to stop and lean up against a tree.

“Gram and Ed,” she said, wheezing, tears rolling down her cheeks. “Ma is gonna die.”

“Don’t tell her,” I said. “Even dirty old ladies need some privacy every now and again.”

Red considered me for a moment thoughtfully. “Well I have to tell Ma something. She’s gonna ask.”

“Make something up,” I suggested.

And that’s how the fairy tale about Little Red Riding Hood was born. ‘Course nobody mentions how much trouble Red got into for telling the big whopper about her gramma and the wolf. But she kept her Gramma’s secret her whole life.

The Truth About a Lie I Told

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(For the S-Project)

I was a very little girl the day it happened. I couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6 years old. My much adored older sister was out, who knows where, and there sitting on her vanity like a personal invitation was her make-up bag, half-open with colorful bottles and tubes spilling out.

Even at that age, I loved make-up. My sister, who had a habit of spoiling me rotten, had occasionally purchased bonnie bell lip smackers for me. Our mother wasn’t crazy about the idea of giving a five-year-old any make-up whatsoever, even something as innocuous as glorified chapstick, but she let it pass. In delight, I smothered my lips with cherry flavored lip smackers and made kissy faces in the mirror while my older sister looked on in amusement. But bonnie bell aside, I yearned to wear makeup like Faithie did.

And here was the perfect opportunity. I was well aware that Faithie might object to me using her make-up. Though she was very generous with her allowance and baby-sitting money, I thought she was awfully stingy with her personal possessions. Her reaction to finding me playing in her Candies pumps taught me quickly to keep my hands off her stuff. So, I reasoned to myself, if I were to use her make-up, I’d have to be very careful and put it right back where I found it.

I stared at the counter for a very long time trying to memorize exactly where each tube and container lay on the counter. If I misplaced even one little tube, I knew I’d be in trouble, and I loved Faithie so much that it truly hurt when she was angry with me. Plus she might tell Mom, and Mom, whatever her faults with regard to little girls and make-up, respected other people’s space. There would be no spinning this in my favor. Such an endeavor required stealth, and I felt up to the challenge.

Gingerly, I picked up a plastic case containing blue eyeshadow and opened it. The applicator was smudged blue on both sides, so it wouldn’t matter which side of the wand I used. I rubbed the applicator in the shadow, then applied it to my eyelids, just like I’d watched Faithie do countless times. Next was blusher-great big cherry colored splotches on the apples of my cheeks. I followed that with a pinky-red lipstick. Smack. Blot. I finished it off with two coats of pink nail polish. This was less satisfactory as I couldn’t get the polish to go on smooth, the way Faithie’s did. Instead it looked grainy and lumpy, but it was still pink. And pink, I reflected, was much prettier than no nail polish at all even if it wasn’t perfect. I surveyed myself in the mirror.

I was beautiful.

The only thing missing was my tiara, because I truly was a princess. Problem was, there was no tiara anywhere to be found in the whole house. I improvised. My mother had a cheap set of red plastic beads in her jewelry box she let me play with sometimes. I liked to wear them and pretend they were rubies. That day I draped them over my tangled hair and pretended they were a ruby crown. I glided from room to room, haughtily acknowledging my subjects (e.g. my dolls).

I lost track of time. All too soon, Faithie was home. I yanked Mom’s beads off my head, taking a few fine blonde hairs with it, and ran to Faithie’s room to ensure the make-up looked the same as it had when she’d left that afternoon. Satisfied that I’d done a good job covering my tracks I sat down in my bedroom and began playing with my dolls.

Faithie went into her bedroom and emerged a moment later, holding her make-up bag and glowering at me. “You were in my make-up, weren’t you?” she accused.

Indignantly, I denied it. “Everything is right where you left it,” I replied solemnly.

She looked at me disbelievingly. “You’re telling me you weren’t in my make-up?” she asked shaking the bag at me.

Just then Mom walked into the room and looked from me to Faith and back again. “Betsy,” she said, “why were you in your sister’s make-up?”

I then did what I always did when under great pressure as a child. I cried. Between great gulping sobs I denied again that I’d been in her make-up, pointed out that it was exactly where Faithie’d left it and how come I always get blamed for every thing and no way was I anywhere near Faithie’s stupid make-up.

“You’re WEARING it!” Faith exclaimed impatiently, interrupting me.

For just a moment, I stopped crying. It hadn’t occurred to me that anyone would see the make-up on my face. It seemed impossible that I didn’t think of that, but clearly I didn’t. I looked up at Faithie, and at the anger etched across her face, burst into tears again. My sister was mad at me and I knew she’d never love me again and I deserved it. I was bad and mean and awful. I cried and cried and cried for hours till Faithie came over and curled up next to me.

“You know I still love you, don’t you, squirt?” she said sweetly, wiping my hair out of my face and tapping the tip of my tear-stained nose.

“You do?” I said, sniffling.

“I really do,” she replied. “But you have to stay out of my stuff, okay?”

I nodded and snuggled next to her. And I never got into her stuff ever again.

That very last sentence was a lie.