Birthday Girl

She stands naked before the full length mirror in the bathroom and sticks out her tongue at herself. Her body looks no different today. She looks like a bald, wet, cat, she thinks, and she runs her palms over her small breasts and down her hips, disappointed they have not changed overnight. She is, after all, thirteen today. She stands there another minute making ugly faces at herself and then shrugs and picks up the towel off the floor, wraps herself in it and opens the door into the other room.

She pads across the soft carpet to a vanity elaborately draped in chiffon and polyester (made to look like silk) scarves in all sorts of silly feminine colors like lavender and rosy pink. She sort of hates it now but doesn’t have the heart to say anything about it. It’s been that way such a long time. She sits on the stool and resumes making faces at herself for a while. She thinks perhaps if her nose was shorter or her face was a different shape. She read in a magazine that oval was the best shape. Her face is most definitely not oval. She’s not sure what shape she has but its’ not oval. Round maybe or square. Not oval. Too wide for oval. She likes her eyes though. Very blue. Everyone always says how blue they are. Especially with makeup. Lots of makeup. That reminds her.  Her watch is lying on a small decorated mirror on the vanity. She picks it up and checks the time. Her heart skips with anxious anticipation. She needs to hurry. This is an important night.

She picks up the earbuds connected to her iPod and plug them into her ears, switching on the electronic hip hop music she goes to work.

She finds a tube of make-up primer and carefully dabs it all over her face, blending it in just like she’s been taught. She tries to ignore how wrongly her face is shaped. She uses the special brush to apply face makeup and blush and then goes to work on her eyes. She’s really an expert at doing her eyes and she knows it.  She applies blue shadow and black liner all the way around on both lids then heavy layers of black mascara. She cannot help wondering what her mother would say. She smiles slightly embarrassed at the thought.  She applies pale pink lip gloss and two squirts of lightly floral scented perfume. She doesn’t know the name but thinks it smells like something happy.

She removes the earbuds, switches off the iPod and studies herself in the mirror, smacking her lips a few times. Yes, she thinks, she looks good. Maybe her face is still round or square or whatever but she’s pretty. So, that’s good. She feels another skip in her chest, anxious, nervous. A little nauseous maybe. She’s surprised by it. But then, again, she reminds herself, it’s a big night.

She goes to the closet and pulls out the dress she’s been planning to wear. A short, tight sequined affair all in blue, too match her eyes she’d thought. But looking at now, she’s unsure. It seems too much. She puts it back. Pulls out another dress, less garish, not as short, still blue. She puts it on, takes it off, puts it on, studies herself in the bathroom mirror and decides she’s satisfied.

She slips on high heeled shoes and picks up a purse that holds nothing but a lipstick.

She is not allowed money or a cellphone.

She is not allowed to carry identification.

The driver arrives to pick her up. The car will take her to the event.  That’s what today is called. An event. As she steps to the door, she checks back over her shoulder. The room remains dim but she can see he’s still asleep. He will be for a while. He’s old she thinks. He needs his sleep. He’s never told her how old but she guesses he’s over fifty.  Sometimes she wishes for a different life,  but he’s been good to her.  He doesn’t beat her. Not like the others. She’s never hungry. Never cold.  The other girls say how lucky she is that he’s chosen her as his special girl. The other girls all have to stay together in two rooms with three or four to a bed. She has it good, they say. Don’t mess it up they say. Besides, she thinks, where would she go? She doesn’t speak the language. She doesn’t know anyone.  What good is she to anyone, besides this? No, she thinks, looking at the man in the bed, she’ll stay, this is good. This is her life now. 

She turns back to the man at the door. She wishes she could remember his name. He’s new, but he has driven her at least once before. She decides that in her head she will call him Snowman for his terribly white skin. He says nothing but extends his arm, elbow first.  He does not smile. The gesture makes her feel childish. Lonely. She takes his arm and steps outside. She looks up into the night sky which is clear. It is so clear, it looks perfectly empty which is exactly how she feels inside.  She is still looking into the sky from the back of the car as it pulls out into the street. She is thinking about her own self drawn in pencil on a piece of white paper, then  all colored in perfectly white, so that the background and the colored in part match exactly.  She’s thinking about that pencil line being so hard to make out with all that whiteness around that it’s almost like it was never even there at all.

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