Girls were running around, their moms either leading the way or in tow. Glitter floated about the air, as if it was snowing inside, waiting to be sucked up into the lungs of the overweight family members. Everything smelled like a mother’s make-up bag: powdery, fake, stale, colorful. Zack was sitting there in the grossly upholstered chairs, something straight out of his grandmother’s house, or everyone’s grandmother’s house. Glitter had been permanently stamped into the rouge carpet; Zack played with his beat up sneaker, rubbing it across the grungy fabric making the glitter escape back into the air. This was boring, there was no other word to describe it, he thought.
Alisha came up then, clearly irritated by their mother, a scowl on her lips which were the only thing not completely coated and caked in make-up.
“She’s doing it again,” she said, crossing her arms against her chest. Zack just nodded, already aware that their mother was most certainly doing it again.
“It’s almost time to begin then she’ll shut up,” he said, shaking his hair out of his eyes.
“She knows that I simply loath these things,” Alisha said, her voice almost catching. Being fourteen and still doing beauty pageants because her mother forces her into them, couldn’t be very fun. Alisha wanted to read all day, books written by famous authors, intriguing titles, and basically move into a library. Well, their mother was completely against this, saying little girls should read, yes, but beauty is the real crown jewel. This made both Zack and Alisha sick. Their father never said a word about any of this, just simply handed the checkbook over to their mother, who would then squeal with delight at the prospects of new, technicolor fabric, lace, glitter, and all things itchy. Zack got lucky, he was a boy and therefore was only subject to being a part of his high school football team, which he also loathed. Coach didn’t really care for him either; he scrutinized Zack riding his longboard to practices and games, his hair too long for the helmet, too scrawny to be really any good, so Zack usually sat on the benches, which pleased him to be ignored by his family and his coach.
Their mother came running up then, shouting something about only five minutes until it was time for Alisha to take her place, and did she remember the talent portion? Baton twirling, how original thought Zack. Alisha wanted to recite Shakespeare for as much as the time would allow; their mother simply shook her head and handed the plastic, glitter-filled stick to her daughter.
“We simply have to finish putting your makeup on, Alisha! Now don’t fuss or pout, let’s get your lipstick on, honey.” The electric red, gel-like stick poked out of its black container. That looks like fun, Zack thought, crossing his arms even tighter and continued counting down how much longer this stupid pageant would take. With one shake of her head, Alisha’s chin was held too firmly by her mother as she expertly applied that clown lipstick and ushered her over to behind the stage, Alisha complaining the entire time that it hurt.
During the talent portion, something was off, causing Zack to laugh hysterically, earning a slap from his mother straight up the backside of his head. Alisha’s lips had swollen to twice their size and she certainly was making a show of it, looking like she was in excruciating pain. She couldn’t take it anymore, threw the baton on the floor, tears springing from her eyes and she feverishly tried to wipe the color from her mouth, only smearing it more. She screamed slightly as it came in contact with more of her skin and that’s when Zack jumped up, but their mother was faster. Acting gracefully, as if this was part of the talent portion, she escorted her daughter away from the stage and out the back, whispering loudly, how dare she ruin this!
Once outside, Zack decided to voice his opinion on the matter. “She needs to go the hospital, Mom.”
His mother shook her head violently, “Zack, what do you know? We cannot just stop the pageant! We need to go back in there and make up for this mess your sister just caused!” Zack opened his mouth to rebut his mother, but she glowered at him, trying to wipe his sister’s face. Alisha, meanwhile, was shaking and scratching at her reddened skin. “Alright! See much better!” his mother said, clearly not seeing the fact that the lipstick might be gone from Alisha’s cheeks, but her skin was now red, chaffed, bumpy, and overall not right. Zack thought on his feet, finally tired of his mother’s crazy-ass ways. When his mother turned to find the death-black tube once again, he grabbed his sister’s arm and raced the hell out of there, their mother screaming her head off.
At the hospital, Alisha in tears and Zack panicking about what his mother was going to say later, the brother and sister duo had to wait to see the doctors for what seemed like forever. Finally they called her name and she was ushered in. The doctor inspected the now basically open wounds on Alisha’s face. Nodding as if he knew exactly what was going on, and after fifteen minutes of silence, he spoke about the condition.
“Several weeks ago, a makeup company was discovered to be selling out product that was contaminated. There was a massive spill of a dangerous chemical that found its way into all of their products, from face product, eye shadows, and to lipsticks. I’m assuming your mother recently bought this item,” Alisha nodded, Zack had no idea, “Then that is what I am guessing what this is. You will need to put this cream on it, which is quite expensive and I apologize for that, but it is the only cure for this.”
As the doctor applied the soft green cream to his sister’s face, Alisha silently screaming in protest, Zack thought on his feet again. Alisha was still in full pageant dress, and he knew that if he called his mother, she would simply demand them to come back to the entertainment center immediately, and ignore the fact that Alisha needs this cream. As he was pacing around the waiting room, thinking, his hand found in his pocket his great grandfather’s pocket watch. He remembers picking it up from his room, wondering if it would be cool if he started carrying one around. Later he felt ridiculous about it and wished he had left it in its dusty spot on his desk, the thing reeked of old metal that was now a greenish gold tint. But it might be worth something, he thought. It just might.