Alisha lifted up her eyes to the mirror and applied some eyeliner. She evened out the foundation around her lips and put a little concealer on the blemishes that had appeared overnight. She brushed her hair out and curled it just slightly. She sprayed fragrance in the air and walked through it. Her nails were a light blue, applied just last night. Before she left the house, she looked at the full body mirror to make sure her outfit matched. She were brown calf high boots, with fur around the lining. Tight blue jeans that didn't make a big deal about themselves. She had a light brown shawl wrapped around her neck and a white blouse.
She turned around and looked at her butt. "I don't like these jeans very much." she said. "They don't compliment me enough."
Her little sister Emily walked in, her hair a mess from just waking up. Emily gazed up at her with admiration. "Wow, Alisha! You look nice!" Emily talked with a childish drawl; being only 4 years old, she emphasized the 'wow'.
"Thanks. I really need a new pair of jeans."
Emily studied the reflection of Alisha pants. "Yeah, you need new jeans." she agreed. "Will you teach me how to be pretty?"
Alisha kneeled down and smiled at her sister. "Let's see your nails."
Emily lifted up her hands proudly. "Look, they're different colors!" Each nail on Emily's hand had a different color. It went through the rainbows and back again.
"They look really good. You're not even in school yet. When you're in school, you'll be teaching the class how to do this." Alisha smiled and stood up. "It'll be like this, you'll stand at the white board and say 'No, you can't move your hands until the paint is dry!'" Alisha pointed her finger at an imaginary student. "'Jimmy, what did I tell you!?'" Emily lit up and giggled.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah!" Emily laughed happily and Alisha laughed a little too.
"Noah texted me all night last night." Tiffany said, "I didn't think I was going to get up this morning."
"Noah did? He totally has a thing for you."
"I know he does! I don't know what to do! He's so, cute." The warning bell rung. Class was about to start.
"Is something due today?" Tiffany asked.
"Yeah, that narrative paper."
Tiffany's eyes widened. "That was due today!?"
"Duh." Alisha grinned. "He assigned it like, two weeks ago."
"Well, it's late now." Tiffany laughed slightly. "It's okay. He'll give me an extra day."
"It really wasn't that bad. You might be able to do it at lunch."
When they walked into class, Mr. Fox had already started collecting the papers. Tiffany walked up to him shyly. "Mr. Fox. I forgot the paper at my house. Can I like, email it to you or turn it in tomorrow?" She wore a embarrassed face and stood sheepishly.
"You can turn it in tomorrow, Tiffany, but you'll get late credit."
"But I didn't mean to leave it at my house. I swear I left it on my bed. It's already done."
He looked at her and tried to see through her words. He decided to give her a break.
"Fine, but this is the only time, okay?"
"Thank you so much, Mr. Fox!" Tiffany stood upright and smiled.
Tiffany smiled a glance at Alisha and Alisha rolled her eyes.
Mr. Fox's class talked about deception in the media. He put up slides of altered and unaltered photos. "When Snowden leaked NSA files to The Guardian, it was news to Congress. Not even the representatives of us, the people, knew what the government was doing. If we can't trust the government to tell us the truth, we have to trust the media. But if we can't trust the media and we can't trust the government, then we're a really hopeless country. What we need to understand is what John Long says: 'Any change to a news photo, any violation of that moment, is a lie'." He demonstrated the many ways photojournalism has been discredited and emphasized it's honesty. He assigned a reading to the class and the bell rung.
Tiffany walked out and she beamed excited. "That was so intense. I would have never expected that from an English class."
"You're right, it was really good." Alisha didn't shine quite as bright as Tiffany did. Something was stirring up inside of her, but she didn't know what it was yet. It made her uneasy.
"He's such a good teacher. I feel bad for not doing that essay now."
"Hey, Tiff." A boy walked up to them.
"Noah! Oh my gosh! I have to tell you about this class we just had."
Tiffany started to chatter at him about their lecture.
"Hey, I'll catch up with you later." Alisha walked off, trying to focus.
At lunch, Alisha felt a little better. She dipped a carrot in ranch and took a bite. She sat at the table with Tiffany and a few other girls. Tiffany had calmed down from her classroom high.
"I think he wants to sleep with me. I'm trying to tell him I'm not that kind of girl."
"Are you serious? All boys are the same, I swear."
"Tom wasn't like that with me. We waited six months before we tried anything."
"Oh my god. You're so lucky."
Alisha furrowed her eyebrow. "This doesn't feel right." she thought. Very suddenly, she felt out of place. She didn't belong there.
Tiffany looked over at her. "Hey, you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine, I just don't feel right."
"Is it the ranch? Did it go bad again?"
"No, I don't think that's it. I'm...going to go use the bathroom."
Alisha stood up and walked out of the lunchroom. She sat on a bench and looked forward for a time. "This all started in English class." She thought about a photo that came onto the screen. It was a photo of Mila Kunis before and after she allowed her photos to be altered. Her altered photos had a certain quality about them, like they weren't genuine. Without makeup or photoshop, she looked real and beautiful. More beautiful than she had ever seen a girl look.
"Is that me?"
Alisha pulled out her compact and looked in the mirror. It wasn't her. She wasn't beautiful like Mila was. Something was fighting inside her. She had always identified with beautiful women with make-up. The kind of women you see in Victoria's Secret and Sports Illustrated magazines. She was that kind of woman.
"I'm like that...aren't I?"
She wrapped her arms around herself. "This..sucks.."
Alisha opened the door to her house and Emily ran up to her, a toy cell phone in her hand. "Alisha! Look at what mommy did to my hair!" Her hair was curled, prettied and softened by conditioner and the delicate touch of a curling iron. Alisha tried to smile.
"You look good, Emily. Did Mom do that for you? She did a good job."
"Lets go, lets go!" Alisha followed Emily as she ran excitedly up the stairs to their parents bedroom.
Her mother was putting away some of the materials, the curling iron on the counter to cool off. "Hi Alisha. How was school?"
Alisha's mother neat woman with a charming smile. She considered herself fashionable and beautiful. Before Alisha was born she was a secretary to the vice president of Frito Lay's. When she had Alisha, she decided to become a house mother. To Alisha, she was just her mom. When Alisha was a little girl, she used to want to be beautiful like her mother. Her mother was beautiful, even if she was a bit judgmental.
"It was fine. Emily looks good."
Emily was twirling on of her locks around her finger. "Momma mia!" she shouted for no reason.
"She has very nice hair. It still feels like baby's hair. I hope it will stay that nice."
Alisha bit her lip. "I'm going to make a sandwich."
"We're all out of peanut butter, honey!"
In her room, Alisha held a pencil and was trying to write something down. She wanted to put to paper what she was feeling. She began, "It's not like I want to be a model. I just like to look nice. Doesn't everybody want to look nice? I can't stop thinking about Mila Kunis and how beautiful she looks without makeup. I can't pull it off. I know I can't do it. I'm not pretty like her. I'm not her. I'm not-" There was a knock on her door. Her mother opened the door and looked in. "Hi honey. You're father just got home and dinner'll be ready soon."
"Okay. Thanks, mom."
There was a pause.
"Are you okay, honey? You don't look alright."
Alisha ran her hand through her hair and smiled. "Yeah, I'm fine. I just have some homework I don't want to do."
"Okay. You don't have to look so upset about homework. There are other things to worry about."
"I know. I'll try to get over it."
Her mom smiled lightly and closed the door. She knew there was something bothering her. "I bet it's a boy." she thought.
Alisha looked over what she'd just written. She sighed and laid her head down. "This was supposed to make me feel better. Not make me feel worse."
There was lasagna for dinner. Alisha loved her mothers pasta. She still loved it.
"What's new, Ali?" her father asked. He sat at the table with her mother while Emily watched cartoons in the living room. Her father wore a serious face, but he was light hearted.
"Nothing much. Anything new with you?"
"Derek, you remember him don't you? We went to dinner with him once."
"Yeah, the quiet one, right?"
"Yeah. Today he put up a photo of Stefan, the director of marketing, next to a photo of the Melvin from Office Space. They looked almost identical."
"I remember Stefan." She giggled. "Oh god, they do look the same, don't they?"
He chuckled. "They really do."
Alisha cut a big piece of lasagna and set it on her plate.
"Honey, you shouldn't eat that much." her mother protested.
"It's not that bad, Trish. Let her eat. It's good stuff."
Trish sneered briefly, then said, "Okay. But that's the last pair of jeans your getting for a few months. We bought you a pair a couple of weeks ago."
"Thanks, mom.." Alisha said as she went upstairs.
Alisha tried watching TV as she ate, but she couldn't watch the shows she had before. When she was done eating, she laid down. She huddled in the blankets and closed her eyes.
The next morning Alisha tried to put makeup on but she couldn't. She looked at her bag of cosmetics and just sighed. She brushed her hair, but she didn't like how smooth it looked. She tried to do everything she normally did, but she couldn't. Looking at her makeup kit made her upset. She held back tears and sat in her room. She watched TV during the time she would've been getting ready.
She grabbed her backpack to ride to school with her mom. When her mother saw her, she gasped. "Alisha, did you just wake up? You don't have anything on."
"I didn't feel like putting anything on today."
"So? At least put some powder on. You look awful."
"It's fine, mom. Don't worry about it. I'll do it when I get to school."
"Oh my god. Okay. Have it your way."
Alisha knew this would happen. She tried her best to put it out of her mind.
When she got to school, Tiffany came up to her. "Oh. Did you just wake up?"
"Yeah, I woke up late."
"You want some coverup? I have some in my locker I think."
"No, it's fine. It's really not that big of a deal."
Tiffany smiled. "You're totally right. Guess what Noah said to me yesterday?"
Throughout the day, a couple of her girl friends would offer some help. She declined them. She tried her best to avoid mirrors and not imagine how she looked. She focused on keeping herself distracted. She avoided her friends during breaks and read the essay for English instead. The author drove home the point of journalism staying honest. It was a good supplement to the class from yesterday.
She imagined what would it be like if everyone had to be honest. She pulled out a sheet of paper and started writing, "Why are people so dishonest? Is it really that hard to be truthful to one another? Why are people putting on masks and the time and trying to act like people their not." She looked up at the kids in the hallway and how they wore themselves. How they pretended to act.
There was a pit in her stomach and she avoided it.
When she came into Mr. Fox's class, he was handing back the narrative essay's they had written. He handed it to her and said, "You're a really strong writer Alisha. I enjoyed reading yours." He paused and looked at her a little closely. "Oh, you're not wearing makeup."
She looked away. "Yeah, I overslept."
He smiled, a little puzzled as to her response. "Don't look so upset about it. You look fine."
She smiled awkwardly in return and looked over her paper. She thought, "I wish other people would say that, too."
She took the bus home and frowned out the window. A boy across from her looked over. She knew him; his name was Alex. He glanced over at her a couple more times before he spoke. "Hey, Alisha."
"You should smile more. You look so upset right now."
"What does that mean?" she thought. She gave him a strange look. He smiled a timid smile. "Uh, I mean, you look better when you smile." He was a little embarrassed now.
"Uh, thanks." She smiled, a real genuine one. He smiled back.
When she opened the door, Emily ran up to her. She had fresh makeup on. "Look at me, Alisha!"
"Hey, good to see you."
Emily looked up at her a little puzzled. "You look different."
Alisha crouched down and looked at Emily. "I don't have any makeup on, silly."
Emily's eyes lit up. "You're right! You don't have make up on! You're so pretty without makeup, Alisha. I hope I can be pretty like you."
Alisha felt her heart sink. She grabbed Emily and held her close. She couldn't help crying now. She sobbed into Emily's small shoulder. "Thanks, Emily. That was a really nice thing for you to say."
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