Leila turned on her heel and returned to her bedroom. She knelt on her bed next to her window and let the cool November breeze blow against her face. The cold wind felt good against the pulsing red her father’s hand had left on her cheek. Leila was unsure if a bruise would form on her cheek or not. Leila turned and knelt down beside her bed. She stretched her arm far back, her fingertips brushing against odd little objects until they just barely touched a small plastic bag. She pulled the bag out from under the bed and quietly unzipped it. Inside lay a whole array of make-up foundations, powders, and concealers. Leila was only eleven years old, but she could conceal any blemish on her face better than some high school students.
Sometimes Leila would do an odd job for a neighbor or a friend’s family and they would pay her. She kept most of this money but always spared a bit to keep her make-up stock up and running. She would sometimes receive strange looks from cashiers at the drug store, but she could always brush them off by saying that the make-up was for her mother or an older sister.
After checking that her make-up was still usable and in good condition, Leila gently placed the compacts and bottles back in their bag and shoved the case as far back under her bed as her small arms could stretch. Leila climbed back up on her bed and sat for a few moments in silence. The sun was setting low, illuminating the Chicago skyline in a brilliant silhouette. Chicago was always so busy, but at dusk, when the sun was sinking and night was rising, Leila didn’t mind the noise and the busyness. In the wake of the setting sun everything seemed to take on a mystical quality. For the blissful moments of dusk, Leila could pretend she was observing a different scene than her senses were used to in broad daylight.
Another day drew to a close and nothing had changed.
Quietly, Leila crept to her door and peeked out. She could see the HD glow of the TV and hear the quiet mumbles and voices constantly switching because her father couldn’t decide on a channel. The channels were changing slower and slower which meant her father was falling asleep. Slowly, Leila closed her door and went and stood in the middle of her room.
The room was small and crowded. A small bed ran against the left wall, under the single window which led to a fire escape. Across from the bed was a small dresser that held Leila’s few clothes. Stacked beside the dresser were two small bookshelves on which were piled many old and worn copies of all kinds of books. Some of the old paperbacks were missing pages and the covers were nearly torn off. There hung a small, dirty mirror above her dresser but Leila only looked into it when she needed to use the make-up to cover a bruise or red mark. She stood in front of it now and was glad to see the red print from her father’s hand was already fading. She would check again in the morning before school to make sure it would fade completely.
Through the open window, a gentle breeze pushed through, rustling the loose pages of homework that lay scattered on Leila’s bedroom floor. She reached for them and stuffed them into her backpack which sat on her bed. Leila grabbed the blanket and pillow off of her bed and climbed out of the window and onto the fire escape. She ran up the stairs, the pillow and blanket clutched tightly in her hands. Leila was careful to avoid certain spots on the escape; she had climbed them enough times to know their weak spots. The spots where the metal could bend under your step from years of erosion and rust, the spots where the metal links had snapped apart and stuck up to catch loose shoelaces or toes. She smiled when she reached the rooftop. If she looked in front of her, the sky was darkening and you could see the strongest stars; the ones so determined to shine that they didn’t wait for the sun to finish setting. When she turned around, though the sun had fallen over the horizon, it still lit up the edge of the sky.
On the roof was a lounge chair, the cushion was stained from prolonged exposure to all forms of weather, but it could still be more comfortable than her own bed. She placed the pillow on the chair and spread the blanket over the worn cushions. Leila sat on top of the chair and stared at the Chicago skyline.
She closed her eyes and she dreamed.