The picture was of my family, back when I could actually call it that and not think it was a joke. My mother was smiling, albeit faking happiness, as she clapped her hands together at the edge of the frame. I was sitting in front of a birthday cake, my cheeks puffed out like a fish as I blew as hard as I could at the four candles that decorated the gaudy pastry. Behind me was my dad, holding my shoulders and blowing along with me. I remember being so happy when all the candles went out on the first try; it wasn’t until I saw the picture that I realized he’d been helping me, but I didn’t mind.
I picked up the picture and gingerly sat down on my bed, wiping at my eyes so I didn’t risk getting tear stains on the extremely expensive dress or the priceless picture. I missed my dad all the time, even though I had barely known him. He’d been in the army and had died just before my seventh birthday. To be honest, I’d only had him in my life for a few years, but I’d always remember that time as one of the happiest in my life.
Whenever anyone looked at my mother and I, they often commented on how similar we looked; if they looked at this picture like I was now, though, they’d easily see where I had gotten most of my looks from. My mother and I may have shared the same dark eyes and our hair was close in color before she dyed it, but my dad was who I looked the most like. We had the same nose, the same lips, even the same weird dimple in our chin whenever we smiled. I kissed the picture of my dad once softly and set it back down on my bedside table before grabbing my makeup case and going to the bathroom.
As I opened my eyes widely to apply a coat of mascara in the attempt to make my scant eyelashes seem thicker, I saw Molly lean against the bathroom door and once again look at me through the mirror. Her phone was cupped loosely in her hand and it buzzed, alerting her of a new text, but she didn’t move to respond. “Where are you going that you have to look so nice for?” She wrinkles her nose as I screwed the mascara wand back into its tube and began to spray the hot rollers I’d set in my hair with a thick coat of hairspray.
I paused in my motion for a second, allowing a few strands on the left side of my head to become extra crunchy before deciding to lie to her. “I’m going out with Nova and Simon…and some other friends.” As sure as hell, Molly would find some way to keep me here at the house or ruin my life if she knew that I was going out on a date. “Why do you care? It’s not like you’re going to help me.”
“Want me to cover for you?” she asked suddenly. The hairspray slipped out of my hand but my cyborg side caught it quickly and, thankfully, without catching Molly’s notice. I shook my head to cover for the minor slip-up.
What was her motive here? Why was she taking such an interest in me now? What had I done- or not done- that was important to her?
Or as I should be asking, what had she done that she felt guilty about?
I shook my head again, tossing the ridiculous thought that she might feel guilty about anything aside. “You don’t do favors,” I scoffing, setting down the can and gingerly beginning to uncurl the rollers that sat on my head. “You never have, so why start now? Besides, what happened to that cash ransom you just wanted for helping me do my makeup?”
Molly shrugged, moving behind me so that I couldn’t see her anymore. She started to touch my hair and I stiffened, preparing for her to pull on it, but instead she began gently running her fingers through it and artfully arranging the curls. “That’s just water under the bridge, Mina. Forgotten to me. I’d like to change the way that I’ve treated you in the past. We never have been very close and I’ve regretted it.”
“Sure you have,” I said, pushing a few curls away from my face as I rolled my eyes. “I’m busy, okay? So either say what you want or get out of the way.”
Molly narrowed her eyes and flounced out of the room, giving a swift and painful yank on my hair in her hurry. “Never mind, then,” she yelled at me, slamming her bedroom door behind her. I sighed as she went, wondering what hell she would decide to rain down on me this time. I pulled the last roller out of my hair and began running a brush through gently, knowing that if I pulled even a little bit too hard with the brush, the entire curl would fall flat and I’d have to brush it all out.