The ritual begins.  First the concealer, then the blush, and as she touches on the eyeliner the phone rings.  She jumps at the sound, just enough so the pencil tip grazes her right eye.

“Oahhhhh!” she exclaims.  Her eyes instantly fill with tears, and she reaches quickly for the tissues on her dresser top before the tears can mar the beautiful white clouds of her painted cheeks.  A night this meaningful isn’t supposed to begin with pain.

The phone continues to ring, and she hopes it is not Todd calling.  It goes to her machine.

“Hey Beddy you sexy beast!”

She smiles.  Her body eases.

It’s Di and Connie.  They speak in turns and overlaps, and sometimes in unison.

“Ready for tonight?”


“I’m calling from the restaurant, I hope you can hear me.”

“Sexy bitch!”

“They didn’t card us here, so we all got sake bombs.”

“I feel sake-bombed.”

“It’s too bad you and Todd didn’t want to come with us, we had fun.  Oh, and Connie tried ordering an Irish car bomb and the lady looked at us like we were aliens or something.”

“Ha ha, yeah.  Fucking amateurs.”

“And Dallas snuck in a flask of Midori, which I don’t know if you know, tastes terrible with sushi.  I ended up yakking in the fern behind the fish tank.”

“Ha ha ha.”

“Anyways, we’re just waiting for our cab and we’d thought we’d send our love.”


“Mwaaaah!  Oh, and Connie has some advice for you.”

“Yeah.  If he tries anything, tell him it’s just the first date, so he can only put it in your butt.”

“Ha ha.  Love youuuu.”

“Love youuuu.”

They hang up.

Beddy moves on to her mascara, the home stretch.  She admires herself in the mirror.  Thanks to Connie’s mom her hair is a tight and poised latticework of braids.

“I am the fucking afterglow,” she says.

She grabs her purse and the beer from the fridge and floats down the stairs.  She sits near the bottom with her legs splayed and her knees locked to avoid tearing her tea length dress.  Her gently-angled heels sit by the front door.

Todd should be on his way.  She opens the beer with a disconcertingly loud crack and sips modestly.

Time groans by.  His truck’s headlights do not swing through the window of her front door like they should.

Without she being able to help it, a conversation comes back to her, overheard from this very spot, between her late Aunt Simone and her mother.  Perched on these stairs, the kitchen was an effective echo chamber:

“Jee-zus, what are you feeding the kid?  You just tie her to the trough and untie her for bed?”

“C’mon Simone.”

“She looks unhealthy, that’s all I’m saying.”

“This coming from you.”

“It should mean more, coming from me.”

“Look.  I know.  I’m not pretending it’s a phase.  It’s something she’s going to have to deal with for the rest of her life.  She’s big-boned.”

“Delusions, Deir.  She’s just big.”

She doesn’t have to worry about that kind of talk anymore.  She has Todd, with his shellacked blond curls and broad shoulders.  With his plump goddess lips.

She looks at her beer.  Her father had written in Sharpie “Congrats on the Big Night.  Love, Dad,” but condensation and her thumb have begun to rub it out.

She glances up at the clock above the banister.  Maybe he’s a “fashionably late” type of guy.

Then again, she doesn’t know what type of guy Todd is.  They hadn’t divulged much, working on that paper together in the library.  All she knows about him is physical or reputational: he fidgets; he has an easy smile; he does Varsity hurdles; save for being a junior, he occupies a similar row as her on the Osmond High totem, neither royalty nor pariah.  Beyond that, he is a cipher.

She gulps beer.  It staves off the inching dread.

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