Chapter Two: B*****s

Chapter Two: B*****s

A Chapter by Amelia Birch
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Ruby dreams of writing for the school magazine. Will editor Lacey-Jade accept her submission?

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I knocked for Saffron on the way to school just like I did every morning. From the end of her overgrown path I could hear her sister crying, just like she did every morning. Saffron opened the door to reveal the deep red darkness of the room, the red velvet curtains still closed. The toddler’s mouth was wide open as she yelled displaying a throat as red and dark as the room she was standing in. She’d hooked her fat little arm around Saffron’s leg and her nappy dangled precariously.

“Mum I’m going.” Saffron yelled. “You have to get up and deal with Boo-Bear.” She looked at her watch frowning.

Saffron’s eighteen month old sister was called Alberta, except that was a crazy name for a toddler so everyone called her Boo-Bear. Not that it was any better.

“Mum!” Saffron yelled again as she prised Boo-Bear from her leg. The pink leopard print dressing gown and bleached blond bed hair of her mother appeared at the top of the stairs.

I checked my watch. “Best get a move on.”

“Every morning!” Saffron exclaimed rolling her eyes. “I’ve got exams in two weeks, she better not play me up then. Imagine that, late for the most important days of my life.”

We both had exams in two weeks. Most people would have said ‘we’, not Saffron.

“I don’t like to think about the exams,” I said.

“Oh god!” she said. “How can you not? Don’t you worry about them?”

I shrugged, “We’ll both pass. We both did well in our mocks and we’re the clever ones. If we don’t pass no one will.”

“What is the point in just passing?” she growled. “I worked hard to get into that school. It will all be for nothing if I just pass. No, I won’t be happy unless I get straight A’s.”

Well that was a healthy attitude. But it was what I’d come to expect from Saffron, she was the kind of girl who was all or nothing. Don’t get me wrong, she was my best friend and I couldn’t be without her, but even I found her a little intense, especially at times like this.

“Anyway,” I said, “That tatty bit of make-up my Dad bought me cost fifty pounds, well seventy dollars as you can’t buy it here.”

“You’re joking! Are you going to give it back to him? Think how many books you could buy for that?”

She had a point. But my search on Google had highlighted how sought after it was and part of me liked the idea of having something other people wanted. Even if I wasn’t going to use it, which considering I never wore make up was almost certainly the case.

“You are going to throw it back in his face aren’t you?” She continued. “You aren’t going to wimp out on this one?”

I sighed. There was no point. He’d show no hint of emotion and I’d wind up shouting and crying. Maybe I’d put it on eBay instead.

The bell was just sounding as we got to the gates. We ran in through the glass doors and up the spiral stairs to our tutor room. I nearly fell over Saffron as she slowed down to open the door.

The girls at the back giggled, whispering behind their hands. I slunk in and took my place. Saffron sat beside me.

Tina and Bianca were sitting in front of us, just like they usually did. Apart from Saffron they were the cleverest girls in the class. Considering the school had an entry exam that was pretty impressive. Despite Saffron’s whinging about struggling to get into the school she constantly got higher grades than everyone else. She liked to remind us of that too.

Tina turned around. “How was your birthday?”

I grinned. “Great! I got a laptop!”

Bianca now turned too “OMG you lie!” Bianca’s uniform was expertly pressed and her tie fastened in the perfect size knot.

“Yep, brand new laptop; all mine!” I said the grin refusing to budge. It was rare for me to have something to gloat about; I was going to make the most of it.

“Geek!”

I ignored the shout from the back of the class. “I was so pleased. I can be a proper writer now.”

“Did you hear me?” the voice called again.

I looked at the ceiling.

Saffron turned and glared. “Do one!”

Feeling braver after Saffron’s intervention I turned and glared at the bleached blond, fake tanned girl sitting alone right at the back in the middle. It was Lacey-Jade. She hated me. I’d done nothing to her but she hated me; and Saffron too. To be fair she usually left me alone preferring to spit most of her venom at my best friend, but clearly today I was in the firing line. Lucky me.

Lacey-Jade’s lips were pursed. “A laptop! Now I’ve heard it all. I got clothes and jewellery for my sixteenth birthday.”

I sighed. Then she was the sorry one. I had a laptop. I smirked and said, “I got make-up too if that makes you feel better.”

 “Most of us buy make up with our pocket money not have it as birthday presents,” she said pulling at her false eyelash. “Go on then, what make?”

“Twenty shades of beige.”

Lacey-Jade’s jaw dropped. “Shut up! You didn’t get that. It’s not even out here yet. Even in the US it’s sold out pretty much everywhere.”

I shrugged, “My dad’s girlfriend was in New York last weekend. She must have picked it up for me.”

“I can’t believe you of all people have that palette. You won’t even appreciate it.” She huffed, her row of bracelets clinking and clanking together as she folded her arms.

Somehow I liked it more now it was rare as well as expensive.

“Maybe she should sell it to you,” Saffron said her mouth turning up at the corners.

Lacey-Jade propped her elbows on the desk. “The least you could do is try it. I’d be thrilled if my dad had a girlfriend cool enough to buy me Twenty Shades of Beige. You don’t even wear make up.”

“Where’s your dad Lacey-Jade?” Saffron said.

Lacey-Jade’s face turned purple underneath her Crunchie bar tan. I looked at the desk. Lacey-Jade and I were not friends but I didn’t think it was fair for Saffron to bring up her dead father. Especially as she knew how bad it felt not to have one. I knew that and mine was only mostly absent.

Mrs Jessop the form tutor marched into the classroom her kitten heels clicking across the floor.

“Ignore her”, Saffron whispered, “she knows nothing about your dad.”

I closed my eyes and shook my head. Saffron had no idea what she’d just done. But I had other things on my mind. Lacey-Jade’s dad was relegated to the unimportant. I had an idea I couldn’t wait to put into action.

I caught Lacey-Jade’s arm on the way to the next class.

“Don’t touch me”, she hissed.

“Sorry,” I said jerking my hand away. “I just wanted a quick word about the school magazine.”

Her eyes narrowed and her lips puckered. Despite only being my age wrinkles were already starting to form around her lips when she pouted. It must have been all that smoking she did. One day I’d write an article about the way smoking ages you. I’d use dad’s last girlfriend as an example, Fifi was only twenty five but looked much older than my mother. It was definitely the cigarettes which aged her so prematurely. Either that or it was living with my father.

“I have an idea for the magazine…” I started.

Lacey-Jade cut me off, “I’ve told you. We don’t want your kind of articles. It’s not a geek magazine it’s a cool one. I don’t give a s**t how good ‘writing for school magazine’ will look on your CV. Frankly; I don’t give a s**t about you or your CV. We write about fashion and bands, cool things. You’re not cool and you never will be.”

I raised my eyebrows, “So you don’t want my review of Twenty Shades of Beige then?”

She huffed closing her eyes. “I don’t want you but I want the review. So go on, deadline is Friday. But after that I don’t want you or your friend anywhere near my magazine, understand?”

*****

Saffron walked on the tips of her toes down the tree lined street, her greying rucksack hanging precariously from the crook of her elbow.

Tears hung in my eyes as I doubled over clutching my stomach and howling with laughter.

“And don’t forget Ruby,” Saffron said sucking her cheeks in. “I don’t want any hint of intelligence in that article. After all, it only puts people off. No one wants to know what’s going on in the world and they certainly don’t want to know your theories on make up and feminism.”

“You should so get your own YouTube channel!” I laughed. “I dare you to let me film you, if it didn’t get back to Lacey-Jade that is.”

She rolled her eyes. “I don’t care if it gets back to her; she’s an empty headed chav. If she doesn’t want people to do impressions of her she shouldn’t be such a loser.”

She had a point. Saffron didn’t think too much about people’s feelings. She was rather like Lacey-Jade in that way.

I cocked my head towards my path. “You coming in?”

She looked at the red and charcoal paving that led up to my Wisteria covered porch. “Not tonight. I’m starting my revision program now. You heard what Mrs Jessop said this morning; we’ve got less than a month before the exams start.”

“I don’t think she meant study every night from now onwards. We’ve still got a few weeks to go. And you won’t have an exam every day even when they do start. I’m not starting until the half term at least.

“Then you’re an idiot,” Saffron snapped. “And you’ll miss out on the grades you could have got. Its one month in the whole of our lives. Surely we can go a month without hanging out together at your house every single evening.”

“Oh come on! You of all people don’t need to worry.” I said trying not to imagine how bored I’d be without my best friend. Saffron wasn’t my only friend, but she was the only one who came round my house, the only one I regularly met up with outside of school.

“Why don’t you revise with me?” she suggested.

“Nah, you’re all right. I have my article to write anyway.”

The next month was going to be the longest of my life. I flew in the door and up the stairs my feet sinking into the deep pile of the chequered carpet. That carpet had been my grandmothers’. She’d had it taken up and passed it over to us after my dad joked it was like living on a district line tube train. I had two hours before my mum was due to finish work. It was going to be a long two hours. I grabbed my laptop and carried it downstairs. It was fine for Saffron; she had her mum and Boo-Bear at home all day every day. I didn’t have anyone.

I typed ‘Twenty Shades of Beige’ into Google to find the search engine immediately added ‘review’ as a suggestion. I clicked it flicking through the results to find blog post after blog post describing the long awaited palette along with plenty of YouTube clips. I took the much coveted eye shadow tin from my drawer and opened it up. Saffron was right; the difference in shades was negligible. Why were so many people desperate to get their hands on it? They were prepared to spend £50 for the privilege too. I stuck my finger into one of the powders and rubbed it on the back of my hand. It was beige. That was all, nothing special. If I was going to find enough words for an article I was going to have to borrow quotes from others. I clicked on the first YouTube video.

The woman in the clip couldn’t be much older than I was, and she definitely wasn’t older than Cherry. She looked into the camera with pleading doll eyes.

“Hello!” She simpered. “I’m the luckiest person alive right now. That’s right; I got myself Twenty Shades of Beige!” She gave a little scream.

I huffed. Of course she was the luckiest woman alive, that wasn’t over dramatic at all was it? She hadn’t won the Nobel Prize for literature, she hadn’t been voted in as prime minister. Oh no, the luckiest woman alive had spent fifty pounds on an eye shadow palette. Everything about her was so American. She was like a concentrated version of Cherry. I instantly hated her; she could have been one of a long line of dad’s girlfriends. Maybe that’s why I hated Lacey-Jade so much; she looked like she should have been one of dad’s girlfriends. Well, that and she wouldn’t let me near the magazine. Oh who was I kidding, I didn’t hate her; she hated me.

I watched another review, and another. I still couldn’t understand why everyone was going crazy over this pencil case full of powder but I was starting to learn how to use it. To start with I’d need some brushes. I didn’t have any make up brushes, but I wondered if paint brushes would do.

I arranged the palette on my bed to take some photos. They didn’t work out too well, the metal case and mirrors reflected terribly and the eye shadows themselves were blurry. I sighed and flicked back to my Google search. One blogger had positioned the palette at such an angle the stripes of shadow looked like stairs. It was like art. I had to admit there was something pretty special about the way the shadows formed a spectrum. If I was going to impress Lacey-Jade I needed to make my photos as stunning as the ones on the blogs. To do that I needed a better backdrop than my ironic ‘Superman’ duvet cover.

*****

“Get the door Mum!” I heard Saffron yell. I looked at my watch giggling. Long scratches graced the front door to her house, splinters and wood oozing through the dishevelled paintwork. The Huntley-Morris’ cat mewed around my feet clearly proud of its paw craft. Saffron’s Mum opened the door a crack sticking her leg out. The cat mewed and leapt over it.

“Shitting thing,” she said rubbing her forehead. “What’s up Ruby? Aren’t you busy revising too?”

I peered up at the top of her head. “Is that a fork in your hair?”

She blushed pulling the offending object out of her high ponytail. Her hair cascaded down her face and into her eyes. She glared at the fork which was now slightly bent. “I was painting; didn’t have an elastic band.”

I giggled again and passed her the hair band from around my wrist. I always kept one there, just in case.

“Thanks,” she said wrinkling her nose. “Saffron!”

“You know me, forever organised.” I said.

“What?!”  Saffron cried down the stairs.

“Saffron its ok it’s me!” I called. I turned to her Mum, “Actually I wanted to ask you a favour.”

Saffron thundered down the bare wooden stairs her sighs louder than her heavy footsteps.

Her Mum raised an eyebrow, “Me?”

I started to explain but Saffron interrupted. “I told you I’m revising. I’ve not even been home an hour yet and you’re already here bothering me.”

“I came to see your Mum actually,” I said my eyes narrowing. Did she really think she was that important? We weren’t joined at the hip or anything. I had other friends.

Saffron rolled her eyes and stomped back upstairs without saying goodbye. I was left staring after her with my mouth open.

“Don’t mind her,” Mrs Huntley-Morris said. “She’s been giving me the same treatment all day. Honestly, I’ll be gladder than she is when these stupid exams are over. I don’t even know why she’s worrying. Look at me, I didn’t get any qualifications.”

I winced. That’s why Saffron was trying so hard. She didn’t want to end up like her mum, two children and a string of failed relationships behind her. Still, who cared why she was so stroppy, I was still smarting from my dressing down. Which reminded me why I’d come round in the first place.

“Can I borrow your dressing gown?”

Mrs Huntley-Morris screwed her face up and looked at the ceiling, “pourquoi?”

She meant why. It was a good job Saffron didn’t hear. She’d have corrected her poor French.

“I want to take some photographs for a magazine article,” I explained. “I need an interesting backdrop and thought the fluffy pink leopard print would be perfect.”

She laughed and went to fetch it. I followed her into the sitting room to see Boo-Bear sitting on the outstretched dressing gown along with an array of cuddly toys and cups and saucers. She lifted a corner causing Boo-Bear to leap up and the toys to scatter. She flicked it a few times spraying crumbs and debris onto the threadbare carpet then handed it to me.

“Thanks. You don’t have any brushes I could borrow too do you?”

Her hand flew to her hair as though she usually found paintbrushes holding it in place. “What kind?”

To be fair she probably did usually keep her hair up with paintbrushes.

I folded the dressing gown neatly, “Something I can use as a make-up brush.”

“Come with me,” she said. “I have just the thing for you.”

I followed her into the kitchen where she pulled out a drawer and started rummaging. Frowning she shut it again and opened another. She pulled a pencil tin out from amongst the ancient body and face paints.

“There you go,” she said handing it over.

I snapped it open to find a collection of dusty make-up brushes. Many had the remnants of bright colours still attached to their bristles but apart from the filth they were just what I needed.

I grinned. “Oh my god you’re amazing, thank you!”

An hour and a half later I’d finally got the hang of applying the eye shadow properly. I squinted at my face in the mirror. Cherry was right, the similarity in the colours really did mean you could contour perfectly. I’d been sure to explain contouring perfectly in my review for the magazine, explaining the importance of using make up to reshape your face. Now I knew dark colours made an area retract and light colours made it stand out.

 With my new eye shadow I looked like a different person; maybe this was why women wore make up.  I could see how changing the shape of your face could be addictive. It was also a lot of fun, almost like a piece of art. This was my first experience of flattering, features enhancing make-up. My Mum never wore it, Saffron’s Mum wore experimental make up; one day she painted her face as a geisha, another she created leopard print behind her eyes. Dad’s endless stream of girlfriends wore lots but I never knew them well enough to see their faces without cosmetics. The girls at school wore make-up but it never looked right. In fact Saffron’s Mum’s geisha looked less fake than some of their attempts.

Blowing a kiss to my newly enhanced eyes I put the mirror down and flipped my laptop open. I cropped the pictures I’d taken and dropped them into the Word document to complete the article I’d worked so hard to write. I’d started with my thoughts on the palette itself, quoting from some of the blogs I’d found. Then I’d written a tutorial explaining how to shade your eyes and blend the colours together and explaining the reason for the two palettes, one warm and one cool. The warm made my eyes look bright green whilst the cool dulled them into an icier shade and made the skin around them look pinker than usual.

With sweating palms and a beating heart I proof read the article. This was it; my chance to write for the school magazine. I’d never get another. I hoped it was good enough to impress Lacey-Jade. As I attached it to the email and hit the send button I knew this could either make or break me. If I could get an article in the school magazine I’d have a publication record and more chance of being published elsewhere. I hoped my work was good enough. More importantly, I hoped Lacey-Jade was going to be in a good mood when she read it over.



© 2014 Amelia Birch


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Added on August 11, 2014
Last Updated on August 11, 2014
Tags: teen, young adult, crossover, make-up, make up, cosmetics, facebook, youtube, blogger, beauty, vlogger, coming of age, parent


Author

Amelia Birch
Amelia Birch

London, London, United Kingdom



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