March 14, 2012 by The Citron Review
by Bryan Shawn Wang
Defiant, Gracie informs me that her friends are allowed to put it on.
I ask her which friends, but she shuts her mouth and shakes her head, already keeping secrets from her mother.
In school, she sits beside a girl named Roxy, who once got in trouble for wearing high heels on gym day. A first grader in high heels.
How come you get to use makeup, Gracie asks, and I don’t?
You’re too young for makeup, I tell her. You don’t need makeup to look pretty. It shouldn’t matter to anyone whether you’re pretty or not.
I don’t care about the contradictions.
Did you get the lip gloss from Roxy? I ask.
At the beginning of the year, Roxy’s mother showed up at Meet the Teacher Night in a pair of tight jeans and a fishnet top with nothing but a bra underneath. Earrings huge and shiny like Christmas ornaments, as if there were presents somewhere down below just waiting to be unwrapped. The moms all had something to say about her afterward. The dads probably did, too, but when I asked him, Bill just said, Which one is Roxy again?
Gracie’s still not answering. My mother would have slapped me for that. Smack the sass right out of you, Missy. Back then, everyone understood prim and proper.
I tell Gracie that just because Roxy does something doesn’t mean she should do it, too. In fact, if Roxy does something, she should probably do the opposite.
A couple of weeks ago, after Gracie begged and begged, we had Roxy over for a play date. It was a Saturday morning. I had grocery shopping, the craft store, a million things to do, and so I asked my husband to watch the girls. Make sure they play nicely together, I told Bill. Make sure Roxy doesn’t teach Gracie any bad words.
It’s only lip gloss, Gracie says.
I look at the little pink tube in her hands, the stuff smeared around her mouth. What is makeup, if not a deception? With a Kleenex, I manage to wipe most of it off her lips.
When I came home from my running around that morning, I found her car already in the driveway, blocking my side of the garage. She drove some kind of convertible, and the top was down. I hurried around to the back of the house. I don’t even know why I was hurrying, maybe because the groceries were so heavy. The handles of the plastic bags cut into my fingers.
They were on the patio, Bill near the steps, Roxy’s mother beside the grill. The way they stood reminded me of a diorama in a museum—artificial and posed, the distance between them not quite right. They were just standing there. They must have heard me coming. The girls were playing inside all by themselves.
Give it to me, I say. I snap and hold my hand out toward Gracie. When she doesn’t move, I say it louder. Give it to me. Or do you want to act like a slut, too?
I don’t take it back, that ugly word. I don’t apologize. I want the lip gloss. I want my daughter back.
I hate you, Gracie says. She flings the tube at me. I really hate you, Mommy.
Bryan Shawn Wang lives with his wife and children in a small town outside a small city in Pennsylvania. His work has recently appeared in places like decomP magazinE, Prick of the Spindle, LITnIMAGE, Prime Number Magazine, and Solstice and has been shortlisted for the storySouth Million Writers Award.