Howard looked at her, wide-eyed. He pointed to the door.
“I ain’t going nowhere, Howard. Your daddy don’t scare me.” She gathered up glasses and plates and set them in the kitchen sink, humming a little as she did so to steady her nerves. When she saw Daddy Sheriff standing in the hallway, she startled. “Well, speak of the devil. Where you headed with that big ole’ suitcase?”
“I’m going hunting.”
She looked at the oversized suitcase, the zipper gasping and straining. “How many articles of clothing does a man require to go romping through the woods after helpless animals?” And where were his guns, anyway?
“Don’t expect me for some time.” The door slammed.
“Enjoy yourself, asshole.” Lilly Jean returned to the kitchen and ran water in the sink.
Howard switched off the television set and got the vacuum from the closet. Lilly Jean smiled. “Why thank you, Howard. I wish I’d met you before I met your daddy. Lord knows, you’re more considerate of other people’s emotionals.”
And then, since it was dark and since Daddy Sheriff wouldn’t be looking for dinner, Lilly Jean went to bed.
She woke refreshed and felt oddly pleased with herself. She found, without Daddy Sheriff beside her, that she’d slept well. She washed her hair then deep conditioned it. She shaved and exfoliated and moisturized. She wrapped a towel around herself and sat at her vanity. She opened her makeup bag and looked in the mirror. She spoke to her reflection. “Why are you doing this, Lilly Jean Jacobs?”
Her reflection gazed back passively.
She thought back to Mrs. Murphy’s classroom. She must have been a sixth grader then. She counted back the years. Her daddy had moved them to Memphis that year. He became a musician. Lilly Jean became one of them latchkey kids.
In latchkey she fell in love.
She tried everything to get Bobby’s attention: She helped him with his homework. He wasn’t impressed. She laughed at his stupid jokes. He smiled at her in the hallway. She curled her hair. He brushed her hand against hers. She moisturized and painted her nails and bought all manner of cosmetics. He asked her on a date.
They agreed to go steady.
Two weeks later, he dumped her to pursue a more popular, prettier girl.
The following morning, Lilly Jean went to school dressed to kill.
All the boys noticed.
She’d thought at the time she enjoyed it.
“What a waste,” she told her reflection. “Men just ain’t worth it.” And she imagined her sixth grade self nodding back in agreement.
“I suppose mistakes are building blocks.” She laughed then and her reflection laughed, too. “Hell, with all my mistakes, I got a whole construction company of my own.”
Lilly Jean studied herself. “Why do you paint all this shit on your face every morning? For some dumb-assed man? They all end up screwing you over, Lilly Jean. They either find someone with bigger boobs or a perkier caboose. Or someone just a shade younger or prettier or smarter. All this makeup, Lilly Jean? It’s like putting gravy on one of Spank’s shoe-leather pork chops. You can’t disguise what’s underneath.”
Her reflection grinned.
Lilly Jean put the makeup bag aside. She stood. And for the first time in years, Lilly Jean went to meet the world without a speck of makeup on.
This was writen in response to Story Dam’s prompt.