The Princess and the Basket Case
Allison's face was still damp and pink from the thorough scrubbing Claire had commanded; her hair was tucked back in one of Claire's favorite headbands, a white one with a flower on top. It looked good, Claire thought: Madonna, but not too Madonna. Now, for the next step.
"You have to have some makeup," she said. "You have everything else in here. I mean, seriously. You have a TV Guide from 1982 in here."
"I liked some of the pictures." Allison shrugged.
An actual explanation, Claire thought. Sure, it was demented and weird, but it was sort of like normal human conversion. For Allison, that represented progress.
The contents of Allison's enormous bag had been dumped out on the floor of one of the private study rooms; Claire wrinkled her nose as she realized that everything seemed to be covered in some kind of sticky lint, some strange mixture of hair gel and dust and hair and face powder and Pixie-Stix sugar. It all smelled like lime, which would either be the gel or the Pixie-Stix. She used her fingernails to push everything around, so she wouldn't have to get her hands gunked up until the last possible second. As the pens and marbles and hair clips rattled against the table legs, Allison flinched.
Tampons. Oversized plastic paperclips in neon colors. A keychain in the shape of some state, one of the boring ones. Claire flicked each aside. "Did you actually pay money for all this crap?"
"I stole it," Allison said, with relish. "I stole everything. I steal all the time."
"I'm SO sure."
"You don't think I'd steal?" Allison's chin lifted.
Claire could have brought up the whole compulsive-liar confession from earlier, but it seemed mean. "I think you'd steal better stuff than this."
Allison laughed, mouth open, like a little kid, and Claire had to smile too.
After more searching, Claire found some makeup in Allison's bag, but it was all useless, a total loss. Every lipstick was a bizarro color, purple or orange, bright just like crayons in the box. Claire perked up when she found the Estee Lauder blush, but the compact was almost empty, with just a faint rim of peachy powder left around the edges. And the mascara was bright green, which was so last year. "That's it. We're using my makeup."
"Why wouldn't we use your makeup to start with?"
"You can get diseases that way. Like, eczema and stuff."
Allison shrank back from the bottle of foundation. "You have eczema?"
"No." Claire made a face. "Do you?"
"No," Allison replied, and Claire hoped that this was not another one of the lies. "So we can't catch it."
"I don't know. I think maybe bacteria just gets in the sponges or something." Despite this, she began smoothing the foundation across Allison's skin -- which was really good, clear and soft. And she probably didn't use anything, not even moisturizer, which was so unfair.
Confidently, Allison said, "You can't catch eczema unless you catch it from someone. Eczema doesn't just arrive out of nowhere."
"Somebody has to catch it in the first place," Claire reasoned as she took the cap off her eyeliner pencil. When she brought the tip up to Allison's eyelid, though, Allison flinched. "Don't be afraid."
"Don't stick that in my eye!"
"I'm not sticking it, just close --" How could she not even know how to hold her face to put on makeup? Claire made the right expression herself. "Just go like that."
Allison, for once, did exactly what she was supposed to do, and finally Claire could work.
"Good," she said, and as she began brushing gently again, Allison squealed with delight.
She's pretty when she's happy, Claire thought. When you can see her face. "You know, you really do look a lot better without all that black shit on your eyes."
"Hey. I like that black shit."
Claire decided not to ask why. "This looks a lot better. Look up."
Allison looked up, which let Claire get started on the mascara. Next came the eyeshadow. "I hope this looks right. I'm a Spring, and you're a Winter, so I don't know."
"What do you mean, winter?"
The fawn-colored eyeshadow did look okay, Claire decided. Maybe a little gray in the crease would be a good idea. "There's this whole book about how everybody has a season, and it tells you all your colors. It's really great." She started to offer to loan "Color Me Beautiful" to Allison, but that would mean agreeing to speak to Allison at least twice after today (the loaning, then the getting back, assuming she would ever get it back, which didn't seem like a sure thing at all), and Claire still wasn't clear on whether or not they'd decided to acknowledge each other on Monday.
Then she thought -- You know, screw it. "You can borrow it, if you want. I'll bring it in on Monday."
Instead of a yes or no, Allison just gave Claire a wide-eyed stare, and an opportunity to brush out her eyebrows. Allison had totally great eyebrows, too. "Please -- why are you being so nice to me?"
Claire couldn't stop herself from giggling. "Because you're letting me."
Allison hugged herself, as though the answer had made her really happy.
"So what pictures did you like in this TV Guide?" Claire nudged it with her toe; the creased, faded face of George Jefferson smiled back at her. "You couldn't ever go anywhere without it? Those have to be some great pictures."
"You can't make fun of me," Allison demanding, ducking her head and nearly ruining the lipliner. "You have to promise."
"I totally promise. Not like Bender. I mean it."
"You know Diana? On 'Falcon Crest'? They had some pictures of her. I love her. Linda, too."
No way. Allison watched soaps? Claire started to laugh at her, but then she remembered her promise. Instead, she made a face; Allison copied it obediently. "No, no. That's not what I -- look, just keep your mouth still. Normal. Like, not smiling." When Allison's lips were straight again, Claire resumed lining them. "Good thing you didn't say that in front of Bender. He'd say you were a lesbo."
As soon as the liner left her mouth, Allison said, "Maybe I am a lesbo."
"Stop it. You are not."
"How do you know? I told you, anything sexual, I'll do it. That means girls too."
"Yeah, yeah. Just like you're doing it with your psychiatrist." Claire brought up lipstick and wondered whether to apply it from the tube or use a brush. Eczema has to come from somewhere, she reminded herself, going for the brush. "Do you even have a psychiatrist?"
"Not everything is a lie. Just some things."
Claire made a kissy face at Allison, who hesitated, then puckered. The lipstick was a soft, pearly pink; it actually looked better on Allison than it did on her. Maybe she should just give it to her, which would take care of the whole eczema thing, too. "You haven't done it with any girls."
"No," Allison admitted. "But I would. Or -- or -- I'd kiss a girl, at least."
"Would too." Allison cocked her head and put her hands on Claire's shoulders, and Claire didn't even have time to wonder what she was going to do, before OhmygodAllisoniskissingme.
Claire closed her eyes, just on autopilot, just because she didn't know what else to do. Weird -- she'd worn that lipstick for months, and she'd never really noticed that it tasted like pink lemonade.
Weirder -- she ought to be totally freaking out, but she wasn't. Even though Andrew and Brian were right there in the next room, and for all Claire knew, they could be watching.
Weirdest -- the kiss wasn't gross. It wasn't different. It was only a kiss. It was -- nice, kinda.
Allison leaned back, staring at Claire wide-eyed. Claire stared back.
"Told you," Allison said.
"Okay." They sat there in silence for another few seconds. Should she think of something else to say? Probably a bad idea.
Finally, Allison reached toward Claire. Just at the moment Claire might have panicked, Allison took the compact from her and held it up, staring at her face in the mirror. "This doesn't look like me."
"It's your face."
"You look pretty," Claire insisted. "Can you remember to do this yourself? All the stuff that I did?"
"Maybe. I don't know."
Claire began putting her makeup back in her purse. "You better. Monday morning, I'm gonna check you out." Allison laughed. What does she think I meant? Claire wondered. What did I mean? "Go back into the library. Let the guys get a look at you. You are going to totally blow them away."
Allison looked shy again for a moment. "Really?"
It was probably safe to be honest. "Really."
After scooping up all her junk and dumping it back into her bag, Allison headed out into the library to blow Andrew and Brian away. Claire remained sitting on the floor for a few seconds, staring at her own reflection in the mirror. It looked like she'd just reapplied her lipstick. Maybe it would be a good idea to find Bender. Bender was a guy. Bender was all guy. She ought to kiss Bender, just to be sure.
Claire sighed as she got to her feet. Monday morning was going to be SO weird.
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