See the Pretty Girl...
by Andrea Lena DiMaggio
Somewhere in a big city, Summer, 1981…
The girl leaned forward against the sink counter. The room was softly lit other than the glass-shaded lamps that illuminated the mirror; providing the room with a soft ambiance. She blew out a breath; frustrated and nervous. The overhead Muzak almost whispered irony….
I feel charming,
Oh, so charming
It's alarming how charming I feel!
And so pretty
That I hardly can believe I'm real.
She put the cap back on her lipstick and placed it in the makeup bag on the counter. As she blotted her lips on a Kleenex, she sighed as melancholia swept her back to when she was little and the only student in her mother’s ‘This is what being a girl is like’ class. Try as she might, every time she recalled the precious moments she and her mother shared, it brought her to tears; albeit easier to bear as time moved forward. She took another Kleenex and dabbed her eyes. Never one for much eye makeup, she avoided any real disaster since her tears almost always fell between applying lipstick and doing her eyes.
In a few moments, she was satisfied with the results and nodded in self-approval. And a moment after that, she sighed once again; a shameful blush warmed her cheeks. As if her self-urged guilt wasn’t enough, things got worse.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know anyone was in here,” she heard from behind; a familiar if daunting voice sent a shiver up her back. She turned slowly to face her co-worker.
“J…J…oh….” The woman remarked, her own nervousness halting her words. She nodded slowly and smiled a half-grin; more evidence of the awkwardness for them both.
“You’re on a story?”
“Y…Yes,” the girl lied, but she quickly corrected herself.
“N…no….I’mmm…. You won’t tell her, will you?” She stammered.
“Oh…no…of course not.” The woman stepped closer, causing her to step backward into the sink. She dropped her mascara on the floor and the tube shattered on the tile.
“Honey…it’s okay…I sort of figured…”
“Wha…what?” The girl stammered again.
“Well….You’re obviously very good at …this…” The woman used her hand in a gesture at the girl’s body. She winced at the candor.
“I sort of guessed that too. She and I…well, you know, we talk all the time. She said you’ve been very distant lately….not yourself. She was worried that you weren’t…that you might be sick.”
“I am sick…” the girl covered her face with her hand.
“Oh no, honey. We’re adults here…this is the twentieth century. And it’s not like Lucy’s never seen you like this.”
“You’re afraid that she won’t understand, right? I think you’re selling her and yourself short, sweetie.” The girl cringed at the endearment; her friend was never one for affectionate terms outside, but she could be very kind in more personal settings.
“Here, come…” Before the girl could react, her friend pulled her close for a quick hug. In a moment she was spun around and facing the mirror once again.
“I bet if you give her a chance, she’ll surprise you. I promise. And you’ll probably surprise yourself.”
“I….I need to …” the girl’s eyes pled with her friend.
“You don’t need to tell me for my sake, honey, but I’m sure you need to for yours?” She smiled and the girl nodded nervously.
“Since I was little….I always wanted to be like my mom….oh it’s not like …. It’s hard to explain.”
“You felt close enough to your mother to be like her… just not just like her, right? This…” Her friend used her hand in gesture again and the girl shrugged.
“It’s part of you, but not you?” The girl nodded nervously at the words as tears spilled onto the counter.
“Oh, Jimmy, honey. It’s okay….please.” Her friend pulled her into another hug, but this one included a very rare kiss on the cheek and continued pats on the girl’s back.
“Everybody….if they find out…. I don’t think I could bear it….especially him.”
“Oh, if anyone would accept you? He’s your best friend, right?” The girl nodded once again after hesitating.
“And you know Lucy cares, right? I think more than just that, but that’s just me, I guess.”
“What about this?” The girl gazed down at her body. The lamplight sparkled off the Mint Green sequins of her dress. It might have seemed odd, considering her usual ‘garb’ consisted more of knee-length skirts and jersey tops with an occasional foray into mini-skirts.
“It’s a step up from your work clothes? Going someplace special?”
“Y…yes….I…there’s a place down on fifty-first and Maple….”
“It’s not like that….I just….I feel like I fit in…” Her friend nodded and smiled.
“Well….I’m free for the evening, Jimmy. Want some company?”
“You’d do that for me?”
“Sure…and we can spin this into a story if anyone asks.” The woman winked and glanced at the door.
“Just tell your friends that I’m your girlfriend and it’ll be okay.”
“You sure about this?” The girl tilted her head and her friend nodded.
“Oh…okay….would you….” She stammered as she reached into a B Altman bag, pulling out a Jade-colored satin cheomsang.
“Oh, this is a dream, sweetie. And we’re the same size….mostly. She gazed at the girl’s breasts.
“Oh…..” Her face reddened but she laughed softly. She reached under the bosom of her dress and pulled out some bunched up nylons.
“Okay?” She said anxiously but stopped in mid-sentence as her friend began to strip down to her lingerie. The woman took note of her embarrassment, but rather than stop she smiled broadly.
“Geez, Jimmy. It’s okay. After all, we’re both girls, right?” She laughed softly as the girl handed her the cheomsang. A few moments later the two were ready for the evening.
“And tell you what? If you like, I can loan this dress to Lucy?” The girl nodded slowly, hoping desperately that her friend knew just how her sister would react. She pulled the woman into another awkward hug which evoked another kiss on the cheek and comforting words.
“Now, honey…no more tears, okay?”
“Then let’s go paint the town….green, shall we, Ms. Olsen?” The girl eyed the door once again and took a deep breath before replying.
“Okay, Ms. Lane.”
“Please, Jimmy, sweetie? Call me Lois….”
I Feel Pretty
From the musical, West Side Story
Music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
as performed by Hayley Westenra
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