fourteen

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Between the army fatigues and the homemade oatmeal and avocado mask, Zoe looked ready to hit the trenches. I snickered.

"Shut up, Ariana!" she said, tossing a wet washcloth at me. "You're next."

Nora called from inside the bathroom. "Hurry up! This stuff is drying out."

I stepped into the cluttered bathroom and eyed the bowl of gook on the counter. "Yum, what's for dessert?"

Nora reached into her pink beach bag and brought out a box of hair dye. "Blonde ombre. Perfect for your complexion."

"No way!" I said. When Zoe opened her mouth to laugh, hardened flecks of goop plopped onto the tile floor.

Nora tossed me the box. "Relax, Ariana. Change never killed anyone."

"You guys are ganging up on me," I moped. But secretly I loved it. I'd done my time alone; having friends was a great improvement. They could dye my hair green if they wanted to.

Zoe took the box from me and flipped it over to inspect the shade chart. "It won't look quite as bright as the babe on the front."

I looked in the mirror. My hair was the color of a cardboard box. A little brightening might do me good.

"I'll give you a haircut," Zoe said. "I cut my mom's hair all the time."

Nora poured a smelly liquid into a bottle of thick cream. She covered the opening with her thumb and shook it like a castanet.

I made a face. "You sure it won't make my hair fall out?"

"In thirty minutes, you'll have gorgeous ombre curls." She peeled the gloves off the instruction sheet and put them on, then applied the gel to my hair. After she combed it through, she gathered the gooey mess on top of my head, securing it with a clip.

I frowned at my reflection. "Ah, the Marge Simpson look."

Twenty minutes later, I watched the stream of dye swirl down the drain. When I stepped out of the shower, wavy blonde strands clung to my cheeks.

Zoe reached for the scissors. "I'm thinking Hollywood-style." She nodded toward the Cosmopolitan on the back of the toilet. I glanced at the model on the cover.

"Anything looks good on a perfect face attached to a six-foot, hundred-and-twenty-pound body," I said.

"Jeez, Ariana, don't you look in the mirror?" Zoe asked.

"All the time, but usually I regret it."

Zoe groaned. "Clueless."

"Why, what's wrong?" I leaned around Nora to take a peek. No food in my teeth.

"Nothing," Zoe said. "You're not bad-looking, that's all."

"Likewise," I told her. The look on her face said she didn't believe me.

"Blonde ombre brings out your eyes, Ariana," Nora said, blinking. She was having a hard time getting used to her new contact lenses.

Now that I was getting a makeover myself, I took stock of how much Nora had changed recently. Not only were her glasses gone, she'd started wearing makeup. Smoky gray eyeliner, and mascara, too.

"So what did your mother do when you said you weren't going to Barrymore?" Nora asked.

I shrugged. "She told me to keep up with my private lessons, just in case." I hadn't told them that I'd blown off the last three. I couldn't bring myself to tell anyone for some reason.

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