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Narcissa's skin was orange.

Bathroom lighting tended to produce that baked-beige effect on white girls. She couldn't do anything about it, though, so she ran a brush through her limp brown hair and tried to make herself somewhat presentable. She grimaced at the sight. No matter how much product she used, her hair always returned to its dull, flat state.

"Cissy!" she heard her mother shout. "You'll be late for school!"

Narcissa set the brush down with a sigh.


"I'm coming!"

Narcissa heard her mother grumble, "Well, I didn't know if you heard me or not," which was followed shortly thereafter by the sound of the front door closing.

After throwing on a trusty black hoodie, Narcissa grabbed her backpack and headed out. Her mother worked at the middle school located next to her high school, so thankfully, she never had to take the bus.

"Got everything?" 

Narcissa locked her seatbelt. "Always."

Their schools weren't far. The town was too small to have to worry about traffic and because they spent so much time together at home, the car ride was usually filled with music rather than conversation. Today was different.

"Mrs. Lee mentioned getting some new inventory in last week." Her mother looked sideways and raised a brow. "Want to check it out after school?"

There were three antique stores – the standard number for a small town with nothing else to offer – but Mrs. Lee managed to bring in the best stuff.

Narcissa perked up at the idea. "Can I get a vanity?"

"What's wrong with the bathroom?"

Narcissa stared out the window. She could see her reflection in the side mirror. "The lighting."

There was silence, and then Narcissa felt her mother swipe a finger along her jaw. Her mother's sarcastic, "Is that why you have a line of foundation separating your face from your neck?" had Narcissa flipping open the passenger mirror at lightning speed.

"What–? Rats!"

There was a line of makeup. Narcissa had applied too much to her face. On closer examination, she noticed that there were splotches of extra foundation on her cheeks and forehead as well. She rushed to blend it with her finger as her mother pulled up to the high school.

"Four-thirty?" her mother asked.

Narcissa popped the door open and grabbed the strap of her backpack. Ivory makeup smeared over the cheaply made black fabric. "We always meet at four-thirty on Wednesdays."

"Not when you get detention."

"Once!" Narcissa ducked her head under the roof of the car to see her mother's amused expression. Before she closed the door, she added, "And it was last year!"

The interior of Woodrock High was awash in blues and whites. It made the school feel prison-like and lifeless. In the hallway just beyond the entry foyer was a half-wall of glass displays. Inside were photos of clubs and sports teams, all filled with smiling faces of former members and current students. A row of sparkling brass trophies blocked some of them from view.

Robert Hughes – or Bobby, as he preferred – smiled out of several photographs. He had brown eyes and wavy chestnut hair that tended to gain lighter streaks during the summer. A trained swimmer since elementary, he had the body of an Olympic competitor at seventeen. Not even the fact that he shaved off all his body hair expressly for swimming could diminish his heartthrob status. He was nice to everyone, too. Eating lunch with the special needs students, joking with the teachers, picking up the cigarette butts that littered the ground outside because he didn't want the janitor to have to do it – Bobby Hughes was nice, but distant.

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