Sunburn Summer

2018-05-11 15.13.13

The house wasn’t the same to her any more after the neighbors painted it a rather loud shade of blue.  It had been a quiet shade of gray throughout her childhood years so it was rather a shock to pull her car in front of her parents house and see the house across the street painted so boldly. Mr McGarish had held on for a few years after his wife died, but he finally went too and the house was sold to a young couple with three little kids. They painted the house tropical blue, set up a swing set in the side yard, and toys were scattered across the front frazzled lawn.

She gave a half hearted wave to a toddler on a tricycle on the driveway across the street and went in the front door, pulling off her coat.

“Ma, I’m here,” she called.

“We’re in the living room, Jana,” her mother called back. “We have a surprise for you.”

This should be interesting, she thought. Her mom’s surprises were legendary, part of family folklore discussed over the turkey every Thanksgiving. One summer she’d announced that she was going to wear the same color from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Red, she’d said…it’s a festive summer color.  And she had, from red shorts to red sundresses. Every single day. The family called it The Sunburn Summer. Another time she decided to surprise the family with a trip to the local undertaker, where she showed them the casket she had picked out for herself. It was a rather awkward excursion, with her younger brother Roger, who was only 7 at the time, bawling in the station wagon all the way home.  But the surprise that was the BIG surprise, the one they always brought up, with plenty of giggles, was the time their mother decided to surprise the whole family with a new pet. A very peculiar pet. A pet skunk. To give her credit, it had been de-scented, so there wasn’t a chance of being sprayed, but neighbors and family members gave their house a wide berth until the pet skunk had been donated to the local zoo. Roger cried about that too, as he’d gotten very attached to the skunk in the few weeks it had lived in their house.

Her mom and the neighbor lady from across the street were sitting in the living room together, with piles of small boxes around them.

“You remember Trina, don’t you honey?” her mom said. Trina waved hello.

“Why yes, of course,” she said. “How are you Trina?”

“Just snazzy,” Trina said, and both Trina and her mom laughed. Her mom seemed to be in a very good mood. She was wearing cheerful clothing and as she looked closer, she could see that her mom was wearing quite a bit of makeup, with swoops of color above her eyes and flirty blush.

“I’ve asked Trina to give you a makeup master workshop,” her mom said. “She gave me one and it’s done me a world of good! It makes me smile to look in the mirror!”

“oh…I don’t know….” Jana said. Her face felt flushed. Why was this necessary? She wore little makeup and liked it that way. It went well with her classic understated wardrobe.

Trina picked up two of the small boxes and motioned her to sit on an empty chair next to her.

“You’ll like this, I promise,” Trina said, and giggled. “Trust me. It’s going to be fun.”

It was pointless to fight against her mother’s glee. She knew this by now. She sat in the chair and attempted a grin.

“Do your damage,” she said.

Trina flinched slightly. “I don’t think damage is the right word….we’re just going to enhance your already beautiful face.”

Trina opened up several of the makeup boxes and with a flurry of brushes, and much cooing under her breath, she went to work. It was enjoyable feeling the feathery touch of the brushes here and there, and Jana smiled, her eyes shut.

She could hear her mother’s words of encouragement as she sat there with her eyes shut, but they seemed so far away. She was floating, light as a breeze, the brushes caressing her skin, the world seemed so bright and warm.

“All done,” Trina crowed. “You are going to be thrilled!  You are stunning!”

Jana opened her eyes and looked at her mom, beaming at her. She looked into the hand mirror Trina held out to her. Her face had dramatic streaks across the eyelids and a swish of bold pink up each cheekbone. She didn’t know what to say. She looked like a clown, she thought. She didn’t want to hurt their feelings. She didn’t know what to do.

She closed her eyes.

“Honey?” her mom said, her voice quivering.

She made a choice. She opened her eyes and looked into the mirror again. She saw a beautiful woman look back at her, eyes gleaming.

“So lovely,” she said. “Thank you Trina.”

Trina sat back in her chair with a thump. “Ooof, you scared me there for a moment.”

Her mom clapped her hands together. “I knew you would like it! I just knew!”

Jana laughed. The three of them settled into an afternoon of coffee, homemade cookies and friendly chat. Jana went into the kitchen to refill her coffee mug and glanced out the window at the house across the street.

What a gorgeous color, she thought.

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