Maybelline had just accepted a glass of champagne when someone grabbed her arm and spun her around. She looked up to see her cousin Ben glaring down at her. She should have known she’d get caught. This was Aberdeen, after all. Gossip traveled faster than the speed of light in this town. She just didn’t expect to be caught this quickly.
“Hand it over,” Ben said in a deceptively mild voice.
Maybelline knew it was deceptive because there was a tick in Ben’s cheek and everyone knew that wasn’t a good sign. Oh, he was mad alright. But Maybelline didn’t care. She was a woman slighted and that was far worse than any man’s puny anger.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about . . .”
The muscle flexed in Ben’s cheek. “The gun, Maybelline.”
He looked mad enough to arrest her. Maybelline didn’t think he would. He was her cousin after all. But she didn’t want to take any chances either. Maybelline dropped her hands to her hips and glared at Ben. “I don’t have a gun!”
Ben’s gaze swept downward to Maybelline’s hand. Dammit. She was incriminated by her own stupidity! Why hadn’t she tossed the gun in the car.
“Okay fine. You can have it! But I’ve got to say, you were a lot more fun as a cousin when you weren’t the police chief!” she snapped, slapping the gun into his outstretched palm. She gave him a disgruntled look. “I don’t know why you won’t let me keep it, though. I’m not going to go after John again.”
“I’m sure you won’t,” Ben replied, although he didn’t believe it. “But you might go after Jenny.”
A slow smile crossed Maybelline’s face. “You’re right. There’s nothing I’d like better than to tase her.”
“Do you think you stay out of trouble for the rest of the night or do I need to get you a police escort?”
Maybelline gasped once again. “I don’t need police escort!” A look of doubt crossed Ben’s face. Maybelline let out a sigh of disgust. “Fine. I’ll stay out of trouble. But that stupid Jenny Pickler better stay out of my way, Ben. I’m a woman on the edge . . .”
“I know, Maybelline,” Ben replied. “That’s why I’m keeping your gun.”
That had been exactly three days, ten hours and forty-two minutes ago. Since then, Maybelline had been left with a lot anger and a stupid salad gift card. Maybelline stared at the card. She hated salads! If she had her gun right now she’d shoot the card. Of course, it wouldn’t do anything to the card seeing it was only a taser, but it would give Maybelline plenty of satisfaction.
Maybelline picked up the distasteful card and tapped it on the table in thought. Jenny Pickler probably ate salads every day. It would explain why she looked slim in her turquoise turtleneck and black leggings on New Year’s Eve and why Maybelline had looked like a sausage wrapped in space age foil. Maybelline didn’t want to look like a sausage. She wanted to look slim and stylish like Jenny Pickler.
Getting up from the table, Maybelline walked into her bedroom and studied herself in the full length mirror. The image that stared back left a lot to be desired. Dark brown sweats and a mustard yellow top, Maybelline was as far from stylish as a person could get. Something caught her eye on the hem of her shirt. She grabbed it up to get a closer look.
“Catsup? When did I eat catsup?” Maybelline wondered.
Everything fell into place in that moment for Maybelline. Now she understood why John had purchased the gun and the gift card for Maybelline. It wasn’t so she could get fit for their wedding. It was because he didn’t like the way she looked. She couldn’t blame him. The image staring back at her wasn’t one she exactly liked either.
When had this happened? When had she gone from slim and trim to . . .to . . .
Maybelline couldn’t say the word. Disgusted, she was just about to change into her shirt when a knock sounded on the door. She peered through the peephole. It was April. Maybelline ripped the door open, grabbed hold of April’s arm and yanked her inside the apartment.
There she said it. A breath of relief rushed out of Maybelline. It was like being an alcoholic, she supposed. The hardest step was admitting she had a problem. Now it would get easier. Maybelline was certain of it.
“What?” April asked.
Maybelline frowned. Wasn’t it bad enough she had to admit it once. Now she had to admit it twice? Jeez! This wasn’t as easy as she thought. She gave April a good glare to let her know she didn’t appreciate her question.
“I said I’m fat!”
April stood back and looked at her. “I wouldn’t say fat . . .” April mused as she walked around Maybelline. “I’d call you ‘fluffy.’”
“Fluffy? That’s not better!” Maybelline snapped as she stormed into her bedroom. “Jenny’s not fat! She’s not even fluffy.”
“Well sure. But that’s Jenny,” April reasoned. “She’s got at least five inches on you and let’s face it, she’s not as curvy.”
Maybelline considered April’s argument. She had a point. At five two, it was pretty hard to stay slim and trim. And Maybelline did have a lot of curves. They just weren’t necessarily in the areas she would have liked them to be.
“Yeah, well that’s not the only difference between us,” Maybelline huffed. She threw her arms wide. “Look at what I’m wearing.”
April shrugged. “So, you’re wearing sweats. What’s the big deal. Everybody wears sweats now and then.”
“Oh really? Does everybody where sweats with this stuck on it?” Maybelline asked thrusting the hem of her sweatshirt in April’s face.
April’s brow wrinkled as she studied the spot. “Is that catsup?”
“Yes it’s catsup!” Maybelline snapped. “And what about this?”
Maybelline threw open her closet door and exposed a whole rack of sweats, hung neatly on hangers as if they were the finest apparel in the world. She started to rip out the clothing from her closet, itemizing them as she did so.
“Sweat pant, sweat shirt . . . another pair of sweat pants . . . more sweat shirts . . .”
She tossed each item on the bed. When she was finished, there was a pile of sweat pants and shirts taller than her head. She turned to April. “Now do you think it’s not bad?”
April looked at the pile of clothing. “Yeah . . . that’s bad.”
Maybelline flopped down on her bed in disgust. The pile of sweats tumbled over, burying her in a mound of cotton comfort.
“Hey, what about this?” April asked.
Maybelline sat up abruptly to see April holding up a gold sequined dress. Hope swelled inside Maybelline. She jumped off the bed and grabbed the dress out of April’s hands.
“That’s the outfit I wore to Janet’s wedding,” Maybelline cried out.
“What are you doing?” April asked when Maybelline started to take her shirt off.
“I’m going to try it on. If it fits, I’ll know I’m not fat.”
Maybelline put the dress over her head. The dress made it to the upper half of her body then stopped. With her arms stuck up in the air, Maybelline tried to wiggle the dress on down. It didn’t budge.
“Help me get this dress on!” Maybelline cried out.
April tugged on the dress. The dress inched down just far enough for Maybelline’s head to break free. Encouraged, April got down on her knees and pulled harder.
“Don’t rip it!” Maybelline warned.
“I’m trying not to . . .” April ground out as sweat broke out on her forehead and her face turned bright red. “But . . .its. . . not . . .moving . . .”
Maybelline sucked in a deep breath and began to wiggle in an effort to help. It was no use. The dress wasn’t going any further south.
“What the hell . . .!” Maybelline burst out when her lungs were about to explode.
They spent what seemed like forever trying to yank the dress off the other way. It wouldn’t budge. It was like the dress had become a second skin.
“Oh my God!” Maybelline cried out. “Am I going to be stuck in this dress forever?”
“Don’t worry. We’ll get you out,” April said.
It took another five minutes after that and a pair of scissors before Maybelline was finally free. She plopped down on the bed next to the ruined dress. She refused to let the tears flow.
“I bet Jenny Pickler never gets stuck in a dress,” Maybelline mumbled, despondent.
“That’s not really a fair comparison,” April said. “Jenny doesn’t have hips or breasts.”
That was true. Maybelline had all sorts of landmines that she had to navigate to get dressed. Still, there was no denying the fact that she let herself go and that’s all there was to it.
“That’s it! It’s official. I’m fat,” she said sitting up. She grabbed her sweat pants and sweat shirt and started to dress when a thought came to her. She looked up at April. “You know what? I think I’ll teach that stupid Jenny Pickler and John a lesson . . .”
“Really? How are you going to do that?” April asked.
Maybelline walked back into the kitchen with April following her. “With this . . .” She thrust out her hand and showed April her weapon of choice.
April looked at Maybelline in confusion. “With a salad card?”
“Yup. I’m turning a new leaf and not just a salad leaf,” Maybelline said as she fluffed her hair. “It’s a new year after all. That’s what you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to change and become better.”
“You mean like repurposing an ugly chair or a clunker car?”
Maybelline frowned. “I don’t exactly appreciate the analogy but yes, something like that.”
“So, what are you going to do? Eat salads every day?”
Maybelline nodded her head. “Yup. And that’s not all. I’m going to put those sweats to good use too.”
April’s glance swept over Maybelline’s old, stained sweats she was currently wearing. “Looks like you already have.”
“Not that way,” Maybelline replied. “I mean using them for the very reason they were made. I’m going to start exercising.”
That announcement certainly got the reaction Maybelline expected. April’s eyes widened and her mouth dropped open. “You are gonna exercise? Wasn’t your New Year’s resolution last year to not exercise”
Maybelline dropped her hands to her overly cushioned hips and glared at April. “That was last year!” Maybelline retorted. “People change you know. That’s the whole point of the new year. Remember? Repurposing. Besides, it’s not like I haven’t talked about exercising before.”
“I’ve heard you scoff at people who exercised,” April pointed out.
Maybelline gasped. “I have not!”
“Sure you have,” April argued. “Don’t you remember every time we pass Jim’s Gym, you’re always commenting on the people who walk inside. You call them weak, and egocentric, and full of themselves . . .”
Maybelline rolled her eyes. “That’s not scoffing. That’s just using positive encouragement,” Maybelline told her. “Don’t you see? I was trying to motivate myself by commenting on them.”
“Really?” April replied, narrowing her eyes at Maybelline. “Then explain to me why you protest the high school’s track and field event every year?”
Maybelline lifted her chin in defiance. “I just don’t think it’s right that they force the track and field event on the staff every year,” Maybelline argued. “I’m just voicing my opinion.”
“But you’re not the ones who participate! It’s the students,” April burst out.
“That’s not the point!” Maybelline snapped, dismissing April’s argument. “The point is that this year I’m turning over a new leaf.”
Maybelline grabbed her sneakers from the closet, plopped down on the couch and started to put them on. She looked up at April. “And that’s not all. I’m thinking of going to cosmetology school too.”
“What?” April laughed.
“I’m serious,” Maybelline replied. “I think I have a real talent for hair.”
April frowned in confusion as she glanced at Maybelline’s recent hairtastrophy. Her once beautiful mahogany hair had a decidedly leopard look to it. “Weren’t you the one who color your hair this last time?”
Maybelline looked up from tying her shoe. “Yeah. What’s your point?”
“Have you looked in the mirror?”
Maybelline rolled her eyes. “Of course I have. That’s what got me motivated.”
April breathed out a sigh of relief. “Oh good. I thought you didn’t realize your hair looked like a bad leopard print.”
Maybelline’s brows snapped downward. “Hey! It takes real talent to get these spots in your hair!”
April watched as Maybelline got up and wrapped her brown, blonde and black spotted hair into a pony tail.
“You know there’s a whole foot of new snow on the ground,” April cautioned. “Maybe you should wait until the weather breaks.”
“We live in New York State,” Maybelline retorted. “The weather never breaks. Besides, isn’t there a saying there’s no time like now? Well, now is now.”
April rolled her eyes. “I really don’t think you should rush into this.”
“And I think there’s no time like the present,” Maybelline replied as she opened the door and stepped out onto the stairs landing. “See another cliché that proves my point.”
Maybelline looked all the way down the whole flight of stairs. April was right. There was a foot of new snow on the ground. There was also a decided bite in the air. But the sun was shining and the sky was clear, and that had to be a good sign, Maybelline thought.
“I’m just saying, you don’t want to make too many changes at once . . .” April said following Maybelline down the stairs.
Maybelline turned to reply just as her foot landed on a slick of ice. Her feet flew out from under her, catapulting her five feet in the air. She landed with a thud on her back in the new snow.
It took a moment for Maybelline to catch her breath. Every part of her body hurt. The snow might look soft but it certainly didn’t feel soft when you landed on it, Maybelline decided.
She brushed the snow off her face as she looked up at April staring down at her. “You might be right. Maybe I should just start with the salad.”