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She stands beside me in front of the bathroom mirror, globbing on her mascara as I brush my teeth viciously. As I spit into the sink, she begins to do her eyeliner. Her steady hand wobbles as I try to brush past her to get to the cabinet. She cusses quietly as the black streak cuts across her pale skin. I duck as she goes to slap me, leaning under her arm to grab my hairbrush.
She’s scowling into the mirror now as I hastily yank my frizzy hair back into a thick ponytail. She’s clipping her bangs back, her fingers combing through her own silky smooth hair gently.
At the same moment, we sigh and let our shoulders sag as we both gaze into the mirror intently, as if wiling it to tell us that we’re beautiful now. By the way that Liz beams, it might as well have. She sees everything she wants to see in her pretty reflection. The mirror doesn’t say anything to me, at least not that I hear.
Liz pulls at my arm, dragging me out of the bathroom, down the hallway, and out to the driveway. Eli pulls up just as we step onto the asphalt. His car rumbles with the bass of the song he’s playing full blast. The tinted windows muffle the lyrics.
Grinning like an idiot, my sister claims shotgun. I slide into the back seat, dropping my clunky backpack onto the messy car floor. There are empty chip bags and candy wrappers everywhere. What a pig.
I look out the window for a few moments, only to realize that we’re not moving. Looking forward, I see the delay—Eli and Liz have their lips pressed together so firmly that I’m afraid for a moment that Liz’s lipgloss might be acting as glue.
Just as I’m about to go get some water to splash on the two of them to dissolve the glue, they break apart, Liz giggling uncontrollably. She settles back in her seat contently as Eli backs out into the street.
I do my best to ignore them, looking out the window instead. I watch as the sleepy neighborhoods of the suburbs blend easily into the busy, crowded streets of the city, already wide awake at this early hour. We live roughly fifteen minutes away from the high school, but with Eli’s driving, it should take us only eight minutes.
Eli swerves around cars, whipping in and out of the lines of traffic crazily. I clench my jaw, telling myself to stay calm. Despite the routine of it, I’ll never get used to his maniac driving. I tell myself to breathe. In, out. In, out. In—
My fingernails dig into the passenger’s seat in front of me as Eli cuts off the car in front of us, almost throwing me against the car door. Liz’s smile falters for a moment, and she says something quietly to Eli that I can’t hear. Whatever the words, Eli doesn’t seem happy to hear them. He frowns, his lips curling down unhappily.
His driving calms. The red line on the speedometer reports that he is now driving ten miles per hour slower than he was before. My breathing evens out, and I begin to pick up the books that have fallen out of my backpack.
When I straighten up in my seat again, my books packed up, we are at a red light. It’s the last light before the school—I can see the bright yellow busses and the swarm of students in front of the ugly brick building from here.
I glance out the window, people watching as passerby march down the sidewalk towards their destination. Someone waves, and my eyes automatically focus in on them, singling out the one person in the crowd.
I don’t know him, but he carries a backpack and seems to be heading towards the high school. He looks to be about my age, and has the biggest smile I’ve ever seen. His eyes crinkle and his nose widens just to make room for it on his face. Our eyes meet for just a second. In that split second, I feel different somehow. Taller, maybe.
As Eli’s car speeds through the light, I turn around in my seat and wave back to the boy. If possible, I think I see his grin widen.