Kathryn’s room wasn’t a pigsty, but it would have been if she kept her makeup on the small vanity that resided in the corner of her room. Instead, Kathryn’s bathroom counter was piled high with ivory colored foundations and powders, tubes of lip-gloss in every shade, and a rainbow assortment of eye shadows. The lights reflected off perfume bottles, casting crystallite shadows on the mirror. The mountains wouldn’t have been a problem if Kathryn didn’t share the bathroom with her little sister, Emma.
Everyday, Emma was kicked out of the bathroom by her sister for many minutes. Everyday, Emma watched her sister exit the bathroom with makeup caked on her face, looking like a china doll; fake. Emma wanted to swipe the palettes onto the floor and watch the flowery perfumes swirl down the drain. She hated that Kathryn covered up who she really was with layers of makeup.
Emma was like any other third grader, with rosy cheeks, Pippi Longstockings braids and a belief that she understood the world better than anyone older than her. She thought that adults overthought everything. A third grader, like her, could just see things like they were.
Still, Emma had no idea why Kathryn would smother her features with makeup. During dress up was an appropriate time to wear glittery eye shadows, but Kathryn had grown out of dress up years ago. It seemed that Kathryn wore make-up because she was unhappy with how she looked. Emma was puzzled. Didn’t everyone love themselves?
Emma repetitively told Kathryn not to wear makeup. Every time Emma brought this up, Kathryn just smiled and said, “When you are older you’ll understand.” Emma didn’t understand though. She decided it was time to take matters into her own hands. She would show Kathryn that she looked beautiful without wearing makeup.
At eleven o’clock that night, way past her bedtime, Emma crept into the bathroom. Careful not to make a sound, she surveyed the landscape of the bathroom counter. Emma swept one of the ruby glosses off the edge of the counter, expecting it to fall into the pink princess bag she had brought to collect the makeup. Instead, the gloss missed the bag and shattered on the tile. Emma gasped, then slapped her hand over her mouth and stood like a statue. She thought she heard movement from another room, but dismissed the thought. It was probably just the family dog chasing rabbits in his dreams. Emma resumed packing up the makeup. One by one, the rebel inside of Emma placed her sister’s makeup in the bag. Every once in a while, the goody two- shoes in Emma glanced at the clock, watching precious minutes of sleep drift away.
Finally, the exhausted girl had finished packing up and set Kathryn’s makeup next to her bed. She crawled under the covers and prepared for a flight back to dreamland.
The next morning, Emma awoke to Kathryn’s desperate cries.
“Mom, all my makeup is gone! All of it!” Kathryn shouted.
“Quiet, Kathryn. You’ll wake your sister,” Kathryn’s mom said sternly.
Emma was already awake, and staring at her sister, who stood in the doorframe of her room, with anger ablaze in her eyes. Kathryn bolted to the pink bag next to Emma’s bed and snatched it up.
“How dare you?” Kathryn shouted at her sister. She picked up her makeup and stormed into the bathroom, closing the door behind her.
Later that day, Emma cautiously approached Kathryn. “I’m sorry,” Emma sighed.
“Why’d you do it?” Kathryn asked.
“I wanted you to know that you are pretty when you don’t wear makeup,” Emma said earnestly.
“You don’t understand it yet, but not everyone is a swan. Some of us are ugly duckings,” Kathryn explained.
Emma pondered the assessment. “Makeup doesn’t make you pretty on the inside. What’s the point of of looking nice when you aren’t kind and loving? I think the people who really need to worry are mean people. There is no makeup to make you less mean. You don’t need to worry,” she said.
Kathryn processed what Emma said, then went into the bathroom. In Emma’s opinion, she looked touched.
At dinner that night, Kathryn wasn’t wearing a fake face of beauty products. When Emma went to take a bath, she noticed the countertop was void of makeup. In the trashcan, a pile of broken eye shadows and cracked perfume bottles made a mountain.
Emma reached into the pile of discarded makeup and puled out a bubblegum pink lipstick. She drew a big heart on the mirror like she had seen spies do in movies.
“Everyone is a swan inside,” Emma thought. “Some people just think they are ugly ducklings.