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Skin Deep This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   The cool air of the music store is a relief to my burning skin. It's the hottest summer in years and I'm lucky to work where there's non-stop air conditioning. My job is great. I get paid for something that comes naturally - being friendly. I work as a salesperson, helping customers find what they want. I even got promoted to Head Salesperson. The manager, Mr. Johnson, tells me that ever since I came along, sales have increased.

Taking my post at the front of the store, I wait for customers to come pouring in. Usually, before lunch, the place is packed. It's conveniently located next to Burger King, so most of their customers stop in before they grab a bite. Today seems slow. Only two people have come in and neither made a purchase. I try to keep myself occupied by rearranging the CDs. Across the room, Josh D'Angelo, the only other salesperson my age, kept making funny faces at me. I knew it was time for lunch break when there was nothing to do but laugh at him. I was about to ask him to come when the door opened.

A tall, beautiful woman entered the store. She looked as if she walked straight off the pages of a fashion magazine. She wore a creamy white, sleeveless blouse with a powder blue skirt. The pearl earrings and matching choker complemented her near-perfect features. Her dark, silken curls were arranged to give her the appearance of an angel. Everything about the woman screamed out expensive. Her necklace alone could have paid for my brother's braces. Her extraordinary beauty was hypnotizing and drew me toward her.

"Good morning, Miss," I said in my extremely friendly manner. "Do you need any help?"

The woman held her lavish, leather handbag closer and took a step back. She looked at me suspiciously with her narrowed, ice-blue eyes. "I don't need your help," she screeched.

She turned away, with a swing of her perfect hair, her high heels click-clacking against the black and white checkered tiles. As she stalked away, I wondered what could have made her so hostile. I shrugged it off as a bad day and returned to shelving tapes. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the woman saunter over to Josh. I watched his face perk up as he ran a hand through his shaggy, blond hair and observed the woman with his smiling, aqua eyes. To my surprise, she talked with animation to Josh, while he grinned the special grin he usually reserved for me.

I didn't have a clue why the woman acted so differently toward me. I was polite, even friendly, but she yelled at me. I couldn't see the reason that was staring me straight in the face. I heard the voices of Josh and the woman grow louder.

"I've never been good with gift ideas," Josh said apologetically. "Try speaking with our head salesperson. She's great at this sort of thing."

"Where can I find her?"

I listened to their footsteps near and slow to a halt. Josh's innocent voice rang clear in my ears.

"Paloma, this customer needs some help finding a gift. I told her that you ..."

Before he could finish, I turned to get a look at the woman. For a second, I saw her in all her beauty. Her dazzling smile slowly disappeared, replaced by a tight red line. I watched her thick makeup crack as she scrunched her face to glare at me.

"You take away our jobs," she yelled, her shrill voice growing louder by the minute. "Jobs that your kind aren't even qualified for. You come to this country without even learning English and you expect those who earn our money by working hard to pay for your welfare. I don't want your help! I'd rather take my business elsewhere."

With a whip of her gaudy, leopard-print scarf, the woman stormed off, leaving a trail of too-strong perfume. Just before she wobbled away into the scorching heat, I discovered some tiny flaws. A crooked skirt, a run in her stockings, an unsightly blemish on her nose - all had gone unnoticed. Her phony beauty hid her true self. Her hatred for people made her ugly.

I caught a glimpse of the reflection of me and Josh in the store window. The image that I saw was truly beautiful. Two young people, though contrasting in color, arm in arm. Physically, we may be different but inside we're the same.

Josh circled his arm around my shoulder and gave me a reassuring squeeze.

"Are you okay?" he asked, a hint of worry in his voice.

"I'm as good as I can be, considering what just happened. I'm not about to cry over it, though. And hating her will only lower me to her level. She's racist. Fortunately, they're an endangered kind."

"You're right, Paloma Garcia," Josh said after he gave it some thought. Flashing me his special grin, he added, "Let's just hope they become extinct in our lifetime." 1


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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