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I love him. I swear I do. He has a dry sense of humor, he’s not very clever, but he’s good looking. Was good looking. He could’ve been a model, he looked that perfect. And so I loved him. No matter what, I loved him, I had to; the perfect daughter loves her parents regardless. Although, it doesn’t make sense for perfection to love imperfection, right?
“Miss Joanna Simmins? It’s time.”
I pick up my protractor from my walnut colored vanity. This clear piece of plastic, which I now place where my pelvic bone begins, is my life. I center it underneath my bellybutton, adjusting my plaid, Prussian blue uniform skirt. I like my buttons to be exactly eighty-nine degrees to the right of my center. While my protractor waits for my finish, I check my shirt buttons, ninety degrees, perfectly centered.
I place my protractor back between my assortment of Marc Jacobs and Estee Lauder perfumes. They’re more so on my vanity for decoration, I don’t really use perfume. Still, the beautifully designed containers and rainbow of colors look wonderful with my Hokku Designed Madera Vanity Set, worth about eight hundred dollars without tax. The fact that it’s dust free and shiny from its new stain only adds to the beauty.
In the mirror I appraise my appearance once more; checking my naturally wavy, shoulder length, russet colored hair that hangs freely around my pimple-free, fair skinned face, beautifying my winning smile. My collar is flattened and my tie knotted Windsor style. Absolutely gorgeous.
As I turn away from my mirror, my ears are assaulted by my alarm, signaling my departure. It’s time to leave but I need to check my room once more: The vanity set is gorgeous, my fluffy, cloud-like bed made to perfection, the same shiny walnut that frames my bed and makes up the vanity set looks beautiful on my walls, contrasted by my white ceiling, yet seductive with the wine red carpet. Everything is left without a single blemish because Mom likes things neat and simple.
But I need to go. I exit my room and walk down the stairs toward my Porsche Spyder, briskly but cleanly, not a single bead of sweat is allowed to escape my pores. As I unlock the car, I check my watch, precisely six-thirty, right on time. Now I just need to go and pick up my best friend, Rachael Ballard.
Speaking of Rachael, I think, I should take my migraine pills. I have to, Rachael can only be tolerated, she talks excessively, but trust me, being alone in a car with her is worse than swallowing ten-thousand needles. She’s obnoxious, rude, ungrateful and I can’t stand being around her. She’s complete trash; frankly, she’d drag me down to her level if we weren’t complete opposites, if I wasn’t so perfect.
This frustrating thought carries me the whole ten minute drive to her place where I get a headache just looking at her house. I honk my horn, sigh, and reach over to the glove compartment to get my pills. Two tiny white cylinders fall into my hand; they’re thrown to the back of my mouth and swallowed with a sip of water from my water bottle. As I’m placing the cap back on the bottle, she opens her front door. She walks over to the car and I notice she’s different somehow. Her whole body looks more clumsy, almost drunk.
When she draws closer I see her uniform looks horrid: Her tie is nothing but a ball of fabric in the middle of her collar bone. Her uniform skirt and white polo shirt are as wrinkled as pruned skin. On inspection I burst out laughing, I can’t resist. This is why she’s my best friend. I’m already the image of perfection, but next to Rachael, I glow like a firefly. She’s beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but she’s not at my level of sophistication.
Stop staring, I tell myself when she comes to a stop in front of the passenger door. She opens it without the smile I’ve come to expect every day. “Morning Rachael.”
“Morning,” she practically whispered.
I smile. Her appearance, her attitude, maybe I didn’t need the pills after all. Normally she opens the door smiling, screaming a “good morning” for the whole world to hear. But today she’s off. Instead of talking nonstop, she is mute. Instead of talking about her boyfriend, or lack of, or asking why I, voted the prettiest girl in school, refuse any and every guy, she’s mute. No Mom said this, Dad said that, I was grounded for this and that. She just stayed mute.
“Is everything okay, Rachael?”
“Yeah, Jo,” she replied. Normally she draws out the sound of each letter in my nickname, but today her reply was swift and artless.
Until we opened the car doors, that’s all she said in the entire twenty minutes to school. There, Rachael ran over to my side, hugged me, and cried, saying, “I’m sorry,” and, “I hope things get better.” And then she was gone, running into the school building without giving me time to respond. It’s probably better she didn’t keep her arms around me, she knows how I feel about hugs and I’m sure she’s smart enough to know that I don’t like her. Like I said, I’m a firefly, Rachael is my darkness.
I lock my Porsche and walk to Woogan’s Gifted High School, turning over Rachael’s actions, speech, or lack thereof, and her little episode just now. I really can’t stand her, especially when she plays these childish mind games. There’s nothing in my life to feel sorry about. My father is a nationally known actor named James Simmins. No, he’s even bigger than that, he’s more famous then my mother, politician Caroline Simmins, both extremely attractive adults. My family’s rich and I’m an only child, I get anything I could dream of and more. Most of the time I’m alone but that just makes me more independent and responsible compared to my peers. Where they try in life, I can only succeed. I’m gifted, smart, beautiful, and rich, it’s almost scary. People know I’m superior to them, that I’m godly, so they want me, love me, praise me. I, Joanna Taylor Simmins, am above the average, imperfect human.
I am perfection.
This makes me giggle, or rather, it makes me outright laugh. People stare so I pull out my cell phone and put it to my ear, pretending I’m hearing the best joke ever. There’s never a reason to make people think I’m crazy. But I’m definitely in a good mood now. All I have to do is think of my life, my parents, my money, or even myself in general and I can get through anything. Rachael’s simply being human; I guess I can’t stay upset with her for saying stupid things like “sorry” to me when there’s no need for it.
I chuckle one last time at her ignorance before putting my cell phone away and pulling the school door open. “Good morning, Mrs. Fisher,” I say upon seeing the school principal.
“Morn-,” she begins cheerfully but stops short when her eyes meet mine. She looks away toward the feet she practically kissed on my first day here.
Weird. I could swear Rachael refused to look me in the face as well. Whatever, they’re not intelligent like me. No need to dwell on their actions, I’m better than that, so I ignore her rude response and carry on to my locker.
“Morning Annie, Nick,” I shout to some friends around an opened locker.
Annie waved back weakly, quickly huddled up with Nick and their little group, and started whispering. I don’t care.
“Hey Joe, Steven, Andrew.”
They looked at me but didn’t respond, instead they turned away. Like Annie’s group, they too started whispering. Annoying. Everywhere everyone’s doing the same thing from dorks to jocks, students to deans, strangers to best friends. Even loners start gossiping when they see me. I don’t like it. Frankly they’re all starting to make me angry.
Keep your cool, Jo. Forget your locker, just go to biology. Lucky I thought of it, Biology’s safe, no one’s there except one kid busy reading something. That’s okay I guess, I care about him less then as he cares about me, so there’s no need for conversation. I head to my seat, front row, desk number one, directly across from Ms. Loptiks’s desk. I look at my watch and see I have ten minutes to the bell, so I decide to read my favorite magazine, Boom Zone.
It’s been voted number one for twelve years in a row and is hands down the best magazine in the world for adults and teens alike. Of course I’m not so simple minded that I would like a magazine because others like it or because of its rank. No, I like Boom Zone because it’s featured my family and I on various occasions. Actually just last month I made front page for some pet, animal thing or whatever. Me in that chiffon rose ball gown, stunning. My stylist might be one of few humans I don’t think of as entirely inferior to me. She is of course, just not as much as someone like Rachael.
Anyway, this issue of Boom Zone is supposed to be the hottest scoop yet. I couldn’t read it yesterday because I got home really late from my photo-shoot. Mom was at some conference or something and Dad was at one of his big Hollywood parties, so I had to skip the mail and see myself to bed.
But now my slim fingers slip between my school books and pull the thin issue out of my Coach bag. I close my eyes, smiling, as I place it on my desk. I slowly open my eyes, letting the anticipation gnaw at me.
I see the magazine. I’m puzzled by the magazine. Not understanding the picture I’m looking at, I decide to read its headline. I laugh at the words, then the picture, and then the magazine itself. The story behind this picture is absolutely ridiculous, who would believe such lies?
Comprehension begins to wrap itself around my conscience mind. I hurriedly stuff the magazine into my book bag, crumpling it in the process.
But I’m too late; the realization punches me in the brain. My nerves are too shocked and stupefied to stop me from confirming the revolting sight. Pulling the magazine out of my bag again I notice I’m shaking. I smooth it out on the desk and stare at it once again. Once I’ve confirmed what the picture is and who’s in the picture, the sun rises in my mind, shining light on the morning’s events.
It all makes sense, the new bullying, whispering, ignoring, the sneers, giggles, pointing. It all makes sense.
I’m not a god.
But I am a god.
Can I turn water into wine? No. Can I bring the dead back to life? No. But I’m beautiful, smart, talented, rich, charismatic, diplomatic, I’m Joanna Taylor Simmins. I can play a sport for the first time in my life and win playing solo. I can buy all the land I want, all the people I want. I’m Joanna Taylor Simmins. I sing, dance, my body is the perfect hour-glass figure. I’m above four-point-oh on the scale for colleges; I’ve been deemed a genius. I’m loved, praised, adored. People want me, need me, crave me.
I’m above the average human.
I am God.
And I begin to smile.
How could I have doubted myself? I know Boom Zone was made and printed by those below me. Everyone knows the paparazzi are complete sleazebags, they’re like rats, scurrying through gutters, hiding, listening, waiting, watching. So what if they were able to sneak onto some woman’s property and take a picture from outside her uncurtained window. Clearly that makes everything true. Of course they couldn’t use photo-shop to change the faces of the two people in the picture. Oh, no, technology like that doesn’t exist. Just like they couldn’t make a celebrity’s teeth whiter, like they’ve whitened the sheets in this picture. Believe me; bleach doesn’t work well enough to make those sheets blind me more than Mom’s diamond ring. If the morons I attend school with knew any better, they’d realize how ridiculous this picture is.
My father would never have sex with some wh*re. He definitely wouldn’t do that kind of thing in the first floor of her dirty, ghetto house. Not with the windows wide open and uncurtained, especially when he knows cameras watch him everywhere he goes. Dad knows better than that. He’s smarter than that.
I need to get through the rest of the school day and then I can bring this up to Mom and our lawyers. Boom Zone will regret messing with the Simmins family.
I arrived home in a matter of minutes, a big smile on my perfect face, ready to expose the truth to the world. I looked throughout the house, calling for my mom.
“In here,” I heard.
The smile was instantly wiped from my face, in this moment I should show compassion and sympathy. I’m tempted to cry but I need to be Mom’s boulder. I walk into the kitchen where I find her and her decorating committee.
Oh right, that party’s tonight, I remember, Mom wants the people of our status to help fundraise her campaign.
“Mom,” I began, immediately after the committee left the room, “I have something, something I need to tell you.” I feel my mouth twitch, wanting to laugh or simply smile, “Mom, Mom I don’t know how to say this so I’ll show you.” I whip out the magazine, looking away like I’m appalled. I braced myself for the tears and outrage, so what does she give me?
My head snaps back to face her, no humor to be traced in any of my features.
“Mom, Mom are you okay,” I say urgently, “Do you want to cry Mom?” My face crinkled in worry as if she actually started crying.
“No, no, I’m fine,” she sighed again. “Thank you for your concern Joanna, but it’s not needed. Just put it in that little cubby you use to hide in. All his other foolishness goes there now.” As she talked, she moved papers around on the counter top, picking up her cell phone to make a call.
I’ve been dismissed.
I’m the perfect daughter so I respect her wishes and head up the stairs to her office. After the twelve steps I pass two closed doorways, I enter the one on the right, and close its door behind me. Three steps into the room, I turn right and bend down, knocking on the wood as I go. I hear the familiar hollow sound and pull out and up the little twelve by twelve square. Inside I find a stack of magazines maybe eight inches high. This is impossible, Dad couldn’t do this much. He couldn’t.
I curiously pull out the stack. The first magazine has a picture of Dad in a bar fight. Second has Dad caught doing drugs. Third has Dad, handcuffed, on his way to jail.
Who is this man?
“Joanna, don’t forget to get dressed for tonight. And make sure you use that new teeth whitener I got you.” Mom shouted.
“Okay, Mom,” I reply as I gather the magazines into my arms. I rush to the head of the staircase and walk up another flight of steps to my bedroom. Inside I dump the magazines onto my bed, ruining the balance I’ve worked so hard to create in my room. I really should go and shower, the party starts at 5:30 but won’t be in full swing until 6:00. I look at my watch, 3:56, I have time. I plop myself onto the queen-sized bed and crawl into the center. I begin looking through the magazines, startled at each headline and the picture to match. I don’t understand how my father, my perfect, gorgeous father, could do things like this. These can’t all be slander, not all of them. But they could be, hopefully they are.
Like a television drama, I have a flashback to my conversation with Mom. Throughout the entire conversation, she never once mentioned anything about slander. She didn’t call the cover lies or false or even slightly incorrect.
“Joanna,” Mom started banging on my bedroom door, “Jo, did you shower yet? Maggie’s here to see you.”
Startled, I removed myself from my bed and opened the door. I knew to open it only slightly so Mom wouldn’t see the mess or what it was composed of. “Mom, that magazine I showed you, it’s all lies, right? Daddy wouldn’t and didn’t do that kind of thing, right?”
She paused and just looked at me. Slowly she said, “No, Jo, Honey, it’s true. Your father slept with another woman, he told me last week. It hurt me and I was upset, but I love your father. We’ll try to work it out somehow, so don’t worry yourself about it, okay Jo?” She smiled, “I’ll tell Maggie to come up. I think you’ll really like the dress she chose for you.”
She brings up my personal stylist after telling me that my father is a cheater? Now it’s my turn to gawk at her. She takes no notice; she just leaves me standing there while she goes to get Maggie. I’m so shocked I barely notice that I’m smiling again.
I take my shower just like Mom wants me to and when I finish, I’m greeted by Maggie in my bedroom. She puts me in this knee length, indigo dress that’s both sparkly and bedazzled. She does my make-up so well I could fall in love with myself all over again.
But I don’t really see it. I don’t see anything except how similar Maggie and I look. Despite our different skin tones, different hair color, different height, we’re twins. I’m no better than her, my own stylist, whose only job is to make me look pretty. I’m no better than her or anyone else. I’m no better. If my parents aren’t perfect then I’m not perfect, for perfect offspring can only be trained to be perfect by their spotless and superior parents.
Without a word I walk past Maggie to the party. I’m not in the mood for conversation; she wasn’t my equal when I was five and she’s not my equal now. I’m not letting that change.
About an hour or so later, Mom catches my arm in the crowd, “Jo, can you take some food to your father for me please?”
“Sure Mom,” I say mono-toned. She smiles and gives me air kisses to keep from smearing her make-up. I don’t want to see him.
This is the first thought I’ve had all evening, since I came downstairs I took a passenger seat in my body, letting it fulfill the necessary roles I play in the evening. It walks to the food table, using random forks, spoons, and knives to help it pile food on a plate. I haven’t performed many lifting tasks in my life so my body, being ill-prepared, forced me into control.
I take the plate up the two flights of stairs, past my room, to the next door on the left. I lightly knock on the door and wait a few seconds. When I don’t get an answer, I turned the knob and stepped in. I turned on the light and closed the door behind me, “Dad? Daddy?” I walk closer to the bed and look down at his beautiful face, “Daddy?”
He opens his eyes for a brief second, gurgles a little, and rolls over, away from me. I rest the plate on the night stand, careful not to push off the lamp or family photo. Looking at his face makes me notice how plain he looks: Average blonde hair, average blue irises in his average almond eyes. His thin lips have a tiny opening where a few ferocious snores startle me and the pungent smell of throw-up burns my nose.
My lips twist up in a smile. There’s no perfection here. One hand moves to my mouth, stifling my laughter, the other goes to pat Dad’s head, poor, poor human. I remove my hands from both his head and my mouth, reaching them to one of the unoccupied pillows on the bed. My hands grab either end of one and pull it to my chest. I hold it for about five seconds, grinning down at my father.
My life is perfect.
I place the pillow over his face, gently. I place my palms on either end of the pillow and begin applying pressure.
In half a minute he begins gasping for breath.
He starts flailing his arms and legs, fighting for air he doesn’t deserve. He kicks and scratches and hits. He smacks my arm, making me release my hold of the pillow. He manages to remove one hand, ruining my balance. With the pillow still gripped in one hand, I hit the night stand, knocking the lamp sideways and sending the food, photo, and myself to the floor. I scramble back to my feet, standing up.
I’m praised, adored.
I stand over the bed, looking down, into his wild, terrified eyes. I grip the pillow in both hands again, climb on the bed, and put the pillow back over his face. He struggles harder but I keep my hold over him.
I’m wanted, needed.
The flailing weakens then comes to a complete stop after a minute or two.
I hold the pillow in place for a minute longer to assure the task has been completed. I sit down on the bed, next to the dead body, moving the pillow to the side. I pet Dad’s head, feeling accomplished and undoubtedly perfect. I put my foot on the floor, accidentally placing it in the mess. The carpet stains will be no one’s fault but his own, he can’t even die properly. In disgust, I stop stroking his pretty hair.
In the mess I see the picture frame. I pick it up in an attempt to save it but it’s already been cracked. The disfigured and jagged lines cross through Dad’s face and through my center. Looking at the picture I fully comprehend the good I’ve done for Mom and myself; never will we have to deal with this average creature again. I really am perfect.