“Malibango. It’s a Carrie original. Just for you,” Carrie grinned, her eyes glinting in the reddish glow of the candles. “But when you’re gone the music go-o-o-o-o-oes, I lose my rhythm lose my – Anytreeeeeeee, you look so nervous!” she abruptly stopped crooning to the music. “Don’t be. I promise,” she leaned toward me and fluttered her sparkly pink kohl-lined eyelids as she pinched her index and thumb fingers together in an almost circle. “just a lii-ttle Malibu rum and a lot of mango juice. Won’t get you remotely drunk. It’s sweet. You’ll like it.”
“Alright, then,” my words broke out of nowhere in a breath of nervous laughter.
“That’s the spirit!” she exclaimed. Her light blue eyes scrutinized me as she filled a black plastic cup a fourth of the way up with Malibu coconut rum and then poured some V8 Splash mango-peach juice almost to the brim. The liquids swirled into a balmy orange, but quickly turned murky in the confines of the jet black cup. Carrie was singing along to the music again as she rummaged through wooden drawers and pulled out a hard plastic fuchsia straw patterned with white polka dots.
“Now remember,” she said in a watchful tone, stirring the drink briskly with the straw, “just like with any alcoholic fusion drink, you want to keep stirring it before you sip.” And then in an offhanded aside, “My personal advice, just go for it. Drink it up as quickly as you can, and I’ll make you some more,” her glossy red lips curved into a smirk as she handed me the cup.
“Sounds good!” I said. I didn’t like that I sounded like a bird. I held the cup in one hand and twirled the straw with the other.
“Okay ohmygosh we need to do your makeup. Come on, get your wig out, this is going to be FUN!” she pulled me towards the dimly lit living room and shoved me onto a futon. With a couple of swift strides in and out of her bedroom, she was armed with an arsenal of cosmetics and beauty tools. She sat on a velvet chair facing me and began working on my face like it was an old peeling wall that needed to be revamped with a splash of color. A dab of liquid here, a dab there; her fingers spread the spots of liquid in a whirlpool all over my face. Light, airy brush hairs stroked my cheeks and eyelids, a powder puff patted my nose bridge and chin with a dusty rose fragrance, a mascara wand twirled my eyelashes rigidly upwards, and a smooth, round pencil-tip traced the contours of my closed eyelids. Finally, my hair was scrunched up and pulled back tight, and the feathery tips of the false hair flowed onto my bare shoulders. I slowly sipped the Malibango, trying to imagine what I looked like. A slight bitter taste surfaced from the depths of fruity sweetness as I wondered what Tandury would say if she saw me right now.
“I don’t get makeup. Why do people paint their faces? Like come on, you have that nice, natural face for a reason – don’t drown it in cheap chemicals! Anytree, don’t you agree? This is ridiculous. Promise me you’ll never let anyone clump your beautiful face into a cake of paint and fluff.”
“Tandury, I’m the last person who would let my face morph into something artificial. Rest assured.”
Someone chuckled in a low, husky voice near me, drowning Tandury’s voice in my head. “Wow. That makeup looks insane,” he said.
“Stephen. Doesn’t she look gorgeous? She is sooo Halloween-ready,” Carrie responded.
“I think that’s it, you can open your eyes Anytree,” she turned towards me, “Oh wait, I forgot the most important ingredient. The lip color! I’ve been wanting to try this on you ever since I saw your face. It’s a lush red that will pop with your skin tone.”
“Interesting. I hope it isn’t too flashy,” I managed a weak laugh.
“Gu-url, no. This is meant for you. No one else in this room could pull it off – we’re all too pale. You are going to rock this red. Come on, gulp down your drink so I can finish your Halloween look,” she folded her hands across her chest and watched me slurp the rest of the Malibango in nine seconds.
“Good. Now give me your sassiest pout,” she said, before slathering the lipstick.
“Perfecto!” she exclaimed, proudly glancing down at her masterpiece.
“Oh, and, by the way, that’s Stephen and Matt,” she nodded at the two guys who had spread themselves across the sofas and were watching me with curious smiles on their faces. More than their stocky builds and tiny eyes, it was the way their podgy fingers grabbed heaps of cheese-flavored Doritos and stuffed them into their meaty faces that reminded me of Dudley Dursley from Harry Potter. In my mind, they were now the ‘Dudley twins.’ Their lips (or what little of their lips was visible under their beefy cheeks and sagging chins) curved into one-sided smiles. Stephen spoke to me, “You’re a perfect little Strawberry Short-cake,” and then to Matt, “Get it, get it? She’s so short!” but Matt was too busy balancing Dorito triangles on his nose and sliding them into his cavern of a mouth.
Carrie led me to her bedroom. It was almost as big as the living room. A queen-sized bed with floral bedcovers and hanging silk drapes took up most of the space. The rest of it was divided equally between a trapezoid study desk and wooden chair, and a tall, ivory chest-of-drawers garnished with the choicest of cosmetics and baubles. I stood before a gigantic mirror that spanned an entire narrow wall. But I saw someone else in the mirror. She was a small girl with powder blue hair that had cotton-candy-pink tips spilling over her shoulders. She had on a pink-and-white checkered mini-dress (replete with a red satin bow and a large white pocket adorned with a juicy red strawberry) over her long, leafy-green and white striped stockings and glossy black ballet shoes. Her face shimmered in various colors – her kohl-lined glittery turquoise eyelids were framed by purple, curled eyelashes, and her coral red lips accentuated the hint of pastel pink on her cheeks. If it weren’t for her brown skin tone and her baffled eyes, I would have denied any possibility of looking like her. Clearly, Carrie’s transformative skills weren’t limited to just the chemicals we worked with in lab everyday.
“Whatcha think?” she broke my trance.
“Wow, I did not see that coming. Carrie you’re something else,” my attempt at a cross between a wide smile and a surprised gape must have looked funny, for she laughed hard. Just the way she had laughed when I had told her I’d never celebrated Halloween. “Gu-url, you HAVE to come over this Saturday night. I’m having a party at my rad pad. After lab, we’re gonna go shopping and find you a costume,” she had said in the midst of helping me pack a mammoth column with silica gel slurry. That seemed like an entirely different universe now.