My best friend Danielle frowns and yanks her lip gloss from my hand.
“Where were you when God was giving out lips?” she asks.
But before I can answer, she takes a tissue from her purse and starts scrubbing my lips like a crazy woman. “You got lip gloss everywhere, girl. I swear you got the thinnest lips I ever saw.”
I lean forward and mumble, “I don’t get to practice all the time like you do.”
My mama never lets me wear makeup. She says twelve is too young to be thinking about stuff like that. It’ll only draw attention from the wrong people. She really means boys. So I know she’ll say the same thing in a few weeks when I turn thirteen.
She’s nothing like Danielle’s mama, who’s been letting her wear makeup since sixth grade. On the very day she turned twelve. She’s cool like that. My mama, I’m sorry to say, has been around my great-aunt Millie too long. And those old-fashioned, backwoods Mississippi ways have rubbed off on her.
So that’s why every morning I meet up in the restroom with Danielle and her second best friend B. J. and put on some of Danielle’s makeup.
And since Danielle is helping me with my lip gloss, B. J.—because she hates being ignored—has to throw in her two cents. So she smiles a mean smile and says, “She was probably off somewhere looking for a doughnut. And by the time she looked up, God had run out of lip-making material.”
She always says the dumbest things. So I say something smart back to her. “I see you were doing the same thing when he was giving out cute faces.”
But before I can pat myself on the back for roasting her, B. J. plants her hands on her hips and looks me up and down. I know she’s found something to crack on me when that ugly smile pops up again. She smacks her gum real loud then nods and says, “I see you came around twice though when he was giving out chins.”
Then she just cracks up, like her jokes are so funny.
“Whatever,” I say.
But B. J. is still cracking up. I think about checking her again about her ugly face. But she already knows I hate being plump way more than she hates being ugly—even if she does look like her grandma. Like an old woman with Beyonce’s body.
“There,” Danielle says, turning me to face the mirror. “Perfect.”
I nod and smile. Danielle has the magic touch.
B. J. frowns at me in the mirror but doesn’t say anything.
“You look good, Ken Kim,” Danielle assures me.
B. J. smirks.
“Whatever,” I mumble.
B. J. leans back and gives me that look again. She crosses her arms over her perfect chest and sneers. “Maybe you can get some of that fat sucked off them cheeks and injected into them paper-thin lips.”
She cracks up again. And it doesn’t even bother her that she’s the only one laughing.
“Stop hatin’, B. J.,” Danielle says.
B. J. slings her purse over her shoulder and heads toward the door.
Victory is written all over that ugly face.
She yanks the door open then turns and locks her eyes on me. “Ain’t nothing to hate,” she says.
I take a deep breath to fight back the tears, but Danielle already knows what’s up.
She snaps open her purse. “Girl, you better not start crying,” she says. “You know that mascara ain’t waterproof.”
She hands me a tissue then smiles at me like I’m her best friend ever.
But it doesn’t cheer me up.
“Why does she hate me?” I murmur.
Danielle puts her makeup back into her purse. “She’s just jealous,” she says.
“Jealous? Seriously, Danielle.” I step back and let her take a good look at my blouse hugging the roll of fat around my waist.
Danielle flashes a devilish grin. “Yeah, but look at that face.”
We both laugh, and I dab away the tears before they ruin my makeup.
“Seriously though,” Danielle says, “you know B. J. doesn’t want me having any friends except her.”
I grunt and pretend I’m not one bit jealous that she was B.J.’s friend long before she was mine.
“She’s really not that bad,” Danielle shrugs and says. “She only acts that way when you’re around.”
“Thanks a lot,” I roll my eyes and say.
B. J. has been snubbing me since the first day we met last year in sixth grade. It all started when she saw my name “Ken K. Easton” on the class roster and thought I was a boy.
“Ken. Hmmm. He sounds cute,” she’d said, running her finger over my name in a way that gave me goose bumps.
I was standing right behind her, so I said, “I’m not a he. I’m a she.”
B. J. whisked around and observed me from head to toe. Then she turned up her nose and said, “That’s a stupid name for a girl.”
But Danielle turned to me and said, “Hi. I’m Danielle.” She stuck out her hand for me to shake and said, “Nice to meet you, Ken.”
“It’s nice to meet you, too,” I shook her hand and said. “It’s actually Ken Kim. They always forget to spell out ‘Kim’. So everybody thinks I’m a boy.”
“Ken Kim,” Danielle said sweetly. “That’s a nice name. It sounds Chinese or something.”
I smiled and shook my head. “It’s not. I’m named after my daddy.”
B. J. smirked. “Your dad’s name is Kim? What kind of name is that for a man?” She emphasized “man” like she was trying to imply something.
I shook my head. “No, my daddy’s name is Ken. Kenneth, really. But my name is Ken Kim. First name Ken. Middle name Kim. My mama named me Ken, after my daddy. But the Kim part was my aunt’s idea.”
B. J. stood there and looked at me like I had barfed up my breakfast.
After a few seconds, she wrinkled up her old-lady face and said, “Who cares.”
But Danielle smiled and said, “I like your name. It’s cool.”
“It’s stupid,” B. J. said. Then she rolled her eyes and walked away.
She hasn’t stopped torturing me since.
Danielle throws her purse over her shoulder. “Let’s get out of here, girl,” she says. “You know Mr. Davis wasn’t kidding yesterday when he
said: ‘If you’re late, count on staying with Mrs. Conley in the detention room for the day. No field trip.’”
“And you know I don’t wanna miss this field trip,” I say, grabbing my backpack from the counter. “My first field trip without my mama breathing down my neck. Thank goodness for Mr. Davis’
Danielle gives me a high-five. “We can finally sit together on the bus!”
I groan. “Yeah, if B. J. doesn’t try to knock me off the seat.”
Danielle stops at the door and sighs. “It’s gonna be a great day, Ken Kim. Don’t let B. J. spoil it.”
I half-smile and mumble, “I won’t.”
Danielle shakes her head. “It’s not that serious, girl. Don’t let her bully you. Take a deep breath and perk up.”
“You’re right,” I say, relaxing my shoulders a bit. “Today is gonna be great. And I’d be a fool to let B. J. ruin it for me.”