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 let her fix my lips. “I don’t get to practice all the time like you do,” I mumble.
My mama never lets me wear makeup, not even lip gloss. She says eleven is too young for makeup, because it might draw attention from the wrong people. She really means boys.
Danielle’s mama has been letting her wear makeup since fifth grade.
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 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.
Since Danielle is glossing my lips, B. J. has to throw in her two cents. She hates being ignored. 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.”
Now that was stupid. I don’t even like doughnuts. She always says the dumbest things. So I say something smart back to her. “I might’ve been in the same place you were 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 pops her gum real loud then nods and says, “I see you came around twice when he was giving out chins though.”
Then she just cracks up, like her jokes are so funny.
“Whatever,” I say.
But B. J. is still cracking up. I could check her again about her ugly face. But she already knows that I hate being plump way more than she hates being ugly.
B. J. looks just like her grandma. And I don’t mean she has her features. I mean B. J. has an old woman’s face, but without wrinkles.
It’s hard to explain. But trust me. B. J. looks like an old woman—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 out of them cheeks and injected into them paper-thin lips,” she says, cracking up again.
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 her ugly face. “Ain’t nothing to hate,”
Danielle sees the tears coming before I can turn my head. “Girl, you better not start crying. You know that mascara ain’t waterproof.”
She snaps open her purse and hands me a tissue.
I carefully dab my eyes. “Why does she hate me?” I murmur.
Danielle puts her makeup back into her purse and gives me her you-know-you’re-my-best-best-friend smile. And I try to smile back.
“She doesn’t hate you,” Danielle says. “She’s just jealous.”
“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,” she says.
We both laugh, and I dab up my tears before they ruin my makeup.
“Let’s get out of here, girl,” Danielle says, throwing her purse over her shoulder. “You heard Mr. Davis yesterday: ‘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. We can finally sit together on the bus!”
Danielle gives me a high-five.
“Thank goodness for middle school and for Mr. Davis’
no-mama-chaperoned-field-trip-at-the-end-of-school-year rule,” I say.
Danielle touches my arm and stops me at the door. “It’s gonna be a great day, Ken Kim. Don’t let B. J. spoil it.”
“I won’t,” I smile and say.
We walk to class, and I think about how lucky Danielle is. She has a perfect face and a perfect body. Her family is into fitness. And they all run together, nearly every day. Danielle can run three miles without stopping. I can barely climb stairs without gasping for air.
Technically, I’m Danielle’s second best friend, and B. J. is her first. Danielle and B. J. have known each other since second grade.
But Danielle only became my friend in sixth-grade, on the first day of school. Unfortunately, that’s the day I met B. J., too.
When she saw my name “Ken K. Easton” on the class roster, she thought I was gonna be a cute boy she could hit on.
“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. She observed me from head to toe, then 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. just 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 sweetly and said, “I like your name. It’s cool.”
“It’s stupid,” B. J. hissed. Then she rolled her eyes and walked away.
And that’s how Danielle and I became friends on the first day of middle school. And it’s how B. J. and I didn’t.