Glamour Garnet

by Jessye Scott

“The trick to making the perfect paper plane,” Rafaella said, “is to always fold the wings twice on both sides. Fold down, then up. You’ll never miss your target that way, promise.”

“You said only babies play with paper,” Carmen said as she slid the latex gloves over her hands. Two plastic bottles sat in the bathroom sink.

Rafaella smacked her gum. “How do you remember one thing I said forever ago but you couldn’t leave the door unlocked for me last night? Just do what I tell you. Trust me. I’m never wrong about these things.”

Carmen rolled her eyes before twisting the caps off the bottles. Hydrogen peroxide hit the room and the sisters scrunched their noses into little balls. If Mom had been around, she would have reminded them how unattractive that look was.

“You have the smallest fingers I’ve ever seen,” said Rafaella, looking at her own chipped black nails. The fluorescent lights washed their pretty sun-kissed skin into a graying yellow pallor. “I don’t think they’ll ever be as big as mine.” Her feet tapped against the bathroom’s cold tile.

Carmen dyed hair and Rafaella gave advice. That had been their ritual since Rafaella started high school. She insisted on a different color for every new boyfriend—all without a single friend to help evenly distribute the dye across her roots. Carmen, for her part, felt older when she could share her big sister’s advice at recess. She was never more aware of the six years between them than when Rafaella smacked her gum between thoughts.

Tonight would be the night of Glamour Garnet. It was one of those name-brand boxes they couldn’t really afford, but there had been a coupon for it in Sunday’s paper. Rafaella told Carmen the night of the terrible Platinum Peach bleaching incident that if she woke up early enough, she could get to the neighbor’s morning paper before they did.

Carmen parted the hair with salon-style precision, pulling it into a beehive to section off the bottom layer. She propped herself up on her toes and brushed dye across the strands gently; they felt heavier in the past few months, twine-like, but Rafaella refused to rest. She had just gotten back with Martin, despite Carmen’s reservations, and he loved redheads.

“Nail polish is hell to get off a carpet,” Rafaella said. “Blood is much easier, a little cold water and it comes right out. If you see a red stain on the floor, pray for blood.”

Carmen was worried that the color wouldn’t hold after blackening Rafaella’s hair months ago with Midnight Maiden. When Martin first came around they had used Scarlett Fever—it took two boyfriends and three dyes to erase him. “Remember how Barbie Blonde only stuck to your roots,” she said, and Rafaella laughed because that was months ago and she was much more mature now.

“When you’re too poor for nice lipstick—because life isn’t fair—mix Vaseline with eye-shadow. It doesn’t taste good but it’s enough.”

Carmen tugged on a hair clip and a small clump of hair fell to the ground. Wordlessly, she kicked it into a dusty corner.

“If you don’t get enough sleep, put two spoons in the freezer. When they’re cold enough you can drag them over the bags under your eyes.”

The latex gloves were sliding off her fingers, but Carmen didn’t want to interrupt Rafaella’s lessons. She slipped the gloves off between strands and pushed them into the back pocket of her hand-me-down denim shorts.

“On bad days, wash your hair. Use the expensive shampoo that Mom hides under her sink. Mix a little water in the bottle after and she won’t notice anything.”

When the dye had set, Rafaella stripped down to her underwear and leaned forward until her head touched the bottom of the bathtub. Carmen rinsed cold water through the hair, massaging gently, praying that no more would fall away. Tonight the water was tomato juice, splashing against the eggshell edges of the tub.

“Always keep a list of the boys you fall in love with,” Rafaella instructed against the porcelain. “There’s nothing worse than feeling like you can’t remember someone who was once important to you.”

“Who’s on your list?” Carmen said, grabbing a towel and wrapping it around the wet hair.

“Never answer that question. The people you love will someday become a part of you.”

When Rafaella’s hair stopped dripping they watched the crimson tide tumble from the towel, bleeding out as if the girls had burnt cherry juice at the bottom of a pan and scraped it onto her scalp. “You’re a natural at this. There’s nothing left to teach you,” she said, kissing Carmen on the cheek. “Did Mom say when she’d get back?”

“Sometime in the morning, maybe,” Carmen said. She leaned against the bathroom sink and turned on the faucet.

“Am I supposed to babysit all night?” Rafaella called back while walking out towards their shared bedroom. “Martin wants to take me out. You’ll be fine for a couple hours, right? You’re not a little kid.”

The water was rushing out too loudly to hear. The red dye had stained Carmen’s fingers worse than Strawberry Fields, but nowhere as deeply as Starry Night. Rafaella always laughed the next day when she saw Carmen’s tainted hands, asking if they were learning to paint in school, as if she didn’t remember the night before.

Jessye Scott is a creative writing major at Florida State University. She is currently working on a collection of short stories and regularly updates her blog at