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Beauty Has Her Way

Olivia turns right onto Alhambra Ave, reaching up to push the garage door opener clipped to the cigarette stained visor of her red Jeep Cherokee. As is their weekday routine, she pauses in front of their mailbox so the kid can jump out and fetch whatever horrors are waiting inside. She watches close to make sure that nothing gets stuffed into a backpack or pocket. A few weeks ago there'd been a series of living room monologues regarding a report card that had suspiciously gone missing. "Lost in the mail" becomes a red flag when you have a teenager.

"Anything good?" Olivia asks when Hanna throws herself back into the passenger seat, making the whole Jeep rock back and forth.

"Dad stuff, and the school newsletter it looks like," Hanna says, flipping through the pile on her lap. "Oh, and the Target ad. Save that for me, I wanna look at it."

Olivia uses the space in-between her sunglasses and her face to shoot an eye over and inspect her daughter. In the 15 years they've lived together she's never been able to fully bond with this person. The emotions that she had figured would kick in somewhere between the annoyingly painful process of birth, and being rolled to the car holding a new family member, never did. She had never wanted children in the first place but a late night after an old movie on the couch and then a dip in the pool had taken the option off the table.

Her memory flashes back to the afternoon the doctor confirmed that her period had been late for a reason other than stress, and what popped into her mind at that moment. It was never really an option though. Midwest bred former head cheerleaders don't grow up to get abortions. At least not ones that anyone is close enough to know about. Husbands. And parents. Tend to keep an eye out for such things. Sometimes she can't help but wonder though, how different her life would be if she wasn't contractually obligated to force an association with this person that she wouldn't have anything to do with if she were just another stranger on the street. There are days she laughs to herself, during this whole getting the mail process, about how amazing it would feel to just reach over, pull the passenger door closed, and race off to begin a whole new life. Leaving this dumpy child of hers standing there holding some mail with her spoiled, smart mouth hanging open, watching the Jeep get smaller and smaller. And then disappear.

"Do other kids your age get so excited about the Target ad each week?" Olivia asks, clearing her throat afterwards to make some space between the judgement in her voice and the intentional tone she'll squeeze out in roughly 30 seconds.

"Do other moms have crotchless underwear and old prescription pills in their dressers?" Hanna shoots back, looking over to make sure it hit as hard as she wanted. It never did though. Her mom was better at this than her.

Olivia punches the gas, lurching the Jeep just enough to make her daughter's head hit the back of the seat, and pulls into the garage, clicking the door closed behind them.

Once inside Hanna makes a beeline for her bedroom, closing the door and turning on her TV. She had recently discovered that if she flipped back and forth between channel 45 and channel 46 really fast she could catch snippets of the pay-per-view porno channel. There'd be a bit of that happening soon. Homework wasn't really much of a concern. She usually did that during the drive to school, or in the minutes before class started, if at all. For Hanna school was all about finding people to make out with, or make fun of. The apple didn't fall far from the tree in that respect.

Olivia hangs her purse on the back of one of the kitchen chairs and lights up a Barclay cigarette. She separates the school newsletter from the other mail and flips through it while she smokes. Her husband would be re-opening the garage door in about an hour and she wants to take as much time for herself as possible before the day moves into its next chapter of awkwardness, dinner time.

"Oh!" Olivia exclaims to the kitchen window. "Lost Boys!"

Her flipping had landed her at a section of her kid's school newsletter advertising the upcoming fall play, a rendition of the 1987 movie Lost Boys. She had loved this movie when she was a teenager herself. She'd never been much of a fan of horror movies, but sexy vampires being rude and smoking cigarettes was in her wheelhouse for sure. In fact, she developed her appreciation for red wine after seeing that movie for the first time. She and her friends would sneak it during sleepovers. They'd be content with the warm buzz it offered, but she liked to pretend it was warm blood. She'd drink it slowly, dramatically, and pretend like she was ingesting the essence of a friend, lover, or family member who had wronged her.

Stabbing out her not quite finished cigarette she takes the newsletter back to her daughter's room, pausing long enough after knocking to give her time to finish doing whatever weird shit she was most assuredly doing in there.

"Come in!" Hanna shouts.

Olivia wants so badly to crack a joke about how it smells like old pads mixed with Combos in that room, but sticks with the topic at hand.

"Did you see this?" She says, holding out the newsletter folded back to the bit about the Lost Boys play to her confused looking child.

"How could I have seen that?" Hanna answers, looking randomly hateful and dumb at the same time. "You've had that newsletter since we got it out of the box."

"I meant, did you know that this play was happening?" Olivia says, trying hard to be nice. To connect on this one thing they could potentially connect about. "This was my favorite movie when I was around your age. Maybe we could go together?"

Hanna's brain buzzed with too many options for rejection. She was almost vibrating with them, but senses she's about to lose her audience so opts for the quick and easy eye-roll and "um, no thanks."

"Why? You like vampires, don't you?" Olivia says, clutching a bit harder on the newsletter. Still trying. "If I were you I'd have tried out for this play. Think of all the fun you could have had. And all the costumes. You could have played Star and ..."

Hanna cuts her mother off by raising a hand into the air.

"Mom. Stop. I don't even know what you're talking about and I don't care. Do you need to take a pill or something?"

Before she could stop herself Olivia rolls the newsletter and smacks her daughter across the face with it, then crumples it up and throws it at the window, sending the cheap white mini blinds clattering.

"Listen, kid. You're no fucking Jamie Gertz, alright?" She says, turning quickly to exit the room, slamming the door behind her.

Out in the hall Olivia hears the garage door open. Whispering an exasperated "fuck" to herself, she skip runs to the kitchen to start dinner.