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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Estrada

The Clear Picture



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Jessica stood in her current position with only one desire. She wanted to be home.

 

The clanks of kitchen utensils and the blares of the speaker in her family’s living room were better than the squeaks of aging pipes and the distant hums of the air vents in the bathroom ceiling. She would prefer to smell cinnamon scented candles and clean laundry in her bedroom than the fresh manure from the row of toilet stalls next to her.

 

She wished that she was between her parents in a warm embrace that welcomed her presence. Instead, she stood between girls whose presence delivered goosebumps down her arms and legs. Her eyes traveled back and forth sporadically.

 

On one side, three girls were watching her with raised eyebrows and crossed arms. They wore pink sequins and stiletto heels. They had round lip balms and dark liner. They had purses instead of backpacks and wore pencil skirts over khaki slacks. They would chew gum and twirl their artificially straight blonde hair with their press on nails. These were Jessica’s friends.

 

On the other side, a girl sat on the floor near a large bucket staring at the white paint on her dark polo and khaki pants. Her glasses were stained with splatters. Her long brown hair dripped the remaining paint onto the gray tile floors. Her braces were hidden inside her chapped lips and her blue eyes camouflaged with her tears. Her name is Quinn, and she used to be Jessica’s best friend.

 

“Well, are you going to pour it on her or not?”

 

Jessica’s eyes remained on Quinn as she watched her dig her own grave. The high-pitched giggles and fake gasps from the girls behind her made Quinn squirm while she would wipe her tears and hide her snot. Jessica turned to the girls behind her and bit her lip.

 

“Gabby, are you sure this a good idea?” Jessica asked.

 

Gabby continued chewing her gum. The clicks and snaps of her teeth sounded like firework poppers falling on cement.

 

“Of course,” Gabby said.

 

Her voice was beautiful and crisp, it had the tone that Jessica desired to have instead of own grating vocal cords. Jessica looked down at the tiles and shifted her feet.

 

“I don’t think this is the right thing to do.”

 

She heard high heels clacking on the floor. She felt a soft palm touch her chin and slowly lift her face. Her eyes met Gabby’s. Her eyes were hazel, her face was evenly colored with light foundation and blush on both sides of her cheeks. Her eyelashes were filled with volumizing mascara. Her lips were plump and had the perfect shade of pink. She smelled like jasmine. Jessica wished that she could always look and smell like that.

 

“Jessie,” Gabby spoke gently. “Your heart is so big.”

 

Jessie held her breath as Gabby’s hand moved from her chin and slid down her neck until she touched her left shoulder. Jessica watched her and ignored the stinging of her eyes.

 

“You always want to do the right thing,” she continued. “That’s what I love about you. You are willing to do what’s right for anyone, and that is why out of every girl I know, you are my inspiration.”

 

Gabby squeezed her shoulder lightly. Her eyes glistened as she released a heavy sigh. Jessica felt sweat cascade from her forehead and her palms began to feel damp. Her eyes continued burning, and her breaths were uneven as she stared at Gabby.

 

“Right now, I want you to do the right thing,” Gabby spoke softly. “I want you to pour that bucket of paint on her, for me.”

 

Jessica shifted her position again and shook her head.

 

“Gabby, you know I can’t.”

 

“I know Jessie,” her voice was still tender, but it began to sound slightly forced. “But Quinn is not your best friend anymore, I am. You wouldn’t want to disappoint your best friend, would you?”

 

Jessica gulped. She shivered as she felt Gabby caress her shoulder. She wanted to remove Gabby’s hand and leave the room to avoid being late to her next class, but Gabby’s touch kept her in place as she blissfully recalled Gabby, the most popular girl in school, referring to her as her inspiration. She shook her head.

 

“No.”

 

The pink lips curved up.

 

“Good. Now make me proud.”

 

Gabby snapped her finger, and one of the girls that stood from behind ran forward to grab the paint bucket that was on the ground. She handed the bucket to Jessica and walked back to the bathroom wall. Gabby strutted behind her.

 

Jessica closed her eyes and exhaled deeply. Her heart continued to leap in her chest, and her perspiration soaked her thin clothes. She felt the handles of the bucket swing on her fingers. Her shoulder ached as the bucket became heavy.

 

It’s not too late to turn around. It’s not too late to go to class early. It’s not too late to say no.

 

You are my inspiration. Do the right thing for me. Make me proud.

 

Jessica opened her eyes and turned around. Quinn sat with tear stained cheeks. She held out a sky blue charm bracelet that had seahorses, shells, and mermaid charms.

 

Jessica froze.

 

“W-where did you find that?” Jessica asked.

 

“I grabbed it from the garbage can two months ago,” Quinn’s voice was frail and soft. “I saw how Gabby made you throw it away, and I wanted to save it for you. I even added new charms and replaced the beads.”

 

The bracelet glimmered against the ceiling lights. The charms were swinging in their own rhythm. The beads no longer had any scratches or cracks. Jessica’s lips quivered.

 

“Why did you do that?” Jessica asked lightly.


“I know how important this friendship bracelet is to you.” Quinn reached into her stained pockets and took out a pink charm bracelet that had Paris charms. White paint dripped from the bracelet.

 

“It’s important to me too.”

 

Jessica felt her arms become limp. Her feet became numb. Her body became nothing but empty space. She gripped the handles of the bucket tighter.

 

“You still have that?” Jessica whispered.

 

“I’ve always had it,” Quinn responded. “Ever since you gave it to me.”

 

“That bracelet is ten years old, I thought you would have gotten rid of it by now.”

 

“It was made by you, so it will always be a treasure.”

 

Quinn held both of the bracelets. Both bracelets had half of a heart charm that were engraved with the words best friends. She connected the charms together and placed the pink bracelet on her wrist. Her other hand grabbed the blue bracelet and held it out.

 

Jessica took a step forward. Her grip on the bucket began to loosen.

 

“Stop!”

 

Jessica rapidly turned around. Gabby glared at her with clenched fists and furrowed eyebrows.

 

“Pour the bucket on her freshman! Now!” Gabby barked. “Hurry up!”

 

Jessica gaped.

 

“Gabby, why-“

 

“You are testing my patience freshman!” She hollered. “Be my good minion and throw the paint on her!”

 

“Minion?” Jessica asked. “I thought I was your-“

 

“Oh please! I say that to everyone!” Gabby spat. “You better dump the paint, or I will.”

 

Jessica’s lips formed a thin line. She closed her eyes tightly to prevent any tears from coming down. She released a sharp exhale and turned to Quinn. The bracelet was still being held out.

 

She took a step back and sighed deeply. She could feel one of her nails start to crack and her tears damaging her liner, but it didn’t matter to her anymore. The only thing that mattered was what was going to happen next.

 

She closed her eyes and lifted the bucket.

 

“I’m sorry Quinn.”

 

She poured the paint on herself.

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