The mascara brush clattered into the sink, black lines streaking the side of the porcelain bowl. A frustrated groan sounded through the bathroom as a small hand reached to pick it up…again.
A seven year old Tallulah Robinson stood on the small, wooden stool in front of the vanity mirror. The top of her shirt was smeared with colored powders and what looked like a lip gloss stain. She stood on the tips of her toes allowing her to lean close to the mirror as she made another attempt to apply the mascara to her short, pale eyelashes. Her fair, freckled skin was smothered in a concealer that was several shades too dark. Her eyelids were dusted in a dark blue eyeshadow that ran into her bright orange eyebrows. Red lipstick coated her lips, and it was smeared slightly where she tried to wipe it from her skin. Her eyelashes were clumped with mascara, black lines streaking above and below her eyes. A little too much blush was on her cheeks, giving them a blotchy red look. Yet she continued applying the makeup.
Tallulah had spent many mornings sitting on the counter in Franny's bathroom, watching her morning ritual of putting on makeup. Tallulah marveled at how her face seemed to be transformed, the makeup highlighting all of her best features. This morning, as Tallulah sat on her usual place on the counter, she took the time to study her own face, from her bright red hair, pale skin, small nose, large eyes, and thin lips, and she couldn't help but wonder if the makeup would make her look as beautiful as Franny.
So, a bit after dinner, when the rest of the family moved to the living room for talk and the evening news, she gathered up all the makeup she could find and retreated to the bathroom down the hall from her room. And there she had remained for the past hour, a scrunched and dirty towel next to her from all the times she had removed and reapplied the cosmetics.
Tallulah moved back and looked at herself in the mirror. She sighed before reaching for the towel again; she would probably be here for a while.
Franny Robinson stepped into her bathroom to get ready for bed. She walked to her vanity and knelt down, opened the cupboards below the counter and reached in for her makeup remover when she paused. There, next to the bottle of makeup remover, was the basket that held all of her makeup. That was perfectly normal, except for the fact that it was completely empty.
"Hey honey?" Franny called into her and her husband's bedroom.
"Yeah?" she heard Cornelius respond.
"Have you seen all my makeup?" she asked, thinking that maybe Billie or Lucille had borrowed it, although why they would need all of it was a mystery.
"It's gone," she answered, walking from the bathroom into their bedroom. "I'm gonna go find Billie. Maybe she has it."
"Okay," Cornelius said distractedly, not looking up from his book.
Franny rolled her eyes at her husband and walked out. She set off across the mansion in the hopes of finding Billie, and her makeup as well.
Three sets of stairs, a pair of sore feet, and twenty-five minutes later found Franny walking back to her bedroom-without her makeup. She had found Billie first, but she hadn't seen it. Neither had Lucille or Petunia. She doubted that any of the men had it and as she was the only other woman in the house, she didn't know where else to look.
She was almost back to her bedroom when she heard a crash coming from down the hall, a muffled "Dangit!" coming from behind the bathroom door. She walked over and rapped on the door with her knuckles, calling "Is everything all right in there?"
"Y-Yeah," a small voice squeaked, promptly followed by another crash.
Franny recognized the voice as Tallulah's, and after warning her she was going to come in, she creaked the door open and stuck her head around the edge.
Franny had to fight very hard to keep the laugh that wanted to escape to herself. The moment she had stepped into the room, Tallulah had let out a little squeak and buried her face in a towel, but not before Franny had seen her. Franny carefully stepped forward over the makeup that now littered the floor.
"Tallulah?" Franny asked, hoping that Tallulah couldn't hear the subtle amount of humor in her voice; the child already looked mortified. Tallulah shook her head and took a step back, and Franny had to rush forward to keep her from falling off the stool.
When both of Tallulah's feet were planted firmly on the floor, Franny gently took the towel from her. With the towel gone, Tallulah settled for hiding her face in her hands.
"It's alright Tallulah. I'm not mad at you," Franny said softly, her hands on both of Tallulah's wrists trying to pull them away.
Obediently, Tallulah lowered her hands and Franny felt a twinge of sympathy when she saw the tears in her bright blue eyes.
"I wanted to be pretty like you," Tallulah whispered, as though she would be punished for wanting this.
"Oh, sweetie, you are pretty," Franny whispered. She could see that Tallulah really had tried; her face was a mess.
"I don't look like you though," Tallulah answered moodily and a tear fell down her cheek, wiping a clean trail down her face.
"You don't have to look like me to be beautiful, Tallulah," Franny said, a bit worried as to what had brought on this bought of self-deprecation. "Here, lets get this stuff off. You'll be much prettier without it."
She helped Tallulah up onto the counter and grabbed a new towel. It took about ten minutes to get the many layers of makeup off her face, and when Franny had finished, Tallulah's face was a raw pinkish color.
"There, that's better," Franny smiled.
Tallulah was trying her hardest not to cry. Only babies like Laszlo cried and she wasn't a baby anymore. But she couldn't help but be terribly disappointed that all of her efforts hadn't worked. As she watched Franny pick up the makeup she had dropped, and idea came to her.
"Will you show me?" Tallulah asked, her doleful expression turning hopeful.
"Hmm?" Franny hummed, her attention only half on Tallulah as she finished cleaning the floor. When she turned her attention to Tallulah, she still had that hopeful expression on her face.
"Will you show me how to put this on," she repeated, holding a tube of mascara in her hand.
Franny hesitated. In truth, she had no experience putting makeup on someone with Tallulah's complexion, and was worried she'd botch it up completely. However, when she looked at her face, she found that she couldn't say no. What could it hurt anyway?
"Alright sweetie," Franny conceded.
It took Franny a while to find makeup that she believed would look good on Tallulah. None of her concealer was pale enough so that was out of the question, but she had found a tube of peach lip gloss that didn't look too bad, a light color blush, some coppery eye shadow, and, after discovering that black mascara didn't look good at all, brown mascara.
"There," Franny said, closing the mascara tube. "What do you think?"
Tallulah turned toward the mirror and let out a sort of awed gasp. She brought one of her hands to her face and touched her cheek lightly, as though if she pushed too hard the image would be destroyed. When she had looked her fill she threw her arms around Franny's neck. "Thank you!" she shouted, burying her face in Franny's shoulder.
Franny chuckled. "You're welcome sweetie," she said. However, when Tallulah let go and went back to the mirror, she became conscious of what Fritz would say if he saw his little girl wearing makeup. The man might keel over from shock. That, and Franny was still worried about Tallulah's earlier bit of depression.
Making a decision she hopped up on to the counter next to Tallulah. "Tallulah?" she began. "Can I tell you a secret about makeup?"
Tallulah looked at Franny and nodded eagerly.
"The thing about makeup is, you don't need it," Franny said quietly. She reached an arm out and brought Tallulah closer to her, whispering conspiratorially in her ear, "Only old people like me need it," she said, although internally she cringed at the word 'old'. She didn't necessarily want Tallulah to think that twenty-six was old, but she would swallow her pride if it made Tallulah happier.
"You're not old!" Tallulah protested.
Franny laughed. "I'm glad you think so," she said, still chuckling. "But it doesn't change the fact that you look beautiful with or without it."
"Really?" Tallulah asked, her voice equal parts hopeful and disbelieving.
"Really," Franny said firmly. "Now, I think that we should take this off and leave it off for a while. What do you think," Franny asked.
"Alright," Tallulah agreed, sounding only a bit disappointed.
"Good," Franny said, grabbing a towel and kissing Tallulah on the forehead.