Mia
“The limo will be here in 30 minutes!” Dad announces from downstairs, and my stomach turns into a gelatinous pile of goo.  Somebody remind me why I decided to do this?

I squeak and check my appearance in the mirror like I’m hoping maybe a fairy godmother came while I wasn’t paying attention and Poof! turned me into a princess.  There is a fairy godmother, of sorts, but she’s been tied up with my mother and sister all afternoon while I’ve been practicing my lines, patiently (or maybe not so) waiting for my turn.

Of course, I had to wait till she was done with them.  It’s not like I’m going to the Golden Globes.  But still.  I can’t go onstage looking like this, and I’m totally clueless when it comes to that kind of thing.

Did Marcia forget me?

I pad down the hall and poke my head in my mother’s room, gagging on the scent of hairspray and Chanel N°5.  The bed is strewn with rejected gowns, and empty hangers dangle from the wardrobe rack that Alexander brought over.

Mom’s size six figure is wrapped in Spanx because she thinks she’s getting fat and poured into a long, pewter sheath that flows over her molded curves like liquid metal.  Her platinum hair is twisted into a knot at the base of her neck.  Not like the frizzy, mess bun I’m sporting, but you know, nice.

The giant, teardrop diamonds she has dangling from her ears look too big to be real, but they probably are.  Loners from Tiffany’s, my guess.  Alexander, her stylist, is clasping the matching necklace around her neck.

“Mom, where’s Marcia?”

She frowns at me when I reach to stroke the satiny, teal fabric of one of the rejects.  “Don’t touch those, please.  Alexander will take back the ones we didn’t like.”

Like me touching them is gonna do more harm than her tossing them around her bedroom.  Whatever.  I flick my eyes up in the barest hint of an eye roll.  Not enough to get in trouble, just, you know, because.

“So, Marcia?  I need her to do my hair and makeup.”  I wave a hand over the disaster that is my current look.  It looks even worse reflected in the sparkly lights of the giant vanity.

“She’s with Bianca, dear.  I’m not sure she’ll have time.  We need to leave in 30 minutes.”  She frowns and turns her wrist to look at an invisible watch.

“Mom!  I have the play tonight!  She’s supposed to help me get ready!”  I throw my hands up in the air and huff.

I’d drive myself — I don’t have to be at the theatre quite this early, but I still have another six days, seventeen hours, and thirty-four minutes till I can get my license, give or take a minute or two.  Not that I’m counting or anything.

“Well, I’m sorry, dear!  Go see how she’s coming along.”  She waves me away with a white-gloved hand like the well-aged star she is.

My mother is Elizabeth Bartlett Black.  Yeah, the very one.  If you don’t know who that is, then you obviously missed out on the scandalous, daytime drama of Our Secret Lives back in the 90’s.  If you didn’t obsess about who was the father of Diana Duke’s baby, my mom’s character on the show, then you probably didn’t insist on using MegaDrama MegaHold Mousse to get that poufy soap opera hair she sported back then, either.

But I bet you remember the commercials, at least.  The one with all the big-haired actresses practically making out with their bottles of MegaDrama products?  “MegaDrama MegaHold for Mega Star hair.”  My mother’s voice still sounds like that when she talks, all breathy and dramatic.

Now she stars mostly in Lifetime movies with an occasional bit part as somebody’s mom in a bigger film.  Her focus is on her family now, she claims, which means she knows she’s past her prime, and her attention has diverted to making her children into superstars.  Well, some of them, anyway.  She’s given up on me.

But my brother plays basketball for the Lakers, and my sister Bianca is poised to take over the family legacy with a recently-launched modeling campaign for Dolce and Gabbana and an upcoming role in the latest Hemsworth flick.

The door to Bianca’s room is closed, and I knock out our secret pattern before barging in.  The secret is there is no pattern, just a bunch of random knocks all over the door.  Stupid, I know, but we thought it was brilliant ten years ago when I was six and she was five.

Bianca clearly finds it embarrassing now, if her facial expression is any indication.  She looks just like the 90’s version of my mom, only without the big hair, and she’s dressed to kill in a slinky, red, mermaid dress with a neckline so low, if she bends over I can see her belly button.  I hope she washed the lint out.  Hehe.  I can’t believe my mom is letting her wear that, but knowing her, she probably picked it out.

My dad might complain, but Mom will just roll her eyes and tell him he’s being chauvinistic then launch into a spiel about outdated gender roles and how women have the right to display their half-naked body in the name of feminism.

Not that Dad prefers my significantly more modest wardrobe of jeans and tee shirts.  He cringes at those almost as much.

It might be fun to try on some of the dresses that Alexander brings for my mom and sister to choose from, but they never offer me the chance, mainly because I don’t go any place that I could wear them.  The Golden Globes have neglected to send me an invitation for the last 17 years, and I’m starting to think it’s intentional.  But I do have a starring role as harem girl #3 in tonight’s production of Aladdin, so whatever.

But even harem girls need hair and makeup, so I turn my attention to Marcia and ask, “You almost finished?”

She lays a hand to her mouth and makes a pouty face.  “Oh, darling, I’m so sorry, but your sister’s hair just won’t cooperate tonight.  I’m not going to have time to work on yours.”

Then she shrugs like it’s no big deal.  Like it doesn’t matter if I go onstage with frizzy hair and a giant port-wine birthmark covering half my face.  Like just because I’m not going to the Golden Globes what I’m doing isn’t important.

I narrow my eyes and pucker my lips in the harshest display of anger I dare make, turn and stalk out of the room, yanking the door almost hard enough to slam it.  I let go before it actually hits the jamb, though.  I know better than to make a scene, or I’ll get a lecture about keeping up appearances.  I stomp back to my room, which isn’t a big deal since I’m only wearing socks, and the oriental runner in the hallway is as thick as a mattress.

Sitting down at my own antique white and gold dressing table, I grab my tube of concealer and start dabbing copious amounts of it all over the dark purple splash that covers most of my left cheek.

Without the birthmark, I can pass for average.  Nothing like my parents and siblings who all rival People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful, but normal enough that children don’t run away screaming.  With the stain, I’m a spectacle, and not in a good way.  Obviously, I don’t go out in public without covering it.  I can handle that.

But the harem girls are supposed to be beautiful and exotic, and I definitely do not have the makeup skills to pull that off on my own.  But when Marcia works her magic, I almost look pretty.  She’s helped me a few times before when some of my family’s social events required my attendance, but most of the time I just avoid the limelight and settle for passably average.

Maybe if I watched enough YouTube videos I could figure out how to do a smoky eye with winged liner and pouty, red lips that wouldn’t smear all over during costume changes, but it’s way too late for that now.  I settle for basic foundation, mascara, and lipstick then switch my attention to my hair, which is another exercise in futility.

My brother and sister both got my mom’s thick, wavy, blonde locks, while I got wispy, brown hair from my father.  He buzzes his off and sports a manly-looking crew cut, but I prefer a limp ponytail.

Mom bought me clip-in hair extensions to add volume, and I keep my hair long so they’ll blend in better, but most of the time I don’t even bother to wear them.  Harem girls need luscious hair, though, so I quickly separate my hair into sections and snap the extensions in.  I don’t really have time to style it, but I throw in a few big curls and decide it looks decent.

“Time to go, ladies.  The limo is here,” Dad calls.

Grabbing my phone and my satchel, I toss the bag across my chest and start downstairs.  On second thought, I rush back to my room and grab a strapless, pushup bra out of the back of my dresser.  I don’t normally care that I can barely hold a pencil under my boobs, but I figure a harem girl ought to have a little cleavage, at least.  I shove the bra into my bag and toss in my makeup for good measure then hustle back down to the foyer.

“You look nice, Dad.”  I kiss him on the cheek and straighten his bowtie.

“Thanks, sweetheart.  I wish I could see your play tonight, but…”

He shrugs like it’s totally out of his control, but the truth is, he doesn’t have to go to the Globes tonight.  He directed a few movies this year, but he’s not up for an award.  He could skip the show and go to my play instead, but I’m sure the idea is just too inconceivable to even cross his mind.

It doesn’t matter.  I’m just a harem girl.  It’s not like I’m Jasmine or anything.  But still, they should be happy I’m finally following in their footsteps.

My mother glides down the stairs like a queen, and my sister follows behind her like a princess.  I swear she came out of the womb like a perfect, little clone of my mother, which no doubt gave my mother a sense of relief since I was such a complete disappointment.

I climb into the limo awkwardly, not quite sure where to put my arms and legs while the rest of my family slides in like they’ve done it a hundred times, which makes sense, since they probably have.

Mom and Bianca immediately start gossiping about who they expect to see tonight and what they’ll be wearing, and Dad closes his eyes to tune them out, so I pull out my phone and text Kerri, my BFF, to tell her that I’m about to make a grand entrance.  She’ll get a kick out of that.

When a giant glob of bird poop lands on the windshield, I laugh, knowing exactly what she’ll have to say about it.