Pretty (Short Story)


Olga took a long look at her reflection in the bathroom mirror.

“I’m short, have frizzy hair, and a huge zit is erupting from my chin. I’m a triple threat.”

She pumped the pink, slimy soap on her hands and lathered her hands until globs of white foam covered them.

Maybe the florescent lights just make me look really bad.

Olga pressed the hot and cold water knobs simultaneously, and quickly rinsed off the foam before the faucet automatically shut itself off. She glanced at the mirror once more, but looked away when she heard the school bell signaling the end of third period. Several girls entered the girls’ bathroom, giggling and talking about how cute their history teacher was. Olga didn’t care about their cute teacher. She stared at their designer shoes, flawless skin, and silky straight hair. Olga sighed and grabbed her heavy, black book bag off the floor and exited the bathroom, joining the student body traffic that flowed up and down the hall.

Those girls were tall too.

“I hate these damn crowds,” she said, as she tried to get into the cafeteria. She broke through the throngs of fellow freshmen, wishing she had open campus privileges that belonged to the upperclassmen. Once inside, she tugged at her over sized, unbuttoned denim shirt and adjusted her book bag on her shoulder. Olga craned her neck to find an empty table while trying not to collide into anyone. She and her friends had made the agreement that the first one at the lunchroom was responsible for claiming a table for the group.

Of course, the shortest one in the group always gets stuck doing this.

The girl weaved through the crowded aisles and around occupied lunch tables. She narrowly missed bumping into a couple that was making out while leaning on a table and had to catch herself when her left foot slipped on spilled ketchup. It didn’t take much longer for Olga to find a free table. She collapsed on the empty bench and breathed a sigh of relief. She looked around to see if any of her friends were in the cafeteria, but saw no one. What she did see was that the tables had filled up quickly, with a lot of upperclassmen choosing to stay in for the lunch period.

If you can go out for lunch, why would you ever choose to stay in and eat cafeteria crap?

She dropped her bag to her feet and rapped her knuckles against the table.

“I wonder when everyone will get here.”

The smell of warm pizza and cheeseburgers filled the air, making Olga’s mouth water.  Her stomach started to growl and she could feel her patience giving out.  She tried to kill time by focusing on anything but her appetite.

Well, there’s the table filled with Goths.

She observed that most of the group had blond hair and were smiling, even laughing with each other.

I don’t know why people avoid them.  They’re more friendly than some of the people I hang with.  Maybe I’d look better dressed in all black. I’d look thinner, too! Then Mom and Dad would make a shrink appointment for me…

“Never mind,” she muttered, moving her attention to another table where all the occupants were talking loudly about a track meet.

The jocks. Not gonna happen. I suck at sports. I can’t throw, I can’t run fast enough, I trip on my own feet.  I’d probably get a participant ribbon for trying, which is worse than no ribbon.

Olga yawned, trying hard to ignore the smell of french fries that now wafted through the air.  She then noticed the table in front of her; it was filled with only girls.  They looked similar to the girls Olga had just encountered in the bathroom. She could see all of them were dressed in the trendiest outfits and had sleek hair. One of them, a Latina girl with blond highlights, was reapplying her brown lipstick. Two other girls were comparing their manicures as they nibbled on warm french fries from their respective trays. Olga watched as a couple of attractive boys joined the pretty girls at their table, both passing by her without any notice. They effortlessly flirted with the girls, teasing them with their words and pretending to sneak food off their trays. The girls were visibly enjoying this attention from all the giggling they were doing and the eyelashes they were batting.

Olga looked around.

No cute boys coming my way. Not really a shocker.

She looked at her chipped, blue nail polish and ran her hands over her hair, wishing she had remembered to apply some hair gel that morning and not worn her over sized shirt. She sighed deeply and rested her chin on her palms.

They all look so beautiful and perfect. I bet they each have a boyfriend. Maybe even two. Look at me. I’m so, so…me.  No guy ever looks my way.  I might as well be invisible.

Olga glanced at her book bag and again began to rap her knuckles on the table.

You did buy it for a reason.

She tried to concentrate on the rhythm she was making, but it was no use. Olga stopped, reached for her bag, and set it next to her. She unzipped a small pocket and rummaged through it. After a few seconds, she pulled out a worn, red compact. She carefully opened it, not wanting to break the already fragile hinge. Once again, she stared at her reflection.

Good Lord. I look like I’m ten.

She looked up at the table of pretty girls then back at her plain faced reflection. She set the compact on the table and, without hesitation, she again dug through her cluttered book bag.

“I really need to clean this thing out,” she said as she pulled out wadded up biology worksheets and several textbooks. After a few minutes, she found what she needed at that moment. She stuffed her papers and books back into her book bag, and placed it back on the floor. She uncapped the black pencil eyeliner and ran it over her left index finger. It was brand new and had only cost her ninety-nine cents, compared to the eighteen dollar ones she had seen in Seventeen magazine. Olga turned towards the open compact and looked at the small mirror. She carefully placed the tip of the pencil on her water line and dragged it.

“Ow.” She pulled the pencil away from her eye and resisted from rubbing. She tried again, hating the rough texture that tugged at her skin.  Her eye watered and she closed it a few times to keep the liner from smearing.

Just don’t blind yourself.

When she finished her left eye, she placed the pencil down and leaned towards the mirror.

“Hey. That’s not so bad,” she said. “It’s not too smudgy and I don’t look like a raccoon. Cool!” She started to work on her right eye when she heard someone clearing her throat behind her. Olga quickly turned around and saw her friend staring back at her. Hoa dumped her chic, burgundy book bag on the lunch table and sat down next to Olga.

“What are you doing,” Hoa asked, sounding a little alarmed as she pushed her long bangs away from her eyes.

“Attempting to make myself look pretty,” Olga answered, turning back to her reflection and the pencil she held tightly.

“You don’t need that,” Hoa said, watching her friend finish lining her eye. “You’re beautiful without makeup.”

“You really think that?” Olga looked at her friend. Hoa wore wine colored lipstick that complimented her tanned skin. She wore brown eyeshadow and a coat of black mascara on her perfectly curled eyelashes.

“Yes, I think that! You’re already pretty! Don’t mess with that crap.” She pulled her wallet from her book bag and started to head to the lunch line. “The others should be here in a couple of minutes, ‘kay? Look after my stuff while I get some pizza.”

Olga watched as Hoa walked towards the line. She was dressed in Calvin Klein jeans that flattered her slim figure and long legs, which called the attention of several good looking boys in the lunch room. Some of them came up to talk to her and she smiled widely as she flirted back, flipping her shiny and straight brown hair behind her. Olga looked at her own reflection in the small, battered compact.

I’m short. I have frizzy hair. There’s a zit growing on my chin.

“Beautiful, huh?”

Olga picked up the eyeliner pencil and closed her left eye. She wanted to line both eyelids before Hoa or the others could, again, interrupt her.



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