Lipstick Day by Leah Mol
2018 CBC Short Story Prize winner
Leah Mol won the 2018 CBC Short Story Prize for Lipstick Day.
She will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, will have an opportunity to attend a 10-day writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and have her story published on CBC Books.
You can read Lipstick Day below.
Warning: This story contains mature language and subject matter.
When I was in Grade 7, I made up Lipstick Day. I didn't actually make it up, I read about it in some book and thought it would be fun. On Lipstick Day, everyone took lipstick from their mom or bought it from the dollar store — brighter colours were best — and by noon all of us were covered in kisses. It was mostly the Grade 7s and 8s, but lots of the younger kids had big red and pink and purple smooches on their foreheads and cheeks too. It only happened once, but it was the kind of day everyone would talk about for years, the kind of fun kids live for.
After lunch, the principal called all of the older classes to the auditorium for an emergency assembly.
Whose idea was this?
This is serious. If nobody tells the truth, you'll all be punished.
Everyone knew it was my idea. They all knew I was the one who started it; I'd even brought a plastic bag full of weird-coloured lipsticks for people who'd forgotten or hadn't heard about the plan. Black and green and orange and blue. The teachers probably knew, but they couldn't do anything without proof.
The principal stood at the front of the room, frown falling and falling like the sides of her mouth were melting. And it was quiet.
Nobody said anything, and everybody got a week of detention. We all had to stay in at lunch and the teachers found us extra homework every day. I've never felt so powerful in my life as I did in the silence of that auditorium, boys in lipstick and girls in lipstick and all of us in it together.
High school is harder. Boys want you to do things, but they hate you when you do them. At a party a few months ago, Emma Garner had a three-way with these two older guys who used to go to our school. Apparently she did it while there were a ton of people there, and she let other guys watch. Everyone says she was super into it. I wasn't there, but I went over to the house where it happened the next day, and there was a picture taped up on the fridge. In pencil crayon, it was Emma as a cow, with spots and an udder, getting fucked from behind and giving another guy a blowjob. When I went to the house last weekend, the picture was still on the fridge.
I don't say anything when I see her in the hallway. We used to be friends, but she forgot the rules.
The rules are: never say no and never say yes. My friend Marcy said no to a guy who wanted a hand job and he told everyone that she gave him a blowjob and he was embarrassed because she's so ugly. If you say yes, you're a slut. Always do something, but never do as much as they want.
We all hang out at our old elementary school sometimes. It's dark and there's never anyone around. We were there just a few nights ago. Julia Snell's boyfriend and I both smoke, so he gave me one and we were sitting together on top of the beehive. On Lipstick Day, Julia's boyfriend gave every Grade 7 girl a kiss in the same spot, right in the middle of the forehead.
He inhaled smoke and looked across the playground at Julia, who was laughing at something some other guy said.
I think she's going to break up with me.
We've known each other forever and he talks to me about things he can't talk to anyone else about.
Has she said anything to you?
I wasn't sure what to tell him because I thought he was probably right. I thought Julia might like a guy from another school. I didn't tell him anything, but I didn't lie either. He threw his smoke at the moon.
At a bush party earlier this month, someone turned on their car to play music and when the headlights lit everything up, we all saw Alex getting fucked in the trees beside the property. She screamed and pushed her boyfriend away while everyone laughed and pointed, but she couldn't get her pants up fast enough and everyone saw everything. All the guys clapped, and all the girls talked shit about Alex for a week. When her boyfriend dumped her, nobody was surprised.
I've done lots of stuff, but I'm still a virgin. My mom always tells me that once you give something away, it's not worth as much. I was seeing this older guy at the beginning of the year. For the first month, we only made out, but then there was this time where we were making out on his bed and I had my shirt off. He stood up and took his pants completely off, and when he tried to undo my pants, I said no. We kissed for a while and then he tried again, and I said I wasn't ready.
At least get me off.
His mom was in the next room, and I said I was scared she'd hear us, but I was really just scared.
Just do something.
When I put my hand on his dick, he sighed and palmed the top of my head, pushed me down until my neck hurt and I got the point.
You owe me.
When he came, I swallowed, because I couldn't move my head and I didn't know what else to do. It tasted a little like metal, but I realized later that I bit my lip at some point, so I think that was just me. He pulled me into his arms and said, I can't believe I found a girl who swallows, and I knew right away that I'd broken some kind of rule.
On Canada Day, I go to Julia's birthday party. It's a girls-only party, and there are about 10 of us, some girls we've been friends with since kindergarten and others we only met this year. Julia's mom made a cake shaped like a heart and covered it in purple icing. We all eat a piece. Julia's parents are home, but they promised her they'd stay upstairs.
She lives right next to the elementary school, so we decide to go and watch the fireworks from there. Someone brought pot, but nobody has rolling papers, so Julia rips out a page from the Bible her parents got her for Confirmation and rolls a couple joints with that. We climb to the top of the beehive and pass the pot around. When Marcy says, Let's flash the school, a couple of the girls laugh. I look around at everyone and smile, not because I want to but because I can't help it. I climb down to the pavement and lift my shirt over my head, throwing it at Marcy. Fireworks start going off across the field.
I run away from them, closing my eyes and screaming, and when I look back, everyone is coming down off the beehive, all of us in it together. I'm out of breath.
The other girls run around the playground, lifting their shirts and laughing. Every time the fireworks go off, the entire schoolyard lights up — red and yellow and blue — and the girls run in circles, screaming for their lives.
Read the other finalists:
- Scale of Comfort by J. Livingston
- Strawberries by Terri Monture
- Fifteen Lakota Visitors by Taqralik Partridge
- Green by Ayelet Tsabari
About Leah Mol:
Leah Mol has an MFA in creative writing from UBC and an undergraduate degree in journalism from Carleton University. She works as a proofreader, writer and piano teacher. She lives in Toronto with her favourite human and her favourite cat.