CHAPTER SIXTEEN – The Debut
Tuesday morning was tense for Luann.
First, she had to concoct a story to explain to her parents why she needed to borrow the car. She said there was a party after school for Mrs. Drucker, the art teacher who was retiring, and that it might run past the bus time. This was actually true, except the party wasn’t until Wednesday. But Luann got the car.
Next, she called Bernice and Delta and told them she wouldn’t be on the bus because she had a morning dentist appointment.
She left the house at 7am as if she were going to school. She drove to the mall, which didn’t open until 8:30, and sat alone in the parking lot. The radio kept her company for awhile, but after the sixth lousy song, she turned it off. How come they played all the worst songs when you had nothing to do but listen to the radio?
As she watched employees arriving, Luann mulled what she was about to do. She adjusted the visor mirror so she could see herself. “Have you gone nuts?” she asked her reflection. “An hour from now, your golden locks are going to be scattered on the floor of a hair salon. Is this what you want?” Luann closed her eyes and immediately saw the vision of Aaron and Tiffany that was burned into her retina. She opened her eyes. “Yes,” she said, firmly. “It’s what I want. I’m tired of being plain old boring invisible Luann. I want to be noticed, even if it’s for a quirky haircut. Why shouldn’t I try a new look? What have I gained with this look? Nothing.”
Luann looked at her watch: 8:25.
It was time.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
At 11:30 sharp, as the bell for third period rang, Mr. Fogarty entered his classroom, carrying the graded final tests in his briefcase.
He sat down at his desk, opened his case and held up the tests.
“I hold in my hand some of the worst test scores I’ve ever had the displeasure to grade. And, by some miracle, one or two of the best. I will call your name and you may come forward to pick up your test.”
Mr. Fogarty began calling names and a solemn procession of students got their tests. Eventually, he called “Luann DeGroot.”
Delta spoke up. “She had a dentist appointment this morning, Mr. Fogarty.”
“Ah,” said Mr. Fogarty. “Well, let’s hope she doesn’t experience as much pain as I did grading her test.” As he set Luann’s paper aside, the classroom door opened and Luann walked in. Every eye in the room turned to her.
What they saw was a girl with short, fuzzy hair, bleached the color of a dandelion.
Mr. Fogarty said, “Yes? May I help you?”
Delta stood up and croaked “Luann?!”
Bernice covered her mouth and yelped. A couple of boys laughed.
Luann looked at all the faces, some astonished, some amused, some just staring like they were witnessing a terrible car wreck. She spun around, ran out of the room, sprinted to the parking lot and drove home.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Dear Diary…” said Luann. She sat in her bedroom, cross-legged in front of the mirror. Her reflection showed a face puffy and red from crying. “I am an idiot. I am a stupid idiot moron bonehead.” She could think of nothing else to add so she turned off the recorder and stared at herself in the mirror through teary eyes. Maybe if she stared hard enough, she’d go into a trance, wake up and find her hair had returned. She closed her eyes. “This is all just a bad dream and–”
“Luann? I’m home!” It was her mom. If this is a dream, Luann thought, I should wake up about now. You always wake up before you die.
Luann’s mom came into the room. “Hon? I saw the car. Why are you home from sch…” her voice stopped when she saw the strange creature sitting on the floor, a creature with a fuzz of pale hair.
“AAAAAAH!!” Luann’s mom lurched backwards.
Luann jumped to her feet and held her hands up. “Mom, don’t panic, ok?”
“My GOD! Luann!” wailed mom.
Brad walked in the front door, heard the commotion and came running. “What’s goin’ on?” he huffed. “Did someone get hur — WHOA!!” Brad’s head snapped back as if he’d run into a glass door.
“Luann?! Wha’d you do?!” he said. Then he started laughing.
Luann stormed out of her room, went down the hall and locked herself in the bathroom.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
An uneasy truce prevailed at the dinner table that night. All the ‘how-comes’ and ‘what-were-you-thinkings?’ were done. Luann’s mom threw her hands up in defeat. Dad asked “why” 400 times before finally giving up. Brad smirked and called Luann ‘the tennis ball.’
They ate in silence, but Luann’s hair was like a fog horn, loudly reminding everyone of its presence.
Finally, Luann’s mom said, “Tomorrow’s the last day of school. Are you planning to go?”
Luann had given this a lot of thought. Part of her wanted to stock food supplies and a porta-potty in her bedroom and live there for two years. Another part of her wanted to boldly face the world. In the past several hours, she’d flip-flopped between these two feelings a thousand times until her brain was exhausted.
“I’m not sure yet,” Luann said.
“You should go,” said Brad, helping himself to his sixth slice of pizza. “You know why?”
“No, Brad, why,” said Luann, wearily waiting for the zinger.
“’Cuz you look good.”
Luann eyed her brother. He seemed to be serious.
“Really, Luann. You look good. I didn’t realize how dippy your old orange mane was. Now you look really cool.” Brad folded the point of the pizza and bit off a large gooshy mouthful. “Awlmoft a babe.”
Luann was flattered that her brother, of all people, would consider her a ‘babe.’ But as she watched Brad mulch the pizza, a thread of cheese hanging from his chin, she didn’t feel so flattered. His standards weren’t exactly lofty.
“I think you should go, too,” said dad. “You certainly look no worse than the girls we watched on MTV the other night.”
“Oh, well, thanks, dad. It’s encouraging to know that I’m no worse than something you think is stupid.”
“What I mean is, you fit right in. I bet there are lots of kids at school with hairdos like that.”
Luann’s dad was right. There were several girls — and guys — with odd hairdos. But they were the rockers, the punks, the goths, the skaters and the fringe kids who tended to have tattoos and multiple piercings.
“You should get your eyebrows pierced,” said Brad. “Or your nose.”
“I plan to. And I’m thinking of a flaming skull tattoo on my stomach.”
Luann looked at her parents. They were not amused. To them, any bizarre behavior now seemed entirely possible.
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