small town girls




Torch Red
by FayJay

Lana bought the lipstick on impulse, for its name more than anything: Torch Red. She knows that Chloe likes word games. And that Chloe is carrying a torch for Clark, who is carrying a torch for Lana, who is carrying a torch for -- someone who isn't Whitney. Lana, whose safe haven has always been the printed page, has been reading Chloe's words ever since Chloe swept into Smallville with her sophisticated haircut and her rapid fire conversation peppered with Metropolitan slang. The slang has slowly melted away and the haircut now comes from a salon in town, but she's still an outsider in many ways; she still likes to observe everything from the edges. Chloe Sullivan can never be just one of the girls, just one of the crowd. Both her best friends are boys but she doesn't have a boyfriend, even though she's prettier than half the girls in the school. Sometimes Lana wonders if there's more to Chloe than meets the eye.

Chloe writes, Lana reads. Chloe watches Clark, Lana is watched by Clark. Chloe speaks without thinking, Lana thinks without speaking. They aren't exactly friends; not the way that Clark and Lana are friends, or Pete and Chloe are friends. There are awkward spaces in between them, prickly pauses and tension made of misunderstanding and envy. And other things too. Perhaps. They aren't exactly friends, but sometimes Chloe seeks her out as if they were friends, as if she's trying to prove a point and make an extra effort to be nice instead of being jealous. Lana likes these moments. She pores over Chloe's articles and editorials in The Torch and loves these flashes of insight into the workings of Chloe's mind; loves the elegance with which Chloe sometimes turns a phrase just so, and the brash, confident flood of language that is pure, unadulterated Chloe Sullivan. They aren't exactly friends, but they are intimate strangers. Sometimes Lana thinks that this is better than friendship.

Lana isn't really a bright lipstick kind of girl but the name was just too perfect to resist, so she counted out her change with a secret smile and carried the little tube home from the store, along with the shampoo and toilet paper and other necessary things on Nell's list. Torch Red. A tiny touch of luxury in her pocket. A joke that nobody else would get, and that wasn't really funny.

She doesn't wear it to school, of course. Except that one time, which she claims not to remember, and mostly can't, when she's awake. Sometimes Lana recalls fragments in her dreams, but she's never sure how much really happened and how much she simply wishes happened, or worries happened. The spicy pollen tickle in her nostrils. The sharp sound of her hand connecting with Nell's cheek. The look on Whitney's face and the mean flush of pleasure that it caused her. Chloe's startled mouth warm against her prying tongue, and Chloe's bitten nails digging into the nape of her neck and the curve of her hip. The sodden weight of dark hair plastered to bare shoulders, and cool air kissing her wet skin as she pulled herself out of the pool and plastered herself against warm muscle wrapped in cotton. Cream squirted straight from the can. The satiny warmth of a bare scalp under her finger tips, under her mouth. Speed and anger and freedom and something a lot like flying. She knows most of what happened that lost day, but some questions she doesn't dare ask.

That was the first time she'd actually worn the lipstick, and the only time she's ever worn it outside the house. Sometimes, though, when Nell is on one of her infrequent dates with some eligible divorce or presentable travelling salesman, Lana sits at home in the privacy of her bedroom and reinvents herself before the mirror. She makes herself up with delicate layers of cream and powder and the softest smudge of blusher brushed down to emphasise her cheek bones and subtly reshape her face. Sharper. Stronger. Her eyes defined by dark liquid lines, like some old-fashioned movie star or modern-day drag queen; lids heavy with the unsubtle shades from the end of the palette that she normally avoids. It's exciting, this strange process of change; inventing -- or discovering -- the face they never see at school. Hers, all the same, although it doesn't look much like Whitney's girlfriend or Nell's niece. Unsmiling. Unsweet. She circles her mouth carefully with the sharpened point of a cherry-bright lip pencil and then fills in the soft skin of her parted lips with the flaming, trashy brightness of the lipstick. Afterwards she blots her stranger's smile on a tissue and glances at the unfamiliar imprint of her kiss before applying a second layer of colour and then staring at the girl framed in the glass.

This is her Metropolis face. Her future face, perhaps. Or not. It's not the face of the good small town girl she is right now, though: sugar and spice and all things nice, punctual and dutiful and just that little bit dull. This is the face of a girl who acts on her impulses and tells unpalatable truths. Not a nice girl. Not a good girl. Not the kind of girl Lana wants to be seen with, or seen *as* either -- but one she could be. And there are days when she wishes she was this girl: beautiful instead of pretty, honest instead of nice. Days when Lana wishes she had the nerve to burn all the pinks and pastels in her wardrobe, all the sweet things, the girly things, the innocent things, and dress instead in black and primary colours; in scarlet and crimson and blood red; in clothes that exposed teasing slivers of thigh or belly or breast and dared anyone to touch her. Dared Chloe to touch her, and taste her, and smudge the glossy perfection of her Torch Red mouth.