“I’m going to be Miss America someday,” Anna, even at eleven was completely sure of herself. She did a turn and slung her hair over her shoulder with the confidence of a real pageant contestant. “I need to get the walk down pat.”
“Maybe you’ll have real boobs by then.” I smiled snidely.
“Maybe you will too.” Anna stuck her tongue out at me.
“Let me try those things on.” I reached for her training bra and she crossed her arms over her chest, cat like reflexes.
“Get your own!”
I pulled my adidas tennis shoes from my feet and peeled the damp socks off. They left red ridges on my feet and legs. I rolled the white socks up into a perfect little ball and stuffed them in my shirt. It wouldn’t be the first time I had put socks in my under clothes! The mounds looked funny and Anna and I laughed.
“Too tight.” Anna reached into my shirt and fixed the shape, stuffing them back in proudly. “Va va voom!”
I stood up and pranced around like I had seen Anna do. She whistled and clapped. We tip-toed down the hall toward Mama’s room. We wanted to see if she would notice my newly endowed figure. “You go first!” I whispered.
Anna slung open the door and sashayed in. Penny, who was down for our Miss America Viewing Party that night, was consoling Mama. Mama had tears streaming down her face. She looked down right miserable.
“What’s wrong Mama?” Anna asked, forgetting about our game.
“Nothing honey, nothing.” Mama wiped her face and sat down on the bed. I knew exactly what was wrong. Father had done something to her! I should have known that she would find out about what he and Maria had done in the study. I pulled a sock from my shirt and threw it against the wall before running out. I was going to give Father a piece of my mind!
I searched the house for him, but he was nowhere to be found. I ran out onto the porch and saw that he was gathering flowers in the garden. “What are you doing?” I yelled as I stomped over.
“Making bouquets for the party tonight! I thought you and Anna would want to feel like Miss America.” Father smiled broadly, ignoring the anger in my voice. “I was going to surprise you, but I also bought tiaras.”
I wanted to be mad at Father, but as usual he was being too nice for me to scream at. Just as I found the meanest words that I had inside of me, Anna came out onto the lawn behind me. She didn’t know about Father and Maria, so I choked back the words. I gave him a dirty look and told Anna about his surprise.
“Oh Daddy!” Anna took the flowers that he had gathered and gushed about how we could wrap them in tissue paper and tie ribbon around them. “You are the sweetest Daddy in the world!”
Father looked at me sadly and then glanced down at my shirt. I realized that I still had one sock stuffed in my bra, and ran off in embarrassment. I hated him for hurting my Mama, hated him for being so thoughtful, and hated myself for ever walking in on him with the maid in the first place.
“There she is, Miss America…” Penny sang as Anna and I made a big debut. A fresh pair of socks were propped inside my frilly dress and my feet shook as I tried to balance in a pair of Mama’s heels. Anna, who was used to walking in painful shoes already, did a spin and flashed a plastic well-practiced smile.
Mama laughed and applauded as Father came over, handed us our bundles of flowers, and placed shiny gem stone tiaras on our heads. I didn’t meet his eyes, instead I kept my gaze fixed on Mama. She could have been Miss America if she had wanted.
We ate junk food and commented on the contestants. Of course, Miss South Carolina was our favorite! Father eventually had enough and headed upstairs to watch something less girly. Mama hugged his neck and gave him a kiss goodnight. I wondered why she would want to kiss the man who had made her cry only a few hours before.
“Good night, Addy.” Father adjusted my crown and smiled. “Good night, Anna.”
“Goodnight, Daddy!” she said, not taking her eyes off of the TV.
A commercial came on and Penny informed us that it was time for us to perform our talents! I wasn’t in the mood to perform, but had already agreed to. “Up first,” Mama announced, “Anna Belle Banks!”
Anna stood up, adjusted her dress, and steadied herself before gulping in a big mouth full of air and singing the national anthem. She sounded okay, but I knew I could out-sing her! Anna screeched out her final note and we all clapped and cheered as she took a big dramatic bow.
“Our next contestant is Adeline Mae Banks.” Penny sounded like a real MC.
I stood up, prepared to sing, but decided to tell jokes instead. “How do you kill a dumb blonde?”
Penny’s hand flew to her blonde locks as she asked “How?”
“Put a scratch and sniff sticker at the bottom of a swimming pool!” I grinned.
They all laughed, but Penny poked our her lip and braced herself for the next joke.
“Why did the dumb blonde get fired from the M & M factory?”
“Why?” Anna exclaimed
“She ate all of the Ws!” I couldn’t help but giggle at the thought of someone doing this.
Mama and Anna, who were as brunette as it comes, laughed loudly. Penny tried not to laugh, but couldn‘t help herself.
“Last but not least… How did the dumb blonde burn her ear?”
“How?” Penny raised her fists jokingly.
“The phone rang while she was ironing!” I smiled, took a little bow, and settled back in on the couch beside Mama just in time for the pageant to come back on.
“Hey Addy,” Penny sat up and looked at me, “You’re hair is blonde too!”
I hadn’t thought of that!