If Kevin stole the lipstick, if he slipped the tube tagged Fuschia Shock into the front pocket of his jeans, poked it between the denim slits nonchalantly enough as if it were possible to pretend his brain was unaware of what his fingers were doing, then this wasn’t stealing, was it? And if nobody noticed this sly transfer, did it make him a thief? Besides, he couldn’t pay for the lipstick even if he wanted to. Marie Saylor was the only one working check-out, and if she saw his purchase, this would get around school in a blink.
Unlike her married days before Kevin hit puberty, his mother returned home only briefly in the late afternoons to get a change of clothes and redo her hairstyle since meeting the divorced professor who zipped her off in a Jaguar to his house on Upper Kettle Bay. There used to be hot meals in the kitchen, and her escorting Kevin from school to play dates or Little League. Now she made reference to leftover deli pasta in the fridge while dunking the contents of one purse into another before whisking out the door. She didn’t even know her son preferred boys, had been chosen by Eric Racker, the school track star, lost his virginity, then lost Eric. Lost Eric to a girl.
Kevin’s skin tone was a poor match for Fuschia Shock. He discovered this when he got home to the bathroom mirror. Made him look clown-like, foolish. He just wanted to enhance his mouth in a subtle way. He decided to go back to Walgreens after school the next day and locate an alternative shade. He didn’t want to linger in the make-up section long enough for the clerk stocking razor blades to notice him, but he had to use some discretion to not get stuck with another crummy color. Cerise Please or Rock n Rouge or Why Not Wow. He cupped the latter in his palm, loitered in the shampoo aisle, then grabbed a bottle of Pantene. When he paid for the shampoo and “forgot” about the lipstick in his jacket pocket, was that really criminal? What about all those nights of sleep Eric took from him while Kevin tossed and turned, replaying the way Eric’s arm was slung around Chelsea Atkins’ shoulder as they sashayed into the lunchroom? What about the Physics exam he flunked because he hadn’t kept up with the assignments? He was supposed to ace Physics! Have that help him get into the School of Engineering at the university. But Eric stole that from him too. The pilfer of a cheap cosmetic didn’t compare to all that.
As Kevin reached the sidewalk, he heard a sharp voice call to him from the automatic doors. Reflexively, he turned. The good-looking middle-aged man in a crisp blue shirt was motioning for him to come back inside. Well, sure, he’d take a minute to do a survey, claim a coupon reserved for the lucky 100th customer of the day, whatever. But as he followed the man to the rear of the store and a room without windows, his throat tightened. Now the words the man was using — surveillance … police custody … testify — were piling up around him like barricades in every direction. Since when had he become the sort of person who filched things from the nightstands of friends, rifled through his mother’s wallet, cut classes to smoke weed down by the docks? That was not him! So, why was the man speaking in a raised voice like Kevin were some dog he was trying to train? He tilted his weight slightly, and the folding chair under him rocked on the uneven floor.
In front of him on a marred wooden table lay the clear plastic tube encasing the culprit. Funny how that puny pink thing had the power to bring his mother in all the way from Kettle Bay.
Author of five collections of poetry, Shoshauna Shy’s flash fiction has appeared in 100WordStory, 50-Word Stories, Fiction Southeast, Sou’wester, Brilliant Flash Fiction and other places. Not a monogamous writer, she works on 7-11 pieces at one time.