he whirled around, his heavily bleached hair settling timidly across an even paler forehead.
his mother stood behind him in the clothes she had slept in, her raven black hair done up in a mess of a bun, her deep-set eyes heavy with darkness.
she stepped closer, her tired eyes flicking over his face, inspecting, scrutinizing. jackson attempted to hide his eyes with his brittle, wispy bangs.
"are you wearing eyeliner?"
jackson bit his glossed lips, cheeks aflame—he was doing his best to tuck his obviously red mouth out of sight, too, should she suspect.
his mother moved closer still, her mono-lidded eyes blank; jackson could, however, sense her curiosity—and perhaps the lingering essence of disappointment.
when she finally noticed that his lips looked far plumper and rosier than usual—courtesy of his favourite cherry chapstick—understanding finally dawned on her face.
"you're wearing that chapstick, too, aren't you?"
his eyes shuttered to a close. he felt as though he were suffocating—she would tell his dad, she always did.
his ivory skin darkened significantly as blood rushed to his face—his ears, neck, bobbing throat.
his embarrassment and inane fear filled him like ashy smoke in deformed lungs—he knew what his father would do, what he would say. and he was ashamed.
she sensed his anguish, and the hard look on his mother's face languidly dissipated. she reached—up, up, up—to cup his high cheekbones in her fine hands.
"it's okay, baby. i won't tell your dad."
there was a brief yet fruitful pause as jackson blinked. tears brimmed in his eyes, smudging the careful lining on his bottom lash line—
it'd taken excruciating precision and three tries to get it just right—reducing to a mess of salt and ink.
his mother wiped the blots away from his skin, her fingers callused yet unimaginably gentle as she smoothed the florid flesh underneath his eyes.
jackson now smiled, too—it was wobbly and tainted with hints of cherry, but it was sincere nonetheless.
jackson turned his back to his mother and left.