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"I look like a prostitute." Ellie Severance stared in disbelief at her reflection in the bedroom mirror.
"Hon, relax and get a grip." Susan Bolotnik, Ellie's best friend and temporary makeover artisan laughed, and tugged the red wig into place over the nape of Ellie's neck.
"That's easy for you to say." Ellie's complaint went unnoticed. She continued anyway. "You don't look like you should be propping up a lamppost in the tenderloin district."
She puffed air toward her flaming bangs. It didn't keep them out of her eyes. And the skirt! She grabbed the hem and tried to yank it down.
"Please tell me there's more to this somewhere."
Susan's look screamed exasperation. "You look fabulous, even if you won't admit it to yourself." She cocked her blonde head to one side and admired her handiwork with a satisfied smile. "I should become a makeup artist."
"How would the Navy ever do without you?" Ellie let the sarcasm speak for itself while she tried to objectively evaluate the results of Susan's clever cosmetic work.
Where am I underneath all of this makeup?
Heavy liner highlighted with a luminescent silver powder made her charcoal gray eyes enormous behind her glasses, like an Egyptian deity. Dark red lipstick gave her lips a lush, sultry pout.
The entire outfit was outrageously revealing. She twisted away from the mirror and paced the confines of her small bedroom. Pacing always made her feel better. The problem with pacing in a tiny room was that the tell-all mirror kept giving glimpses of her transformation.
The crimson wig was straight and heavy; flipped-up ends just brushed her shoulders.Ellie's own dark, unruly curls were tightly concealed with a combination of hair gel and bobby pins--all of which made her scalp itch. Still, it was better than the wig cap Susan originally wanted her to wear; that thing sucked the life out of her head.
As for the clothes, Susan had delved into her own vast, off-duty wardrobe for Ellie's transformation. Thorough searching yielded a stylish, black silk tank top with a scoop neck that felt like heaven against Ellie's skin. But a soft leather mini-skirt that looked cute when Susan wore it seemed extraordinarily short on Ellie. The two women were about the same height, but Ellie's curves filled out the form-fitting clothes to the point of indecency. The sophisticated designer outfit looked chic on Susan, but on Ellie it oozed provocative.
The crowning touch to the evening's ensemble was a pair of thigh-high leather boots with three-inch heels. They hugged Ellie's calves and rustled enticingly as she walked. The tight skirt, the height of the boots with their come-hither whisper screamed for male attention and forced a sway into Ellie's walk that made her want to crawl in a hole and die. She'd never been more uncomfortable in her life.
"I can't wear this in public. I'll get arrested for indecent exposure." Ellie half-walked, half-stumbled to the bed, sat, and tugged at her left boot.
"You're wearing more right now than you do when you're at the pool."
"I don't go to the pool. Not the base pool. Not the Twentynine Palms pool." She plucked at the boot. It seemed glued to her leg and wouldn't budge. "Can you see me swimming around in front of two billion twenty-year-old Marines? No way."
"Yes, God forbid any man should see what a great figure you have underneath that frumpy uniform." Susan tossed up her hands with exasperation, then shook her head. Her bobbed hair bounced around her heart-shaped face. She bore a striking resemblance to Meg Ryan. Too bad she didn't have the girl-next-door disposition to match.
"Let's get a second opinion. Call Jeremy in from the living room. I'm sure he's demolished the contents of your refrigerator by now and will be ready to give you his expert male opinion on your makeover."
Ellie looked up from her attack on the boot and frowned. "As if I really care about his opinion. Why did you have to invite him out with us tonight anyway? This was supposed to be girls' night out, at least before you turned it into sluts' night out. And the last thing I feel like hearing tonight is Jeremy's running commentary." The man never shut up for an instant.
Susan laughed and leaned into the mirror to touch up her glossy lipstick. Gently blotting with a piece of tissue, she sighed and replied, "Jeremy's at loose ends right now. You know being busted to PFC rattled him. I thought we could give him some company. Anyway, going out is a good stress reliever, right?" She straightened the belt of her halter-cut cranberry jump suit.
Jeremy needed to be rattled. A Marine didn't go absent without leave and not expect some ramifications. From what Ellie heard, it wasn't the first time for unauthorized absence. He deserved being busted from sergeant to private first class. By all rights, she shouldn't even be associating with him. But Jeremy and Susan were a package deal.
Copyright © 2002 Catherine Snodgrass & Bryndis Rubin