We were in a garden, in a mall. A garden of crimson and fuchsia bullets. Bullets spread neatly over the shelves of counters, under the label of LIPSTICK TESTERS. I hovered over the bullets, taking my pick while Ann went to the bronzer counter. The salesgirl had judged us to be too rich, thanks to the accent we pulled off and my cold command to the staff, asking for a French moisturiser that was not available in the country. The coast was clear.
By then I had picked my shade. A deep cool toned wine color with a matte finish. Finalizing my choice, I signalled the salesgirl. She left the preteens she was watching over and approached me with a placid face.
“I need an an eyeshadow to go with this color,” I said, showing her a tangerine lipstick that was far too warm toned for pale face to handle.
“Sure ma’am,” she said with the mechanised promptness of a vending machine.
She turned. I scanned the store with a sweeping gaze, picked up my beautiful burgundy and slid it in the right pocket of my jeans.
I stood there, waiting for the feeling to dawn upon me like a landing plane. Nope, nothing. My conscience stayed true to its pledge of silence.
She returned with some baked, coral eye shadow that I obviously had to dismiss. I would have bought it if I hadn’t shoplifted.
I called Ann out, whose pockets and bra must have been brimming with highlighters and mascaras. She then proceeded to play last move – buying a hot pink lip balm that tasted of strawberry.
Ann had a whole drawer full of strawberry lip balms back home.
Her polishing touch to remove any traces of suspicion. Or guilt.
We sat and ate Crimson rolls in the food court; the distinct aroma of freshly brewed coffee seeping through the still air conditioning with the ease of the infusion of a steeping teabag. She drank her hazelnut frappuccino with a straw, I chugged my Caffe misto.
The barista rolled his eyes at the high schoolers who were evidently here only for the free wifi; their eyes transfixed on their iPhones.
“We can’t do it here,” Ann pointed out, after taking in the surroundings.
“The bar’s always there.” I said dryly.
We went to the bar and gushed into the smoking zone with the urgency of a fever. Two boys stood there, with glass red eyes, one wearing a black pink Floyd T-shirt, the other wearing a cloth poster of Jim Morrison. Ann was always really put off by stoners, but I harboured a great love for their playlists.
We cornered a corner and sat down on the cold ground, leaning our heads against the glass walls, panting more out of thrill than exhaustion. Ann started the ceremony.
One steal at a time, we laid out our shoplifted jewels on the floor, neatly in a line. An avocado moisturiser, a Dior lip-gloss, double ended mascara, a pale baby pink highlighter and a burgundy lipstick.
We divided the treasure in a neat fifty – fifty, with alternating turns at the mascara.
“Ann,” I said, looking at her angular face that was carved out for a high fashion shoot.
“I don’t feel guilty,” my voice now gaunt .
She smiled a wry smile, eyes still lit up. “That’s all right”.
MEHAR HALEEM is a seventeen year old student who writes for the editorial board of her school. She has previously won several creative writing competitions. This is her first publication. She currently lives in New Delhi, India.