Gone Country Page 28


Rielle was absurdly touched by the request. Sometimes when she looked at Sierra she saw a privileged, world-weary teen. But other times, like now, she saw a sweet girl who was eager to learn something out of the norm because it interested her. “I’d be happy to teach you.”


“Really? Cool!”


“Vi won’t get upset? I know she likes to do crafty type activities with you.”


Sierra shook her head. “Grams crochets, just like my other grandma did. It doesn’t interest me because you can knit much cooler things.”


“Okay. I’ve still got a pair of beginner’s knitting needles around someplace.”


“Yay!”


Rielle took the bags out of the microwave, checked to see if all the dye had been absorbed and set the bags on the cooling rack. Then she put in the next two bags and set the microwave timer.


“Now I know you’re big on the barter system, so you have to let me teach you to do something.”


“Sierra, that’s sweet, but not necessary.”


“Fair’s fair. And there’s one thing I’m good at, because I’ve been doing it since I could hold a brush.”


Please. God. No.


“I’ll give you a makeover!” Sierra jumped off the barstool. “This is gonna be so awesome!”


Shit. “Well, I need to finish setting the dye in the last two batches. And clean up.”


“It’ll take me ten minutes to get my stuff together anyway. Then I’ll meet you in your bathroom.”


The enthusiastic teen was through the swinging door before Rielle could reply. How did she tell Sierra she wasn’t interested in a makeover?


She couldn’t. She’d always considered herself lucky that Rory hadn’t forced her love of all that girly stuff on her. Although…Rielle could admit her new hairstyle had made a world of difference in how she viewed herself.


What did she have to lose except for a few hours? Nothing.


But she poured herself a big whiskey Coke anyway before she wandered down the hallway.


Sierra had already set up in Rielle’s bathroom. She pointed to the toilet. “Sit. Get comfy.”


Rielle sat, drink in hand.


“Where is your makeup?”


“Drawer on the right. There’s not much.”


Sierra cleaned Rielle’s face with a warm cloth, which was really weird. She asked questions about Rielle’s skincare regimen, which consisted of washing her face with Ivory soap and moisturizing with Lubriderm lotion.


Surprisingly, that didn’t earn a heavy sigh like it would’ve from Rory.


Rielle kept her eyes closed and took the occasional sip of her drink as Sierra discussed skin tones, the best way to mask her under eye circles and cultivate the natural look. Which prompted her to ask, “So not wearing any makeup isn’t an acceptable natural look?”


“It’s fine when you’re working outside, as long as you’re wearing skin protection with at least thirty SPF.” She smeared something beneath Rielle’s eye. “But you don’t want to look like you just whipped off your gloves and sun hat when you go to town, do you?”


That’s exactly what Rielle had always done. So she deflected. If Sierra was anything like Rory, she’d love to talk about boys. “I haven’t heard you mention any cute guys at your school.”


“I try to avoid talking about guys around my dad. He gets a little uptight and lecture-y about it.”


“Your dad isn’t here. Since you’re avoiding my question, is there some guy you’re interested in?”


Sierra sighed. “There’s one guy. He’s nice and funny and bossy and kind of quirky. I see him at the library or around school and we talk and stuff. But he’s made it clear that he just wants to be pals.”


“Huh.” Rielle stayed still as Sierra’s fingers dotted something cool on her cheeks, nose and forehead and gently smoothed it in. “Doesn’t the new girl catch guys’ interest?”


“Two guys offered to break up with their girlfriends to go out with me. But I don’t need any more crap from the girls at school.”


Rielle opened her eyes and looked at Sierra. “Are you having a hard time and can’t talk to your dad about it?”


“No. Close your eyes. Well, I mean yes. Girls at school aren’t mean, they just ignore me. Marin is fun and we have a great time together, but now she’s got a boyfriend. Two other girls ask me to do stuff, but they both drive and I feel like a…loser because they’d have to pick me up and bring me home. I’m thinking about asking my dad if I could be home schooled.”


Her eyes flew open. “God, no, Sierra, don’t do that. Home schooling sucks. Trust me. My parents didn’t give me a choice. And if you think it’s tough not being able to drive, imagine how much harder it’d be if you didn’t see anyone but your dad, me and your grandparents.”


“Keep your eyes closed,” Sierra reminded her. “You didn’t consider home schooling Rory?”


“Not for a single second. I won’t say her school years were easy, especially not after she started middle school and hit the six-foot-one mark, making her taller than all the girls in her class and most of the boys. But she had a couple of good friends, she earned the highest GPA in her graduating class and she’s socially well-adjusted. Without making generalizations—because I know what that’s like—home schooled kids are awkward in normal society.”


“You’re not awkward and you were home schooled,” she pointed out.


“Really? You sure? I can’t even put on my own damn makeup.”


Sierra snickered.


“I’m also forty. An old forty.” Sierra dragged something wet close to her lash line and Rielle flinched.


“Hold still. Geez. I’m not gonna jab you in the eye unless you do that again.”


“Sorry.” Sierra lightly brushed Rielle’s entire eye area and she tried not to wiggle because it tickled.


“You said that you knew what it was like when people made generalizations. What did you mean?”


“I had a baby at sixteen. So people around here assumed I was a slut. Or that I was on food stamps and all sorts of government assistance because I was the daughter of pot-growing hippies.”


“Wow. Really? People said shit like that to you?”


“All the time.”


Sierra touched the apples of Rielle’s cheeks with a soft brush. “People are assholes. You’re not any of those things. They should follow you around one day and see how hard you work.”


Again, she was reminded Sierra was a lot more observant than she’d given her credit for.


“Okay. Open your eyes.”


She did.


Sierra grinned at her. “Looking good, Ree. Time for mascara. I can’t stand when someone else puts it on me, so I’ll let you put it on yourself, just as long as you can do it without the mirror so you don’t ruin the big reveal.”


The big reveal. Funny girl. “Fine. I’ll do it.”


Sierra slapped a blue and neon pink tube in Rielle’s hand. “Start at the lash line. Sweep up twice. Then only touch the very tips of your lashes. That really makes them pop.”


“I’ll be lucky if I don’t pop out my eyeball doing this without a mirror.”


“Ha ha. You’re funny and not nearly as cranky as you like to think you are.”


That caught Rielle’s attention. “Cranky?”


“You. Thinking you’re old. Acting like such a hard-ass. Like you’ve got no time for anyone. But I see you with my dad. You smile a lot. So does he.”


This intuitive kid reminded her so much of Rory at age sixteen she ached, missed her insightful, stubborn and sweet daughter. She finished with the mascara. “Now can I look?”


“Nope. Last thing. Lipstick.”


Rielle groaned.


“Oh, don’t be such a baby. It’s not like I’m painting your lips with goopy stuff. Now pucker up. Hold it.” She outlined Rielle’s mouth with a thick pink-colored pencil. “You have the most perfect lips. My mom pays a fortune to have full lips like these.” She sighed. “You need to play them up. Even if you just put on hydrating shimmer gloss.”


“Uh, Sierra, no offense, but I don’t even know what the hell that is.”


“Ree. Stop talking, you’re smudging it. I’m almost done.”


Guess finishing her drink was out of the question.


“There.” Sierra peered at her like she was a science experiment. “Okay, I lied. There is one other thing I want to do.”


“What?”


“Where’s your hair spray?”


“Under the sink.”


“Close your eyes again. And umm…tell me if I pull too hard.”


Jesus.


Sierra fogged the bathroom with hairspray and Rielle bit back a cough. The kid did pull and twist her hair harder than she was used to. Well, with the exception of Sunday morning when Gavin had become that sexy hair-pulling beast who drove her insane with lust.


Probably not something she should be thinking about with the man’s daughter right in front of her.


“All right. You’re done with this phase.”


This phase?


Sierra pulled her to her feet.


“No peeking until I tell you.” She spun her forward and to the right. “Open your eyes.”


Rielle mentally practiced her wow face, hoping it reflected in the mirror before her what the fuck? face. She slowly opened her eyes.


And her wow face was real.


Sierra hadn’t caked on makeup, or given her a look that was too old, too young, or too sophisticated. The effect was very natural. Like Rielle always looked, but better. More polished.


“So? What do you think?”


Rielle met Sierra’s gaze in the mirror. “You were right. This really makes my eyes pop. And I love the lip color.”


“You have the prettiest eyes. Kind of like all the green things you grow are reflected in them.”

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