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A song of blackmail and makeup

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A weekend with just the girls was just what they had all needed, Beatrice decides. It had been a while since they had all just hung out, without there being any troubling issues to talk about. Nobody is pretending to be sick, nobody is missing, and both Hero and Meg have begun to put their heartaches behind them. Friday on the beach had evolved into a crying party, where everyone had opened their hearts. Hero had talked about how she wanted to forgive and forget, but it was difficult since everybody else kept bringing it up. She had talked about how it was still difficult to hang out with Claudio sometimes, that part of her was still in love and she didn’t know how to really get over him. Ursula talked about her feelings of guilt from putting up the video from Hero’s party, as well as the pressure she felt from her parents to succeed academically. Meg and Bea had had an emotional talk about Robbie, and how Bea had treated their relationship.

 “It just felt like our relationship was less important, you know,” Meg had shared, tears in her eyes. “Like all you could see were the physical parts and not the emotions behind it.” A fresh bout of crying had followed this, and they had all collapsed into a pile of hugging that lasted until dark.

 Today, however, is Sunday, and Bea is willing to put all those emotions back under lock and key for a while, thank you very much. She is especially keen to not discuss her relationship with Ben with her closest girlfriends while they do each other’s make up. Though she’s been forced to openly admit that girly things are not inherently bad because of their ‘girly-ness’, it’s still not for her. But Meg had Sunday morning, and she’s settled on makeup.

 “It’ll be so much fun!” She gushes, emptying what seems to Bea to be at least half a makeup counter onto Hero’s bed. Adding in Hero’s collection, it all paints a horrifying picture of what the morning will bring to Bea. She groans, and flops down to the floor, flinging an arm dramatically over her face.

 “Okay, Meg, what’s the plan?” Hero chirps, eager as always to do things to torture Bea, her cousin thinks grumpily from her place on the floor. “Are we just going to do our makeup, or is there something in particular you wanted to do?” At this, Meg grins, and Bea feels actual dread fill her stomach.

 “I want us to do our makeup in a fashion we usually don’t. So in Ursula’s and Hero’s case, it means a little racier than usually, and Urs, this time you ARE getting blood red nails! Bea, I want to give you a proper, fancy, girly makeup, with pink and all!” Bea gasps, and sits up. She can’t be that cruel, seriously?

 “No, absolutely not! I’m allergic to pink, and I don’t want a lot of makeup on my face. I’m not that kind of person—“

 “But wasn’t that the point?” Ursula cuts in. “To do it in a way that usually isn’t us. I think it would be really interesting to see how we’d look when we’re not ourselves.”

 “Yeah,” Hero adds, “we could even change into clothes to fit it afterwards! Take pictures and everything!” Bea shakes her head disgustedly at her cousin’s gushing. “Oh,” Hero gasps,” What about you, Meg? What kind of makeup should you put on?” Hero, Meg and Ursula all look really pensive for a few moments, before Ursula snaps her finger and point at Meg.

 “Goth!” They all cheer, and Meg agrees – even though she pulls a face – and they get started. They decide to start with Hero (Bea’s certain they’re trying to lure her into a sense of false security by choosing her baby cousin), and while she’s being made up, all four girls continue chatting about innocent things, like teachers, rumours, and different memories from the summers Bea visited. When she’s finished, Hero gets her nails painted by Ursula – who’s under strict orders from meg to paint them a vibrant metallic blue – and Meg advances on Bea.

 “No!” Bea shouts, and tries to duck under Meg’s arm. Meg’s faster though, and grabs her before wrestling her to the floor. To stop Bea from getting up, Meg sits on her stomach, pinning her arms to her side.

 “We agreed to do what the other wanted to do for their part of the weekend. It was your rule, remember?” Meg reminds her. “Now, if you promise to act nice, I’ll get up. Otherwise, I’ll just sit on you the whole time, and have Hero film it for your YouTube show!” The threat makes Bea gasp, and is enough of a deterrent to make her reluctantly nod her head. Meg crows over her victory, climbs off her and grabs two handfuls of makeup, and disposes of it at Bea’s feet.

 It isn’t until a couple of minutes in that Meg’s evil genius becomes apparent. When she’s got Bea’s head pinned to the bed, having just finished putting eye shadow (a horrid bright pink shade) on one eyelid, she attacks.

 “So, Bea, how’s it going with Benedick? Been difficult getting used to sleeping in your own bed again?” Bea tries to jolt upright, but is stopped by Meg’s strong hands keeping her immobilised on the mattress. “Stay still!” she adds, bringing the brush close to Bea’s eyes.

 Self-preservation makes Beatrice stop struggling, but it is with a clipped tone she replies “I am very much used to sleeping in my bed, thank you very much.” Of course, Meg doesn’t miss a beat.

 “Ooh, so he’s been sneaking in to sleep in your bed then, has he? That’s gutsy! Is he climbing up the trellis?”

“There’s no sneaking!” Bea exasperates. “And he doesn’t stay the night here.” As soon as she finishes her sentence, she wants to bite her tongue off. Meg looks entirely too much like the cat who got the canary.

 “So he stays the night at his place huh? Where you stay with him occasionally?”

 Very reluctantly, Bea nods. “Yeah.” Meg wiggles her eyebrows, making Bea add “very occasionally!”

 “Okay,” Meg says, “how many times have you spent the night? You should be able to remember, if it’s so occasional, and all.”

 “Twice, so ha!” Bea says smugly. She’s met with disbelieving looks from all three other occupants in the room, so she’s forced to amend her answer. “Intentionally, anyway.”

 “And how many times have you stayed the night, unintentionally?” Ursula asks, her voice devoid of the teasing in Meg’s, and though Bea knows it’s a trick to make her spill her guts, she has to admit it’s working.

 “Maybe five times,” she mumbles. Though it’s still not a lot, it adds up to about a night a week, and somehow, that seems like a lot more.

 “Hah!” Hero laughs from across the room. “Beatrice, it’s more like ten times, at least!”

 “How do you know?” Bea retorts. “I might have just stepped out early, or something. I mean, it’s not like you can tell from the state of my room, so—“

 “Ben and I have a system worked out,” Hero interrupts. Stunned, Bea makes a perfect goldfish imitation, her mouth hanging open, trying to close, only to drop again. “After the first two times you fell asleep and didn’t come home, Ben agreed to text me when you leave his place. I was really worried that you’d gotten into an accident or something, so when he texts me, I know you’ll come home in ten minutes.” Hero smiles teasingly at her (still shocked) cousin. “Honestly Beatrice, if I haven’t gotten a text from Ben at 11 o’clock, I just assume you’ll stay at his place for the night. So far, I’m 5 for 5!”

 Ursula and Meg laughs. Bea just shakes her head, until Meg holds her still to apply mascara.

“I’m really happy for you, though,” Meg says. “This is the best part, when it’s all new, where everything makes you happy, and it’s just so perfect, you know.” Hero nods, but Bea just bites her lip.

 “You do feel like that, don’t you, Bea? I mean, you seem so happy with Ben,” Hero asks anxiously, her cousin’s lack of gush worrying her.

 “I am happy, Hero,” Bea reassures her. “I’m just… I’m worried about the future, is all.” When she’s just met with blank stares, she continues. “Relationships rarely last, and even if they do, the happiness you feel in the beginning often fades with time, leaving you complacent, but unfulfilled.” She sighs. “Ben and I hurt each other for several years because we were insecure about our feelings, and we were just friends then. Imagine how much we could hurt each other if it all falls apart in a few years.”

 Hero reaches out to pat Beatrice’s knee. “Don’t you believe that Ben loves you? I’d think he’s made it quite clear for the entire world to see.” Bea shakes her head.

 “No, that’s the hardest, as well as the easiest, part. I know he loves me, I just can’t make myself believe it will last. I’m scared of letting myself hope, just to have everything fall apart again.”

 Meg scoots to sit next to her, and puts her arm around Bea’s shoulders. “You’re not fourteen anymore, though, Bea. You’re more mature, and you’re talking about your feelings this time. And more importantly, both of you care enough to make it work.” She shrugs. “That was the problem with me and Robbie. He wasn’t as invested in the relationship as I was.”

 “Is this why you haven’t put up our song to him yet?” Ursula asks. “His has been up for a month now, and it’s been two weeks since he saw it.”

 Bea pouts, looking like a petulant child. “He’s already seen it; why should I have to put it up? It’s just between the two of us, not for the rest of the world as well.”

 “But it’d show him you’re equally invested in the relationship,” Ursula urges. Meg, deciding it’s time to change the subject, selects a bright pink lip gloss from the makeup pile, and waves it in front of Bea.

 “We’ll just add this, and then we can do your hair, and put you in a nice dress and take your picture!” The horror on Bea’s face is priceless, but Meg’s adamant. Within five minutes, Bea’s wearing her striped dress together with one of Hero’s headbands. She refuses to smile for the camera, though, and just glares at Ursula, a scowl fixed on her face.

 “This isn’t working,” Hero whispers to Meg. Meg just winks at her, and motions to Ursula to lower the camera.

 “So, Bea,” she says in an affected casual voice. “The day right before the break, when Ben was sitting with his camera in school, that was when he began writing his song, wasn’t it?” Bea nods, still wary of the camera clutched in Ursula’s hands. “You know, he told me he was writing it for the girl he loved, right before he asked me to go and get you.” Bea’s face softens at this. “You seemed pretty dazed when the two of you showed up for Stats later though,” Meg presses on. “Did something happen?”

 A shy smile spreads over Bea’s face, and her eyes glitter as she recalls their first kiss. She’s so caught up in the memory that she doesn’t notice Ursula raising the camera until a flash goes off.

 “Hey!” she shouts, “you tricked me!”

 “Sure did!” Meg snickers. “Now let me see that picture!”

 “Ooh, pretty!” Hero coos, hanging over Ursula’s shoulder to see the photo.

 “Yeah,” Meg agrees. “We’re definitely sending this to Ben!”

 “NO!” Bea shouts, lunging for the camera, missing it with an inch. Ursula gasps, and cradles the camera to her chest, throwing an affronted look in Bea’s direction. Meg smirks at Bea.

 “I’m sure we can come to an agreement. You can either post your song declaring your undying love to Ben, or we send him this picture of you all dolled up. It’s your choice, really.”

 Bea’s eyes narrow. “That’s blackmail.” Meg just grins. “And just who are you texting?” Bea says, turning to face Hero. “’Cause if it’s Ben, I swear to god, Hero—“

“It’s not,” Hero replies calmly. “It’s Balthazar. I just told him you didn’t want to share the song the two of you worked so hard on. He just replied, too. He says if you can put his feelings online, the least you can do is share your own.”

 Bea closes her eyes. Damn, that’s a good argument! She briefly considers letting Meg send the picture to Ben, but she discards that idea. Out of the two options, she’s less embarrassed by the song, and it would get everyone of her back about posting it. She groans, and lets her head drop.

 “Hero, can you go get my laptop?”